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Turmeric: overview, benefits, dosage & side-effects

Laura Harcourt

Written byLaura Harcourt

Selection of different turmeric infused items including tea, sticks and oranges
Spices have been used as an integral part of cooking for millennia, but it’s only recently that they’ve started to be examined for their properties. Among them, turmeric has caught the eye of a lot of researchers for its supposed beneficial properties.1

So, if you’ve ever wondered, ‘is turmeric good for you’, then you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s lots of preliminary studies to suggest that it might be.1 Keep reading to learn more about the science behind turmeric.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is an orangey, yellow-coloured spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It’s been used for thousands of years as both a cooking ingredient and a herb.2  It’s the curcuminoids, also known as curcumins, that give turmeric its striking colour – so much so, that they’re often used to colour food and cosmetics.2

Extracted from the root of the turmeric plant, it’s part of the Zingiberaceae family, which also includes ginger.2 Interestingly, the turmeric plant is related to ginger and originates from Southern India and Indonesia.2 Using turmeric dates back to 4,000 years ago in India.2

Historically, it’s mainly been used in Ayurvedic medicine, primarily in South Asia, for many conditions e.g. fatigue. Although there are currently no EFSA-approved claims on turmeric or curcumin, anecdotal evidence suggests turmeric could have some benefits.3

Turmeric is used in many ways across the world. It spices up Indian curries, finds its way into Japanese tea, enhances Thai cosmetics, acts as a colourant in China, flavours drinks in Korea, and contributes to the preservation and colouring of mustard sauce, cheese, butter, and chips in the United States.6

Like most spices, turmeric goes by more than one name – turmeric root and Indian saffron. However, it’s not to be confused with the Javanese turmeric root either which, despite the reference to turmeric, is something else entirely.4

What is curcumin and what does it do?

The compound curcumin has been isolated by scientists as turmeric’s most active ingredient.2

Researchers have looked into curcumin’s e anti-inflammatory properties, however, the jury is out on this as curcumin has poor bioavailability so whether it could have any benefits when ingested is unclear.5 Between 3-5% of turmeric consists of curcuminoids, active plant compounds, most of which is curcumin.6

While there’s plenty of potential benefits associated with curcumin, the reason it’s not used more widely to treat conditions is that it’s not readily absorbed by the body.6

The link between turmeric and black pepper

Heard about taking turmeric and black pepper together? There’s a good reason.

Scientists in one study discovered that black pepper helps absorb curcumin by up to 2000%, so you may sometimes find turmeric and black pepper together.6

What are the benefits of turmeric?

Through the investigation of curcumin, some emerging and preliminary research shows that turmeric might help the body in the following ways. However, there’s no authorised health claims for curcumin and more research is needed to determine whether curcumin can help with any of these.

Please note scientific evidence for this product/topic (delete as necessary) is very limited, and although there’s emerging studies, more clinical research needs to be conducted.

1. Turmeric may be good for your joints

Another potential benefit of turmeric is that it may help to reduce the symptoms of joint pain, including symptoms suffered from different kinds of arthritis.6,7,8

Some research has shown that curcumin may be effective at treating symptoms of joint problems, such as joint function and pain.7 It wasn’t found to be effective at easing stiffness, however.6

2. It may help with digestion

Turmeric may also be able to help support digestion. A 2019 study involving 20 participants found turmeric might help with gut microbial communities as it contains pre-biotics.9 But, as this study was small, further more robust studies are needed to fully understand how turmeric might affect your gut health. 

3. It may support skin health

As well as having soothing properties, turmeric is also said to have antioxidant properties, making it effective for skin types and conditions, such as blemish-prone skin and psoriasis.

You can also use turmeric, or different variations of it, like face cleansers, skin masks and night creams within your skincare regimen.4,6 This can regulate oil production, cleanse the skin, and even, manage facial hair.

Turmeric can also be used for pimples, thanks to its antiseptic and antibacterial properties that may help with breakouts and manage redness and scarring.9

For glowing skin, why not give our lemon and turmeric face mask a go? You only need three ingredients to create it, it takes just six steps to make.

4.It may help with acid reflux

Meanwhile, a separate review revealed that the soothing effects of curcumin manage the risk of oesophageal issues, although it noted that there’s still problems with getting the body to absorb curcumin at a high enough amount that it becomes effective.12

FAQs

How to take turmeric

Fortunately, there’s lots of ways to use turmeric. Turmeric has been used in drinks for centuries, typically in either turmeric teas or coffees.2,6 You can do this with water (but it may not taste great) or you could add it to a smoothie so that it’s a little easier on the palette. Alternatively, turmeric milk is another popular drink.

Why not check out our turmeric coffee recipe if you’re not sure where to start

How much turmeric is safe to take?

There’s no reference nutrient intake (RNI) for turmeric, but be careful to not exceed the dosage stated on any label. However, there’s an RNI for curcumin.

For the best effect, you should have turmeric in combination with black pepper. Studies have found that an active compound in black pepper, piperine, can promote the body’s ability to absorb curcumin by 2000%.6

Children under 12 years old and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t take turmeric, as its safety in these groups hasn’t been proven.

