Curcumin turmeric side effects


Does Too Much Turmeric Have Side Effects?

Both turmeric and curcumin, its main active ingredient, are generally considered safe and without any serious side effects (7, 8).

Yet, some people may experience side effects when they take them in large doses as supplements.

Turmeric contains around 2% oxalate. At high doses, this may contribute to kidney stones in predisposed individuals (9).

Additionally, not all commercial turmeric powders are pure. Some are adulterated with cheaper and potentially toxic ingredients not listed on the label.

Studies have revealed that commercial turmeric powders may contain fillers such as cassava starch or barley, wheat or rye flour (10).

Eating turmeric that contains wheat, barley or rye flour will cause adverse symptoms in people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.

Some turmeric powders may also contain questionable food colorants, which are added to improve color when turmeric powders are diluted with flour.

One food colorant frequently used in India is metanil yellow, also called acid yellow 36. Animal studies show that metanil yellow may cause cancer and neurological damage when consumed in high amounts (11, 12, 13).

While the toxic effects of metanil yellow have not been investigated in humans, it’s illegal to use in the United States and Europe.

Some turmeric powders may also be high in lead, a heavy metal that is especially toxic to the nervous system (14, 15).

Summary: Pure turmeric is considered safe for most people. However, turmeric powders may sometimes be adulterated with cheap fillers, such as wheat starch and questionable food colorants. They may even contain lead.


Curcumin supplements are considered safe and no adverse side effects have been reported at low doses.

One study in 10 adults found that taking 490 mg of curcumin daily for a week caused no side effects (16).

Other studies showed that taking doses of 1,200–2,100 mg of curcumin per day for 2–6 weeks didn’t lead to any apparent adverse effects (17, 18).

Yet, a small proportion of people may experience some mild side effects at higher doses. These may include:

  • Digestive issues: People may experience mild digestive issues such as bloating, acid reflux, flatulence and diarrhea at daily doses exceeding 1,000 mg (19, 20).
  • Headache and nausea: Doses of 450 mg or higher may cause headache and nausea in a small number of people (20, 21).
  • Skin rash: People have reported a skin rash after taking a dose of 8,000 mg of curcumin or more, but this seems to be very rare (20).

Extremely high doses of 1,170 mg per pound (2,600 mg/kg) of body weight daily for 13 weeks, or up to two years, may cause some serious side effects in rats.

These included an increase in liver size, stained fur, stomach ulcers, inflammation and an increased risk of intestinal or liver cancer (22).

However, the dose makes the poison. There is currently no evidence that lower amounts of curcumin cause serious side effects in humans when taken over short periods, though human studies on the long-term effects are lacking.

Summary: High doses of curcumin may cause mild side effects in some people, but they are generally considered safe. The long-term effects of taking curcumin in humans are unknown.


Generic Name: turmeric (tur MER ik or TOO me rik)
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Medically reviewed by on Nov 26, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum

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What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a spice that comes from a plant. Turmeric is also known as Curcuma, Curcumin, Halada, Haldi, Haridra, Indian Saffron, Nisha, Pian Jiang Huang, Rajani, Safran Bourbon, Safran de Batallita, Safran des Indes, Turmeric Root, and Yu Jin. Turmeric should not be confused with Javanese turmeric root (Curcuma zedoaria).

Turmeric is commonly used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, and other foods. The turmeric root is also used to make alternative medicine.

Turmeric has been used in alternative medicine as a possibly effective aid in reducing blood cholesterol, reducing osteoarthritis pain, or relieving itching caused by chronic kidney disease.

Turmeric has also been used to treat stomach ulcers. However, research has shown that turmeric may not be effective in treating this condition.

Other uses not proven with research have included: rheumatoid arthritis, prediabetes, tuberculosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases, and lowering the risk of a heart attack after bypass surgery.

It is not certain whether turmeric is effective in treating any medical condition. Medicinal use of this product has not been approved by the FDA. Turmeric should not be used in place of medication prescribed for you by your doctor.

Turmeric is often sold as an herbal supplement. There are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for many herbal compounds and some marketed supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.

Turmeric may also be used for purposes not listed in this product guide.

Important Information

Follow all directions on the product label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.

Before taking this medicine

Ask a doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider if it is safe for you to use this product if you have ever had:

  • diabetes;

  • gallbladder problems;

  • an iron deficiency;

  • bleeding problems or a blood-clotting disorder;

  • a stomach disorder called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD);

  • endometriosis or uterine fibroids; or

  • cancer of the breast, uterus, ovary (or other hormone-sensitive conditions).

Turmeric when taken in medicinal amounts is considered likely unsafe to use during pregnancy. Taking turmeric during pregnancy could cause uterine bleeding or contractions.

Turmeric is likely to be safe during pregnancy when used in the small amounts that are found in spices or foods.

Ask a doctor before using this product if you are breast-feeding.

Turmeric taken by mouth may lower testosterone levels and sperm motility in men. This could affect fertility (your ability to have children).

Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without medical advice.

How should I take turmeric?

When considering the use of herbal supplements, seek the advice of your doctor. You may also consider consulting a practitioner who is trained in the use of herbal/health supplements.

If you choose to use turmeric, use it as directed on the package or as directed by your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider. Do not use more of this product than is recommended on the label.

Turmeric is thought to be possibly safe when used short time as a mouth rinse or as an enema.

Do not use different forms of turmeric (pills, liquids, and others) at the same time or you could have an overdose.

If you need surgery, dental work, or a medical procedure, stop taking turmeric at least 2 weeks ahead of time.

Call your doctor if the condition you are treating with turmeric does not improve, or if it gets worse while using this product.

Store as directed, or at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Skip the missed dose and take the next regularly scheduled dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while taking turmeric?

Turmeric can make it harder for your body to absorb iron. Tell your doctor if you are taking an iron supplement.

Avoid using turmeric together with other herbal/health supplements that can also affect blood-clotting. This includes angelica (dong quai), capsicum, clove, dandelion, danshen, evening primrose, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng, poplar, red clover, saw palmetto, and willow.

