Turmeric, the golden spice obtained from the turmeric plant (Curcuma longa) is commonly used in Asian cooking to add color and flavor to food, especially in curries. In fact, it is an indispensable ingredient in many Indian dishes. The spice mainly consists of carbs, fiber, various plant compounds and other nutrients.
However, the most important element that has made turmeric so popular is a bioactive compound called Curcumin, which has numerous healing and medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial, analgesic, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties. Curcumin is responsible for most of the health benefits of turmeric and for giving the spice itsrich golden-yellow color.
Ever since the healing properties of curcumin were discovered, turmeric came to be used as a natural remedy for curing and preventing several health problems, particularly conditions involving inflammation.
Although turmeric is a natural substance, many people are concerned about the possible side effects it may cause, when used for medicinal purposes. Turmeric has been used in India and many other countries for thousands of years. It is generally safe to take turmeric and it does not cause significant side effects. However, some people may experience problems like nausea, dizziness, stomach upset, or diarrhea. It has been found that most incidents of turmeric side effects are connected to turmeric supplements, when people consume more than their recommended doses.
How Safe is Turmeric?
According to researchers and scientists who have conducted countless studies on this spice, turmeric is very safe unless consumed in excess quantities. Excess of anything, including water is likely to cause health problems. The same goes for turmeric as well. Turmeric in judicious quantities is considered safe for anyone who is generally healthy.
Dose Escalation Study of Curcumin
The “Dose escalation of a curcuminoid formulation” isone of the most famous studies conducted by Lao et. al on the safety profile of turmeric.
About 24 healthy participantstook part in the study in which they were given 95% standardized curcumin doses ranging from 500mg to 12,000 mg. After the study, it was found that no curcumin was spotted in blood serum at doses from 500-8000mg. However, at doses of 10000 and 12000mg, the blood serum of two individuals contained low levels of curcumin.
Out of the 24 participants, seven individuals experienced side effects, which most of the of researchers suggest was not related to high doseof curcumin. The side effects experienced by the seven people are as follows:
- 1 individual experienced diarrhea at a dose of 1000mg.
- 1 individual experienced headache at a dose of 4000mg.
- 1 individual experienced rash at a dose of8000mg.
- 1 individual experienced yellow stool at a dose of 8000mg.
- 1 individual experienced yellow stool at a dose of 10000mg.
- 1 individual experienced headache at a dose of 10000mg
- 1 individual experienced diarrhea at a dose of 12000mg
Since all these side effects were not so serious and were of grade one toxicity, it was concluded that curcumin has an outstanding safety profile and is generally well tolerated by people.
If you are concerned about the side effects of turmeric, a good idea would be to start using small doses and then slowly increase the dose.
What Causes Turmeric Side Effects?
Most of the side effects related to turmeric intake may be due to the following reasons:
- Excess Consumption – As with everything else, moderation is the key, when it comes to food. Low doses of turmeric are safe whereas high doses are likely to cause side effects.
- Quality – When you buy turmeric, always make sure to choose organic turmeric. In the case of turmeric powder or turmeric supplements, choose products that are manufactured by reliable and popular brands. When it comes to commercial turmeric powders, not all of them are pure. Some may contain highly toxic ingredients, some of which may even cause diseases like cancer.
- Duration of Use– Consuming high doses of turmeric for a long duration is another factor that may cause side effects.
- Form of Turmeric – Turmeric is available in many forms, including fresh root, turmeric powder, turmeric capsules, extract and tincture. Of these different forms, the consumption of turmeric capsules has been found to cause most of the side effects because it’s easier for people take more than the recommended doses of the supplement.
- When and How You Take Turmeric – Although you can take turmeric any time, people who are on medication should take care not to take the spice close to their medicine intake time. Also, consuming turmeric on an empty stomach is likely to cause side effects in some people.
How Much Turmeric is Safe?
The amount of turmeric you can take safely per day depends on various factors, such as your age and overall health. If you have any concerns about how much turmeric is safe for you, it’s best to consult your doctor.
