Turmeric comes from the Curcuma Longa plant, with its dried root ground into the distinctive yellow powder most of us are familiar with. With so much buzz lately about how amazing it is, how can we make sure we are getting its full benefits?
Turmeric is native to India and South East Asia and has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine because of the incredible anti-inflammatory properties of its main active ingredient, curcumin. There are so many clinically researched health benefits of curcumin, but how much should we have, are there any side effects and how can we be sure we are getting all the benefits it has to offer?
For optimal health benefits the recommended dosage is around 600mg of curcumin per day but it can be hard to get this amount via our diet for two reasons; firstly turmeric itself contains only 3% absorbable curcumin by weight - put into context you'd need to be adding turmeric to your breakfast, lunch and dinner to get close to the recommended dosage! Secondly, the body metabolises curcumin too quickly before it has a chance to be absorbed.
Taking curcumin with piperine (a compound of black pepper) stimulates digestive enzymes and reduces inflammation associated with the quick breakdown of turmeric in the body. Multiple studies have shown that piperine increases the absorption of curcumin by 2000% with no adverse effects! (1) And because curcumin is fat soluble, taking it with healthy fats will make it more easily absorbed as well.
Still, it can be hard to reach that optimal amount of curcumin per day, especially if the taste of turmeric isn't your thing! A turmeric supplement is easy and convenient and can provide everything you need - look for one that has piperine added to help with absorption, and is a high-strength, one capsule a day formula for best results.
With turmeric proven to be as effective as some medications (2), (3), (4) (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, arthritis medications and antidepressants to name a few) it is reassuring to know there are very few known side effects and the ones that exist are incredibly rare and generally mild. The few case reports of serious side effects generally involve massive doses of turmeric for extended periods of time. Turmeric is safe to use daily in recommended doses by most people, however it is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding, or for those on anti-coagulants like warfarin or cyclophosphamide. As always, check with your health professional if you are unsure at all.
(1) Shoba G, Joy D, Joseph T, Majeed M, Rajendran R, Srinivas PS. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med. 1998;64:353–356.
(2) Thorne Research, Inc, Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research. Altern Med Rev. 2009 Jun;14(2):141-53
(3) Sanmukhani J, Satodia V, Trivedi J, Patel T, Tiwari D, Panchal B, Goel A, Tripathi CB, Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomised, controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2014 Apr;28(4):579-85. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5025. Epub 2013 Jul 6.
(4) Chandran B, Goel A, A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012 Nov;26(11):1719-25. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4639. Epub 2012 Mar 9.