Avoid using turmeric together with other herbal/health supplements that can lower blood sugar, such as alpha-lipoic acid, chromium, damiana, devil’s claw, fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng, psyllium, Siberian ginseng, and others.

Turmeric side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Although not all side effects are known, turmeric is thought to be likely safe for most people when used as directed for up to 8 months.

Long-term use of turmeric may cause serious side effects. Stop using this product and call your healthcare provider at once if you have:

  • unusual bruising or bleeding;

  • any bleeding that will not stop; or

  • high blood sugar–increased thirst, increased urination, dry mouth, fruity breath odor, headache, blurred vision.

Common side effects may include:

  • nausea, upset stomach;

  • diarrhea; or

  • dizziness.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect turmeric?

Do not take turmeric without medical advice if you are using a medication to treat any of the following conditions:

  • any type of infection (including HIV, malaria, or tuberculosis);

  • anxiety, depression, or a psychiatric disorder;

  • asthma or allergies;

  • cancer;

  • erectile dysfunction;

  • heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD);

  • high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a heart condition;

  • diabetes;

  • migraine headaches;

  • psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other autoimmune disorders; or

  • seizures.

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with turmeric, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this product guide.

Further information

  • Consult with a licensed healthcare professional before using any herbal/health supplement. Whether you are treated by a medical doctor or a practitioner trained in the use of natural medicines/supplements, make sure all your healthcare providers know about all of your medical conditions and treatments.

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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Turmeric: overview, benefits, dosage, side-effects

Find out all about turmeric food supplements, including what it does, the benefits of taking it and how much you might need

Written by Jack Feeney on December 14, 2018
Reviewed by Fiona Hunter on January 5, 2019


What is turmeric and what does it do?

Turmeric is a yellow coloured spice that has been used for thousands of years as both a cooking ingredient and a medicinal herb.1 Extracted from the root of the turmeric plant, it’s part of the Zingiberaceae family, which also includes ginger.2

Turmeric is available as a powder, tea, essential oil and scrubs. There’s also turmeric capsules.

What is curcumin and what does it do?

The compound curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow colour, has been isolated by scientists as turmeric’s most important active ingredient. Studies show curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and may support digestion, too.3,4 Between 2-6% of turmeric consists of curcuminoids, active plant compounds, most of which is curcumin.5

Turmeric and black pepper

Scientists have also discovered that black pepper helps your body absorb curcumin, so you may sometimes find turmeric and black pepper together.6

Benefits of turmeric

What does turmeric do in the body?

Traditional Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic approach to medicine that originated in India, has long praised the health and wellbeing benefits of turmeric, and now Western studies are discovering;

It can reduce inflammation – a 2013 study in the journal Biofactors found that curcumin may be responsible for curbing inflammation and swelling. Researchers say it has this effect by blocking enzymes and other proteins that create an inflammatory response in the body.7

It may support your joints – curcumin’s effect on reducing inflammation means it can also help protect your joints from wear and tear. This includes easing symptoms of arthritis like joint movement and stiffness, according to a 2016 study in Journal of Medicinal Food.8

It can ease digestion problems – curcumin can help support gut health, including relieving excess gas, abdominal pain, and bloating.9 A 2013 trial by the University of Nottingham found curcumin stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, an essential substance needed to break down fat in foods.10

Handpicked article: 6 top uses for turmeric


How much turmeric is safe to take?

There is no reference nutrient intake (RNI) for turmeric tablets, but don’t exceed the dosage stated on any label. However, there is an RNI for curcumin.

The World Health Organisation advises up to 3mg per kg of bodyweight of curcuminoids, which includes curcumin. The average daily intake in an Indian diet is much higher, between 60 and 100mg per kg of bodyweight.11

For the best effect, you should have turmeric in combination with black pepper. A 2017 study by USA’s Central Michigan University reported that an important compound in black pepper, piperine, can increase the body’s ability to absorb curcumin by 2000%.12

Children under 12 years old and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not take turmeric, as it’s safety in these groups not been proven.13


What are the side effects of taking turmeric?

Side-effects are rare, but when taken in large amounts can include:14

  • upset stomach, including diarrhoea
  • yellow stools
  • headache
  • rash

Shop Supplements

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.

1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Turmeric
2. Science Direct. Zingiberaceae
3. Shehzad A, Rehman G and Lee YS. Curcumin in inflammatory diseases
4. Shen L, Liu L, Ji HF. Regulative effects of curcumin spice administration on gut microbiota
5. Gupta SC, Patchva S, Aggarwal BB. Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials
6. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its Effects on Human Health
7. As Source 3
8. Daily JW, Yang M, Park S. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis
9. Thavorn K, Mamdani MM, Straus SE. Efficacy of turmeric in the treatment of digestive disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis protocol
10. Marciani L, et al. Effects of various food ingredients on gall bladder emptying
11. Amalraj A, et al. Biological activities of curcuminoids, other biomolecules from turmeric and their derivatives – A review
12. As Source 5
13. European Medicines Agency. Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products
14. As Source 5

Turmeric Curcumin Side Effects, Drug Interactions & Safety Warnings

Turmeric is the most famous golden spice in the world, known for its wide range of physical and mental health benefits. Recently, turmeric has claimed center stage in the scientific community as researchers look to verify the robust claims.

Turmeric’s main active ingredient, curcumin, has become increasingly popular for its use in dietary supplements. As such, many users are concerned about the possible side effects of turmeric, as well as its drug interactions and safety warnings.

This article will analyze the evidence regarding potential health risks.

What is Turmeric Curcumin?

Turmeric powder is an extract derived from the roots of the Curcuma longa plant, a species of ginger originating in Southeast Asia. Our ancestors discovered that turmeric offers significant healing and therapeutic properties, making it much more than just an ingredient in many Indian dishes. (1)

Within turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound called curcumin. These curcuminoids provide the vast majority of turmeric’s benefits. But, the curcumin content within turmeric is only around 3%. (2)

Historically, turmeric’s main problem has been poor bioavailability. In other words, oral supplements containing curcumin have meager rates of absorption into the bloodstream. Studies have shown that when paired with piperine (black pepper extract), the body absorbs turmeric much more efficiently.

