Turmeric is one of the popular spices that is widely used to give color and taste to the curry and other dietary products like cheese and butter, but its medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties makes it a perfect herbal remedy to manage inflammatory issues like arthritis, fibromyalgia and bronchitis along with other chest and skin infections. Moreover, it is also used to manage mild gut conditions like gas trouble, diarrhea, bloating of stomach, disorders of liver and intestines and water retention by kidneys. Despite its multiple benefits, its side effects should also not be neglected and precautions should be taken when using turmeric.
Suggested Dose of Turmeric
Turmeric serves a number of medicinal benefits when taken in a dose less than 500 mg. For best results and to minimize side effects, healthcare providers suggest avoiding a dose over twice or thrice the recommended dose (i.e. 1500 mg). Turmeric roots can be taken in a dose of up to 3 g.
Turmeric Side Effects
Clinical data suggest that excessive and inappropriate intake of turmeric may lead to a number of health issues that may range from mild inflammatory reaction to fatal cardiac arrhythmias. Few most frequently reported side effects of turmeric include:
1. Allergic Reaction
Turmeric is generally safe in individuals of all age groups if consumed within 1500 mg/ day; however, some individuals may develop nausea, vomiting, gastric upset or diarrhea with high (or sometimes with normal doses). Turmeric containing ointments and lotions may lead to skin allergy, rash and burning sensation in some genetically susceptible individuals. In severe cases, hives, contact dermatitis and anaphylaxis may also develop.
2. Gallbladder Problems
Research suggest that normal turmeric is helpful for the normal functioning of gallbladder by stimulating the release of different digestive mediators that stabilize the functioning of gall bladder ducts; however, high turmeric intake is also associated with aggravation of liver and gall bladder conditions. This includes inflammatory conditions of gallbladder (acute Cholecystitis) and gall bladder stones or duct obstruction. It is advisable to seek the help of a healthcare provider before using turmeric (even in recommended dosages) in all such cases to prevent pain and discomfort.
3. Stomach and Gastrointestinal Problems
Turmeric (also known as Indian saffron) usually does not cause any gastric irritation or inflammatory reaction when consumed as part of cooked curry (suggesting a small dose); however, individuals who consume turmeric for management of chronic inflammatory systemic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and aching joints can develop turmeric induced gastric issues. Turmeric is slightly acidic in nature and is widely considered as a stimulant of gastric acid secretion. If you have a current history of dyspepsia or hyperacidity, it is strongly suggested to avoid turmeric in high doses. Individuals who smoke or use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are especially vulnerable to the side effects of turmeric (leading to dyspepsia, heartburn, indigestion, gastro esophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcers). It is indicated to consume a lot of water to minimize the accumulation of turmeric in high doses within the gastric lining. For best results, consume with food only.
Turmeric may inhibit platelet aggregation, and thus, theoretically, may increase the risk of bleeding. It also affects the production of clotting factors from the liver and therefore must be avoided in patients who have a bleeding tendency or inborn error of clotting.
5. Liver Problems
High turmeric intake is associated with liver dysfunction that may present with indigestion and jaundice. Research studies in animals have confirmed the toxic effects of turmeric on animal hepatocytes and although no human study is currently available to suggest the possible mechanism of development of complications, it is recommended by healthcare provider to limit the intake under recommended dosages only. If you are suffering from a current medical illness that involves liver, it is better to avoid or totally eliminate turmeric from your diet.
6. Drug Interactions
Turmeric may interfere with metabolism or functioning of anti-coagulants like aspirin, clopidogrel and warfarin. It also alters the functioning of several other medications like non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, turmeric is also known to decrease the blood sugar levels (hypo-glycemic effect) that may prove helpful in individuals who are at high risk of developing diabetes, but if you are a known diabetic and use hypoglycemic medication, simultaneous use of turmeric can increase the risk of hypoglycemia that may prove life threatening if emergent medical care is not sought.
7. Uterine Contractions
It is suggested to avoid turmeric if you are expecting or if you are looking to get pregnant. Turmeric is a uterine stimulant that increases the basal activity of uterine smooth muscle cells leading to premature uterine contractions, miscarriage or vaginal bleeding.
Other side effects include nausea and agitation, development of inflammatory skin blisters if applied on abraded or damaged skin and diarrhea if consumed in higher doses.
When to Avoid Turmeric
- It is suggested to avoid turmeric intake during pregnancy due to risk of pre-mature uterine contractions, uterine bleeding or painful uterine spasms. Not enough data is available to support the intake of turmeric in breast-feeding mothers and therefore most healthcare providers suggest avoiding turmeric during lactation period.
- Turmeric intake is associated with aggravation of gallbladder dysfunction and is best avoided in the setting of bile-duct obstruction.
- Turmeric interferes with normal blood clotting and should be stopped at least 2 months in advance of any major surgery
- Turmeric increases the secretion of gastric acid and thus should be avoided in known patients of dyspepsia and gastro-esophageal reflux disease.
- If you have a known history of allergy to organic coloring agents (especially yellow colored agents that include curcumin, there are fair chances that you will also be allergic to turmeric. In addition, since turmeric and ginger are members of same family, individuals who have allergy to any member of ginger family may also develop reaction to turmeric.