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What are the side effects of Turmeric supplements?

side effects

Curcumin, the most active compound in turmeric, has been used as a complementary or alternative treatment for many chronic inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and diabetes. Other medicinal properties of curcumin include its blood clotting properties, ability to lower LDL and triglycerides, and even neurodegenerative protective effects.1

We know about the numerous, research-based benefits of curcumin, but what are the potential side effects of taking a high potency turmeric supplement?

What are the main side effects of turmeric?

As with other dietary supplements, turmeric may have side effects. The 2011 book Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, found that while no toxic dose of turmeric or curcumin supplements has been set, there are consistent side effects in high doses, such as lowered blood pressure, increased digestive motility due to decreased transit time, flushing and rash, and possible migraine triggered by increased dilation of the blood vessels.1

Upset Stomach

One of the side effects of turmeric is associated with digestion. Curcumin has regulatory effects on gastric motility which could lead to diarrhea, bloating, and change in stool patterns. If you experience nausea, upset stomach, or diarrhea then consider taking a lower dose of turmeric or stop taking it.

Ironically, curcumin is shown to help alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

You can learn more about the benefits of turmeric supplements for digestive disorders by reading this article:

Turmeric Benefits for Crohn’s Disease, IBS, or Ulcerative Colitis

Unusual bruising or bleeding

Curcumin has blood-thinning properties that could lead to excessive bleeding in people who have bleeding disorders or take blood-thinner medications. If you notice any unusual bruising or bleeding after taking turmeric supplements then you should stop. If you bruise easily, then you should use turmeric with caution.

Who should be cautious or not take Turmeric Extract?

While turmeric has been used without many issues, there are some populations that should exercise a higher level of caution. Pregnant women need to be more aware of what they consume and how they do it. A 2018 study on turmeric, as a nontoxic and safe substance, found that doses of 500 mg two times in a day for 30 days were safe, but not without side effects. Particularly, expecting women found turmeric to be upsetting in their digestion, often causing more nausea and vomiting, as well as some diarrhea. (1) There are not enough studies to make any conclusions statements about the safety or effectiveness of turmeric for women who are pregnant.

Another population at risk for side effects when using turmeric is children. Because curcumin has the ability to relax blood vessels, if your child has a blood-clotting problem, turmeric may exacerbate this issue and it could be dangerous. Also to take into account, adults have reported nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, all symptoms that a child could be more prone to due to lower weight and lower fat mass. The dosage for children could vary, and a pediatrician should always approve it first.

Blood Disorders
Due to the blood-thinning properties of curcumin, it is not safe for people with blood disorders, like hemophilia, or who are on blood thinners, such as aspirin or Warfarin, to consume it.

A 2012 study on the anticoagulant activities of curcumin found that it was a potent anticoagulant and antithrombotic, so daily consumption could reduce the risk of blood clots in heart disease. (2) However, blood-thinning effects can be difficult to manage and turmeric can increase the problem. It is also important to consider that when a person is about to undergo surgery, blood clotting is essential, so the use of curcumin should be discontinued several weeks before surgery. You should let your surgeon or doctor know if you are currently taking a turmeric supplement or if you want to take a turmeric supplement.

Gallstones and Gallbladder Disorders
While curcumin has been proven to lower cholesterol levels, particularly LDL and triglycerides, it can also reduce the incidence of gallstones in the body. Gallstones are hard deposits that form in the gallbladder, the primary site of bile production. These painful stones contain cholesterol, bile, and calcium. Though it is true that consumption of curcumin is a good preventive treatment, it could potentially be harmful to those already experiencing gallbladder blockages.

The results are not conclusive, but some studies suggest that curcumin could promote contraction of the gallbladder, which is extremely painful for those prone to gallstones. Up to 50% contraction has been reported with just 40mg of curcumin, which should be noted for patients with gallbladder issues. (3)

Kidney Stones
An article published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that raw turmeric powder contains high levels of oxalates which can lead to the formation of kidney stones. However, another study found levels of oxalates in turmeric extract to be much lower and considered safe. If you have a history of kidney stones, you may want to think twice about cooking with too much raw turmeric powder and consult with your doctor before taking a turmeric supplement just to be safe.

For those that are diabetic, turmeric could be an interesting natural way to manage blood sugar. While studies have shown the ability of curcumin to lower blood sugar levels, there are mixed results in the research. A 2013 meta-analysis review found curcumin to have preventive abilities in the development of diabetes complications, like neuropathy, heart disease, and high blood pressure, but this same review also showed that curcumin could increase the risk for certain diabetes side effects, such as nausea and vomiting.4

Hormone-Sensitive Conditions
There are some cases in which hormone sensitivity could increase the risks associated with turmeric use. Conditions that cause hormone sensitivity include breast cancer, uterine cancer, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, ovarian cancer, and uterine fibroids. The active curcumin in turmeric can reduce the effects of estrogen in certain cancer cells, making it beneficial in cancer treatment. The same effect, however, can become dangerous in hormone replacement therapy and may exacerbate conditions that are vulnerable to hormone level fluctuations.

Immunotherapy for cancer
Anti-cancer activity is one of the greatest benefits of taking a turmeric extract supplement, but there is a time and place for it. While curcumin has been shown to slow the growth and spread of cancer, those who are currently participating in chemotherapy or radiation should not take a turmeric supplement because curcumin can interfere with medications. Cancer treatments vary and your oncologist may have special precautions for you based on your specific treatment plan. Be sure to consult with your oncologist about the risks and benefits of taking a turmeric supplement.

You can learn more about the cancer-fighting and immune-strengthening benefits of curcumin by reading this comprehensive article about turmeric and cancer here:

Turmeric for Cancer: Potential Benefits

Who should talk to their doctor before taking turmeric supplements?

Like all dietary supplements, everyone should consult a doctor before taking them. As mentioned earlier there is always a risk with taking supplements, particularly when there are underlying conditions. People at higher risk for side effects include those with diabetes, cancer, gallbladder problems, and bleeding disorders. When in doubt, consult with your physician and mention some of the things that could put you at risk.

Choose a safer, smarter, and better Turmeric

High-dose turmeric extract has been shown to reduce pain, inflammation, blood pressure, and oxidation with minimal side effects compared to prescription anti-inflammatories, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, and opioids. While pharmaceuticals may be beneficial for some, they come with a lot of extra baggage and may end up causing other health issues.

Regardless, never stop taking medications without consulting your doctor as this can have life-threatening consequences. If you have underlying medical conditions or take medications, then consult with your doctor prior to taking a turmeric supplement.

When buying a turmeric supplement, choose the one with the most Turmeric Extract per capsule. Many turmeric companies fill their capsules with Turmeric Powder instead of Turmeric Extract. Turmeric Extract contains a higher concentration of curcuminoids, the active ingredients that contain most of the research-proven health benefits of Turmeric.

Active Atoms contains 750 mg of premium Turmeric Extract (not Turmeric Powder) making it what we believe is the highest potency Turmeric on the market. In addition, we send our turmeric capsules to an independent lab for lead testing to ensure your turmeric supplement is safe and pure.

Add Active Atoms Turmeric Extract to your daily routine to support healthy joints, strengthen your immune system, promote a better digestive system, and boost your brain performance.

About Dr. Marc Robinson, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT