How to Take a Turmeric - Curcumin Supplement
Learn about the recommended dosages of curcumin for specific medical conditions, about possible side effects and interactions, and which groups of people should be extra careful when taking curcumin (turmeric). We'll also discus which time of day to take it and how to know if it is working.
Turmeric is the primary food source of the antioxidant, curcumin. However, curcumin content in turmeric is low, so ingesting turmeric is not enough to get maximum health benefits from curcumin. Also, curcumin gets metabolized by the liver and the gut quickly and eliminated from the body fast. This means only small doses of curcumin get to the target tissues to do its job.
Several pharmaceutical companies have come up with techniques to enhance curcumin and help the body absorb it better. Some of these are Meriva, Longivida, BCM 95, and Sabinsa. These enhanced formulations of curcumin work best for different diseases, so it is important to do research first before choosing which formulation to use.
Another issue when it comes to taking curcumin supplement is the proper dosage. Since curcumin supplementation is still in its early stages of research, there are no set rules yet on when to take it and how much of it should be taken to improve a certain condition.
This guide will give you an idea on how to take enhanced formulations of curcumin to maximize its healing potential and avoid possible adverse reactions.
Turmeric and Curcumin Dosage - How much to take for specific health conditions
Those who are planning to get started with curcumin supplement should decide on the proper dosing first. The most usual question asked is, “How much curcumin should I take?” The answer to this depends greatly on its formulation, the way you take it, and the health condition you are using it for. As mentioned above, there are different formulations of curcumin for different health conditions, and the dosage for each one varies as well. Also, the levels of absorption for the different curcumin supplements and your personal metabolism might affect the needed dosage. We cannot say for sure how much curcumin you should take for your condition, but there are some recommendations that you can follow to begin with.
More clinical trials are needed before the proper dosage of curcumin could be established. However, current studies suggest this dosing for some illnesses that curcumin is used for:
For osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis:
400 mg - 500 mg twice daily of a 95% standardized, enhanced Curcumin extract
For cancer chemoprevention or therapeutic uses:
Optimal doses have not been established.
For prevention and treatment of MCI (mild cognitive impairment) and Alzheimer's disease:
This depends on the stage of the disease. However, as a benchmark, 4-8 capsules of 500 mg Longvida may be needed per day if the disease has already started. Longvida is the curcumin formulation especially made for brain diseases. This suggested dosing came from extrapolation of animals. On the other hand, if used for disease prevention, 80 mg/day of Longvida may already be enough, according to a study in the Ohio State University.
A good idea is to experiment with the dosages, and keep a diary of your symptoms. This will help you determine whether or not your supplementation is helping you get better. More importantly, this will help you avoid possible side effects from too much curcumin. Remember that long-term studies of curcumin supplementation have not been done yet, so it is important to monitor your body’s reaction to minimize risks.
In a clinical study in Taiwan, oral dosages of up to 8g of curcumin a day were well tolerated. Curcumin showed no known toxicity at this amount. The trial was done in a span of three months, with oral supplementation of curcumin. On the other hand, UK clinical study showed that curcumin supplementation ranging from 0.45-3.6 g/day for four months was well-tolerated, but two participants experienced nausea and diarrhea. However, both of these studies were made using generic curcumin, and not its enhanced version.
When and How Should You Take Curcumin?
Since fasting improves curcumin absorption, it is a good idea to take it before meal or at least 3 hours after you have eaten. It may be taken with a small drink. Taking it before bedtime, though, might cause sleep disturbances. You might have to monitor your sleep pattern when taking curcumin at night.
Even if curcumin is a natural supplement, it is important to titer up to a dose slowly, just like with any other drug. You can try taking one capsule first, then increase it gradually until you meet the recommended dosage for your illness.
It may be helpful to titer up or down at 10 day intervals as curcumin takes 10 days to build up in the tissues. During this time, observe your body’s reaction to the supplement as well as whether or not your symptoms are improving. Long-term dosage may depend greatly on your body’s absorption and the curcumin formulation that you are using.
Warnings, Side Effects And Interactions
Some of the reported side effects from consuming large amounts of curcumin are:
Skin Rash (after long-term use)
Stomach Ulcers (after long-term use)
Those who have known allergies to ginger and yellow food colorings have a higher risk of getting allergies from turmeric. There have also been cases of rashes or contact dermatitis after skin contact with curcumin.
People That Should Be Cautious When Taking Curcumin Supplement
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid curcumin as there have been no studies made on this yet.
People who are about to undergo surgery
People who are scheduled to have surgery should stop using turmeric at least 2 weeks before the scheduled operation. Curcumin has been known to slow down blood clotting, which may result in heavier bleeding during and after surgery.
People predisposed to kidney stone formation
Those who are susceptible to kidney stones should avoid taking curcumin because a recent human safety study showed that curcumin changes metabolism of oxalate – a substance that can form kidney stones. Taking in curcumin supplements might contribute to this disease.
