Turmeric Side Effects and Usage Challenges: How to Get the Full Benefits (Part 2)

Turmeric side effects are minimal, but absorbing enough to make a difference is a long shot.

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You may want to avoid turmeric if you are using blood thinners or if you have a surgery scheduled, as it may have anti-platelet activity.

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There is a long list of the benefits of turmeric (read more in Part 1). But while most of us may benefit from turmeric’s disease fighting qualities, taking a turmeric supplement isn’t that simple. There are minimal side effects of turmeric supplements, but one of the more common issues is absorption of the supplement to make a big enough difference in your health.

What Are the Side Effects of Turmeric  & Turmeric Supplements?

Curcumin has been approved by the FDA and the World Health Organization and is generally safe to use. While most people using appropriate doses don’t experience any adverse effects, occasional side effects have been reported. In most cases, curcumin side effects are minor, consisting of gastrointestinal upset like nausea or diarrhea, as well as occasional rash and headache. Research finds various doses helpful for different reasons. In one study, patients took 500mg of turmeric two times a day for treatment of major depressive disorder, but too high of doses can also lead to GI distress. Turmeric can have significant adverse effects when interacting with specific medications You may want to avoid turmeric if you are using blood thinners or if you have a surgery scheduled, as it may have anti-platelet activity. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of curcumin before using to avoid any of these possible issues.

Major Issue with Turmeric Supplements: Low Bioavailability

The main challenge associated with turmeric use is that curcumin has poor bioavailability, meaning it is not easily used by the body when ingested. This is due to its poor absorption, rapid metabolism, water insolubility, and rapid elimination from the body.

Because it is very difficult for curcumin to reach blood levels known to affect disease and improve clinical outcomes, how can you be sure that your body is actually able to use the turmeric you are taking?

Methods to Improve Absorption of Turmeric

Choosing your supplement carefully can help you get a formulation designed for optimal absorption.

  • Make sure that you are getting the root (or rhizome) of Curcuma longa, standardized to 95 percent curcuminoids. This ensures a highly concentrated and potent formulation.
  • Choose a supplement that has enhanced bioavailability. One option is choosing a formulation that contains piperine, a component of black pepper. Piperine has been shown to significantly increase the availability of curcumin when administered alongside it. Look for piperine on the label.
  • You can also mix your supplement with fats, which help increase absorption. When cooking with turmeric, be sure to use a healthy fat like coconut or olive oil to aid in absorption.
  • Be sure to ask your physician about turmeric before starting a regimen to make sure you’re taking the right supplements.

Follow the guidelines above to make the most of your turmeric supplement and to gain its many health benefits. Remember to choose the right form, the right formulation, and mix it with a fat.


Originally published in 2015, this post has been updated.

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UHN Staff

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