Is Raw Turmeric Better Than Powder?

curcuma rhizome and powderThe raw versus dried turmeric question rises up once again.  Is raw turmeric better than the powder?

The short answer:  No

Here we go with the long answer with an excerpt from my Ultimate Turmeric Guide and Protocol on the debate:

Although one can use fresh rhizome (root), it must be cooked and never used raw – in spite of what the raw food/vegan/vegetarian Western world may assume and perpetrate otherwise.

The ideology of “raw is better” may hold true for fruits and many vegetables, however cooked peppers, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, cabbage, and many other vegetables also supply more bio-available vitamins, minerals and antioxidants when lightly cooked or even steamed – such as carotenoids and ferulic acid – than when eaten raw.  Another example is cooked tomatoes, such as for sauces and paste, which will have more bio-available lycopene than raw.

Lightly cooking at low heat or steaming makes some vegetables more bio-available.  And so it is with fresh turmeric rhizome.

In forums or Facebook pages, this question sometimes comes up.  Usually someone from the raw food/vegan  movement will get into all the reasons why raw is purported better.  Invariably, another will say how much better they feel with their health problem using raw (having never used the powder before).  And this may be so in their case or it may due to a placebo effect (not to be underestimated, by the way).  But it is the science behind the facts and not the ideology that counts.  I wonder how even greater their improvement would be if they used turmeric powder properly.

I recently ran across a website with an article on 7 reasons to eat raw turmeric (or was it 9 or 10?) and noticed that a month later they had posted another article extolling the importance of using turmeric powder, especially in cooking.

Sometimes even ‘authority’ sites are part of the churn of reader confusion and conflicting research.

Or is it?

The vast majority of research on turmeric is about the powder or rather, the curcumin within the powder.   Studies on raw turmeric have not been so impressive.

The research on raw turmeric talks about 85% loss of curcumin due to the process necessary to obtain a powder or when cooking with the powder for between 15 to 30 minutes and the loss of turmeric’s essential oil.  It is presumed that the EO in raw turmeric is what makes it more bio-available.

This is (from one aspect)  true…but only partially.  And it depends for how long and how high the heat.

However, heating alters it, transforms it into a compound called  ‘deketene curcumin’.  Compared to curcumin, this compound shows even stronger toxicity  against cancer cells as demonstrated by its effect on cell viability (cell survival) and producing apoptosis (cell death) of the cancerous cells.

Simply put, it is not really a ‘loss’ per se of curcumin as heating seems to be the key that releases the best in turmeric.

Other studies have demonstrated that heating enhances the overall antioxidant properties of curcumin by 50% and releases 3 important antioxidants vanillin, ferulic acid and 4-vinyl guaiacol.   Although all three are anti-inflammatories, it is vanillin and ferulic acid that help against certain cancers and in preventing disease.

In summary, short cooking times (under 15 minutes) do not destroy nor degrade the medicinal value of turmeric.  In fact, quite the contrary.  It is the key to releasing its power.

So, if you like the crunch or have a special recipe that requires it, enjoy the raw. But which would you use for your  short and long term health issues?


More related posts:

Dosage and Method: Turmeric    Spice: Turmeric – Beyond Curry

Turmeric – Take It With Food and Why

Turmeric – Does Your Supply Pass the Test

Is Raw Turmeric Better Than Powdered?    Junk Journalism: Turmeric and Co.

Turmeric Golden Milk – A Life Changing Nourishing Drink

Inflammation & Turmeric: Just Symptomatic Relief?

Turmeric, Curcumin – Aren’t they the same?


Selected resources:

Cooking enhances curcumin anti-cancerogenic activity through pyrolytic formation of “deketene curcumin”, Food Chem 2014 May 15;151:514-9. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.11.102. Epub 2013 Nov 27.

Thermal stability, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin and its degradation product 4-vinyl guaiacol, Food Funct. 2015 Mar;6(3):887-93. doi: 10.1039/c4fo00790e.

Loss of active principles of common spices during domestic cooking, Food Chemistry,Volume 43, Issue 4, 1992, Pages 271-274

Effect of Boiling and Roasting on the Antioxidants Concentrations in Extracts of Fresh Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and Turmeric (Curcuma longaInternational Journal Of Ayurvedic And Herbal Medicine 1:2 (2011)
Oral administration of heat-solubilized curcumin for potentially increasing curcumin bioavailability, International Journal of Cancer. 2009 Oct 15; 125(8): 1992–1993

Heat-solubilized curry spice curcumin inhibits antibody-antigen interaction in in vitro studies: a possible therapy to alleviate autoimmune disorders. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research 2010 Aug;54(8):1202-9. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200900106.

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