Side Effects of Turmeric – Positive and Negative

Turmeric is a ‘rhizomatous’ herbaceous perennial plant in the ginger family (specifically the ‘zingiberaceae’ family). It grows in South Asia under temperatures of 20-30 degrees centigrade. They are gathered for their rhizomes, which are then ground and boiled to create an orange powder than is commonly used as a spice in curries as well as for dyeing foods such as mustard. It is considered the ‘Indian Saffron’ and makes a cheaper alternative to ‘normal’ saffron.

However in Indian ‘Ayurvedic’ practices it is also thought to have many medicinal properties and is used as a herbal remedy. It is also popular as an antiseptic for cuts and burns in much of South Asia, and taken in the UK and US as a dietary supplement. The list of positive side effects of turmeric is thought to be extensive and it is thought that these work through the active ingredient ‘curcumin’ (by active ingredient is meant the part that has medicinal properties). This is also what gives turmeric its yellow colour and its flavour. It is also what gives turmeric its health benefits and its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, circulatory system and stomach soothing benefits.

The first of the positive side effects of turmeric, the antioxidant effects, are something found in many health supplements (such as Omega 3 fatty acids) and ‘super foods’. Antioxidants help to protect the cells of our body by fighting ‘free radicals’ which constantly bombard the cell walls. This battery is what causes us to age, and over time this barrage can wear down the cell walls and through to the nucleus where it can damage the DNA itself. Damaged cells then split to yield more imperfect cells which can cause a variety of problems including cancer. By eating turmeric the number of free radicals are reduced which can help fight ageing and prevent against cancer. Some studies have also suggests that curcumin can help target and destroy cancerous cells thus preventing them from spreading.

Another of the positive side effects of turmeric is that they can reduce inflammation by stimulating the adrenal glands and by lowering histamine levels (the stimulation of the adrenal glands also causes perspiration which is why we sweat eating spicy foods!). By reducing inflammation, turmeric can also ease joint pain and is a popular supplement for those suffering from arthritis.

Turmeric can also be used for it’s affects on the brain, and it has been demonstrated in laboratory settings to be possessed of nootropic properties (meaning that it affects the brain in a positive way enhancing cognitive performance). This works by strengthening and encouraging the transmission of the electrical signals across synapses in the neurons that the brain uses to communicate. At the same time by reducing swelling it may also be able to reduce the occurrence of amyloid plaques and tangles – the build up of proteins on the neurons which leads eventually to cell death.

As swelling has been associated with the build of amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain (the exact reason for the association being uncertain), the substance’s use as an anti-inflammatory can be used to prevent them from occurring and thus prevent immature neuron death. Cell death in the brain of this sort is thought to be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of age-related cognitive decline and for this reason turmeric has found prominence as a supplement taken to prevent these conditions.

The herb also thins the blood and reduces its ability to form clots. This makes it good for those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol and can help to protect against heart attacks and strokes. However it may not be a great supplement for those who have blood clotting problems already, or who have very low blood pressure.

Turmeric also helps protect the liver from toxins such as alcohol, and the also aids digestion by stimulating the flow of bile. As turmeric was once taken to help the liver and digestion, modern science seems to be supporting many of the positive side effects of turmeric touted by Ayurvedic experts. More research is also suggesting that turmeric might help fight bacterial infections and cataracts (through its antioxidant properties). While further research is needed to substantiate many of turmeric’s touted benefits, it is certainly potent enough to classify as a ‘super food’ and would make a good addition to anyone’s cooking (especially as it’s cheaper than saffron).

However there are also some negative side effects of turmeric if taken in large quantities or when an individual already suffers from health complaints. Those who take turmeric in large quantities are likely to experience diarrhoea, sweating and nausea – much as you would expect a curry. While turmeric is considered a ‘safe’ herb, it also shouldn’t be taken if suffering from congestive heart disease, gallstones, liver disease, jaundice or acute bilious colic due to its blood thinning and gland stimulating properties. As mentioned it also shouldn’t be taken by those with blood clotting disorders that prevent their blood from clotting efficiently and pregnant women should consult a physician whenever starting a new course of supplements or medication of any form.

