Turmeric is the main spice in curry. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. It’s root also used widely to make medicine. It contains a yellow-colored chemical called curcumin, which is often used to color foods and cosmetics.
It is used as an enema for people with inflammatory bowel disease.
In food and manufacturing, the essential oil of turmeric is used in perfumes, and its resin is used as a flavor and color component in foods.
Don’t confuse turmeric with Javanese turmeric root (Curcuma zedoaria).
Uses of Turmeric
- High cholesterol. Research suggests that taking turmeric extract by mouth twice daily for 3 months reduces total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides in overweight people with high cholesterol.
- Osteoarthritis. Some research shows that taking its extracts, alone or in combination with other herbal ingredients, can reduce pain and improve function in people with osteoarthritis. In some research, turmeric worked about as well as ibuprofen for reducing osteoarthritis pain. However, it does not seem to work as well as diclofenac for improving pain and function in people with osteoarthritis.
- Itching (pruritus). Research suggests that taking it by mouth three times daily for 8 weeks reduces itching in people with long-term kidney disease.
- Stomach ulcers. Some research suggests that taking it three times daily for 8 weeks does not improve stomach ulcers. Also, taking powdered form four times daily for 6 weeks seems to be less effective than taking a conventional antacid.
Turmeric is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth or applied to the skin appropriately for up to 8 months.
Turmeric is POSSIBLY SAFE when it is used as an enema or a mouthwash in the short-term.
It usually does not cause significant side effects; however, some people can experience stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, or diarrhea.
In one report, a person who took very high amounts of turmeric, over 1500 mg twice daily, experienced a dangerous abnormal heart rhythm. However, it is unclear if that was the actual cause of this side effect. Until more is known, avoid taking excessively large doses of it.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: During pregnancy and while breast-feeding, turmeric is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in food. However, it is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in medicinal amounts during pregnancy. It might promote a menstrual period or stimulate the uterus, putting the pregnancy at risk. Do not take medicinal amounts of if you are pregnant. There is not enough information to rate the safety in medicinal amounts during breast-feeding. It is best not to use it.
Gallbladder problems: It can make gallbladder problems worse. Do not use if you have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction.
Bleeding problems: Taking turmeric might slow blood clotting. This might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.
Diabetes: Curcumin, a chemical in turmeric, might decrease blood sugar in people with diabetes. Use with caution in people with diabetes as it might make blood sugar too low.
A stomach disorder called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Turmeric can cause stomach upset in some people. It might make stomach problems such as GERD worse. Do not take if it worsens symptoms of GERD.
Hormone-sensitive condition such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: It contains a chemical called curcumin, which might act like the hormone estrogen. In theory, turmeric might make hormone-sensitive conditions worse. However, some research shows that it reduces the effects of estrogen in some hormone-sensitive cancer cells. Therefore, turmeric might have beneficial effects on hormone-sensitive conditions. Until more is known, use cautiously if you have a condition that might be made worse by exposure to hormones.
Infertility: It might lower testosterone levels and decrease sperm movement when taken by mouth by men. This might reduce fertility. It should be used cautiously by people trying to have a baby.
Iron deficiency: Taking high amounts of turmeric might prevent the absorption of iron. It should be used with caution in people with iron deficiency.
Surgery: It might slow blood clotting. It might cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using turmeric at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.