What Is Turmeric Good For?

Turmeric has many different uses in modern natural medicine. Here are a few of the primary reasons why people use turmeric supplements.

  • It Reduces Inflammation: Turmeric is one of the best natural anti-inflammatory agents in existence. Studies show that it can inhibit many of the pathways responsible for chronic inflammation, helping to reduce arthritis and joint pain and lessen the severity of allergic reactions. It may also help back pain and inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
  • It’s an Antioxidant: Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant shown to enhance immunity and prevent many diseases. Research suggests turmeric may be a complementary treatment for several conditions, including cancer and fibromyalgia due to its ability to reduce oxidative stress throughout the body.
  • It Improves Heart Health: Turmeric helps improve blood vessel function by promoting timely dilation and increasing blood flow. Studies show that curcumin is beneficial for lowering blood pressure and reducing cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • It Helps Weight Management: Several trials have shown promise for turmeric’s ability to treat metabolic disorders. Curcumin can target adipose tissue while increasing insulin sensitivity and regulating lipid metabolism. These benefits make it useful in weight loss and for people with diabetes.
  • It Boosts Brain Function: Curcuminoids can help mental acuity and cognitive function in many ways. Several studies demonstrate that turmeric can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and may even reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Thus, it appears to be a well-rounded supplement for brain health.
  • It Supports the Liver: The liver is the body’s central filtration system, and it serves several critical functions for our survival. Current evidence suggests that curcumin can help cleanse and detox the liver, helping it dispel toxins from the body.
  • It Aids Digestion: Turmeric can also help support the digestive process if you’re struggling with certain disorders characterized by inflammation. Research has shown that curcumin can help irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Turmeric Side Effects

The side effects of turmeric are both moderate and infrequent but can appear at higher dosages. There are substantial benefits in oral curcumin supplements, but there are a few potential health risks to consider.

  • Bleeding & Clotting Problems: Turmeric is a known blood thinner. Curcumin may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising in some individuals. Curcumin may also cause increased bleeding following surgery. Discontinue turmeric use at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
  • Diabetes & Blood Sugar: While turmeric can lower and stabilize blood sugar in diabetics, there is a slight chance that it can make blood sugar too low. Use with caution.
  • Digestive Issues: At higher dosages exceeding 1,000 mg of curcumin per day, bloating, flatulence, acid reflux, and diarrhea may occur.
  • Gallbladder Problems: Turmeric may worsen gallbladder problems such as bile duct obstruction and gallstones. Do not use turmeric if you have either of these conditions.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Turmeric may worsen stomach problems such as GERD and may cause an upset stomach in some people.
  • Headache and Nausea: Dosages exceeding 450 mg of curcumin per day may increase the chances of headaches and nausea in a small number of individuals.
  • Hormone-Sensitive Conditions: Curcumin may act like the hormone estrogen within the body. In theory, turmeric may cause complications in hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. However, research shows that turmeric may reduce the effects of estrogen in cancer cells. Use with caution if you have a condition that could worsen with exposure to hormones.
  • Infertility in Men: Oral curcumin supplementation may lower testosterone levels and reduce sperm movement in men. Therefore, turmeric may lower fertility, but we need more studies to confirm these findings.
  • Iron Deficiency: High amounts of turmeric may inhibit iron absorption in the body. If you have an iron deficiency, use curcumin with caution.
  • Kidney Stones: Turmeric may increase urinary oxalate levels which can lead to a higher risk of kidney stone formation.
  • Skin Rash: In rare instances, a skin rash may develop at a dose of 8,000 mg of curcumin or more per day.

Turmeric Drug Interactions

Turmeric has the potential to slow blood clotting, which can increase the chance of bleeding and bruising. This interaction may occur in conjunction with other anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen, dalteparin, enoxaparin, heparin, warfarin, and others.

Turmeric may also interact with diabetes medications such as glimepiride, glyburide, insulin, pioglitazone, rosiglitazone, chlorpropamide, glipizide, tolbutamide, and others. To avoid problems with blood sugar, consult with a doctor before using this combination.

Medications that change in the liver may also have interactions with turmeric which can decrease how quickly the liver breaks them down. These drugs include calcium channel blockers, chemotherapeutic agents, antifungals, glucocorticoids, alfentanil, cisapride, fentanyl, lidocaine, losartan, fexofenadine, midazolam, and others.

Large amounts of curcumin may also influence estrogen in the body. Evidence suggests that turmeric supplementation may decrease the effectiveness of estrogen pills. Examples of drugs that may cause negative interactions are conjugated equine estrogens, estradiol, Ethinylestradiol (EE), and others.

Is Turmeric Safe?

Turmeric and its constituent curcumin are LIKELY SAFE through oral supplementation or when applied as a topical to the skin for up to 8 months. When used as an enema or as a mouthwash, turmeric is POSSIBLY SAFE for short-term use.

Turmeric supplements are generally safe and well-tolerated with no adverse side effects reported at lower dosages. Most dietary supplements will contain 150-250 mg of curcumin per serving mixed with an abundance of turmeric root powder. This dose is well within the range of tolerability and safety.

  • Recommended turmeric dosage.

Studies on cancer have used up to 8,000 mg of curcumin per day without any treatment-related side effects or toxicity to report. Although, this dosage is both excessive and impractical for the average user, yet still not enough for an overdose of any kind.

Is turmeric safe during pregnancy?

During pregnancy or while breastfeeding, turmeric is LIKELY SAFE at quantities commonly found in food. However, turmeric is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken orally in medicinal amounts during pregnancy or while nursing.

Curcumin may stimulate uterine contractions or promote the menstrual period, which can put the pregnancy at risk. While thought to be uncommon, there is currently not enough evidence available to guarantee the safety of turmeric during pregnancy.

Final Thoughts on the Side Effects of Turmeric Curcumin

The side effects of turmeric are moderate and extremely rare. For the vast majority of users, daily supplementation will be side effect free. While there are some drug interactions and safety precautions to be aware of, most users will find that turmeric’s benefits far outweigh any slight health risks that it may have.

