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What’s the Difference between Cumin and Turmeric?


They are both in curry dishes and mixes, but is there really a difference between cumin and turmeric?

Although they are both loaded with powerful vitamins and medicinal properties, these two spices are in fact, more different than they are similar. The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin, which is a powerful chemical with numerous benefits.

Curcumin does sound like cumin, which is why one spice is usually mistaken for the other. In this article, we will take out time to examine both spices and highlight the difference between cumin and turmeric.


What is Cumin?

The cumin plant is a small plant native to the Mediterranean region. The seeds are used in cooking curries, stews and other dishes.

When used in cooking, it has a distinctive flavour that is sweet and earthy. Cumin is traditionally used to prevent muscle spasms and prevent gas. It is also known to help in digestion, diarrhoea and with jaundice.


What is Turmeric

Turmeric is also a plant based spice, but it is not in seed form like cumin. It is a rhizomatous root that grows like ginger. It can be taken in the root or powder form.

This spice is found in most curries and is responsible for the bright yellow (or orange) colour in many curry mixes. Used in cooking meals, turmeric is also known for its medicinal properties.

The main active ingredient in turmeric is known as curcumin and this is such a powerful chemical that it puts the spice in a class of its own.

Turmeric is a spice that is known for several health benefits which include anti-inflammatory, anticancer, aiding in reducing cholesterol levels in the body, among many others.

It can be used in food, taken as a drink or used topically to alleviate skin related problems. 


Major difference between cumin and turmeric?

So what exactly is the difference between cumin and turmeric? We’ll examine a few below:

Different plants: We have already mentioned that both spices are plant-based, however while cumin is in seed form, curcumin or turmeric is a rhizomatous root.

Different flavours: They also have different flavours when used in food. While cumin has a sweet, earthy flavour, turmeric gives a light, slightly bitter, and nutty flavour in food. In some recipes, it is possible to use cumin as a substitute for turmeric (although you should do that very carefully), however you cannot substitute cumin for turmeric.

Anti-Cancer properties: According to, the active chemical in turmeric, curcumin has cancer fighting properties. There is no study to show that this is the case in cumin. Furthermore says that there is evidence from Swansea University that turmeric may be instrumental in blocking a certain protein known as NF-kappB, which is connected to several gastrointestinal tract cancers.

Anti-inflammatory properties: curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory properties and has been recommended for people suffering from inflammatory diseases like arthritis. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in August 2009 discovered that when used on people with osteoarthritis, curcumin was as effective as ibuprofen.

Anti-depressants: Curcumin also has strong antidepressant properties. In a study which featured 60 depressed patients, it was discovered that curcumin was as effective as Prozac in treating the symptoms of depression.

Antiaging properties: These herbs both have anti-aging properties, but several studies have shown that turmeric has strong anti-aging properties. As a result, there is evidence leading to the conclusion that turmeric is effective in the treatment of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Rich in free radicals and other properties, turmeric is key in suppressing activities that are known to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.


The difference between cumin and turmeric is clear. Evidently, cumin is a powerful spice and has lots of numerous health benefits. Yet when listing super foods, turmeric definitely tops the charts.

There is a reason why this spice has been used for centuries and is a constant part of the diet in India and other South Asian countries. It is also an important and highly priced spice in Ayurveda, which is the use of natural, plant based medicine to treat diseases and other conditions.

There is so much you can gain from the daily consumption of turmeric and we have not touched on its topical use for younger, healthier skin.

You can buy turmeric powder here.

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