Let's Talk Turmeric

Updated: Jul 8

AUTHOR: Lee Reicheneder

As many would know I am a Canberra Doula with additional training in a range of holistic health practices including herbs (amongst my other skills and qualifications) so it is not surprising to receive requests for posts which relate to a specific herbs or spices. Recently, I was sent a request to cover the spice turmeric and its risks vs benefits. So, I thought I would write a little blog post on Turmeric this week.

Turmeric is a food spice that is also known as Curcuma Longa, and the word Turmeric is often used interchangeably with Curcumin which is the name of one of the many chemical constitutions the spice Turmeric contains (Arnason, A. 2017; Robbins, O. 2017; ). Turmeric also contains the beneficial volatile oils tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberone, along with numerous beneficial nutrients (Worlds Healthiest Foods. 2019). In fact, just 1 teaspoon of ground Turmeric covers the following Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) amounts for a variety of nutrients:

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The spice has been widely used throughout history in traditional Ayurvedic Medicines and Naturopathic Medicine (Robbins, O. 2017; Sen, C & Saberi, H. 2014; Hetchman, L. 2013; Duke, J.A. 1997; Pizzomo, J.E & Murray, M.T. 2012). However, over the last few decades, it has also made a name for itself in modern-day health care which has caught onto the many of turmeric’s beneficial properties (WebMd. 2019; Emedicine. 2019; Medical News Today. 2018).

The spice turmeric is part of the ginger family and is identifiable by its bright yellow or orange root stalks which are rich in the curcuminoid chemicals and other related chemicals – these combinations give turmeric its vibrant colour once dried and ground into a powder (Arnarson, A. 2017; Tumeric. 2019; Healthy Food Tribe. 2019; Eichenseher, J. 2018). Due to its colourful nature, the spice is also used as a natural dye for clothes and other items – it can also stain the skin.

It is believed that turmeric only contains 2-6% of curcumin (one of the curcuminoid chemicals) and this is where the majority of health benefits is believed to stem from (Tayyem, RF., et al. 2006; DeVries, C. 2016; Arthritis Foundation, 2019). For this reason, it is often recommended to take curcumin supplements to achieve the full effects of the curcumin rather than simply consuming turmeric (Gunnars, K. 2018). However, it is important to acknowledge that there have been no official guidelines or recommendations set out for turmeric or curcumin dosages and various studies have found beneficial effects in turmeric in doses of 400-2000mg per day (Link, R. 2019; Arthritis Foundation, 2019; Hewlings, SJ & Douglas, KS. 2017; European Food Safety Authority). In addition, benefits can often be obtained through Turmeric from amounts as little as 1/50th of a teaspoon daily consumed over several months. Furthermore, many sources recommend not simply commencing with the consumption of turmeric or curcumin in high medicinal amounts initially. This is to help reduce the chances of negative side effects (Mental Health Daily. 2015; Link, R. 2019) . Instead, the amount should start small and gradually increase over time until you have either reached your desired dosage or begin experiencing side effects which would result in the need for a reduction of the product in your diet. Adding black pepper to foods that contain turmeric is believed to assist with the absorption of curcumin within the body by 2000% (Shoba, G. et al. 1998).

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So What Are The Side Effects Or Potential Side Effects Of Use?

According to a variety of sources, the use of turmeric or curcumin is generally regarded as safe for most people and situations. However, it does come with some risks and side effects that are often seen in those who have known contradictions, or those who consume large amounts and/or those who are starting out on their turmeric and curcumin journey without a gradual introduction process (Hewlings, SJ & Douglas, KS. 2017; Carroll, RE., et al. 2011 ; Lao, CD., et al. 2006; Sharma, RA., et al. 2004; Aggarwal, BB & Harikumar, KB. 2009; Yadav, SK. 2013; Hsu, CH & Cheng, AL. 2007; Tang, M. et al. 2008). The gradual introduction process is believed by a range of sources to assist with discovering individual tolerance levels while also reducing the chances of potential unwanted side effects

•Diarrhea •Headaches •Rash •Yellow Stools •Nausea •Increased Serum Alkaline Phosphate in body •Increased Lactate Dehydrogenase in the body •Bloating •Acid Reflux •Flatulence •Liver issues •Stomach Ulcers •Intestinal Issues •Blotchiness of Skin on face and neck •Low-Grade Fever or Hot Flushes •Reduced Testosterone and Sperm Mobility •Impaired Iron Absorption (when doses of turmeric or curcumin are high) •Jaundice – Yellowing of Skin

It is important to also be aware that the evidence to date suggests that most people do not experience these side effects at low dosages. However, once doses begin to increase (remembering that every person is an individual as are their tolerance thresholds) individuals often start experiencing 1 or more side effects. The dosage in which people experience the side effects is based on each individuals’ thresholds; however, this threshold is often reached between 400-12,000mg daily. Turmeric is considered safe for most people excluding those with known contradictions or where the turmeric exceeds individual tolerance levels (Chainani-Wu, N. 2003; Lal, B. et al. 1999 ; Soni, KB & Kuttan, R. 1992;Satoskar, RR. 1986 ). Some of the suggestions regarding how to reduce risk of unwanted side effects recommended by various sources including Mental Health Daily are:

1) Start with small amounts and increase gradually

2) Split up your turmeric in meals throughout the day

3) Have the turmeric with food to reduce the chance of stomach upset

4) If you are taking medications or supplements speak with your Doctor and Pharmacist first about any potential interactions with the turmeric or curcumin before using it.