  • Difference between turmeric vs. curcumin.

Before taking turmeric, or any dietary supplement, please consult with a certified medical professional to see if it can improve your situation.

Curcumin is a well studied and versatile supplement. Nonetheless, most of its purported benefits lack solid research. This post will help you understand when curcumin is likely to be effective and when there are not enough data to say. Read on to discover the science behind curcumin supplementation.

What is Curcumin?

Conditions That May Benefit From Curcumin

  • Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Depression
  • High blood fats
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pruritus (itchy skin)

Note that turmeric is not bioavailable. Taking regular curcumin supplements will unlikely provide benefits outside the gut . Some forms of curcumin may be more bioavailable (such as CurcuBrain).

Turmeric (Curcuma Longa), most commonly known as the spice found in curry, is not only known for its flavor, but for its purported health benefits as well.

Curcumin supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. Supplements generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.

How much do we know?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH), there’s a lot of research about turmeric or curcumin, including human studies, for a variety of health conditions .

However, strong evidence is lacking to support claims that curcuminoids from turmeric help reduce inflammation .

Active Compounds

Turmeric contains several major constituents known as curcuminoids, which typically make up about 3% of its weight in commercially available preparations .

Curcumin is known to be the most active phytochemical of the four curcuminoids found in turmeric. It makes up 77% of curcuminoids .

The remaining three constituents typically come in at 17% desmethoxycurcumin, 3% bisdemethoxycurcumin, and the remaining, more recently identified curcuminoid, cyclocurcumin .



  • Allegedly reduces inflammation
  • May help balance the immune system
  • Good for detoxing
  • Likely safe


  • Poor bioavailability
  • Lack of solid data for most uses despite a large body of research
  • Has a specific taste some people don’t like

Purported Health Benefits of Curcumin

Possibly Effective for:

Research suggests that specific turmeric extracts (Meriva, Indena), alone or in combination with other herbs, may reduce pain and improve function in people with knee osteoarthritis .

Three-month supplementation with 200mg/day of a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex (Meriva, Indena) decreased pain scores by 58% and increased walking distance by over 400% in osteoarthritis .

Curcumin has also been researched for its potential to regenerate cartilage .

2) Hay Fever

Some clinical trials suggest that two months of curcumin supplementation (Organika Health Products) at 500 mg/day can reduce hayfever symptoms like sneezing, itching, runny nose, and congestion. The authors proposed that curcumin helps balance the immune response .

3) Depression

A recent review of clinical trials suggests that curcumin reduces depression symptoms as an add-on in people already using an antidepressants

The effect of curcumin appears to be greater for middle-aged people compared to older people. Better effects were also seen in people who supplemented for at least 6 weeks and who used at least 1 gram daily .

Additionally, various curcumin formulations were used in the included studies. They all had similar effectiveness, although one specific formulation (BCM-95) seemed to offer non-significantly greater benefits to people with depression than the typical curcumin-piperine formulations. Additional studies should look into various curcumin formulations .

In older people, curcumin improved sustained attention, working memory, and mood .

Scientists are investigating whether curcumin affects the development of new cells and BDNF stores in the hippocampus in chronically stressed rats (a model of depression in animals) .

Other active areas of research are looking into the effects of curcumin on blood cortisol levels and cortisol sensitivity (Glucocorticoid Receptor Expression), NMDA and 5HT2C receptor activation, and glutamate activity in the brain .

In mice, potential interactions and synergistic effects between curcumin (+piperine) and SSRI and SNRI antidepressants are being researched .

4) Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

Clinical trials suggest that curcumin can reduce markers of liver injury and liver fat buildup in people non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) .

Scientists are exploring curcumin’s NAFLD-related mechanisms in animals and cells. Some hypotheses suggest that curcumin improves NAFLD by raising leptin sensitivity, inhibiting obesity-induced inflammation, and lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. These mechanisms remain to be confirmed in humans .

5) Itchy Skin (Pruritus)

According to clinical trials, turmeric 500 mg orally three times daily for 8 weeks decreases symptoms of itchy skin (uremic pruritus) in patients with end-stage renal disease .

Early clinical findings also suggest that curcumin reduces pruritus severity and improves quality of life in patients with sulfur mustard-induced chronic pruritus after daily use for 4 weeks .

Possibly Ineffective for:

High Blood Lipids

The effects of turmeric on cholesterol levels are mixed.

Some studies suggest turmeric lowers the “bad” cholesterol LDL and triglycerides but doesn’t affect total cholesterol or the “good” cholesterol HDL. Another review suggested that curcumin improves HDL but doesn’t affect LDL. Future studies need to clarify the conflicting findings .

Additionally, it’s uncertain which curcumin formulations have a meaningful effect. More research is needed .

Peptic Ulcers

Based on the available evidence, it’s possible that curcumin has no effect on peptic ulcers .

Radiation Dermatitis

Existing studies suggest that curcumin doesn’t improve radiation dermatitis, which is a type of skin damage and irritation caused by radiotherapy .

Likely Ineffective for:

Alzheimer’s Disease

The existing evidence does not support the use of turmeric in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

In a small trial, 1-4 g/day of curcumin for 6 months had no effect on mental and cognitive state in patients with Alzheimer disease .

A meta-analysis of studies revealed that the turmeric group may have experienced greater cognitive decline when compared with placebo. Data are limited by small sample sizes and patient variability, but there’s enough evidence to advise against turmeric in people with Alzheimer’s .

These findings outline how a compound can have completely different effects in animals than in live human beings. It should serve as a reminder that animal findings should always be interpreted with extreme caution and healthy skepticism.

Prior to the above-mentioned clinical trials, many animal experiments suggested that curcumin can “reverse cognitive decline, memory deficits, and inflammation in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease.” Various mechanisms were proposed (like increasing neurogenesis, BDNF, and CREB). Yet, curcumin was a failure clinically .

Insufficient Evidence for:

The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies.

There is insufficient evidence to support the use of curcumin for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking curcumin supplements. Curcumin should never be used as a replacement for approved medical therapies.

