The Truth about Turmeric: Miracle Spice or Myth?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you're a fan of Asian or Indian food, you've likely consumed turmeric. Derived from its namesake perennial plant grown throughout India and in parts of Asia and Africa, the bright orange spice has been used medicinally in various parts of the world for thousands of years. On the culinary side, it’s most commonly used to lend its warm, bitter taste to curry powders, cheeses, butters and mustards.
Turmeric’s secret weapon is the phytochemical curcumin, which has been linked to a myriad of health benefits. To increase their intake, many people are seeking out the supplement form of the spice.
When a new supplement starts hitting headlines along with words like “must try” and “miracle,” it’s easy to buy into the hype, but does turmeric live up to its promises? We talked to a couple of nutrition experts to get their take.
What Can Turmeric Do for You?
Although there hasn't been a large amount of scientific research on humans, the evidence so far looks promising, says Sarah Bright of Bright Fitness. Most of the buzz is around curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties, which may slow or decrease swelling and inflammation. This could be great news for people suffering from a range of diseases, including cancer, heart conditions, arthritis and diabetes.
"Preliminary studies suggest that turmeric's potential antioxidant effects could fight against free radicals to protect cells from damage, thus reducing the risk of cancer," says Laura Dilz, a registered dietitian with Lime and Greens.
Curcumin's anti-inflammatory benefits could also help prevent the risk of heart disease by lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol, elevating heart protective (HDL) cholesterol and preventing plaque build-up in the arteries, according to Dilz. The compound has also been used to promote healthy digestion and liver function.
Those suffering from or at risk of Alzheimer's may also benefit from turmeric. Numerous studies have found that curcumin reduces the brain plaque and nerve cell inflammation that contribute to the neurodegenerative disease.
Who Shouldn't Take Turmeric?
Those with suppressed immune systems could experience a worsening of symptoms when taking turmeric, and people with gallstones or bile duct dysfunction should avoid the supplement, says Dilz.
She points out that turmeric can impact how the blood clots, which means it could increase bleeding risks in those taking blood thinners. Turmeric may also interfere with medications that either decrease the production of stomach acid or affect blood glucose levels. Pregnant or breastfeeding women can consume the spice in foods, but should steer clear of the supplement.
"If you're unsure of whether you should take turmeric, or if you're taking other medications, it's important to talk to your doctor first," says Bright.
How to Take Turmeric
For general use, you can get the benefits by cooking with ground turmeric, or with the fresh root of turmeric. If you're using it to treat a specific problem or condition, though, you may need a supplement—in a juice, tea or pill format—to get a larger quantity of curcumin.
"The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that one to three grams of powdered turmeric is needed per day to reap potential health benefits," says Dilz. "However, there’s no clear recommendation for curcumin dosage, and additional research is needed to determine specific recommendations for turmeric intake."
Beyond turmeric and curcumin, experts point out that many other factors influence inflammation levels, including the nutritional value of foods, the frequency and intensity of exercise and the amount of abdominal fat.
The Verdict on Turmeric
Although there’s growing evidence that turmeric can help combat inflammation, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness against major diseases. Most people can add the spice to their diets without much risk, but it may not achieve the dramatic results that recent headlines imply.
Have you ever supplemented with turmeric? Did you notice any benefits and/or side effects?

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MSMUDDER 2/23/2021
My husband take it for back pain, I take it for arthritis and our son-in-law takes it for shoulder and neck pain and fatty liver. It has helped all three of us.
BONNIE1552 10/11/2020
Good information. Report
ELSCO55 8/19/2020
Thanks Report
PATRICIA-CR 6/24/2020
It affects considerably my stomach giving me gastritis even in low doses. Report
PATRICIAAK 6/19/2020
:) Report
MARITIMER3 6/9/2020
I'm glad I read this article. My husband is on blood thinners and I have trouble with acid reflux, so it sounds as if turmeric is not advised for us. I will check with our doctor. Report
Excellent Report
MJ7DM33 3/4/2020
Thank-you Report
Love tumeric in soups and stews. Love tumeric in tea. Great! Report
I have taken this supplement for quite some time now. Report
As a Malaysian of Indian origin, I use turmeric powder on a daily basis in all my cooking....from chicken curry to stir fried beans and cabbage.
Turmeric has also been touted as a health supplement only recently - ayurvedic medicine which has been around for a very long time, uses turmeric and other spices in their herbal concoctions and remedies for many years. As with most things in life, an expert should be the person you see if you want to opt for this option Report
Thanks. Report
It helps me with arthritis in my knees. Less pain & stiffness . Check out arthritis association website for more info..

Must be a lot more research now because several of my doctors recommend now the Theracurmin for cancer and pain. I will need to ask about cutting back dosage because of increases in bruising or bleeding like on my wrist where I accidentally whack myself enough to bruise but not to break skin.

