If you are looking for a natural way to treat osteoarthritis or digestive disorders, you may find turmeric-based supplements helpful. Turmeric, a culinary spice most often associated with curry blends, contains an active ingredient with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers that may help treat a variety of common health problems. Speak with your doctor or other health-care provider before you take turmeric, to be sure this type of treatment is right for you and to get advice on which supplements are most likely to be effective.
Turmeric has a long history of use in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Although scientific research has yet to prove its full effectiveness, the list of symptoms and conditions for which turmeric supplements are used includes arthritis, bronchitis, cancer, depression, headaches, heartburn, lung infections, menstrual discomfort and stomach and intestinal disorders.
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which has been shown in animal and laboratory studies to have therapeutic benefits. These benefits are limited in humans, however, because curcumin is not readily absorbed through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. Research published in the May 2011 issue of "Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences" found when curcumin is bound to substances that allow for better intestinal absorption, it is more available for use in the body for protective purposes, particularly in the liver.
According to the National Institutes of Health, you can take 500 milligrams of non-commercial turmeric four times a day for an upset stomach or to help relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis. A study published in a 2010 issue of "Alternative Medicine Review" followed 100 women with osteoarthritis who took 1 gram daily of a specific pharmaceutical brand of curcumin bound to phosphatidylcholine for better absorption into the bloodstream. The researchers found that pain and inflammation decreased while physical function and mood improved significantly, with 50 percent improvement in overall symptoms.
Although turmeric supplements are considered safe and do not generally cause side effects, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine warns that turmeric supplements can worsen an existing gallbladder problem. Turmeric may also interfere with the normal process of blood clotting. Speak to your doctor before taking turmeric supplements, especially if you regularly use aspirin or any other blood-thinning medication or natural remedy that slows down the blood-clotting process. For the same reason, avoid taking turmeric supplements for at least a couple of weeks before you schedule any type of surgery.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- MedlinePlus: Turmeric
- Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences: Bioavailability Enhancement of Curcumin by Complexation with Phosphatidyl Choline
- Alternative Medicine Review: Efficacy and Safety of Meriva, a Curcumin-Phosphatidylcholine Complex, During Extended Administration in Osteoarthritis Patients
Molly McAdams is a writer who lives in New York City. She has covered health and lifestyle for various print and online publishers since 1989. She holds a Master of Science degree in nutrition.