Considering the safety and interactions of turmeric

Alex Bailey, Information Specialist, Welsh Medicines Information CentrePublished

The safety and interactions of turmeric when taken orally as a medicine

About Turmeric

Orally, turmeric (Curcuma longa) is used as a spice in foods and as a medicine. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric.

Turmeric in medical conditions

Orally, turmeric has been used for various conditions, including:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • ulcerative colitis
  • dyspepsia
  • cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol

Turmeric in cooking

The amounts of turmeric used in cooking are low and unlikely to have therapeutic or adverse effects.

Turmeric supplements

  • Products sold as food supplements are not subject to the same quality and safety standards as conventional medicines.
  • Contamination of turmeric and curcumin supplements with another active ingredient cannot always be ruled out.
  • Buy supplements from a trusted source to reduce the associated risks.

Special patient groups

Children, adolescents and pregnant women should avoid using medicinal doses of turmeric until there is more evidence of its safety.

Dosage

  • When it is taken as a medicine, a common dose of turmeric is 400 to 600 mg three times a day, which is equivalent to 60 g of fresh turmeric root or 15g of turmeric powder.
  • In clinical cancer trials, doses of 4000 to 8000 mg (4 to 8 g) a day of curcumin are typical.
  • Only high doses of curcumin are absorbed into the blood and can have an effect throughout the body.
  • Giving curcumin with piperine (a constituent of pepper) enhances the absorption of curcumin.