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Turmeric Curcumin. Is it safe? Tips to help decide


Turmeric Curcumin is a common supplement known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This post discusses the safety concerns that should be considered before starting this supplement.




"Supplements are chemical combinations of 'natural' substances that have potential physiologic effects.  The foxglove plant is the source of a long-used cardiac medication, digitalis, which has helped, and killed, many people." Robert Vogt MD


Understanding the research behind Turmeric Curcumin is important to decide whether this is a supplement for you and if it is safe for you to take.


Side effects of Turmeric


Turmeric contains oxalates and this can increase the risk of kidneys stones.


“The consumption of supplemental doses of turmeric can significantly increase urinary oxalate levels, thereby increasing risk of kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals.


If you have a history of kidney stones be careful when taking turmeric


Other issues of turmeric are related to the additives as well as the source of turmeric.


“Turmeric powders may sometimes be adulterated with cheap fillers, such as wheat starch and questionable food colorants. They may even contain lead.”


You can get supplements that the only non-active added ingredient is a vegetable capsule.


Look for Third Party verification of purity and content


Side effects of Curcumin


Very high doses reported Diarrhea, headache, rash, yellow stool. In extremely high doses rats and mice had more serious issues.




Curcumin and decreased iron absorption?


Curcumin can interact with iron‘iron chelator’, and this might play a potential role in treating cancer. This has been thought to affect iron absorption but also have an effect on removing iron from the body. “Iron chelators have been shown to exert antitumor effects”.


High doses of curcumin in mice can create an iron deficiency but this was only seen when the mice were fed a low iron diet.


“curcumin may have the potential to contribute to the development of anemia in patients with marginal iron status. This may be an important consideration when curcumin is used to treat patients with marginal or depleted iron stores or those exhibiting the anemia of cancer and chronic disease.


Chili pepper reduced bioavailability of iron but NOT turmeric in young women.


“Turmeric had no influence on iron absorption while an inhibition of iron absorption by 38% from the added chili occurred.


When iron deficiency is a concern have your iron monitored when taking turmeric.


Curcumin and Gallbladder Disease


Curcumin of 40 mg causes the gallbladder to contract 50%, emptying its contents. This creates a concern regarding gallbladder disease


Curcumin and Blood Thinners


Curcumin can reduce platelet aggregation or blood clotting. Additives such as black pepper can also affect blood clotting. This is more of a concern with a history of stomach ulcers or if you are already taking other blood thinners such as aspirin or NSAIDS. We recommend discussing the addition of Turmeric Curcumin with your family physician when blood clotting is a concern.


Curcumin and Pregnancy


The current recommendation, avoid this supplement if you are pregnant or breast feeding due to the lack of research on safety.


“Curcumin supplements are considered safe and no adverse side effects have been reported at low doses.”




Supplements tend to lack good research support


While this is a very true statement there is more and more research being done on the effects of curcumin at the cellular level and in animals. What we are lacking are the human studies that show curcumin’s role in treating disease. Here is a summary by the Mayo Clinic related to cancer and curcumin.


"Laboratory and animal research suggests that curcumin may prevent cancer, slow the spread of cancer, make chemotherapy more effective and protect healthy cells from damage by radiation therapy. Curcumin is being studied for use in many types of cancer. Studies of curcumin in people are still in the early stages."


“At this time, there isn't enough evidence to recommend curcumin for preventing or treating cancer, but research is ongoing.” Timothy Moynihan MD, Mayo Clinic


In the treatment of inflammation due to arthritis or reduction of cholesterol and triglycerides there are some great clinical studies that support the use of Curcumin in assisting in the treatment of these conditions.


The labels of Turmeric supplements can have some strong language promising 'detoxifier', 'powerful antioxidant', 'supports digestive and heart health'. It is important to remember that these statements have little meaning in the context of health and disease. While not entirely untrue they need clarification and good research when using turmeric for a specific condition, symptom or disease. This is where your doctor can assist you with the bigger picture of your medical condition.



Taking supplements should not replace good medical care



Because of the safety of turmeric curcumin there is no reason not to try it. (Unless you have some of the conditions listed above related to safety.) A few questions to ask yourself while trying this or any supplement…


What are your goals with taking turmeric curcumin?

What do you expect to happen?

What can you measure to show that the turmeric is working?


If you have an idea of why you are taking turmeric then you can monitor your results.

Want to have less pain with exercise? You should feel better when on turmeric and worse when you stop using it.

Want to reduce your cholesterol? Check it before starting Curcumin and 3 months after to show that it is helping.





Look for curcumin in the active ingredients. Turmeric Extract (95% curcuminoids)


Read the labelKeep it simple. Look for third party certifications. (See below)


Piperine or black pepper, Bioperine, increases the absorption of Curcumin.


Curcumin and FatCurcumin is fat soluble, taking curcumin with a fatty meal can help its absorption.


Ginger can help with side effects of digestive issues.

( Ginger is not a necessary ingredient when trying to find a good Curcumin supplement.)


Just a heads up! When applying the above parameters, with a high level of Curcumin, it was difficult to find supplements that met these requirements.


Here are 3 Turmeric supplements that match our requirements and have some research related to bioavailability and have been used in clinical studies.


Youtheory Turmeric

Trunature Premium Turmeric with Meriva

Qunol Extra Strength Turmeric


How much should I take?


We don't have standards of dose levels but most supplements are between 500 mg to 2000 mg of turmeric extract, the majority should be curcuminoids or Curcumin. Clinical studies that show benefits are within this range.

Turmeric alone has only a small amount of Curcumin, 3% or less.


There are resources to help in your decision making when picking a turmeric supplement


Here are a list of third party regulatory companies that test products for purity and certify that what is on the label is what you get. Look for these symbols when searching Turmeric Curcumin supplements.




Be careful or stop taking Turmeric Curcumin with...


  • History of Kidney Stones
  • Iron Deficiency
  • Gallbladder Disease
  • Blood Clotting Issues
  • Pregnant or Breast Feeding



For more on Turmeric Curcumin and knee inflammation and osteoarthritis check out this link.


Turmeric Curcumin. Is it safe? Tips to help decide