What are the side effects of taking turmeric?

So, what are the side effects of taking turmeric? While they’re considered to be rare, some side effects can include:
  • upset stomach, including diarrhoea 
  • yellow stools 
  • headache 
  • rash
We have more information on the side effects of turmeric here.

The final say

Now you know what turmeric is and why it might be good for you, will you add it to your diet?

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments, or remedies.
 

Sources

1. Hay E, Lucariello A, Contieri M, Esposito T, De Luca A, Guerra G, Perna A. Therapeutic effects of turmeric in several diseases: An overview. Chemico-biological interactions. [Internet] 2019 Sep 1 [cited 2024 Jan 19];310:108729. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0009279719308610
2. turmeric | Description, History, & Uses [Internet]. Encyclopedia Britannica. [cited 2024 Jan 19]. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/plant/turmeric
3. Verma RK, Kumari P, Maurya RK, Kumar V, Verma RB, Singh RK. Medicinal properties of turmeric (Curcuma longa L.): A review. Int. J. Chem. Stud. [Internet] 2018 [cited 2024 Jan 19];6(4):1354-7. Available at: https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.net/99716034/Avea_Depression_medicinal_20properties-libre.pdf?1678560001=&response-content-disposition=inline%3B+filename%3DMedicinal_properties_of_turmeric_Curcuma.pdf&Expires=1705663848&Signature=Fvz0Q0bijgNdx3--RsQEvrUZ6tCx1l62W7SK5kRw6gmBceU7MbVlP9fH9ck4NQ27ALM-tGHZ4bzGCMNGlJiISlUDDswOED6Hrt17ATWfBvO3gz3MopbDKrvlUydRfzE49wLye8KPcRdqXfgAX7L3dmQ-aDgYe-pwAdFNNX6X-tJrBpBksjHoI4dZ9OmExpE1wwmI-6621hiLRU8FWIRD~shJGbFOzcx4J0fZ4Kwupqqgv57FdG~9U8b5xDjXJ9xUMxnQiayxaXqe-y6ypxr~0uX7c~P3drmXhiGpzwb0eyoR64Sk15WIGTEc4yrvrXq15~EacToYiFz9pnTR7PSd3Q__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA
4. JAVANESE TURMERIC: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews [Internet]. www.webmd.com. [cited 2024 Jan 19]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-532/javanese-turmeric
5. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A review of its effects on human health. Foods [Internet]. 2017 Oct 22 [cited 2024 Jan 19];6(10):92. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/6/10/92
6. Pulido-Moran M, Moreno-Fernandez J, Ramirez-Tortosa C, Ramirez-Tortosa M. Curcumin and health. Molecules [Internet]. 2016 Feb 25 [cited 2024 Jan 19];21(3):264. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/21/3/264 
7. Panahi Y, Ali-Reza Rahimnia, Sharafi M, Gholamhossein Alishiri, Amin Saburi, Amirhossein Sahebkar. Curcuminoid Treatment for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Double‐Blind Placebo‐Controlled Trial. Phytotherapy Research [Internet]. 2014 May 22 [cited 2024 Feb 20];28(11):1625–31. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24853120/
8. Daily JW, Yang M, Park S. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Journal of Medicinal Food [Internet]. 2016 Aug 1 [cited 2024 Feb 20];19(8):717–29. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27533649/
9. Peterson CT, Rodionov DA, Iablokov SN, Pung MA, Chopra D, Mills PJ, Peterson SN. Prebiotic potential of culinary spices used to support digestion and bioabsorption. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine [Internet]. 2019 Jun 2 [cited 2024 Jan 21];2019. Available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2019/8973704/
10. Vaughn AR, Branum A, Sivamani RK. Effects of turmeric (Curcuma longa) on skin health: a systematic review of the clinical evidence. Phytotherapy Research [Internet]. 2016 Aug [cited 2024 Jan 21];30(8):1243-64. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.5640
11. Barbalho SM, de Sousa Gonzaga HF, de Souza GA, de Alvares Goulart R, de Sousa Gonzaga ML, de Alvarez Rezende B. Dermatological effects of Curcuma species: a systematic review. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology [Internet]. 2021 Jul 1 [cited 2024 Jan 21];46(5):825-33. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Nudrat-Fatima/publication/363250818_HAIR_INHIBITORY_EFFECT_ON_INTEGUMENTARY_ORGAN_BY_COMPOUND_ISOLATED_FROM_CURCUMA_LONGA_TURMERIC/links/63132d101ddd447021311084/HAIR-INHIBITORY-EFFECT-ON-INTEGUMENTARY-ORGAN-BY-COMPOUND-ISOLATED-FROM-CURCUMA-LONGA-TURMERIC.pdf
12. Kwiecien S, Magierowski M, Majka J, Ptak-Belowska A, Wojcik D, Sliwowski Z, Magierowska K, Brzozowski T. Curcumin: a potent protectant against esophageal and gastric disorders. International journal of molecular sciences [Internet]. 2019 Mar 24 [cited 2024 Jan 21];20(6):1477. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/20/6/1477
 

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