The history of curcumin - considered one of the most beneficial compounds from turmeric (Curcuma longa) dates back about 5,000 years. It was a principal healing agent in Ayurveda, and traditional Indian system of medicine, and recognized as a valuable ingredient long before it became popular as a supplement.
The bright yellow-orange pigment of turmeric is the primary source curcumin. Breaking this down further, there are sub-compounds or "fractions" of curcumin called "curcuminoids". Turmeric contains demothoxycurcumin, otherwise known as "curcumin II", bisdemethooxycurcumin, known as "curcumin III" and cyclocurcumin. These compounds make up, on an average, about 3 to 5 percent of turmeric, although some in some regions of India, the turmeric actually contains higher levels, reaching 6 to 8 percent because of locally favorable growing conditions and farming practices.
The curcumin products you're likely to find in health food stores contain a mixture of curcuminoids, depending on the way they've been processed.
Turmeric is typically grown in warmer regions, including India, China, and Southeast Asia. The brightly colored complex of curcumin (well-known to anyone who has eaten curry) is sometimes referred to as Indian saffron, yellow ginger, yellow root, ukon, kacha haldi, or simply natural yellow.
After the roots are harvested, they are cleaned in water, cured and dried. After drying the root is ground for use as a spice, or the curcumin is extracted to be used for its health benefits.
These days, most people probably know curcumin by enjoying curry made with turmeric. The fat content of coconut milk and other ingredients in traditional Indian cooking help curcumin absorb in the digestive tract, so growing up eating curry very likely has some protective and medicinal effect. However, there is increasing research that shows that concentrated extracts of curcumin are very strong as well - plus, they have the benefit of being convenient and proven effective!