Turmeric is a popular spice known for its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. However, excess intake of the spice seems to do more harm than good. For instance, turmeric may cause diarrhea in certain individuals (1).
There are other possible ways turmeric may cause adverse effects. In this post, we will explore them, along with ways of prevention.
Turmeric Side Effects
1. May Cause Gastrointestinal Problems
Turmeric hasn’t been found to cause any kind of stomach issues or other gastrointestinal reactions when consumed as a part of a cooked curry. However, evidence suggests that taking turmeric by itself or as part of a treatment for arthritis may lead to gastrointestinal issues (2).
The curcumin in turmeric, when taken by those with pancreatic cancer, caused abdominal fullness and pain in some of the patients (3).
Though turmeric is generally recognized as safe, it may cause gastrointestinal upsets in certain individuals (4).
Also, if you have dyspepsia or hyperacidity, you may want to avoid turmeric. The curcumin in turmeric may aggravate dyspepsia (6).
Anecdotal evidence suggests that turmeric supplements might also cause issues of the stomach. However, we need more research here, especially in adults who consume more than the recommended dosage (400 mg to 3 g) of the supplements for prolonged periods.
Ensure you take turmeric only within the recommended dosage.
2. May Cause Gallbladder Contractions
Studies show that the curcumin in turmeric may cause gallbladder contractions – 40 mg of curcumin was found to produce a 50% contraction in the gallbladder (7).
Turmeric supplements of 20-40 mg were also reported to increase gallbladder contractions (7).
Some experts believe that the oxalate in turmeric may also increase the risk of gallstones. However, direct research is limited in this aspect. If you are at risk of gallstones or have gallbladder issues, please check with your doctor before using turmeric in your diet.
Stop taking turmeric if you have any type of gallbladder issues or are on medication for the same.
3. May Cause Diarrhea And Nausea
Diarrhea and nausea are two of the common symptoms associated with turmeric supplementation (1). This is because the curcumin in turmeric has a tendency to irritate the gastrointestinal tract.
As per certain clinical studies, individuals supplemented with 0.45 to 3.6 grams of curcumin per day for 4 months experienced mild nausea (3.6 grams of curcumin per day is a relatively high dose). Even low doses of curcumin can provoke nausea in certain individuals (8).
Take turmeric within the prescribed limit. If you observe any symptoms, stop the intake and consult your doctor immediately.
4. May Increase Risk Of Kidney Stones
As per a study, too much turmeric might increase the risk of kidney stones. This is because of the presence of oxalates in turmeric. The oxalates can bind to calcium to form insoluble calcium oxalate, which is primarily responsible for kidney stones (9).
In the study, turmeric ingestion had lead to a higher urinary oxalate excretion when compared to cinnamon, thereby substantiating the fact that it can cause kidney stones (9).
Avoid turmeric if you have any kind of kidney issues, especially kidney stones.
5. May Increase Bleeding Risk
Curcumin in turmeric has shown to decrease platelet aggregation (10). This may increase the risk of bleeding.
Daily intake of turmeric may help maintain anticoagulant status, and this may also elevate bleeding risk (11).
The curcumin in turmeric was also found to alter the functioning of blood thinners (like warfarin). However, it had no effect on the anticoagulation rate of the medication (12).
To be on the safe side, individuals on medications like Warfarin or Coumadin (an anticoagulant) must steer clear of curcumin as it may magnify the effects of these medications.
Avoid turmeric if you are on blood-thinning medication.
6. May Cause Allergic Reactions
Curcumin can be a contact allergen. Certain individuals have reported contact dermatitis and urticaria (a form of round rash) due to contact with turmeric. Since turmeric belongs to the ginger family, one is more likely to be allergic to it if they are allergic to ginger. You can also be allergic to turmeric if you are allergic to yellow food coloring (13).
Applying turmeric to your face may cause your skin to turn yellow. This effect is harmless. However, those allergic to turmeric may develop rashes or dermatitis on their faces. Research is limited, and more studies are required to find out how turmeric can affect the skin.