Joint Pain & Arthritis

In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, 500mg curcumin + diclofenac sodium was found to be effective .

Crohn’s Disease

Low-quality evidence suggests curcumin may reduce bowel movements, diarrhea, and stomach pain in people with Crohn disease after daily supplementation for a month .


According to preliminary research, in Lupus patients, short-term turmeric supplementation decreases blood and protein in the urine along with systolic blood pressure .


Preliminary data suggests that curcumin improves cardiovascular function and reduces oxidative stress in diabetic patients .

A nine-month curcumin intervention significantly lowers the chances that prediabetes develops into Type II diabetes, potentially improving the overall function of pancreatic cells .


Curcumin reduced the severity of PMS in a very small human study .

Animal Research (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of curcumin for any of the conditions listed in this section.

Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

Gut Health, Autoimmunity & Other

Researchers are investigating the effects of curcumin in animals and cells on:

  • Bile release from the gallbladder
  • Multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis
  • Inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-12, TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma and associated JAK-STAT and NF-kappaB signaling pathways in immune cells
  • Viruses such as influenza
  • Candida albicans
  • Septicemia in mice exposed to the pathogenic bacteria responsible for cholera .
  • Lung inflammation in Pneumoniae
  • Brain cell death
  • Glutathione levels, insulin receptor protein levels, and oxidative stress
  • GSK3b

Human data on these effects are lacking.

We’ve already discussed how curcumin inhibits biofilms and quorum sensing and how it is being researched for activating the vitamin D receptor, which might be important for combating infections.

Brain DHA

One of the interesting things scientists are investigating about curcumin is its potential effect on brain DHA levels .

In cells, curcumin elevates levels of enzymes involved in the synthesis of DHA from ALA in both liver and brain tissues .

This may turn out to have significance since Fish oil/DHA supplements sometimes don’t increase DHA in the brain. However, curcumin may turn out not to affect brain DHA levels in humans at all. We simply don’t know yet.

Metal Toxicity

The effects of curcumin on metal toxicity in humans are unknown.

Curcumin decreases inflammatory markers in copper-overloaded rats and reduces aluminum-induced inflammatory responses in rat brains .

Cell studies are investigating its effects on DNA damage from arsenic, mercury, fluoride, and excess selenium .

In mercury-exposed rats, curcumin reduces oxidative stress .

In iron-overloaded rats, curcumin decreased iron accumulation in the liver and spleen and restored antioxidant levels .

Obesity, Diabetes, Libido, Cataracts and Muscle Tissue

None of the following effects have been researched in humans.

Curcumin enhances erectile function in diabetic male rats .

Curcumin lowers blood sugar, improves insulin sensitivity, reduces urine sugar and in diabetic mice .

In animals, scientists are studying if curcumin can lower blood sugar by stimulating insulin secretion from pancreatic cells , affects pancreatic regeneration, affect muscular insulin resistance, or obesity .

Bioavailable Curcumin delays cataract development in diabetic rats .

It alleviates diabetic cardiomyopathy in diabetic rats .

Studies are investigating whether curcumin lessens diabetic complications in rat brains, slowing mitochondrial dysfunction .

In cells, scientists are studying if curcumin activates AMPK in muscle leading to increased glucose uptake and inhibiting new growth and formation of fat cells .

Other researchers are looking into its effects on muscle tissue generation and healing after injury .

Antioxidant and an Anti-inflammatory

Some researchers consider curcumin to be an oxygen radical scavenger. According to one hypothesis, it acts as an antioxidant by increasing glutathione levels, and as an anti-inflammatory agent through inhibition of IL-8 (in lung cells). These effects have not been confirmed in humans .

Scientists are exploring its effects on the following pathways in animals or cells

Cancer Research

Neither turmeric nor its active compound curcumin have been shown to treat or prevent cancer.

Only a few small-scale studies suggest that it may have biological effects on some cancer patients, but more data are needed to verify its safety and effectiveness.

In early phase clinical studies, a combination of curcumin and docetaxel (a chemotherapy drug) was shown to be safe in 14 advanced and metastatic breast cancer patients .

Curcuma extract appeared to be safe in a small trial of patients with colorectal cancer. Given to colorectal cancer patients during the pre-surgery waiting period, curcumin improved muscle wasting and general health. Preliminary data suggest it might reduce numbers of precancerous rectal aberrant crypt foci in people at high risk of colorectal cancer. Large-scale studies are lacking .

Curcumin has mostly been researched in cancer cells.

Remember that many substances have anti-cancer effects in cells, including toxic chemicals like bleach. This doesn’t mean that they have any medical value. On the contrary, most substances (natural or synthetic) that are first researched in cancer cells fail to pass further animal studies or clinical trials due to a lack of safety or efficacy.

With this in mind, scientists have explored the effects of curcumin on the following pathways or types of cancer cells in dishes or animals:

  • Brain cancer (glioblastoma) cells and oral cancer cells
  • T-cell lymphoma cells , bone , brain , and melanoma cancer cells
  • Cancer cell mitochondria
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Activity in combination with EGCG in lymphocytic leukemia cells
  • Lung cancer cells (inhibition of IL-8 )
  • Prostate cancer cells
  • Pancreatic cancer cells
  • Activating the nuclear vitamin D receptor, with theoretical implications against intestinal cancers

None of these mechanisms have been explored in humans.

Liver & Kidney Health

In animals with alcohol-induced oxidative stress, curcumin was researched for reducing inflammation, lipid peroxidation, and liver damage. It was also studied in rats with kidney injury or Tylenol-induced kidney damage. However, the effects of curcumin on liver or kidney disease in humans remain unknown .