46 comments

  1. Carla Reply
    May 21, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    It would be an excellent article if there were some substantiating citations. Otherwise very informative.

  2. gamal magdy Reply
    June 26, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I like it 222222 much

  3. abhijeet das Reply
    September 14, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Yes the article is very informative, but I would like to know from its healing side is it good to eat raw, early morning every day and the amount to be consumed.

  4. Y P Rao Reply
    September 19, 2012 at 4:26 am

    The side effects should have been elaborated further.

  5. Lonial Reply
    September 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I tried to look for NEGATIVE EFFECTS but could not find a single bad effect, please clarify and write me in the email above, Thanks. Bye.

  6. Darlene Kraemer Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 1:34 am

    How does one know which turmeric product to purchase considering there are so many different ones on the market?

  7. Scot Reply
    November 24, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Informative, easy to read, and little fluff in the article.

  8. Natasha Reply
    January 2, 2013 at 3:23 am

    Excellent properties on turmeric it also has benefits for the skin as a skin lighter and is used as a mask, by mixing a spoon full of turmeric with lemon mix together and apply on face. Remove after 20 minutes used regularly will clear up blemishes and pigmentation.

  9. Gracelin Reply
    February 1, 2013 at 4:27 am

    I've been looking for a post like this for an age…

  10. Dr Shontel Reply
    March 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

    With all due respect… a lot of your information is correct… however some of it is very inaccurate.

    I am a Dr who uses turmeric for a myriad of problems that my patients suffer with…. and one of the most remarkable is apart from its anti-inflammatory & pain relief is its ability to completely rejuvenate & restore a very sick & even cirrhotic liver. Yet you state liver problems as a possible side effect!

    You mention that the negative… or side effects from large doses… (you don't say what a large dose is) are sweating, nausea & diarrhoea. Actually this is the side effects when the turmeric caps contain added extra CUCURAMIN which is the active ingredient. So in fact now the supplement is NOT pure turmeric.

    And curry only causes diarrhoea when there is bad meat in the curry (the reason that curries were developed originally as u can read… to protect the gut from the bad meat that was often used.)

    There was a recent small yet comprehensive study where 8 grams of turmeric was given to a study group of patients & given every day for 18 months… there were no noted side effects.

    I know there are many articles on the internet that state clearly the same side effects you listed. However, this is incorrect. Unless one is taking the supplements that usually contain cucuramin &/or white pepper… which both irritate the gut.

    I advise my patients to buy the powdered organic turmeric & mix a heaped teaspoon of turmeric & a heaped teaspoon of lecithin granules with enough hot water to make a drinkable liquid… about 1/3 cup.

    And take 15 mins before breakfast… once daily is fine… also before lunch for severe pain, swelling, liver problems etc.

  11. arzoo Reply
    April 26, 2013 at 7:02 am

    I never knew side effects of turmeric

  12. T Reply
    April 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I am curious why it is said that if you have any of those specific disorders you should not take turmeric as it is a treatment for those specific disorders (other than low blood pressure or thin blood). I am also curious why it is said to be antibiotic due to its antioxidant properties when actual topical application has been used on millions of people successfully as an anti infection tool. I personally use it on a bandage and works wonders. Of course I did not come up with that on my own. I took the advice of millions of people in India that use this on commercially sold "Bandaids". It is built right in to the bandage.

  13. Milton Reply
    May 9, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    The article is useful and informative with some commercial inclination. However, it raises a question. In the last paragraph, it indicates that turmeric has some negative side effects, "if taken in large quantities." Since the article nowhere suggests a "normal" quantity, it would be a useful addition.