Turmeric can also cause shortness of breath. Reactions can occur from both skin contact and ingestion (14).
If you have an allergy for yellow food coloring, it is best to stay away from turmeric.
7. May Lead To Infertility
The curcumin in turmeric was found to reduce sperm function in a mice study. It also inhibited fertility. The mice study considered turmeric to be an ideal contraceptive (15).
In another study involving fish, turmeric was found to suppress the development of ovarian follicles. It also resulted in subfertility (a delay in conception) (16).
It is also believed that turmeric may lower testosterone levels and decrease sperm movement in men. However, there is no evidence to support this yet.
Take turmeric in moderation and avoid excess usage.
8. May Cause Iron Deficiency
If you have iron deficiency, avoid turmeric, and consult your doctor regarding its usage. Check your iron levels in your blood before including turmeric in your diet.
9. May Lower Blood Pressure Way Too Much
Well, this could sound like a benefit. But lowering blood pressure way too much can cause complications.
Turmeric may have hypotensive effects (18). If you are taking it along with medications for lowering blood pressure, you may experience excessively low levels of the same.
Avoid turmeric if you are already on blood pressure medication.
10. May Be Risky During Surgery
This has to do with turmeric’s tendency to inhibit the blood-clotting process. Though there is no direct research here, it is likely that turmeric may interfere with blood clotting during surgery. Patients who are considering surgery may have to refrain from consuming turmeric one to two weeks before surgery and consult their doctor.
If you are considering surgery, you must refrain from consuming turmeric one to two weeks before surgery.
11. Unclear Information On Its Effects On Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
There is not enough information available on turmeric side effects on pregnant and breastfeeding women. Since they are crucial periods in any woman’s life, it is best to keep turmeric supplements away temporarily.
Turmeric has been rarely studied in breastfeeding women, and it is quite unknown if its active compounds would pass through breast milk. The resultant effects on breastfed infants are also unknown.
As there is insufficient information in this regard, avoiding turmeric supplements completely (including the supplements) during pregnancy and breastfeeding will be ideal. Also, please consult your doctor.
Those were the major turmeric side effects. Turmeric might also interact with certain medications.
Interactions With Medications
Following is the list of medications turmeric might interact with. Stay away from the spice as long as you are taking these medications:
- Drug metabolizing enzymes like cytochrome 450 and glutathione-S-transferase (19).
- Medications that reduce stomach acid like cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), rantidine (Zantac), esomeprazole (Nexium), omeprazole (Prilosec), and lansoprazole (Prevacid) (20).
- Diabetes medications (20).
- Blood-thinning medications like warfarin, clopidogrel, etc. (20).
Interactions With Herbs
Turmeric may also interact with certain herbs. Though the effects of its interactions with herbs like black pepper and ginger are unclear, it is better to consult your doctor before you use turmeric with any of the two.
Recommended Turmeric Dosage
Though turmeric has certain side effects, it is essential for optimal health. The only way to avoid the side effects is by using the right dosage.
The recommended dosage for adults, as per some reports, is 400 to 600 mg (thrice) a day (21).
Certain sources have put up the dosage as followed. However, research is needed to substantiate these. Please check with your doctor.
- Powdered dry root: 1.5 to 2.5 grams per day.
- Standardized powder: 1.2 to 1.8 grams per day.
- Turmeric tea: You can steep 15 grams of turmeric root in 135 ml of boiling water. You can take this preparation twice daily.
- Water-based extract: 30 to 90 drops of the extract per day.
- Tincture: 15 to 30 drops of the tincture 4 times per day.
Turmeric has a lot of benefits for human health, but it also has its share of side effects. This doesn’t mean you totally eliminate it from your diet. Use it in moderation and as required. If you have any of the conditions mentioned in this post, stop its usage temporarily. Most importantly, talk to your doctor.