People who have bile duct blockage or gallstones, stomach ulcers, and hyperacidity disorders
People who have these conditions should stay away from curcumin supplements as the intake of this herb might worsen their symptoms.
Using Curcumin With Other Herbs and Supplements
Since it is very difficult to know which nutraceuticals work well with each other, and which ones counteract each other, it is important to add one at a time. A good idea is to have 10-day intervals between each supplement to monitor the effect of each one on the body.
In animal studies, curcumin was seen to have synergetic effects with omega 3 fatty acids and resveratrol. These nutraceuticals enhance the effects of each other.
Turmeric is known to slow blood clotting, so taking it with other herbs that do the same may not be a good idea. Doing this may lead to bruising and bleeding. Some of the herbs that have the same effect on blood clotting are angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, red clover, willow, and others.
Interaction Between Curcumin and Medications
It is important to understand that even though curcumin is a natural supplement, it is still a substance that may react to other chemicals that you take, such as medications. When taking curcumin with other kinds of medicines, especially pharmaceutical ones, it is best to exercise some precaution and to monitor the effects on your body.
Here are some reactions that curcumin may have with other drugs:
Anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications; NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
Curcumin has a similar effect as these drugs – they all inhibit platelet aggregation. Platelets are blood cells that stop bleeding by forming blood clots. Using curcumin with other blood thinning medications may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising.
Some medicines that have blood thinning effects are:
- Clopidogrel (Plavix),
- Dalteparin (Fragmin),
- Enoxaparin (Lovenox),
- Ticlopidine (Ticlid),
- Warfarin (Coumadin),
- Diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others),
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others),
- Naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others),
- Dalteparin (Fragmin)
- Certain chemotherapy drugs
Curcumin and Chemotherapy
When undergoing chemotherapy, it is important to take extra precaution if you are also taking substances aside from those recommended by your doctor.
In some in animal and in vitro studies, it has been shown that curcumin has negative effects on breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Curcumin may counter the effects of certain chemotherapy drugs, such as apoptosis (cancer cell death) induced by camptothecin, mechlorethamine, and doxorubicin. It may also stop tumor regression caused by cyclophosphamide.
Based on these studies it is advisable for those who are undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer to avoid taking in curcumin supplements. Some experts even say that it is best all patients undergoing chemotherapy should stop taking curcumin supplements (enhanced formulation), and even limit their dietary intake of ordinary curcumin from food sources.
On the other hand, there are studies showing that curcumin can make cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy or radiation, thus, making the treatment more effective. Some of the forms of cancer this may be effective for are ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, glioblastoma, squamous cell carcinoma.
Those who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment should first consult with their doctor to learn whether or not taking in curcumin supplements will be safe for them.
Curcumin affects drug metabolism of certain medications
Curcumin supplements affect how our body reacts to certain drugs. It may increase the blood levels of some kinds of medications, and slow their elimination. This is especially true for drugs that are metabolized through the liver's cytochrome P450 enzymes.
Some of the drugs that may be affected by curcumin supplements are acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin. Taking some forms of curcumin with these medicines might increase their cytotoxic effects. Cytotoxic effect is the cell-killing or damaging effect that certain medicines have. Additionally, curcumin may increase the blood concentrations of drugs like of celiprolol, midazolam, verapamil, and tacrolimus.
Drugs that reduce stomach acid
Curcumin might counteract the effect of these drugs by increasing stomach acids. Some drugs in this category are Cimetidine (Tagamet), Famotidine (Pepcid), Ranitidine (Zantac), Esomeprazole (Nexium), Omeprazole, and Lansoprazole (Prevacid).
Taking curcumin supplements with these medications may cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) as curcumin enhances the effect of these drugs.
How will I know if curcumin is working?
Curcumin and curcumin supplements are still in the early stages of research, and few human studies have been done so far. Also, long-term studies of curcumin supplementation have not been carried out yet.
In most cases it is best to observe yourself, and keep a diary of your symptoms to know whether or not your curcumin supplement is working for you. Slowly titering up to your desired dosage is also important to minimize any side effect that you may experience when easing into the program. Having a self-assessment diary will also help in figuring out whether or not your curcumin supplement or dosage is working for you.
Those who are taking curcumin supplements for memory, such as those with mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer's disease, may expect some immediate results. However, this does not happen in all cases. It still depends on many factors, and may not be expected as a general rule. There have even been reports of curcumin supplements temporarily worsening the memory of patients. This is because curcumin works by clearing out existing toxic amyloid aggregates in the brain, causing temporary negative side effects in some cases.
Some people using curcumin supplements for inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis reported an immediate decrease in joint pain and functionality, while others took several weeks to see results.
Determining whether or not your curcumin supplement program works for you involves monitoring your body's reaction closely. Since there are no set rules yet for taking in curcumin supplements for different kinds of diseases, titering to the desired dosage and keeping a diary of your symptoms are the two best techniques to use. Also, if you are taking in other kinds of medications or if you have special conditions, such as kidney stones or diabetes, it will be best to consult with your doctor first before taking in any curcumin supplement.