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Side Effects Of Too Much Turmeric & Curcumin

Turmeric is more than just your standard spice rack staple. For thousands of years, it has been used as a treatment in Chinese and Asian medicine, and its most active compound curcumin is said to hold all the power.

turmeric supplements beside sliced turmeric

While you may not get all of turmerics' purported health benefits from a single serving of curry, this impressive spice may work wonders for your health when taken in other forms.

If you’ve been considering adding a turmeric or curcumin supplement to your daily diet, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before starting treatment. So, what exactly are turmeric and curcumin, and does turmeric have side effects from prolonged ingestion?

What Are Turmeric And Curcumin?

Turmeric is a golden-coloured spice derived from the root of Curcuma longa, a perennial herb that’s part of the ginger family. The rhizomes of the Curcuma longa are the part that is used for cooking.

This plant family is among some of the oldest cultivated spice plants in the world. If you’ve ever tried turmeric before, you’ll remember it for its predominantly peppery, musky, bitter, and earthy taste.

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It’s deep and hard to pin down, but you’ll instantly recognize the taste, and it can be found in almost every curry powder at your grocery store.

Although turmeric is most often used to add flavor to curry dishes, it can also be used in:

  • Rice
  • Salad dressing
  • Soup
  • Chicken dishes
  • Pasta dishes
  • Smoothies
  • Stocks
  • Juices

At the heart of turmeric is its most active compound, curcumin. This bold, yellow chemical is produced by plants that belong to the Curcuma longa species, and it’s the primary curcuminoid found in turmeric.

It’s believed that curcumin holds most of the spice's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which is why curcumin is most often sold as a stand-alone health supplement. Sometimes, it’s even used as a cosmetic ingredient.

The Benefits of Turmeric And Curcumin

In traditional Chinese and Asian medicine, turmeric and curcumin were given to patients suffering from a range of ailments. This powerful spice was believed to be a cure-all, and it became the foundation of many alternative herbal treatments.

The powers of turmeric are more than just an old folk tale. As interest in turmeric’s medicinal properties peaked, modern science found that there may be some real benefits to taking turmeric and curcumin regularly. So let’s explore some of its proven health benefits below.

May Delay Aging And Prevent Disease

There is some evidence to suggest that curcumin may have the potential to be used as an anti-aging supplement.

We also know that inflammation and oxidation play a significant role in aging. However, curcumin may be able to combat these and not just delay aging but also offer an effective treatment for the prevention of age-related diseases.

May Treat Arthritis

Research has shown that people living with arthritis respond well to turmeric and curcumin treatments.

In one study, patients with rheumatoid arthritis were given curcumin treatments, and the findings reported that this was even more effective in some cases than standard anti-inflammatory drugs.

Could Treat Alzheimer's Disease

There’s also evidence to suggest that turmeric and curcumin may treat Alzheimer's disease.

Turmeric and curcumin may boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels - decreased levels have been linked to the development of brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s.

Turmeric and curcumin may also combat inflammation and oxidative damage, which are known contributors to Alzheimer’s disease. However, whether turmeric and curcumin can slow down or reverse the development of Alzheimer’s remains unknown.

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May Prevent Cancer

Impressively, turmeric and curcumin may even prevent some cancers from developing. Although the research is still in its early stages, curcumin's role in cancer treatment has been studied, with the research discovering that curcumin may:

  • Kill cancerous cells
  • Interrupt the growth of blood vessels in tumors (angiogenesis)
  • Reduce the spread of cancer in the body

There is also some evidence to suggest that curcumin may prevent some cancers from developing completely, especially colorectal cancer and other cancers that impact the digestive system.

Risks and Side Effects of Too Much Turmeric And Curcumin

turmeric tea with a cinnamon bark and a turmeric powder in a small bowl beside it

Although the research is still in its early stages, some studies have shown promising benefits to turmeric and curcumin ingestion. But are there any risks associated with its long-term use and what are the negative side effects of turmeric when taken in large amounts?

Although turmeric has some impressive benefits, it may cause issues for some users, including:

Skin Allergies

Recent studies have identified potential turmeric side effects on skin.

In some cases, it has been found to cause contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction characterized by redness, itching, and swelling.

Additionally, topical application of turmeric-based powders (e.g., kumkum) has been found to be an allergen.

Those with sensitive skin should take caution when using turmeric-based products and should always conduct a patch test on a small area of skin before using any of these products.

Upset Stomach

Although turmeric works hard to support our digestive health, the same agents that support it can also cause unwanted side effects in large amounts, such as an upset stomach.

Turmeric encourages the stomach to create more gastric acid, which may cause nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, bloating, bad breath, and even hiccups.

In some studies, participants reported an upset stomach from large doses of turmeric and had to drop out.

Blood Thinning

Turmeric is known for its purifying properties. However, turmeric may also make some users more susceptible to bleeding.

However, not enough research has been performed to know why turmeric promotes blood thinning. However, some of turmerics' benefits, such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure, are probably due to how turmeric affects our blood.

If you’re taking warfarin or other blood thinners, you should avoid taking large doses of turmeric.

*Please note: these side effects are uncommon in users consuming small doses. Turmeric often produces little to no side effects. If you’re concerned about developing an unwanted reaction, consult a medical professional before taking turmeric supplements.

Is Turmeric Safe During Pregnancy?

Pregnant women are advised not to consume turmeric because the long-term side effects of taking turmeric supplements in high doses are still unknown.

However, it has long been believed that eating foods seasoned with curry can stimulate contractions, and even labor. While there’s limited research to support this, high doses of turmeric should still be avoided if you're pregnant.

How To Reduce Side Effects Of Turmeric

In order to reduce the side effects of turmeric, it is important to take it in moderation. If taking turmeric in supplement form, it is recommended to not take large amounts for long periods of time.

In addition, people who are taking maintenance drugs should consult their doctor before taking turmeric or curcumin supplements, as there may be interactions.

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The Bottom Line

Turmeric is more than just a spice. The next time you take a trip to your local health store, look for high-quality turmeric and curcumin supplements and see how adding these powerful compounds to your diet can improve your life.

Although turmeric can produce unwanted side effects, it’s rare. Turmeric is safe for human consumption. However, larger doses may cause stomach upset.

Darcy Ogdon-Nolan

Holding a Bachelor Of Science (Hons.) combined with close to a decade now in the health food and wellness industry, I believe I'm uniquely positioned to provide a depth of knowledge and first-hand experience on emerging health products, trends and ideas! From greens powders and medicinal mushrooms through to protein powders and workout nutrition - I'm particularly interested in what modern science can uncover about what human cultures have been using to treat ailments for millennia!

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