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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 24, 2016

Dear Mark: How Often Should I Supplement with Turmeric?

By Mark Sisson
30 Comments

Dear Mark Turmeric Consumption Frequency in lineFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m talking about turmeric. Last week, I made an off-handed recommendation that people not eat high doses of turmeric, prompting a great question in the comments. Are there actual dangers to turmeric consumption? Is there something you folks should know? Does something perilous lurk within that yellow powder in your cupboard?

Not exactly, but I did make that recommendation for a reason. Let’s find out why:

This is the first I’ve heard that turmeric should not be taken regularly for the same reasons as liver and brazil nuts. I was already aware of the potential toxicity of overdoing liver or brazil nuts, but what are the dangers of turmeric for a normal healthy person? I understand the blood thinning aspects of it could be potentially harmful for someone already on blood thinners or is pregnant, but what about someone without any underlying issues?

My dog and I have turmeric and black pepper almost every day in our food or supplement form. Should I be scaling that back to 1 or 2 times a week like liver or just use it in low daily dosages like brazil nuts?

Paul

Ah yes, I did say that.

It’s not so much that turmeric is bad. There are real considerations, like the blood thinning issue (turmeric can inhibit clotting, so anyone already taking blood thinners like coumadin should ask their doctor before using turmeric) or the iron absorption issue (turmeric inhibits iron absorption, which is great for people with iron overload or hereditary hemachromatosis, but an unwanted side effect for people who need to absorb their iron). But I’m not really talking about those.

Consider the widely touted fact about turmeric absorption: Without black pepper providing piperine in the same meal, we’re just not very good at absorbing curcumin, the primary constituent of turmeric that everyone’s gaga over. It simply isn’t very bioavailable without the addition of black pepper.

Why don’t we absorb curcumin very well on its own? Could there be a reason for that?

Maybe, maybe not.

I hedge my bets. Obviously, curcumin and turmeric have proven health benefits. Studies—controlled ones, even—show that taking curcumin can do many incredible things for us:

  • Curcumin supplementation has shown promise in treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • It recently compared favorably to a standard antidepressant in people with clinical major depression. It could also make antidepressant therapy more effective.
  • It improves lipid profile and reduces uric acid levels in patients with fatty liver.
  • It reduces overall oxidative stress in osteoarthritis patients.

I’ve written about turmeric many times before, so I won’t belabor the benefits.

However, is more always better? Should we eat as much turmeric as humanly possible?

Probably not.

Remember that polyphenols and other antioxidant compounds largely exert their beneficial effects via hormesis: by provoking a stress response that triggers secretion of our own antioxidants. With hormetic stressors, some is better than both none and too much. Curcumin is no different.

And we know that turmeric works really well in smaller doses, sometimes better than larger ones.

For instance, smaller doses of curcumin are better at reducing amyloid plaque in Alzheimer’s models than larger doses, and seniors who take low doses of curcumin enjoy a diverse range of metabolic and overall health benefits.

In populations where regular turmeric consumption is associated with health benefits, like India, they’re not treating the spice like a supplement. They’re cooking with it. They’re adding it to milk and ghee. For them, turmeric is one of many spices, not a wonder supplement they megadose. If the association is causal, small incidental food-borne doses are enough.

That’s why I use turmeric as a spice, as an ingredient. I mix it with pepper and add to my eggs. I make curry. I throw it in beef stews. And for very explicit, acute reasons, I might take a megadose now and then.

If I have an inflammatory issue, or maybe my old arthritis is acting up, I’ll have some turmeric tea with a hefty spoonful. A big dose of turmeric, black pepper, and the murkiest extra virgin olive oil you can find is fantastic before a night of drinking. If I had depression, I’d probably try curcumin. If I had cancer, I’d dig into the curcumin/cancer literature. If I was a lot unhealthier than I am now, I’d probably increase my intake. Studies show that in unhealthy populations or those with existing inflammatory issues like osteoarthritis, higher doses of curcumin work well.

But what about overall healthy people?

I don’t know about high doses. It’s probably fine, but what if it isn’t? Trust the body. Don’t override its natural regulation of bioavailability unless you know what you’re doing.

If you’re feeling fine, stick with your current intake and err on the side of lower intakes. If you’re treating a known condition, go higher. Great job giving it to your dog, by the way. I’ve been known to throw a few dashes of turmeric in my dogs‘ bowls and have heard good things from other dog owners.

I was just cautioning against people who saw turmeric on my “top supplemental foods” list and assumed they should make it 2% of their diet.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I’d love to hear your take on turmeric dosage.

Do you use it? How? As spice or supplement?

Take care.