Supplementing With Curcumin


The following dosages were used in clinical trials:

  • Osteoarthritis: Turmeric extract 500 mg orally two to four times daily for 1-3 months (the following products were used, which may be important for bioavailability reasons: Turmacin by Natural Remedies Pvt. Ltd., Meriva by Indena, and CuraMed by EuroPharma USA)
  • Allergic rhinitis (hay fever): Organika Health Products curcumin 500 mg daily for 2 months
  • Crohn disease: Curcumin 1.08 grams daily for one month then 1.44 grams daily for a second month
  • Type 2 diabetes prevention in people with prediabetes: curcumin 750 mg twice daily for 9 months
  • Depression: Curcumin, 500 mg twice daily for 6-8 weeks(alone or as an add on to the antidepressant fluoxetine)
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): 70 mg of curcumin daily for 8 weeks (in 500 mg of a dispersion formulation)
  • Pruritus: turmeric 500 mg orally three times daily for 8 weeks or turmeric extract (C3 Complex, Sami Labs LTD) standardized to 1 g of curcumin with an extract from black pepper or long pepper (Bioperine) daily for 4 weeks

Potential Risks and Side Effects


Turmeric is generally well tolerated.

Common side effects include constipation, indigestion (dyspepsia), diarrhea, distension, gastroesophageal reflux (acid reflux), nausea, vomiting, and other gut issues.

Very rarely, curcumin can cause pruritus or pitting edema.

Applied on the skin, turmeric may cause allergic contact dermatitis.

In High Dose In-Vitro Models, Curcumin Can Cause Cytotoxicity and DNA Damage

At high doses it is suggested that curcumin may actually induce ROS, leading to DNA damage .

Many of the concerns regarding curcumin toxicity are addressed in this letter titled “More research is needed to establish the benefit-risk profile of curcumin” .

As a quick summation of the article, although worth the read, the first issue addressed is that many of these studies are done in-vitro. Meaning done in a test tube, outside of a living breathing organism.


Cellular and animal research suggests that curcumin can decrease sperm motility and density. Curcumin may inhibit enzymes involved in the final step of testosterone synthesis. Its effects on fertility in humans are unknown .

The same study states that because humans can consume up to 8 grams of turmeric per day without apparent side effects, consuming curcumin orally may not increase curcumin levels in the blood enough to inhibit testosterone synthesis.

Parkinson’s Disease

In vitro, curcumin increases LRRK2 mRNA and protein. LRRK2 is a gene whose expression has been positively associated with Parkinson’s disease. This could, in theory, lead to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. However, the effects of curcumin of Parkinson’s disease in humans remain unknown .


Adding piperine (from black pepper) likely increases the absorption of curcumin into the blood — in fact, researchers have estimated that it may increase the bioavailability of curcumin by as much as 2,000% .

The positive and negative health effects of turmeric

It’s anti-inflammatory

The Arthritis Foundation cites several studies in which turmeric has reduced inflammation.

This anti-inflammatory ability might reduce the aggravation that people with arthritis feel in their joints.

The foundation suggests taking capsules of 400 to 600 milligrams (mg) of turmeric up to three times per day for inflammation relief.

It can relieve pain

Many people, including doctors, cite their own anecdotal experience with turmeric as a pain reliever. The spice is reputed to relieve arthritis pain as well.

Studies seem to support turmeric for pain relief, with one noting that it seemed to work as well as ibuprofen (Advil) in people with arthritis in their knees. Though dosing recommendations seem to vary, those who participated in the study took 800 mg of turmeric in capsule form each day.

It improves liver function

Turmeric has been getting attention recently because of its antioxidant abilities. The antioxidant effect of turmeric appears to be so powerful that it may stop your liver from being damaged by toxins. This could be good news for people who take strong drugs for diabetes or other health conditions that might hurt their liver with long-term use.

It may help reduce the risk of cancer

Curcumin shows promise as a cancer treatment. Studies suggest it has protective effects against pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and multiple myeloma.

It can aid your digestion

Part of the reason that turmeric is in curry powder is because it adds an element of deliciousness to food. But turmeric can also play an important role in digesting that food. Because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can contribute to healthy digestion.

It’s used in ayurvedic medicine as a digestive healing agent. Now Western medicine has begun to study how turmeric can help with gut inflammation and gut permeability, two measures of your digestive efficiency. Turmeric is even being explored as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.

Weight Loss: How To Use Turmeric (Haldi) To Lose Weight And Burn Belly Fat

Weight loss diet must be a combination of healthy foods and herbs that help keep your metabolism up, while offering other heath benefits. Turmeric, or haldi, forms an indispensable part of Indian kitchens. It not only imparts a beautiful and bright yellow colour and flavour to your curries, rice and desserts, but also is known for its medicinal properties that are used to manage many health conditions. In fact it is said that turmeric can help you lose weight too. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties and anti-obesity potential of turmeric that can help cut the bulge in a healthy way. A few studies, too, have mentioned that the active compound called curcumin in turmeric is the super-hero we all barely know about. This compound is attributed to the spice’s weight loss abilities. We tell you how it makes for a great spice for weight loss and how to use turmeric to its best abilities.

(Also Read: Does Cooking Turmeric Destroy Its Benefits? Find Out)

Turmeric for weight loss

Reasons that make it an amazing spice for weight loss:

  • Turmeric has certain anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the inflammation in the body, which is one of the factors causing obesity. Curcumin, an antioxidant, suppresses the inflammatory condition in fat, pancreatic and muscle cells. According to a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, this can help reduce high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and other metabolic conditions.

Weight Loss: Turmeric has certain anti-inflammatory properties

  • According to a study conducted at the Tufts University, curcumin can actually suppress fat tissue growth.
  • Another way in which turmeric helps in losing weight by regulating sugar levels and further preventing insulin resistance. This results in excess fat that is not retained in the body.
  • Safe consumption of turmeric increases the bile production present in the stomach. Bile is a digestive juice that helps in emulsifying fat and metabolism.

How to use turmeric for weight loss?

  • One way is drink turmeric tea. All you need to do is to pour a cup or two of water into a saucepan and boil it. Once the water comes to a boil, add a dash of turmeric to it. In case you want to add cinnamon, you could add a stick or powder to it. Cinnamon also helps lose weight. Stir well and pour it in a cup and drink when it is lukewarm.
  • Another way is to add it into curries, rice dishes, desserts and other delicacies regularly.
  • Turmeric milk is another option. Heat the milk for about six to seven minutes on medium flame. Pour the milk into a glass and add the turmeric powder. Stir well.

