Turmeric is a favourite yellow spice originating from southern Asia consumed for its health benefits. Supplements of turmeric, or curcumin — its main active ingredient — are becoming increasingly common.

This review looks into the possible side effects of high-dose turmeric and curcumin supplements.

What Is Turmeric/Curcumin?

Turmeric is a plant scientifically known as Curcuma longa. Curcumin is one of the naturally occurring compounds within the turmeric plant’s roots. The primary active compounds in turmeric are the curcuminoids. It has potent antioxidant activity and gives turmeric its flashy yellow colour.

Curcumin has been linked to the following potential benefits, to name a few:

  • Reduced inflammation[1]
  • Improved antioxidant status[2]
  • Improved blood vessel function[3]
  • Reduced heart attack risk[4]

Adverse Effects of Turmeric and Curcumin

Turmeric contains around 2% oxalate. At high doses, this may contribute to kidney stones in predisposed individuals[5], so if you suffer from gout or have kidney problems you will want to stay away.

Pure turmeric is considered safe[6] in general, however turmeric powders may sometimes be altered with cheap fillers such as wheat starch, cassava or rye flour[7], which may cause adverse symptoms in people with gluten intolerance. They may even contain lead or other heavy metals[8]. Therefore always opt for high quality turmeric powder or better yet a standardised curcumin supplement for optimal purity.

Curcumin supplements are considered safe[9], and no adverse side effects have been reported so far at low dosages. However high doses of curcumin may cause side effects in some people. At higher doses[10] side effects may include digestive issues, headache and nausea and skin rashes.The long-term effects of taking curcumin in humans are unknown.[11]

To date,  there are no official recommendations for the intake of turmeric, and the maximum tolerable intake level has not been identified. However, as with all medicines and supplements, you should not exceed the dosage recommendations you find on supplement labels. Also, the The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) set the acceptable intake level for curcumin is 1.4 mg per pound (3 mg/kg) of body weight[12].

If you are taking turmeric or curcumin supplements, select supplements that contain standardised powder for optimal purity and effectiveness, combined with piperine for optimal absorption.

As for all supplements, always consult your doctore before taking any new supplements.

Need a Curcumin supplement? Check out Curcumin complex featuring over 150mg standardised Curcumin and the equivalent of 1780mg of turmeric powder per capsule boosted with Piperine, Ginger root, Cayenne extract Zinc and Vitamin B6.