According to various sources, here are the recommended doses of different forms of turmeric for adults:
- Fresh Turmeric: 1.5g – 3 g per day
- Dried and powdered root: 1g – 3 g per day
- Standardized powder (curcumin) or Curcumin supplements: 400mg – 600 mg, 3 times per day
- Fluid extract (1:1) 30 – 90 drops per day
- Tincture (1:2): 15 – 30 drops, 4 times per day
If you’re taking turmeric for various health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or dyspepsia (upset stomach), here are the doses:
- For rheumatoid arthritis: 500mg,two times a day of BCM-95®, Arjuna Natural Extracts, India, which is a specific formulation of curcumin.
- For osteoarthritis: 500 mg twice a day ofMeriva, Indena, which is a specific turmeric extract. 500 mg four times a day of a non-commercial product is also used for treating this condition.
- For dyspepsia (upset stomach): 500 mg of turmeric four times a day.
What are the Side Effects of Turmeric?
Now, let’s look at some of the possible side effects associated with turmeric:
One of the most common side effects associated with turmeric is upset stomach. Although the spice is a great remedy for digestion and various digestive issues like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and bloating, turmeric overdose can sometimes lead to irritation and stomach discomfort. A few participants who took part in the studies about the effect on turmeric on cancer had to quit because the spice affected their digestion in a negative way.
The following are some of the reasons why you might be experiencing these side effects:
- Taking turmeric for the first time – The anxiety or concern about taking a totally new spice for the first time may affect your digestion process.
- Taking turmeric on an empty stomach may trigger acid reflux. The spice is best digested when it is combined with oil or food.
- Consuming excess quantities of turmeric
Risk of Bleeding
Curcumin, the bioactive compound in turmeric has anti-coagulant properties. While this property is beneficial for reducing the risk of blood clotting and heart problems, it can increase the risk of bleeding in people having bleeding disorders. So, in case of surgery, cuts or wounds, people with this condition may experience excessive loss of blood.
To avoid such problems:
- Do not take turmeric or curcumin supplements if you have a bleeding disorder.
- If you wish to take turmeric, first consult your doctor, who can advise you on the doses.
- If you’ve decided to take turmeric, make sure to start with small doses.
- If you’re on anti-clotting medications, avoid taking turmeric close to the time of taking the medicines.
If you are allergic to ginger, chances are that you are allergic to turmeric as well. In such cases, it is better to avoid taking turmeric in any form.
Gall Bladder Problems
People with gall bladder problems, such as gall stones or bile duct obstruction are advised not to use turmeric because the spice can make the condition worser. Turmeric can cause the gall bladder to contract, causing extreme pain and discomfort.
According to some sources, turmeric contains compounds called oxalates that may increase the risk of gall stones.
Itching and Rashes on the Skin
These side effects may be due to allergic reaction to turmeric. As mentioned earlier, sometimes the turmeric that we buy from the market contain additives and toxic substances, which can cause allergy in people. The best way to avoid this is to take organic turmeric. However, if you find the condition becoming worse, its better to stop taking turmeric altogether.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
If you experience hot flashes, night sweats and face flashes after taking turmeric, may it’s because the spice is regulating your hormones. In this case, what you can do is reduce the dosage of turmeric or try using another brand of the spice.
Yellowing of Skin, Nails and Stool
Turmeric overdose may be the reason behind the yellowing of skin, sweat, nails and stool. If you’re experiencing this problem, try reducing the dose of turmeric and see if there’s any change.
Some people who take turmeric regularly has reported body odor as a side effect. If you experience this symptom, try adding cinnamon to the golden paste.
Nausea and Vomiting
High doses of turmeric may cause nausea and vomiting in people, probably because they’re not accustomed to the taste of the spice.
People with iron deficiency should take turmeric with caution because high doses of this spice can prevent the absorption of iron by the body.
People trying to have a baby are recommended to use turmeric with caution. In men, the spice may cause lowering of testosterone levels and decreased sperm movement, which may lead to infertility.
Possible Interactions with Drugs
When taking turmeric with certain medications, it can cause an increased amount of the medicines in the blood stream, which may produce a toxic effect in the long run. According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, turmeric may have drug interactions with blood thinning medicines, diabetes medications and stomach acid reducing medicines.
As with any kind of food, minor side effects may occur while using turmeric as well. But, when you look at the bigger picture and consider all the health benefits this amazing spice offers us, you’ll understand that the benefits of turmeric undoubtedly outweigh the side effects.
So, give turmeric a try and see how it improves your overall health and well-being!