Remember, turmeric is not a miracle spice; you will have to eat a healthy diet combined with exercises to lose weight. The same applies for all spices, herbs or any other nutritious food, even if they have been proven to beneficial for weight loss.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Can Turmeric Help You Lose Weight?

Turmeric is becoming increasingly popular in America both as a food flavoring and as a wellness aid. But what is this vibrant spice, what effects does it have on the body, and are the claims that it can be used as a weight-loss aid really true?

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is the root of a flowering plant, Curcuma longa, which is a member of the ginger family. Like ginger, turmeric has long been used as a spice in cooking, especially in cuisine from the Indian subcontinent, where the plant is native.

However, it’s not just its earthy flavor and bright yellow color that make turmeric popular: it has also been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Turmeric is most commonly sold as a bright orange-yellow powder, which is obtained by boiling, drying and then grinding the roots. It is this vibrant color that gives us turmeric’s third use: a natural dye.

Curcuminoids: A Powerful Antioxidant

The active component in turmeric, which also gives this supplement its vibrant color, is curcumin, a naturally-occurring curcuminoid. Curcuminoids have been recognized as powerful antioxidants, though research is ongoing as to its medicinal applications.

Antioxidants help to combat cell damage in the body, helping to keep cells functioning healthily. Diets high in antioxidants have been linked to lower risks from diseases and infections.

Could Turmeric Help Me Lose Weight?

First things first: there’s no magical weight loss pill or supplement which will make you lose weight without any work, and turmeric is no exception. However, as part of a healthy weight-loss routine that includes a balanced diet and plenty of exercise, turmeric’s unique properties could aid in reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

Turmeric’s Anti-Inflammatory Properties

In addition to its antioxidant properties, turmeric is often used as an anti-inflammatory in Ayurvedic medicine. Chronic inflammation is linked to conditions like heart disease, strokes, and diabetes, all of which can be exacerbated by obesity. If you’re looking to lose weight for your health, turmeric could help to reduce the likelihood of these conditions.

Inflammation can also cause joint problems like arthritis, which can make exercise difficult or even impossible. By reducing inflammation and helping your body to heal, gentle exercise for weight loss can be a more achievable goal.

Turmeric for Digestive Health

Turmeric has also been linked in studies to improved metabolism, and it is often used as a digestion aid as it is thought to stimulate the production of digestive juices. Although more research is needed on these links, better gut health and a properly functioning metabolism are important components of any weight loss routine.

Does Turmeric Have Any Side-Effects?

Although turmeric is a natural supplement, it can have certain side effects and interactions. It can interfere with some medications, especially blood-thinners like warfarin. People with diabetes should be careful when taking turmeric as it can lower blood sugar levels. High doses can cause stomach upset due to excess acid production, which can cause ulcers. If in doubt, consult your doctor before taking high doses of turmeric or use it in small quantities in cooking instead.

How to Add Turmeric to Your Diet for Weight Loss

Although scientists are still trying to determine exactly how turmeric can be used as a health supplement, including for aiding weight loss, the good news is that it’s all-natural and pretty tasty too. In addition to its traditional use in curries, try adding turmeric to your usual milk (we recommend plant-based milk) along with a little ginger or cinnamon to make golden milk, a soothing and refreshing drink.

Another delicious way to incorporate turmeric into your diet is as a rub for meat or vegetables: simply mix it with equal quantities of ground cumin, ginger, and coriander, along with garlic powder and a little salt, to make a zingy spice mix. The spice can also be used in a wide variety of dishes as a natural alternative to food coloring.

Turmeric for Weight Loss as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

Turmeric, for all its amazing uses, will not make anyone lose weight on its own; regular exercise and a healthy diet are the only ways to do that. However, as part of a healthy lifestyle, turmeric could help to support weight loss thanks to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and digestion-boosting properties.

If you’re looking to add more turmeric to your diet in a simple and easy-to-dose way, Reboot by PurePower contains turmeric, in addition to ginger, boswellia (another natural anti-inflammatory), full-spectrum, vapor extracted CBD hemp oil, and other natural herbal extracts to help get your body back to peak performance more quickly. By helping your body to recover, it will be easier to get out and get exercising – the most sure-fire way to lose weight healthily.

It’s no secret that switching up your spice rack can have a huge impact on health. In fact, more and more health care professionals have started subscribing to a “food is medicine” mentality and now are putting the focus on what you put on your plate rather than what’s in your medicine cabinet. Ingredients like turmeric and black pepper, for example, are jam-packed with benefits and have been shown to have a powerful impact on health when used together.

So do you need black pepper to absorb turmeric? And what are the benefits of turmeric and black pepper when used together? Let’s take a closer look.

How Turmeric and Black Pepper Work Together

Turmeric and black pepper have each been associated with several health benefits. Combined, however, the health-promoting properties of these two ingredients are amplified exponentially.

Why do you need black pepper with turmeric? To put it simply, turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which is responsible for the majority of its powerful health benefits. Likewise, black pepper also contains an alkaloid known as piperine, which has also been shown to have medicinal properties that are thought to be therapeutic in the treatment of many conditions.

Curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body on its own. Pairing it with piperine, however, can significantly boost its absorption and allow the body to use it more efficiently. Interestingly enough, one study conducted by the Department of Pharmacology at St. John’s Medical College in India even found that administering the two together increased the bioavailability of curcumin by 2,000 percent.

When combined, these two ingredients can come with some serious benefits, ranging from decreased inflammation to better digestion and beyond.

Related: Cayenne Pepper Benefits Your Gut, Heart & Beyond

Top 5 Benefits of Turmeric and Black Pepper

1. May Aid in Weight Loss

Many people use turmeric and black pepper for weight loss, thanks to the ability of this powerful combination to boost fat-burning and prevent weight gain. According to one in vitro study published in Biofactors, curcumin could help block the growth of fat cells to reduce obesity. Another animal study showed that administering curcumin and piperine to mice increased fat loss and reduced inflammation.