TAGS:  dear mark

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30 Comments on "Dear Mark: How Often Should I Supplement with Turmeric?"

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Margaret
Margaret
9 months 24 days ago

I started taking it as a supplement to see if it would help my psoriasis and had to stop because of the acute intestinal distress. I’m talking 7-8 bowel movements a day and severe nausea. And that was at 1/3 the recommended dosage. Not for me, I guess!

Shary
Shary
9 months 24 days ago

I’ve never taken turmeric as a supplement, but I have had problems with freshly ground turmeric. I do okay with 1/4 tsp once or sometimes twice a day, but if I try to increase the amount, or take it more often, it upsets my stomach. I’ve never felt that medicating with megadoses of various spices or isolated nutrients was a very good idea. Doing so can upset the chemical balances within the body. Less is often more.

barry
barry
9 months 24 days ago

Thanks, this is certainly something I should consider moving forward. I put part of a turmeric root in my mourning breakfast smoothie. 1 cup blueberries (preferably wild), 2 cups raw milk, 100 grams fresh kale, 3 tbsp almond butter, fresh turmeric root, 1 tbsp sprouted chia powder, 2 whole raw eggs 1 raw yolk, 1 tbsp. of collagen protein, and 1/4 tsp of Himalayan salt. Been drinking this for breakfast every mourning going on about 7 months now. I’m real big into raw foods, I always feel better starting the day off without cooked denatured foods.

Cathi
Cathi
9 months 23 days ago

this sounds good to me and if your body is happy with it – why not. Dontforget the black pepper to activate the curcumin.

Zach rusk
9 months 22 days ago

Sounds delicious! Have you read marks post about denatured protein or the bioavailability of cooked vs raw egg whites?

Jonathan
9 months 24 days ago

I would love to know what is considered a high supplement dose. I take two 600mg capsules a day. Very difficult to get into my food on a consistent basis. And I do look to thwart cancer (I’m closing in on 50) before it starts (hopefully). Thanks.

Monikat
Monikat
9 months 24 days ago

Every morning, I put a little tumeric, freshly ground black pepper, and Lawry’s Seasoning Salt in my kids’ scrambled eggs (using Kerrygold butter!). The Lawry’s is to hide the tumeric from the kids.

Add 1/2 an avocado (with Lawry’s) and chopped raw or fried-in-butter Brazil nut in the avocado indentation, and if my kids get a crummy school lunch, I don’t care if they choose not to eat it!

Kyle
9 months 24 days ago

I have not used it as a spice but will add it to my spice rack ASAP. I have heard (not sure when or where…or if it’s accurate) that good old yellow mustard has turmeric in it. So I do try to use that as a condiment from time to time.

Harry Mossman
Harry Mossman
9 months 24 days ago

VERY IMPORTANT! Turmeric readily absorbs lead. Do not buy imported or generic turmeric. Buy stuff from a very reputable company.

I’ve been taking 1500 mg high quality Jarrow curcumin capsules with breakfast, which always includes black pepper and fat. I do have osteoarthritis so maybe I need a larger than normal dose. But probably I can cut back.

maxjohnson
maxjohnson
9 months 24 days ago

I grow my own turmeric, they are so easy to grow.

I just learned to make golden milk, despite the name it is the most amazing drink.

Susan
Susan
9 months 23 days ago

How do you grow turmeric? I got a couple of ginger roots at the grocery store and broke them into 14 pieces last April planting them in pots and now have 14 ginger plants. I can harvest in April. Do you do turmeric the same way?

maxjohnson
maxjohnson
9 months 19 days ago

I just buy some big organic turmeric and put them in the ground and mulch ontop and wait for them to come up. I like some sun, but not too much. For me, in Florida it’s better with part shade.

Beth
Beth
9 months 24 days ago

Mmm… Turmeric on eggs! Just had that this morning. A little sprinkle of sea salt, pepper, turmeric, & a dash of curry powder.
Cooked till the whites were set & the yolks were runny. Yum! Yum!

Hatwar
Hatwar
9 months 24 days ago

Turmeric is is used almost in every Indian household cooking specially true for south Indians.. 30% of Indians are vegetarians will they be deficient in Iron Just curious or is there other way to absorb iron still using turmeric

Elizabeth
9 months 24 days ago
Thanks Mark! So many times we think more is better. I do not take any turmeric/curcumin supplements on a regular basis, but I do use it as a spice, both powdered and fresh. The fresh tubers aren’t always available, but they make a nice tea. I sometimes add dry turmeric to my blended coffee in the am. I know the coconut oil I put in is helping with the absorption, and I usually do a tiny bit of black pepper too. But I don’t do this every day…one day it might be raw cacao, one day turmeric, one day maca.… Read more »
Bess Gallanis
9 months 23 days ago

Elizabeth, what brand of raw cacao do you use for your a.m. coffee?

