Hi! My name is Becca- I am I client and a volunteer at the Healing Garden and Turmeric for health (rather than flavor) first showed up on my radar junior year in college. It was during winter finals, the time when everyone is run down and getting sick, so my roommate told me about this thing she does to ward off the flu. She boiled some water for us, mixed it with a couple tablespoons of turmeric powder and we took the mixture as a shot. It tasted TERRIBLE! I’m gagging just thinking about it! I would NOT advise this (there are capsules you can take and Golden Milk to drink!). That said I didn’t get sick that finals so maybe it was worth it…
Although I (and western scientists) have only known about turmeric for a few years, the spice has been used in many East and South Asian cuisines and medicine traditions for millennium. Some clients have been curious about turmeric, so I thought I’d do some research to help people decide if turmeric supplements can be a helpful and safe decision for them. Just a reminder: I am not a medical professional and this is not medical advice, only a summary of the research I have done!
While I was researching turmeric I found information that implied the spice could cure almost everything from asthma, to colon cancer, anorexia, rheumatoid arthritis and more. In scientific literature, I found that Turmeric has well established and powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anticancer properties, however these properties have mostly been demonstrated in cell cultures and animal models. The question then, is do these findings lead to actual health benefits it real people? While little is proven, exciting clinical trials demonstrate that turmeric could help treat depression, osteoarthritis, peptic ulcers, high cholesterol and certain cancers.
The bottom line is that the spice seems to be somewhat helpful against a variety of conditions but has not been shown to be curative, or even to have greater efficacy than current treatments. That said, consuming turmeric does seem to have health benefits especially in regards to maintaining and protecting the liver, digestive system, and cardiovascular system as well as decreasing protecting the body against cancerous mutations.
For a more detailed history I recommend this article: Turmeric, the Golden Spice
DRUG INTERACTIONS – Is Turmeric Safe for You?
It is important to talk to your doctor before taking large doses of turmeric on a regular basis because there are some known drug interactions that could lead to health complications. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center turmeric may:
- increase the efficacy of blood thinners which can increase the risk of bleeding
- increase the effects of diabetes medications increasing the risk of low blood sugar
- increase stomach acid production and may interfere with medications that reduce stomach acid
Additionally the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center advises against taking turmeric or curcumin supplements if you are taking:
- Chemotherapy drugs such as camptothecin, mechlorethamine, doxorubicin, or cyclophosphamide
- Resperine, indomethacin, tacrolimus or norfloxacin
- Drugs metabolized by the CYP3A4 enzyme, the CYP1A2 enzyme, or the CYP2A6 enzyme,
- Drugs transported by P-Glycoprotein.
- Patients who are going to undergo some laboratory tests that include dyes
I would also like to emphasize that these effects are related to curcumin or turmeric supplements, not the small amount of turmeric found in cooking.
PRO TIP: The main component of turmeric that gives it its bioactive and medicinal properties is curcumin, but the problem is that our bodies have limited ability to use the curcumin we consume. However turmeric seems to be more effectively absorbed when consumed with piperine (a major chemical component of black pepper). When choosing a supplement it may be beneficial to choose one that includes piperine or BioPerine (a brand name of a piperine supplement). Here’s one example! —->
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave comments on this post and I will get back to you to the best of my ability.
Information on Drug Interactions:
Panahi, Y., Rahimnia, A. R., Sharafi, M., Alishiri, G., Saburi, A., & Sahebkar, A. (2014). Curcuminoid Treatment for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Double‐Blind Placebo‐Controlled Trial. Phytotherapy Research, 28(11), 1625-1631.
Panahi, Y., Hosseini, M. S., Khalili, N., Naimi, E., Majeed, M., & Sahebkar, A. (2015). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of curcuminoid-piperine combination in subjects with metabolic syndrome: A randomized controlled trial and an updated meta-analysis. Clinical nutrition, 34(6), 1101-1108.
Prasad, S., & Aggarwal, B. B. (2011). Turmeric, the golden spice.
Wang, Y. J., Pan, M. H., Cheng, A. L., Lin, L. I., Ho, Y. S., Hsieh, C. Y., & Lin, J. K. (1997). Stability of curcumin in buffer solutions and characterization of its degradation products. Journal of pharmaceutical and biomedical analysis, 15(12), 1867-1876.