Turmeric: Beyond the golden glow

At the heart of the golden spice’s prowess lies curcumin, an active compound renowned for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

A staple in every Indian household, turmeric’s vibrant yellow hue adds a touch of warmth to dishes. It is acknowledged for health benefits, and features as a supplement, from powder to extract and tincture. But is incorporating turmeric in your diet worth the hype, and if so, how should you go about it?

Going beyond the talked-about benefits of turmeric like easing pain and depression, and having anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and anti-cancer properties, it’s crucial to understand that turmeric isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The spice’s prominence stems from its extensive history in Southeast Asian traditional medicine, spanning thousands of years, as highlighted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Health.

At the heart of the golden spice’s prowess lies curcumin, an active compound renowned for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Scientific research further suggests its potential benefits for heart health, gut function, brain health, and improved insulin sensitivity.

While turmeric supplements hold promise, their interaction with medications raises concerns.

A 2020 review in Frontiers in Pharmacology outlines specific interactions:

1. Anticoagulants/Antiplatelet Drugs: Curcumin’s mild anticoagulant properties mimic blood thinners, heightening the risk of bleeding when combined with medications like aspirin, warfarin and clopidogrel.

2. Gastrointestinal Medications: Turmeric supplements may increase stomach acid levels, interfering with antacid medications like cimetidine, famotidine and omeprazole.

3. Blood Sugar-Lowering Medications: Turmeric may mimic the effects of diabetic medications, amplifying their effectiveness and increasing the risk of hypoglycemia.

Who Should Exercise Caution?

Turmeric supplementation may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with blood disorders, scheduled surgeries, diabetes or hypoglycemia, iron deficiency, gall bladder issues, history of kidney stones, pregnant or lactating women and individuals with allergies to turmeric, ginger or cardamom. High doses, over the long term, may lead to abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhoea. Individuals sensitive or allergic to turmeric may experience rashes and hives.

Establishing the safe quantity of turmeric consumption poses challenges due to its unstable structure and limited bioavailability. The World Health Organization’s suggestion of 0-3 mg/kg of body weight of curcumin and a 2021 review’s recommendation of around 1,000 mg daily provide some guidance. However, the exact safe quantity remains elusive. Considering variations in curcumin concentrations, potential adulteration and diverse individual responses, the long-term safety of high turmeric doses remains uncertain.

The Food and Drug Administration deems curcumin in turmeric, when used as a spice and flavouring agent, as ‘generally recognised as safe’. Consuming it in smaller quantities is generally considered safe, with minimal risk of interactions with medications.

While turmeric supplementation holds promise, it is not a universally safe choice. The wisest approach is to consult your healthcare expert, considering potential interactions and individual health conditions. Ultimately, a personalised and informed approach is key when navigating turmeric’s potential benefits.

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