Most doctors will tell you to discontinue taking turmeric at least 2 weeks before any scheduled surgery (even out-patient surgeries.). Report
Great article. I have always wondered about this Report
What do the nee studies show? Report
Great info! Thanks! Report
Thanks Report
Don't use as a supplement only when making curry. Hubby recently started using cardamom at my urging & it is helping his pain diminish but not go away. His back still hurts but he needs fewer pain meds. Report
More clinical studies needed. Report
Initially when I read all that turmeric could do for you some time ago was excited to maybe be rid of pain of arthritis....and then the kicker about thinning blood too much if on blood thinners...BUMMER!! Report
I use peppers, curry, turmeric, cardamom, and cinnamon in most of the foods I cook for us at home, and I've tried turmeric in hot tea. I think I'll keep it on food not beverages, as sometimes my lip gets a hole in it and turmeric stains my shirts something fierce. (8`pK hahaha (but really the staining is significant). Report
Important info that each of us should know! Report
Good information. Report
Good article, but an update would be important. In the world of supplements, more is known every year. I would not take turmeric based on this article because it is too old. I would do some research. Report
Great article! Report
Great article! Report
Thank You Report
I used to use turmeric for arthritis pain. Then, the doctors couldn't stop my bleeding after a breast cancer biopsy. They asked me if I was on blood thinners. It was the turmeric that had caused this. I haven't used it since and have had no problems even with several surgeries. Beware. Report
For those wondering about gram to teaspoon ratio: 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric is just slightly over 2 grams (2.18gm).
I also think SP needs to update articles like this... studies on supplements have increased greatly in just the last 5 years. There's so much more science now proving how effective many supplements can be - although I believe we all must pay attention to the source of any supplement so we KNOW it contains what we expect it to and does not contain anything we don't want. There are too many companies that market their products with inaccurate implications. So we have to do some research of our own too. Report
Great info Report
Interested in updated research, too. Report
Interesting. I use it in all my Indian cookery. It's not a flavour that lends to general everyday use. Report
Thanks for the info Report
Advice is to ask your doctor if you aren't sure if it is OK to take tumeric. But most doctors are clueless when it comes to these kinds of supplements... Report
How much is 1-3 grams? Report
Good read. Turmeric should be used with black pepper to be effective. Report
thanks Report
Perform a search using the keywords UCLA and Altzheimers and you will get dozens of links to published and peer reviewed papers. Personally, I consume one gram per day in the hopes of helping stave off that dreaded disease. Report
This article is 2 years old. I'd like to see an update based on more recent research. Report
Hopefully people will do more research regarding this spice. In 2019, studies have demonstrated that it could be dangerous to use as a supplement. A small amount for cooking would be fine for most people. Report
I take a turmeric supplement daily. It’s supposed to be most effective when metabolized with fats so I take it at the same time as my Fish Oil, D3, K2 and Astaxanthin (all oily) capsules. Feelin’ great and 69 lbs lost last year! :-) Report
Hi Melissa,

Thank you so much for elaborating about the different turmeric supplements. I like the way you put so much useful information in the post and it's still enjoyable to read. Thanks for that!

I have a question for you if that's ok. I have anxiety and depression but also suffer from Arthritis, which if I'm not mistaken is an inflammation-based disease. Now, I heard wonderful messages about these supplements, but my only problem is, that I'm on a budget.

I've looked on this site:
est-turmeric-capsules/ and they have a discount package, which makes it affordable for me to buy.

Will you do me a favor and check it out as a proffesional and if the supplements are good? It looks promising though. I hope to hear from you soon!

With love,

Edwin Report
Thanks for the suggestions Report
Great info to know. Thanks! Report
I'm a huge fan of turmeric extract for chronic pain and inflammation. I have a lot of inflammation, esp around my C-section scar, and turmeric extract was the first thing that consistently helped. Curcumax Pro is the only supplement that I feel when I miss doses - it's been consistently that way for years. I so bless the doctor who mentioned turmeric. (But don't try to cook a bit more with plain turmeric spice - medicinal doses are high enough to need an extract.)

The other thing that helps with chronic pain is CBD oil. Bluebird 6x concentrate, 1-3 times per day. Report
I'm a huge fan of turmeric extract for chronic pain and inflammation. I have a lot of inflammation, esp around my C-section scar, and turmeric extract was the first thing that consistently helped. Curcumax Pro is the only supplement that I feel when I miss doses - it's been consistently that way for years. I so bless the doctor who mentioned turmeric. (But don't try to cook a bit more with plain turmeric spice - medicinal doses are high enough to need an extract.) Report
Was part of a test group for turmeric for one year, supplement did nothing, 200 people, will not waste money on supplements again. Report
My doc recommended taking the supplement. I also use it in my cooking, but not convinced that it's done much to reduce the inflammation. Report