Turmeric: It can kill you
Turmeric is from the root of a flowering plant (Curcuma longa of the ginger family Zingiberaceae), known for being anti-inflammatory. Because of its anti-inflammatory nature, turmeric is one of the most common supplements I am asked about during my TikTok live sessions. This is because people like a "natural" anti-inflammatory supplement rather than over-the-counter medications.
Supplements are excluded from "black box warnings." Those warnings you see in the package inserts in pharmaceuticals. This article is meant to provide references for those interested in doing more research about Tumeric to realize it is not benign.
Turmeric has many potential applications for cancer, brain injury, and many other diseases. The key is knowing what dose of turmeric is toxic, what dose is effective, and what dose is ineffective. We also need to know how to mitigate potential dangers.
Contrast with Aspirin
Aspirin is a known anti-inflammatory agent with many uses. Since aspirin is regulated, we know the dose effect of aspirin. If you have a headache, the 81 mg dose of aspirin will not relieve your headache. But the 325 mg dose will decrease headache. And you know that taking two hundred tablets of aspirin is a toxic dose.
A single aspirin can cause a bleeding ulcer, which may lead to death. Some people are allergic to aspirin, and an allergic reaction can lead to death.
What we don't know is the effective dose of Turmeric or the lethal dose of it in that supplement bottle. But we know that turmeric, curcumin can lead to liver injury and death.
Turmeric and Liver Injury
Toxicity is always in the dose. High curcumin levels, the active ingredient in turmeric, have caused liver damage (Ref 1-13). To quote from one of the references:
Liver injury due to turmeric appears to be increasing in the United States, perhaps reflecting usage patterns or increased combination with black pepper. (2)
Turmeric and Cooking
There is no danger in using turmeric as a spice in cooking. First, because your intestines do not absorb turmeric well. Unlike a supplement, which has high doses of curcumin. In addition, supplements also have black pepper, which increases absorption. Since turmeric has a mild anti-inflammatory component, this might have limited benefits as part of a healthy diet.
Tumeric belongs in the cabinet, not in a capsule.
TEXT FROM THE PODCAST
You probably have some turmeric in your herb and spice drawer.
You’ve probably heard that Turmeric’s active ingredient Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used for centuries as an “ancient” medicine.
That yellow powder comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, a member of the ginger family.
Turmeric has a warm, bitter taste, and I use it in Paella, curry, and add it to salads, rice, or other starches like pearl barley.
But what you haven’t heard is that too much Turmeric can kill you.
Today we will make sense of the madness surrounding Turmeric. From its promise as an anti-cancer agent to its toxicity, and who should avoid it for daily use.
I’m Dr. Terry Simpson, and THIS is FORK U
Where we make sense of the madness
Bust a few myths!
And teach you a little bit about food as medicine.
Inflammation is a complex biochemical, physiological, and even pathological process. Inflammation is the basis of our immune system, and acute inflammation allows us to rid our bodies of cancer, viruses, bacteria, yeasts, mold, and parasites. Without the inflammatory process, we would end up being a pile of goo in twenty-four hours – dead as dead can be. Inflammation allows us to repair our body from injury, anything from burning our hand by spilling coffee to major trauma from an automobile accident.
Chronic inflammation can make certain illnesses much worse - from arthritis, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and may even play a part in premature aging.
So we want some inflammation, but not too much.
You've Had Inflammation
Did you ever have the flu and have muscle aches and a fever, only to take an aspirin and feel better in 24 hours? Those muscle aches and fevers were not the result of the virus but of your body fighting it – and fighting it to where you felt poorly. So you added a bit of anti-inflammatory agent – aspirin – and felt better.
Science and Inflammation
Science is always looking for anti-inflammatory agents, and curcumin has attracted a lot of interest among legitimate scientists.
Curcumin has been examined for a potential role in cancer treatments or with inflammatory bowel disease.
Because inflammation is complex – here is an example about curcumin: “It binds to the toll-like receptors and regulates downstream nuclear factor kappa B, mitogen activate protein kinases, activator protein one and other signaling pathways.”
Hucksters, Curcumin, and Inflammation
Curcumin has also attracted the attention of the non-regulated supplement industry. Where they can bottle it up and tell you it “supports heart health, or gut health, or immune function.” All those statements are meaningless – designed to fool someone to buy something with a label of “natural” to believe it might be better than some “drug.”
Because it is complex, you can have hucksters use the word “inflammation” and sell you a product, an idea, or a supplement for hundreds of dollars. Their science is marketing, and in this case, marketing to you a product with words and extracting dollars from your wallet.
Do we even have wallets anymore?
The Most Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Do you know what the most anti-inflammatory diet is? The Mediterranean diet – the one tested to work well for people with overactive inflammatory diseases – like arthritis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, obesity, or heart disease.
Let's take curcumin and turmeric back to the kitchen.
A part of the Mediterranean diet is cooking with herbs and spices.
And even if you can’t cook, you can spice things up a bit.
Turmeric seems to be a worthy candidate.
Fresh Turmeric or Powder?
