Dear Mark: How Often Should I Supplement with Turmeric?

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?


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 soups. 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, as turmeric is an important element in the ‘arthritis diet.’ 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. Here’s more information on the health benefits of turmeric , plus, my supplement routine.

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.

Add turmeric to your routine with Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel in Golden Turmeric. 

TAGS:  dear mark

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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35 thoughts on “Dear Mark: How Often Should I Supplement with Turmeric?”

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  1. 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!

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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

  10. 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. I like to keep things interesting!

    1. I agree, from what I can see, concentrated capsules of components available in spices are never just available in nature – the less things I am eating that involve being in a gelatin capsule the better…I just eat the spice on its own combined with black pepper.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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 easily be removed.

  14. 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).

  15. 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).

  16. 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. 🙂

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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 please do not do that your teeth will be SUPER yellow looking. so he is going to get the capsules instead of trying to just add it to his food. Whatever 🙂 however you get it is probably fine, but I love the way it adds flavor. YUM!

    I have not found the turmeric root someone was talking about, i use the powder spice but noticed there is a Huge difference in products one bottle was 6 bucks and the other 10… they look the same. I bought both and am working on the 6 dollar container, but will be interested to know if the other one is any “better” can’t wait to find the turmeric root.

  22. 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 sure glad I feel better! And if turmeric is playing a role in that, then God bless turmeric! ?

  23. I really like this article,

    Two months ago i ordered the pure turmeric curcumin. I was a bit doubtful if it would work for me. But after reading this article I had to try it.

    I have arthritis and a lot of joint pain. But this turmeric capsules did their work. I have almost no pain anymore and my joints are far more flexible.

    Thank you Mark!

  24. Hi Mark,

    I purchased a 180 capsule container of 500mg Youtheory turmeric capsules as a dietary supplement but am no longer using them. The question is can I use these capsules in my cooking?

  25. Is turmeric safe to give to dogs. I have a 30 pound pooch who suffers from joint pain and his movement is very strained. Do you think turmeric could help him out?

    1. Paige, I would suggest consulting your veterinarian about whether turmeric is safe and what dosage might be advisable. You may also want to ask about collagen/gelatin supplements for your dog.