If you cook regularly and or simply enjoy all things culinary, there is a good chance that you have a bottle of golden spice nestled somewhere inside your kitchen cabinets. Aside from being a vibrant spice with a rich flavor, Turmeric has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries.
From a wellness perspective, Turmeric is well-known for having powerful antioxidant properties against the effects of oxidative stress.* This is thanks to its free radical-fighting band of natural polyphenol compounds called curcuminoidsREF#274. Free radicals can cause oxidative stress to the body’s cells, and these polyphenols combat this damage.
In this article, we’ll examine some common side effects you can be aware of when it comes to Turmeric supplements.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric is derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. This rhizome is closely related to some other well-known root stalks, such as ginger root and lotus root. It is indigenous to Southeastern and Eastern Asia.
It’s most well-known as a culinary spice and coloring agent used most commonly in India. The root stalks are typically dried and ground into a bright orange and yellow powder.
In terms of consumption, nearly all of the world’s Turmeric is consumed and grown in India. This golden spice can be found in numerous Indian cuisines and dishes, from salad dressings to ice creams.
This popular spice boasts a peppery, yet slightly bitter flavor and is the essential ingredient in curries. But, more recently, Turmeric has made a name for itself as a supplement with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.*
However, the traditional use of Turmeric is nothing new. It has been widely used in traditional Indian and Eastern Asian medicine for centuries. In these circles, the herb is used for various conditions, from joint pain to digestion.* As an aromatic bitter, Turmeric supports healthy liver function in Western herbal and alternative medicine.*
Regarding nutrients, Turmeric is a rich source of carbohydrates and fiber. It also contains essential vitamins and minerals. These include vitamin C, potassium, pyridoxine, magnesium, calcium, and more.
A Quick Look at Curcumin
Turmeric root is full of plant compounds known as curcuminoidsREF#275. The most bioactive of these curcuminoids is called curcumin.
Curcumin is thought to be the key to the many health benefits of Turmeric and is considered a powerful polyphenol. However, despite its many medicinal advantages, Turmeric and curcumin supplementation have some potential adverse effects.
Let’s take some time to examine some of Turmeric's most common side effects.
What Are the Side Effects of Turmeric?
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Turmeric and its active ingredient, curcumin, are generally considered safe and without serious side effectsREF#276. However, some people may experience side effects in large amounts.
It May Not Be Safe for Those Who Are Pregnant
Although Turmeric and curcumin are considered generally safe as supplements, they are not recommended for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Turmeric and Drug Interactions
Some believe that certain curcuminoids may affect how the body processes certain medications — e.g., cardiovascular drugs, such as lipid control (cholesterol) medications for heart disease.
Other potential pharmacokinetic interactions includeREF#277:
- Chemotherapeutic agents
These potential interactions still lack in vitro and in vivo studies. Possible interactions with anticoagulants, or blood-thinning medicationsREF#278, are also a potential concern. There is concern that curcumin’s anticoagulation effects could lead to an increased risk of bleeding when taken alongside other blood thinners (e.g., aspirin or warfarin) or other medications used to prevent blood clotting (e.g., coumadin).
Again, while these are potential concerns, more research is needed to determine if there is a real link between the effects of curcumin in high doses and drug interactions.
May Limit Iron Absorption
Iron is a mineral that is essential for many of the body’s functions. For example, iron plays a role in oxygenation as a hemoglobin component. This involves carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body through red blood cells.
Therefore, those with an iron deficiency may want to consult a physician before adding turmeric or curcumin to their diets. It has been suggested that Turmeric may limit iron absorptionREF#279. Although studies suggest this effect, the results are not conclusive.
Kidney Stone Concerns
Turmeric is high in oxalate. In short, this chemical compound can attach itself to minerals to help make other minerals. These include calcium oxalate and iron oxalate. Under normal conditions, excess oxalate is excreted naturally through the urine.
However, excess oxalate can sometimes bind with calcium to form kidney stones. Since turmeric is high in oxalate, it is theorized that high turmeric doses could contribute to kidney stone development. But again, several factors are at play, and numerous foods contain high levels of oxalate, such as leafy greens.
Some Other Potential Side Effects
Depending on your tolerance, doses of Turmeric and curcumin above 2,000mg daily could contribute to an upset stomach or other gastrointestinal issues. You should consult a doctor before taking Turmeric if you have gallbladder issues (such as gallstones).
Turmeric extracts are also commonly used for their skin-brightening effects via topical products. However, this could irritate the skin for some people.
How Much Turmeric Should You Take?
Official recommendations for Turmeric intake and maximum tolerable levels have yet to be determined. However, as a general rule, it is best to stay within the recommended dosages of Turmeric supplement labels.
Standard curcuminoid doses are typically around 200 mg/day for those looking to support a healthy inflammatory response. In many cases, Turmeric supplements, such as our Turmeric Supreme® Extra Strength, are blended with black pepper extracts for better absorption and increased bioavailability.
If you have concerns or questions regarding Turmeric supplementation and dosage, contact your healthcare practitioner.
What Are the Benefits of Turmeric?
There are many ways to enjoy Turmeric as part of your daily routine. These include supplementation, using it as a spice in the kitchen, and even using it as part of a drink mix to be blended with milk or favorite coffee, such as our Golden Milk drink mix.
With so many ways to enjoy the benefits of turmeric, it’s safe to say that it’s widely considered a valuable supplement. Let’s take a quick look at some of these benefits.
Supports Healthy Inflammatory Response
Historically, turmeric's most popular medicinal benefits have to do with its natural ability to support healthy inflammatory responses. These properties are thanks to its most active ingredient — curcumin.
Inflammation is part of the body’s normal and necessary immune response. However, extended bouts of inflammation are not.
Inflammation can occur when the immune system response lingers longer than needed. Over time, this can negatively impact the body, particularly the tissues and organs.
Its active ingredient, curcumin, has been proven to have positive effects on the body’s natural immune responseREF#280. In short, curcumin interacts with a protein complex known as NF-kB, which is an immune response regulator. This interaction helps your body facilitate healthy immune responses.
Contains Antioxidant Properties
Turmeric also has antioxidant properties, which can help support your body’s natural defenses against free radicals (unstable molecules)REF#281. These unstable molecules can damage cells, causing illness and disease, and contribute to symptoms of aging. This process is known as oxidative stress.
Antioxidants can help prevent the damage wrought by free radicals by inhibiting their effects. Curcumin can help support your body’s natural antioxidants in neutralizing the effects of free radicals.
The benefits above are part of why Turmeric has a long history of being used for joint health.* Because of these properties, Turmeric is often used as a supplement to help support healthy inflammatory function in healthy individuals.*
The Bottom Line
You may know Turmeric as the centerpiece spice for curries and other dishes. But this golden spice is not only a potent culinary ingredient. It also has a long history of use in traditional Indian and Eastern Asian wellness practices.
Today, this byproduct of dried and ground rootstalk is also becoming more and more popular as a natural dietary supplement. Its top medicinal benefits involve its ability to support the immune system and help our bodies defend against oxidative stress.* However, there are some potential side effects to be aware of when taken in large doses.
At the end of the day, Turmeric supplements are generally safe when taken as recommended. If you have concerns about any potential side effects or health conditions above, it is best to consult your healthcare provider for medical advice.
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