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. One of the risks is that large doses can be bad for your kidneys. That’s because too much curcumin can significantly increase the levels of urinary oxalate in your body, increasing the risk of kidney stone formation.
What are the negative effects of turmeric?
There are other potential risks to taking too much curcumin, including:
- Mild side effects include upset stomach, acid reflux, diarrhea, dizziness and headaches.
- 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 medications 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.
What are the potential health benefits of turmeric?
When consumed in moderation, turmeric can have significant health benefits:
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory properties and can be as effective as anti-inflammatory medications but without the side effects. It can help to reduce chronic inflammation in joints and wounds, alleviating swelling, pain and discomfort. Because inflammation is often at the root of certain chronic diseases, turmeric can be used to treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and pancreatitis.
- Pain relief: Curcumin can reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain, as well as gastrointestinal pain associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
- Antioxidant properties: Turmeric has strong antioxidant properties and protects the body from the free radicals that damage healthy cells. It can combat aging and boost metabolism, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration (age-related eye changes).
- Immunity booster: Turmeric’s natural antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties help stimulate the immune system and protect the body from infection.
- Reduces cancer risk: Research has shown that turmeric can destroy cancerous cells, interfering with the growth, development and spread of cancer at a molecular level. Turmeric may especially play a vital role in treating and preventing cancers of the digestive system, such as colorectal cancer. It can also help counteract the effects of carcinogenic additives in processed food.
- Lowers heart disease risk: The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may prevent heart diseases and cardiovascular complications. Curcumin also reduces low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or bad cholesterol, preventing atherosclerosis.
- Diabetes prevention: Curcumin delays the onset of type 2 diabetes. Turmeric supplements taken along with metformin may help people with type 2 diabetes stabilize their blood sugar levels.
- Alzheimer’s disease prevention: Curcumin clears the buildup of protein tangles in the brain called amyloid plaques, which are linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Reduces depression: Curcumin boosts levels of neurotrophic factors in the brain, as well as neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, all of which can help people with symptoms of depression.
- Aids digestion: Turmeric stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, making the digestive system more efficient. Turmeric also aids enzymatic reactions, acid production and optimal absorption of nutrients in the gut and can reduce bloating.
- Liver detox: Turmeric can increase the production of vital enzymes that help in breaking down and removing toxins in the liver. Turmeric also promotes good liver health by improving blood circulation.
- Improves bone health: Curcumin supplements can help improve joint function, prevent bone loss and preserve bone tissue.
- Promotes good skin: Because of its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, turmeric may help to:
Turmeric does not absorb into the body easily when taken alone. So in order to achieve maximum health benefits, turmeric should be consumed with black pepper, which contains a compound called piperine that boosts the absorption of turmeric in the body. Cooking turmeric with oil also helps the body absorb more curcumin.
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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