Aside from being the holy grail of curry spices, turmeric is also a well-known superfood. The modern world has taken it and run with it: you can now find it in everything from smoothies and shakes to baked goods! People aren’t just packing turmeric into everything for the fun of it, though - the orange powder is known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune-boosting properties, helping take your nutrition to the next level.
Although the Western world has only recently picked up on the turmeric trend, it’s been used for centuries in India, dating back almost 4,000 years. Aside from its role as a key spice in Indian food, it’s also historically been used for its medicinal benefits, and as a component in religious ceremonies.
But is there really any science behind the turmeric craze? Will that turmeric latte help keep the doctor away? Will adding a sprinkle of orange powder to each meal make much of a difference to your general health? And how much turmeric is too much turmeric?
What is turmeric?
Let’s start with the basics. We’re probably all aware of turmeric in its powdered form from the supermarket, but the spice itself comes from the turmeric plant, which is also known as Indian saffron. With its pungent, bitter taste, turmeric is a core ingredient in Indian curries, but it can now also be found in teas, powders, capsules and in many more imaginative products.
In Ayurvedic practices, turmeric root has been used medicinally to treat a range of disorders of the skin, upper respiratory tract, the joints and digestive system, and internal and external inflammation.
However, that doesn’t mean to say that the curry powder you plop into all your Indian dishes is providing all of these great health benefits. The active ingredient in turmeric which gives it its magical, medicinal qualities is called curcumin, a yellow-coloured chemical which is often used to colour food and even cosmetics. Curcumin makes up only a small part of turmeric.
Why you should eat turmeric daily
When we talk about the benefits of eating turmeric daily, we’re really referencing the health benefits of curcumin – of which there are many! Curcumin has been shown to help prevent and manage oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety and hyperlipidaemia.
At low doses, curcumin can help restore a natural balance between T cells that cause inflammation and those that protect against it, hence its anti-inflammatory properties which protect the immune system. For people with conditions like osteoarthritis, this can be particularly valuable: 1000mg of curcumin has been shown to relieve pain as effectively as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen.
Taking curcumin daily can also be beneficial for the heart. A study of 32 menopausal women who ingested curcumin orally for 8 weeks had similar increased blood flow, artery dilation and improved endothelial function, to those who did aerobic exercise training. That’s right: that pungent orange powder has similar benefits to exercise for the lining of your heart and blood vessels!
Turmeric is also good mood food: patients in a study who took curcumin for 6 weeks saw similar improvements to those taking Prozac. Find out more about the benefits of turmeric here!
Good sources of turmeric
Unfortunately your curry powder spice mix isn’t going to provide all the benefits we’ve just listed. Turmeric powder only contains about 2 to 6% curcumin, it doesn’t have high bioavailability and needs fat or heat to increase absorption. Combining your turmeric with black pepper will help increase its bioavailability by 2000%.
We usually advocate whole food sources before supplementation, but turmeric is a little different as a result of its unique properties. So, if you’re serious about increasing your curcumin intake, it’s best to opt for a supplement to ensure that 1. You’re getting enough curcumin to feel the benefits and 2. It’s bioavailable.
Because turmeric is damaged by air and light, look for a supplement made with turmeric root for optimum medicinal qualities. Our Golden Turmeric Latte is made with turmeric root powder and black pepper powder, which contains the piperine needed to improve the absorption of turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
How much turmeric can I take per day?
It’s less about how much turmeric you should take daily, and more to do with the amount of curcumin, which is only present in small amounts in turmeric. According to Healthline, the average Indian diet provides around 2,000 to 2,500 mg of turmeric, which is around 60 to 100 mg of circumin a day, but taking the same amount in extract form could pack up to 1,900 to 2,375 mg of curcumin!
Studies suggest that taking 500 to 2,000 mg of curcumin daily has potential benefits. There is no guide for a maximum amount, but if you take a supplement just look out for dosage recommendations and try not to exceed them.
Does turmeric have side effects?
It’s very rare to feel any negative side effects when consuming turmeric, but at higher doses you can feel mild effects, including digestive issues such as diarrhoea and nausea, skin rash and yellow stool.
Some lower quality turmeric supplements aren’t pure, and are stuffed with fillers like barley, wheat and rye. For gluten intolerant people this can cause an upset stomach, so make sure you do your research and find a company you can trust.
What happens if you consume too much turmeric?
So, can too much turmeric be bad for you? Can you consume too much turmeric?
Well, the chances of you actually eating too much turmeric or turmeric root are pretty low, and it’s generally extremely safe. If you did manage to eat too much turmeric root (which would have to be an extremely large dose!), you could feel some discomfort. Turmeric contains 2% oxalate which, at high doses, can contribute to kidney stones in predisposed individuals.
Excessive turmeric consumption can also block iron absorption - so people with iron deficiency should be careful not to consume too much turmeric, as it could further decrease your ability to absorb iron.
Not to worry, though. Without taking a supplement, it would be pretty much impossible to consume too much of it. If you do take a supplement, simply stick to the recommended amount and you’re in the clear!
‘Turmeric, the Golden Spice’ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/
‘Turmeric | NCCIH’ https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric
‘Curcumin: A review of its’ effect on human health’ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/
‘Turmeric probably won’t help your arthritis (but curcumin might’ http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/anti-inflammatory-tumeric-curcumin/
‘Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women’ https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0271531712001844?via%3Dihub
‘Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial’ https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.5025
‘Therapeutic roles of curcumin: lessons learned from clinical trials’ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535097/‘Does too much turmeric have side effects?’ https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/turmeric-side-effects#TOC_TITLE_HDR_4