In most Asian dishes, turmeric is used as a spice. Besides its use in the kitchen, this yellow spice is used in the medical industry due to its many health benefits. Are there any side effects of consuming too much turmeric?
Walking into Thai, Indian, Chinese, and other restaurants, you’ll notice that most dishes are prepared using a yellow spice called turmeric. Although it’s widely appreciated in the kitchen, the appreciation does not end there. Traditional medicine has used turmeric for many years for medical purposes. Even today, modern medicine has come to appreciate turmeric, even making turmeric supplements. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric and owes it its many health benefits. Curcumin supplements are also available in drug stores and online. Yet, there is one big question; are there side effects of consuming too much turmeric?
India grows and uses turmeric, a yellow herb belonging to the ginger family. Turmeric is used as a dye (due to its yellow color), a spice for preparing dishes, and as a medicinal plant. The plant’s root stalks are known as the rhizome. The rhizomes are yellow in color and can be used as a spice or chewed directly. However, turmeric can be turned into turmeric powder, a famous spice made by drying the rhizomes and grinding them into powder. The powder, just like the fresh turmeric herb, has curcuminoids, the active plant compound that owes turmeric the yellow color.
Most Indian curries incorporate turmeric, which is described as a yellow spice with a slightly bitter peppery flavor. Spices usually have many different plant compounds, and so does turmeric. It also contains carbs, especially in the form of fibers. All the health benefits of turmeric and its yellow color are a result of curcuminoids. Curcumin is one of the curcuminoids in turmeric, and it has been studied extensively as it makes up about 3% of turmeric. If you buy turmeric from the stores and read the ingredient list, you will realize that besides curcuminoids, turmeric powder has additives, including silicon oxide meant to top clumping.
Why take turmeric?
Turmeric is widely known for spicing food, adding color and flavor. Besides its role in the kitchen, turmeric has been used by traditional medicine to help with many different problems. Even for this line of appreciation, turmeric owes it all to curcumin. Curcumin supplements are available in drug stores and online and have the following advantages;
- Good antioxidants; the body is under constant attack by free radicals, which after accumulation, cause oxidative stress. Research shows that curcumin is an active antioxidant, which, along with other bioactive compounds in turmeric, protects the body from damage by free radicals and oxidative stress.
- Reduces inflammation; besides oxidative stress, inflammation is the other health risk. Some studies show that the antioxidants present in curcumin and turmeric may be potent enough to fight inflammation.
- Reduces heart disease risk; heart disease results from many conditions, including inflammation of heart cells. Yet, turmeric may help reduce inflammation (including inflammation of the heart cells), thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Maintaining blood vessel functions; curcumin may help the epithelial cells relax, allowing the endothelium to vasodilate. With this movement, blood flow pressure stabilizes, and heart disease risk goes down.
Are there side effects of consuming turmeric and curcumin?
The yellow turmeric herb, turmeric, and its main active ingredient, curcumin, can be said to be generally safe. However, just like many supplements, taking too much turmeric or curcumin may lead to some health risks. Listed below are some medical concerns experienced by people who used turmeric and curcumin and their supplements in extremely high dosages.
Consuming too much turmeric may be harmful to you. This is because turmeric is also rich in oxalate, which, when taken over longer periods, loads the kidneys with stones, especially for individuals predisposed to kidney stones. Something else is the adulteration of turmeric. While processing the turmeric into powder, some cheap companies contaminate the spice by adding other things to boost its content. For instance, wheat, barley, and rye are often added to turmeric. While they may not be dangerous, wheat, rye, and barley stir negative side effects in people with celiac disease and other forms of gluten intolerance. Worse off, some companies add flour to the powder, and to increase coloration, they add food colorants. One of such colorants is the acid yellow 46 (metanil yellow), which research shows can initiate neurological complications and cancer in animals. Because of its dangers, acid yellow 46 has not been tested on humans and is thus illegal in the USA.
Taking low dosages of curcumin supplements is safe. People have taken 490mg with no side effects. In some instances, participants of a study even took high dosages; 1,200-2,100mg with no side effects. Still, a small number of people have reported mild side effects; including:
- Digestive issues; this has been so especially for some people who took more than 1,000g daily.
- Skin rashes; this has been experienced by people who had taken more than 8,000mg of curcumin supplements. It seldom occurs.
- Nausea and headache; even low dosages like 450mg (and above) have caused some nausea, although just a small number.
One study reported negative side effects on rats taking extremely high dosages of 2600mg/kg weight. Such side effects included flatulence, increased risk of liver cancer, strained fur, increased size of the liver, and many more.
How much is too much?
Currently, there are no exact dosages recommended for turmeric and curcumin supplements. Still, be sure to read the labels and don’t exceed the stated dosage. In addition, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) suggests 3mg/kg weight per day, although other bodies suggest high dosages and claim that they are still well-tolerated.
Turmeric is appreciated for its medical value, besides being a good spice for many dishes and an excellent dye. Turmeric and curcumin supplements are available are well-tolerated in small amounts, with some people not reacting badly to high dosages. Still, a small percentage of people may experience side effects with curcumin supplements, including nausea and headache.