Turmeric has long been used in traditional eastern medicine for its health benefits. Curcumin, which is the main bioactive component in turmeric, is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
However, while turmeric and curcumin are generally safe to consume, too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Taking turmeric in large doses has potential risks:
- Mild side effects include upset stomach, acid reflux, diarrhea, dizziness, and headaches.
- Consuming large doses of turmeric supplements can significantly increase urinary oxalate levels, increasing the risk of kidney stone formation.
- Since turmeric acts as a blood thinner, it should be avoided if you have a bleeding disorder.
- Turmeric can interact negatively with medications including blood thinners, antidepressants, antibiotics, antihistamines, cardiac drugs, and chemotherapy treatments. It can also interfere with diabetes medications and result in dangerously low blood sugar levels.
- Turmeric can aggravate stomach problems, such as acid reflux and gallstones.
- Since turmeric limits iron absorption, you shouldn’t take it if you are on iron supplements.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can eat food that contains turmeric as a spice but should avoid taking turmeric supplements. These supplements may stimulate uterus contractions and cause complications.
Depending on your overall health and whether you have conditions like gastrointestinal disorders or kidney stones, you should speak with your doctor before taking turmeric supplements.
How much turmeric is safe to consume?
Studies that show the health benefits of turmeric use turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin in doses exceeding 1 gram per day. Since it’s difficult to consume that much naturally in a regular diet, turmeric is often taken as a supplement, where the curcumin content is much higher.
Generally speaking, an acceptable amount of curcumin supplement to take on a daily basis is about 1.4 milligrams per pound of body weight, up to 12 grams. Anything more than that can cause you to have adverse reactions.
Who should not take turmeric?
Turmeric contains several active alkaloids. High doses of turmeric could have a blood-thinning effect; if taken on top of prescribed anticoagulants. Hence, people with the following conditions should avoid it or use it with caution.
- Bleeding disorder: Persons who take injectable blood thinners should avoid taking turmeric.
- Diabetes: Curcumin in turmeric might reduce blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. Hence, doctors advise people with diabetes to be cautious or avoid taking turmeric.
- Gallbladder problems: Persons should avoid using turmeric supplements if they have gallstones or bile duct obstruction.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD): Turmeric can worsen stomach problems such as GERD. People with GERD should monitor for exacerbation of symptoms while taking turmeric.
- Infertility: Turmeric may cause infertility in men.
- Iron deficiency: High amount of turmeric may interact with iron absorption in the body.
- Liver disease: Turmeric might damage the liver, especially in people with liver disease.
- Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Curcumin in turmeric may act like the hormone estrogen in some studies.
- Heart arrhythmia: There is a report of a man who consumed 1,500 grams of turmeric in a day and succumbed to an abnormal heart rhythm.
- Pregnancy: Turmeric is a uterine stimulant and may induce the menstrual cycle in pregnant women.
Is it safe to take turmeric every day?
Turmeric is a yellow spice commonly used in Asian cuisine. People also consume it because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Taking turmeric in low amounts (the levels added to food) generally does not pose any health problems. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is safe to consume 1.4 mg of turmeric per pound of body weight each day. Higher doses of turmeric, however, when consumed for longer periods may harm the body. This means the use of turmeric in gel form and lozenges as supplements. According to a report, a person who consumed high amounts of turmeric (over 1500 mg twice a day) experienced a dangerous heart rhythm problem. Although there is no concrete evidence that the abnormal heart rhythm was caused by turmeric, it is better to avoid taking turmeric in high doses, especially for longer periods.
If a person has any underlying health conditions or is taking any medications (including blood thinners, medications for heart diseases, blood pressure, diabetes, liver diseases, or kidney ailments), they must take their doctor’s advice before consuming turmeric.
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What are the health benefits of turmeric?
Turmeric has long been hailed for its healing properties. Although most of its claimed benefits do not have any scientific backing, it is still a popular home remedy for several health conditions. Some of the proposed health benefits of turmeric are
- Turmeric is possibly effective for:
- Managing osteoarthritis: Turmeric may help relieve the pain and swelling associated with osteoarthritis. There have been scientific reports claiming that turmeric supplementation helped improve mobility and reduced symptoms in patients with osteoarthritis.
- Regulating cholesterol: Turmeric may help improve the lipid profile by reducing the bad or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol levels.
- Relieving itching (pruritus): Turmeric may help reduce skin irritation and itching caused by chronic kidney diseases and exposure to mustard gas (toxic gas).
- Improving mental health: Turmeric may help manage mental health conditions, such as depression. Ask the doctor to know whether turmeric can be taken along with the prescribed medications.
- Managing allergies: Turmeric may help manage allergic symptoms, such as itching, sneezing, and running nose as seen in certain allergies, such as hay fever.
- There is insufficient evidence to support the effectiveness of turmeric in
- Eye diseases, such as uveitis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cancer including colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer
- Heart attacks following a bypass surgery
- Crohn’s disease (a type of IBD or inflammatory bowel disease)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Gum diseases
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Liver diseases
- Fungal infections, including ringworm
As opposed to the previous claims, turmeric does not help reduce stomach ulcers.
Does turmeric help prevent COVID-19?
There is no scientific evidence to prove that turmeric or any other supplement helps prevent or treat COVID-19 infection. Experts recommend that people must consume a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water and perform regular exercise to stay fit. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- get vaccinated if eligible,
- wear a mask properly,
- practice respiratory hygiene and
- maintain social distancing.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
WebMD. Turmeric. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-662/turmeric
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Turmeric. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric
Keith S. Turmeric. Nutrition Today. 2020; 55(1): 45-56. https://journals.lww.com/nutritiontodayonline/fulltext/2020/01000/turmeric__potential_health_benefits.9.aspx
World Health Organization. Fact or Fiction. https://www.who.int/southeastasia/outbreaks-and-emergencies/novel-coronavirus-2019/fact-or-fiction
Versus Arthritis. Turmeric. https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/complementary-and-alternative-treatments/types-of-complementary-treatments/turmeric/
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