  14. Cathy Reply
    October 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    I want to know what is the exact amount to be taken a day if we use it as a raw decoction in hot water. What is the estimate pieces to be taken a day if we will not take it in capsule form. Also can I take it if my blood pressure is 90/60 only? I'm already 32 yrs. old female.

  15. Anonymous Reply
    August 26, 2015 at 7:09 am

    This was a good start, thanks Dr for your elaboration.

  16. Lauren Reply
    October 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    I have had turmeric in the past with no side effects. I had an adverse reaction to an IUD about a year after taking turmeric. I just recently bought it again and I had insomnia in just the exact dates that I began taking turmeric. I can't help but think that they could be related, any thought or information would be much appreciated!

  17. Mooby Reply
    November 28, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Turmeric and milk tea cleared up my jaundice…

  18. Anil Capoor Reply
    November 1, 2014 at 11:05 am

    I made a variant of the standard mixture of turmeric powder lightly cooked in ghee/olive-oil to be had with hot milk – by simply converting it into curds… its taste, flavour, consistency etc. was just fine. I consumed it for two days, with no side-effects at all…

    If there is anything with this formulation that is likely to be detrimental to human health – i.e., converting the same mixture from milk to curds base – then do please let me know.

  19. Anonymous Reply
    June 4, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Brief and clearly stated…

  20. Abbas Reply
    June 9, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    Good

  21. Minchan Reply
    July 23, 2015 at 11:40 am

    So, good info and all, but this article seriously needs to be seen by an editor or 3.

  22. Faye Reply
    September 20, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    I have recently heard that turmeric might/could help me with some of my health issues. This article was my first reading about turmeric. I will keep a copy so I can re-read it ever so often.

  23. Helena Reply
    September 16, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    I give my dog one tsp. a day for allergies.

  24. Anonymous Reply
    February 2, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Very good

  25. Cynthia Hall Reply
    May 6, 2016 at 5:27 am

    Very thorough to the point article. I found it very useful and sent it to several family members and friends.

  26. Sandi Moe Reply
    May 10, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    Turmeric has helped with my arthritis. So far, I have not had any negative effects.

  27. Dorothy Reply
    November 25, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    I would like to know more about the negative side effects and also the best form of Turmeric to buy. This is why I've rated 4 for the article. Otherwise, excellent.

  28. John Reply
    December 1, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    Very informative!

  29. Erica Reply
    December 13, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    I tried turmeric for the first time and it was 500mg. I woke up with diarrhoea and throwing up. :/ was horrible. So I read up on it and decided to just take half of that. Well I didn't have that problem again but it does make my brain feel weird and can't function very well but doesn't last long. I'm only 25. Why does this happen to me? I have been diagnosed with IBS and they couldn't find anything wrong with me after all the testing they did so they just named it IBS but that doesn't explain the weird feeling in my head. I have read if you take small amounts daily you could get used to it. I'm thinking about doing that because I love the benefits of it but I don't want to destroy something on the other hand as well. Please give me some advice people, thank you.

  30. Dickson Reply
    January 30, 2016 at 3:27 am

    Informative

  31. Anonymous Reply
    December 21, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Good, informative

  32. Nancy Reply
    April 17, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    I read that Vitamin E and turmeric are two supplements with very high hormonal effects, estrogen sensitive; and so they were not advised for people who had had breast cancer.

    No one else has said this. Should a breast cancer survivor (or patient) be taking turmeric or avoiding it?

  33. Carolyn Reply
    January 10, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Great article

  34. Sue Reply
    January 11, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Turmeric capsules (as a supplement) make my son (who has high functioning Autism/Asperger's Syndrome) very angry (even when he doesn't know that he has taken one). I have tried this several times on him. They also have the same effect on myself – putting me in a bad mood. However, we don't suffer the same effects when including turmeric in a curry. Very odd.

  35. Anonymous Reply
    February 13, 2016 at 10:50 am

    I take turmeric because an herbalist suggested it would help with my prostate cancer. Good to see it has so many positives.