Jed
Jed
9 months 24 days ago

I usually add a thumb-sized chunk of raw turmeric to my afternoon green drink. I use the combo of turmeric and pepper on almost everything, including popcorn. It would be good to know the best pepper-to-turmeric ratio.

Heidi
Heidi
9 months 24 days ago

I make a tea blend with turmeric powder and honey. A jar of this sits in my pantry. To make the tea I blend a spoonful with hot water and add the juice of half a lemon and freshly ground pepper. If I’m feeling fancy I stir with a sprig of fresh mint or rosemary. I drink this a couple of times a week. Really lovely.

Laura Routh
9 months 24 days ago
I’ve added turmeric to homemade macaroni and cheese (white rice noodles) and also to white rice. We normally don’t consume grains, but every now and then, these types of dishes do help stretch our dollars. I don’t know how much good the turmeric did for me as my stomach doesn’t like black pepper. Am I getting any benefit without the pepper? I can cook with peppercorns and strain them our of whatever I’m preparing – usually broth. This doesn’t seem to bother me. Thanks for this info. The next time I cook with turmeric, I’ll try using peppercorns, which can… Read more »
Gabby
Gabby
9 months 24 days ago

I have IBS and I take about 1/4-1/2 a teaspoon with 4-6 oz of milk (dairy, rice or coconut milk) when my stomach starts to hurt from some food I probably shouldn’t have ate and 9 times out of 10 I feel better in 20 minutes! I also use it for headaches but it doesn’t work as well. I read that you shouldn’t take more than 1/4-1/2 a teaspoon every 8 hours (about how long it stays in your system).

Laura Routh
9 months 24 days ago

I also have IBS. I’ll give that a try!

BChristine
BChristine
9 months 24 days ago

I love to add turmeric, black pepper and some himalayan salt to tempeh, which I cook on low heat with coconut oil … good source of protein as well (the tempeh).

HealthyHombre
HealthyHombre
9 months 24 days ago

For cancer prevention I take one 500 mg capsule daily, a brand with BCM-95. It does not have as high an absorption rate as Longvida or Theracurmin, maybe I’m better off just to stick with my current approach unless my PSA gets a lot higher. n=1 biohacking I guess. 🙂

Coccinelle
Coccinelle
9 months 24 days ago

I use it as a spice, usually in my homemade nightshade-free curry powder but also on it’s own and I take it when I have a headache. As I often have headaches, I often take it but I was aware that it’s best not to take too much. I did the same with ginger first (which is also best to limit) but I found that turmeric is more effective. I still add a dash of ginger and I try to take it with something fat too.

Vanessa
Vanessa
9 months 24 days ago

What about for auto-immune conditions such as lupus or Hashimoto’s? Is it still beneficial? I don’t know a lot about it but I’ve heard some people mention that some things that are great for other people can stimulate the immune system too much and be harmful for these conditions.

Cathi
Cathi
9 months 23 days ago

we often have turmeric milk for breakfast with some egg yolks blended in as well as coconuy oil, cinammon, black pepper and anything else that seems good – like matcha tea powder.

Donna
Donna
9 months 23 days ago

I take 1400mg turmeric and black pepper and inflammation in my hands and neck has reduced by about 70%, my ploymyalgia symtoms are relieved. From Oxford Vitality.

Angel Hix
Angel Hix
9 months 23 days ago
i was checking the back of a yogurt the other day and it had turmeric in it FOR coloring.. and then noticed a few other items that had been using it as Coloring. I use it every morning on my husbands 6 eggs with black pepper. (every single morning for the last 6 months) I also put it on my cottage cheese w / black pepper.. and on my avocados…. today i used it in cabbage soup…. My son said he heard it was good for inflammation and was going to RUB it on his gums.. “OH NO”.. i said… Read more »
Laura
Laura
9 months 20 days ago
I use turmeric in tuna salad, chicken salad, on salmon, on steak, on chicken.. etc. But I do not supliment beyond that and I feel fine. Before going LCHF in June 2015, I suffered from RA, gout, migraines, was bloated because of inflammation and hormone imbalances, dr told me if I didn’t lose weight we would be discussing treatment for T2D…not only did I lose 48 lbs now I feel fantastic! Did turmeric help?, I dunno since I use it on almost everything I make to eat including deviled eggs and omelets so I do have some every day..but I’m… Read more »
Angel K
Angel K
1 month 2 days ago

I just want to say that high doses of turmeric may cause diarrhea, nausea, etc. http://organicdailypost.com/turmeric-miracle-cure/

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