If you buy fresh turmeric from the store, it will look like a root. It is brown on the outside with a deep yellow inside. This turmeric is also great for cooking. But be warned, it will stain your hands a nice yellow color - not permanently. Use a micro plane to shave the root onto your dishes into your dishes. If you follow a recipe, you can substitute fresh turmeric in the ratio of 1 tablespoon fresh is equal to a teaspoon of the dried yellow in any recipe.
Start with Breakfast!
If you’ve been to coffee shops lately, you may notice they have started adding turmeric to some drinks, like a turmeric-laced latte. Which has about a quarter to half teaspoon of the powder in the drink. Turmeric will add a deeper flavor to your latte, and some liken it to other spiced drinks – such as the famous pumpkin.
Turmeric is a great addition to scrambled eggs or a tofu scramble. It provides a color and depth of flavor.
A quarter teaspoon of the spice is all you need. You can also use it with paprika on top of deviled eggs.
Moving on from Breakfast
Adding a teaspoon to your rice will give it a deep yellow color that makes the rice more visually appealing.
A teaspoon also works well with your bean dishes. That famous cowboy caviar – adding turmeric to it – makes it a bit more earthy.
Some of you have asked me about Ginger/Turmeric /honey teas or “shots” to decrease inflammation.
But if you consider other anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin, and ibuprofen, you know they have side effects.
So does curcumin.
In the blog, I have half a dozen references to the deaths of people with liver failure who had high doses of curcumin, some prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners. Many of these patients died; some were saved when they went to conventional hospitals where they needed liver transplants.
The Dose is Always in the Poison.
Be warned about the supplements of curcumin, especially when it has been combined with piperine (pepper) to increase its uptake in the gut.
Curcumin should not be used if you are pregnant or going to become pregnant. This can cause a loss of pregnancy.
Nor should curcumin be used if you are breastfeeding.
Do not take curcumin if you are taking any blood thinners, like warfarin, Plavix, or Eliquis.
If you tend to bleed more or bruise easily, you should not take this supplement.
The supplement should not be taken daily if you are over 60 years old, as it can cause bleeding in the brain.
Do you have some issues with your gallbladder? Curcumin causes inflammation of your gallbladder, which requires urgent surgery.
Curcumin should not be taken if you have stomach issues – it can cause ulcers in your stomach and make any ulcer you have to bleed more.
It should not be taken if you are taking aspirin, Motrin, or any anti-inflammatory drug.
It should not be taken if you are going to undergo surgery – it should be stopped two weeks ahead of time.
The Non-Regulated Supplement Industry
The supplement industry is not regulated. Besides people getting too much and causing bleeding issues and death, there have been supplements colored with heavy metals, causing heavy metal accumulation in people who use these supplements.
If you have a headache or joint ache, we know the dose of aspirin, Naprosyn, or Motrin that is effective, the dose that won’t do anything, and the dose that is toxic. We don’t know that with turmeric or curcumin.
I love cooking with the herb turmeric. It adds a depth of flavor to almost any meal. As with all good food, it has properties that can add to the properties of other whole foods and spices.
Turmeric belongs in the kitchen, not in the capsule.
Please see the blog associated with this podcast on yourdoctorsorders dot come.
This podcast was researched and written by me, Dr Terry Simpson. And while I am a board-certified physician, I am not your physician.
If you need advice, please seek a board-certified western-trained physician n- not an Ayvurdic healer, not an Eastern medicine man, not a naturopath or chiropractor – but someone who can help you with real conditions.
Simpler Media distributes the podcast, and the transcript can be found on FORK U. Audio editing and music were inserted by my good friend and pod god – Evo Terra.
Hey Evo – I wonder if you’ve ever tried turmeric in beer?
- Drug-Induced Liver Injury Secondary to Turmeric Use https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37205206/
- Liver Injury Associated with Turmeric-A Growing Problem: Ten Cases from the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network [DILIN] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36252717/
- Acute liver injury following turmeric use in Tuscany: An analysis of the Italian Phytovigilance database and systematic review of case reports https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32656820/
- Turmeric-Associated Drug-Induced Liver Injury https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36600786/
- Turmeric Induced Liver Injury: A Report of Two Cases
- Turmeric-Associated Liver Injury: A Rare Case of Drug-Induced Liver Injury
- Turmeric-Induced Hepatotoxicity: Report of 2 Cases
- Turmeric Induced Liver Injury: A Report of Two Cases
- Turmeric-Associated Liver Injury
- Autoimmune Hepatitis Associated With Turmeric Consumption
- A rare case of turmeric-induced hepatotoxicity
- Turmeric supplement induced hepatotoxicity: a rare complication of a poorly regulated substance
- Drug Induced Liver Injury Attributed to a Curcumin Supplement https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31781418/
- Peng Y, Ao M, Dong B, Jiang Y, Yu L, Chen Z, Hu C, Xu R. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Curcumin in the Inflammatory Diseases: Status, Limitations and Countermeasures. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2021 Nov 2;15:4503-4525. doi: 10.2147/DDDT.S327378. PMID: 34754179; PMCID: PMC8572027.