  36. Laura Reply
    February 16, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    I don't understand why people are so defensive of turmeric, as if it was impossible for it to cause any harm to any person.

    I took the powder; it was cooked and still made me very ill. I kept taking it because "everybody said it never caused harm", well, I only hurt my body more.

    Turmeric is not good for everybody; if your stomach hurts it's better to stop taking it before it ruins it permanently.

    Also, I got a rash when I put it on my skin (mixed with milk), it was only a few minutes, and I had red patches for a whole day.

    Be careful with it.

  37. Anonymous Reply
    March 5, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Excellent information!

  38. Sharon Reply
    March 9, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Very helpful! I have recently begun taking turmeric and have been very happy with the results. I have been taking it for pain. I was a little concerned about the side effects of maybe taking too much, but was put at ease with your article.

  39. Anonymous Reply
    May 30, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Very informative

  40. Rajinder Kumar Reply
    June 13, 2016 at 12:26 am

    Good information

  41. Alapaki Reply
    August 7, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Good article with good info on some of the benefits. I am interested to know why the article states it is good for the liver, yet also states not to take if you have liver disease. Also, it would be nice know what the best amount to take daily is, and the best source. Mahalo!

  42. VB Reply
    September 11, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    I have been taking a turmeric blend for the last month, on a daily basis. Prior to that I was taking capsules containing turmeric, black pepper and a few other ingredients. I decided, with much more research, that I lean towards whole food supplementation, rather than what most of us have been convinced to do, which is take supplements that contain only a part of the whole, in a usually concentrated form, for exorbitant prices – which is not the best way to supplement and only ends up lining the pockets of the companies manufacturing and supplying the 'super' ingredient.

    I blend organic turmeric with organic black pepper, Ceylon cinnamon, organic ginger and organic cloves. In other words it is a mix that is similar to chai, but with turmeric. I use a heaped teaspoonful of this in a cup of warm cashew milk, with a scant teaspoon of raw honey. I enjoy this about an hour before bed and I sleep well and more comfortably with my arthritis, than I do if I don't take it. Similarly I enjoy a cup of cashew milk with a teaspoon of organic maca in the morning, which gives me a nice boost that lasts all day. IN the words of a very wise man – "Let food be your medicine and medicine your food". You can help yourself tremendously this way.

  43. Petros Reply
    October 22, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Good overall article.

  44. Charlee Reply
    October 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    I would defiantly recommend taking Turmeric but do your research like I did. The brand sold as "Research Certified Turmeric Curcumin" has been verified by Consumer Review. I honestly can tell you I have had severe low back problems for years I've been to Chiropractor after Chiropractor and it never cured my joint pain. I have taken so many Advil I'm scared due to all the side effects associated with over the counter pain pills. I have been taking the Turmeric Curcumin by Research Certified for about 8 days and seriously it's helping. I notice it doesn't hurt to get up after sitting or getting out of bed. I would recommend Turmeric because it is a natural herb from the earth. I am totally against BIG PHARMA and their greed to keep us all under their thumb for diseases that can be cured by natural products without their added ingredients that cause deadly side effects. I hope anyone who reads this gives it a try, like I did. You will be pleasantly surprised like I was.

  45. Judi Reply
    October 16, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Very informative. However, what is considered a "normal" dosage? I have been taking a Boswella/Celery Seed/Ginger/Tumeric supplement for almost three weeks and suddenly developed diaherrea. It was working well for pain relief. I was taking 4 tablets, or less, each day, which seems to have exceeded the 1000mg daily limit. Now I will reduce my intake, and try a different brand which doesn't include other ingredients, other than black pepper, and see if that works better. I really like the fact that it was such a good pain relief without all the chemicals of OTC pain relievers at the drugstore.

  46. Lawrence Reply
    December 6, 2016 at 9:23 am

    To me this is a marketing article. I don't like to hear that something "may" do this or that. Many herbs are not scientific in their actions, or maybe I should say they are not tested by analytical means. I wish we could find a way to do better testing on each herb.

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