Natural turmeric is a root spice (from the ginger family) which when dried and ground into a powder becomes the pungent and magical ingredient which has been used for more than a thousands years for medicinal purposes, most notably in India. But how much turmeric should you take and can you have too much?
To answer this we have to be specific regarding how we define turmeric and what is in our turmeric capsules. A high quality natural turmeric powder contains between 3-5% curcumin. Curcumin is just one of the curcuminoids found in turmeric and much of the studies around the health benefits have targeted this particular curcuminoid. Although there is a widening view that the other curcuminoids play a vital role in the efficacy of turmeric (1). Nature does have a way of making things for a reason!
The average intake of turmeric in the Indian diet is approximately 2–2.5 g for a 60 kg individual which corresponds to a daily intake of approximately 60–100 mg of curcumin, when the curcumin content of the turmeric powder is 3%. The US FDA has determined curcumin safe up to 4-8g per day (2). Other studies on humans did not show toxic effects, and curcumin was safe at the dose of 6 g/day orally for 4–7 weeks. However, some adverse effects such as gastrointestinal upsets may occur (3) and these are often linked to supplements using curcumin extract which is obviously highly concentrated. Other trials using oral bioavailable formulations of curcumin have been tested as safe for humans at the dose of 500 mg two times in a day but for only 30 days, and experts agree there are still few trials and more studies needed specially regarding nanoformulations (4). Curcumin is extremely powerful and indeed toxic at certain levels. There are numerous studies using high doses of curcuminoids alongside cancer therapies (5) which are showing positive results, but the long term effects of these high dosages of curcumin are still not known.
So let’s compare a couple of Turmeric & Black Pepper Capsules readily available on Amazon. Firstly, we will take our product from Spice Origin. At time of writing, the current harvest of turmeric has been certified at 4.65% curcumin content and has been microbiology analysed to confirm no fillers or lead contaminants are present. So we can safely assume that a 1 x 700mg capsule, genuinely contains 650mg of turmeric. At 4.65%, you are consuming 30.23mg of curcumin per Spice Origin capsule. Therefore, 2-3 Spice Origin capsules will equal the average daily intake of an Indian’s diet.
A quick search on Amazon and it is easy to find turmeric supplement capsules advertising 95% curcumin. On greater inspection, each capsule contains 500mg of curcumin extract, 95% of which are curcuminoids. The serving suggestion is 2 capsules per day, which equates to a minimum intake of 950mg of curcumin per day, which is 10-15x more than a natural turmeric supplement. These supplements are simply too strong, and long term effects too unclear to be used as an “everyday” supplement.
Another challenge with reaping the benefits of turmeric is that it only stays in the bloodstream for around 6 hours. So frequency of intake is much more important than volume. Therefore, taking smaller dosages more regularly is far more beneficial than 1 serving per day, which is another reason for not taking a single high dose of turmeric.
In conclusion, it is very important to understand what is in your turmeric capsule, and take the correct supplement for the purpose of the treatment. In most cases, take a turmeric capsule which does not use curcumin or curciminoid extracts (including piperine extracts), contains turmeric powder with a certified curcumin content, and assurances there are no fillers to dilute the turmeric. Check out our other article on Which is the best turmeric capsule for more info.