2. Decrease Inflammation

Black pepper and turmeric can have a powerful impact on inflammation. In fact, one study published in Oncogene actually tested the anti-inflammatory properties of several different compounds and found that curcumin was among the most potent. In addition to enhancing the absorption of curcumin, piperine has been shown to boast its own set of anti-inflammatory effects as well. A 2009 animal model out of Korea actually found that piperine was effective at reducing several markers of inflammation in rats with arthritis.

3. Contain Cancer-Fighting Properties

In recent years, the use of turmeric and black pepper for cancer has been heavily researched. Although current research is limited mostly to in vitro studies, studies suggest that curcumin could help block the growth and spread of cancer cells while still preserving the viability of healthy cells. Similarly, piperine has been shown to help kill off cancer cells and prevent tumor formation in test-tube studies, with some research indicating that it could be beneficial in the treatment of colon cancer.

4. Support Digestive Health

In many forms of traditional medicine, turmeric and black pepper have been used to soothe digestive issues and optimize nutrient absorption. Recent research also shows that the active compounds in each could be incredibly beneficial. Studies show that curcumin could be therapeutic for inflammatory digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Plus, piperine may also help promote proper digestion by stimulating digestive enzymes in the pancreas.

5. Reduce Pain

Using turmeric and black pepper for arthritis can be an effective way to manage pain and treat symptoms right at the source. This is because, in addition to having anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties, turmeric and black pepper have been shown to act as natural pain relievers as well. For example, an animal study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine demonstrated that piperine is effective at treating pain in rats after just two hours, even when used in lower doses. Another study out of India also found that administering turmeric to post-operative patients helped significantly decrease pain and fatigue compared to a placebo.

Turmeric and Black Pepper Recipes

There are plenty of turmeric and black pepper recipe ideas out there, plus detailed instructions for how to make turmeric and black pepper capsules — not to mention how to make turmeric and black pepper drinks, soups, sauces, desserts and more.

Here are a few simple recipes to help get you started:

  • Blended Pea Soup with Chickpeas
  • Turmeric and Black Pepper Tea
  • Soba Noodles with Turmeric Thai Sauce
  • Coconnut Turmeric Bites
  • Turmeric Latte


In addition to the many benefits associated with these two spices, there are several turmeric and black pepper side effects that should be considered as well. While sprinkling a dash or two in your favorite dishes is unlikely to cause any adverse symptoms, taking turmeric and black pepper supplements may. In particular, supplementation has been associated with side effects like nausea, diarrhea, decreased blood pressure and an increased risk of bleeding.

How much turmeric and black pepper should you take daily? Although there is no official recommended turmeric and black pepper dosage, most research has been conducted using doses between 500–2,000 milligrams per day of curcumin and around 20 milligrams of piperine. Other studies suggest a turmeric and black pepper ratio of approximately 100:1 for best results.

To minimize side effects and maximize the potential health benefits, however, be sure to use only as directed. Additionally, consult with your doctor prior to starting supplementation if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns.

Read Next: Peppercorns: Can They Help Prevent Cancer and Diabetes?

Turmeric May Not Be a Miracle Spice After All

Turmeric, the bright yellow spice often used in curries, mustards and golden milk lattes, has gained quite a reputation as a superfood. It’s been touted for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and hailed as a natural defense against cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

That reputation, however, may have just gone down a notch: A new review of scientific literature on curcumin, the most well-known chemical in turmeric, suggests that the compound has limited, if any, actual health benefits.

There may still be reason to include the “golden spice” in your diet, say the authors of the new review, published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. But as far as current evidence shows, its most famous compound doesn’t live up to its hype.

Ground turmeric root has been used in Indian and Chinese cooking (and traditional medicine) for centuries. But when the reviewers looked at several recent clinical trials and epidemiological studies on curcumin, they noticed that research findings often weren’t translated correctly in the media.

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“Once something enters the popular press, it can be blown out of proportion,” says co-author Michael Walters, research associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development. “These studies have become a part of folklore, and their actual results don’t really measure up to what they’re quoted as.”

One big problem, the new report notes, is that curcumin is not easily absorbed by the body. And despite the thousands of research papers published on turmeric, the reviewers were unable to find any double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials (the gold-standard of medical research) to support its myriad health claims.

Many studies also involved conflicts of interest, Walters says—like researchers who owned supplement companies and could benefit from sales of curcumin extract. Overall, the research casts doubt on curcumin’s usefulness as a stand-alone supplement and its potential for future drug discoveries.

But don’t count out turmeric just yet, says registered dietitian Wendy Bazilian, who was not involved in the new research. She says it’s true that curcumin is no cure-all—“just like no other single nutrient isolated and extracted from a food, or for that matter, any one food itself.” But based on research in both animals and humans, she adds, “there’s no question that there are some health properties associated with the spice.”

Curcumin may not be a miracle ingredient, but Bazilian points out that compounds combined in food can often have synergistic effects. “That’s good news and worth ongoing consideration,” she says. “Because frankly, you wouldn’t eat turmeric as a meal alone.”

If nothing else, Bazilian adds, cooking with herbs and spices is a great way to make healthy food taste better—without excess salt, sugar, or fat.

Registered dietitian Cynthia Sass says she’ll also continue recommending turmeric to her clients. Curcumin’s absorption problem has been known for some time, she says, but it doesn’t rule out the spice’s health benefits. “One practical tip is to pair turmeric with black pepper,” says Sass. “A natural substance in the latter spice helps boost turmeric’s absorption from the digestive system into the bloodstream.”

And while she’d like to see double-blind studies on curcumin in the future, she says the compound still holds a lot of promise. Just don’t overdo it: high quantities have been linked to acid reflux, low blood sugar, and other unwanted side effects.

Walters and his co-authors agree that people shouldn’t stop eating turmeric, and that research on the spice should continue. In fact, they suggest that future studies should take a more holistic approach—looking at turmeric as a whole spice, or a component of entire meals—to account for all of its potential compounds.

“Turmeric is certainly not going to hurt you, and there may be something else in there that’s biologically active,” he says. “All we know right now is that curcumin itself is not the panacea that people think it is.”

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