Turmeric: Pros, Cons, and Contraindications

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turmericTurmeric has become increasingly popular over the last decade, first for blood purification and then for joint pain. As it's hit the mainstream, its uses have narrowed at the same time. While turmeric is a fabulous herb with many beneficial applications, it's also quite powerful and can strongly imbalance the body if over-used or misused. Most people aren't aware of this and definitely should be.

First, the good news. While both turmeric tuber and rhizome are considered medicinal, the rhizome specifically is both the spice used in Indian cooking and western herbalism. It has a warm energy with a spicy and bitter taste and enters the Spleen, Stomach and Liver. It invigorates the Blood and Qi and has analgesic, emmenagogue, cholagogue, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric rhizome treats amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, sports injuries, trauma pain and swelling, flank, gastric or abdominal congestion and pain, and eases painful obstruction due to Wind, Cold and Damp with Stagnant Blood, particularly in the shoulders. It's also used for gallstones, hepatitis, wounds, bruises, toothache, hemorrhage, arthritis and cataracts. Further, the rhizome is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and purifies the blood and liver. It also strengthens digestion, improves intestinal flora, aids in digestion of protein, and treats gas, colic and jaundice.

With all these great uses, what could be harmful about turmeric? Well, now for the bad news. Turmeric is very bitter and so strongly dries the Blood and Yin. If taken for extended periods or overdosed, it can cause dizziness, blurry vision, insomnia, dry eyes, burning in the hands and feet, steaming bone disorder and night sweats.

I have had many a patient come in with such symptoms, uncertain as to what may have caused them. Because they didn't have a typical Yin Deficient constitution, we investigated further and found high doses of turmeric supplements often the culprit.

Because it is so highly touted in the western marketplace for pain relief, people tend to take tons of turmeric. It's not unusual for people to take supplements indiscriminately. If such and so is good for this or that, then people automatically take it and for extended periods of time. As well, they think if some is good or helpful, then more is better. And then they continue to take it preventatively when it may no longer be necessary. While either of these approaches is fine for many supplements, for turmeric it is not.

Turmeric does indeed reduce pain and swelling, but overdosing with it or taking it for prolonged periods does deplete the Blood and Yin. This is even more true for vegetarians, vegans and women during menses and so these folks should be particularly careful with this herb. It takes a long time to nourish Yin again, and the dampening herbs that do so put the digestive system at risk.

When recommending any herbs and supplements, first consider a person's constitution along with all their signs and symptoms before making your choices. Further, it's best to not use most herbs for a single commercial use. This may cause subsequent negative impact on other aspects of the body, which in turn, can give a bad reputation to that herb because it now has dangerous "side effects."

Most herbs are mild in nature and don't have side effects, just improper use. Narrowing an herb's use to one famous commercial application not only loses the knowledge of the herb's other effects and can harm people, but also endangers herbalism for us all. Let's keep our traditional knowledge of herbs alive and use them within the context of the whole person's needs and not just support its one commercial use. This not only benefits people, but also supports herbal medicine for us all.

6 comments

  • Comment Link David j Donovan Saturday, 28 January 2017 08:52 posted by David j Donovan

    Good morning,I have recently read about the benefits of tumeric for many of the reasons you have listed. Clearly regular usage is not of benefit, Such as a teaspoon in tea each morning for example. As you state you risk overdosing. As a balance, I am 58 years old of no particular health problem apart from slightly raised blood pressure, would a teaspoon in tea once a week or monthly be of benefit to my general health. Otherwise would you suggest to leave well alone

  • Comment Link Kate Taylor Friday, 30 December 2016 20:24 posted by Kate Taylor

    Are there other herbs that may intensify the effect of Tumeric?

  • Comment Link Janice Lange Friday, 09 December 2016 17:22 posted by Janice Lange

    What is the best amount to use when juicing and for what duration?
    My son has been using it just about every day in his veggie drink along with garlic, ginger and spirulina. I ask him how much he uses and he doesn't measure it just put some in which he thinks is about a teaspoon, Is he over doing it?

  • Comment Link Angie Wollnick Thursday, 03 November 2016 18:34 posted by Angie Wollnick

    How much tumeric is considered to much.

  • Comment Link Sydney Clinton Monday, 31 October 2016 07:42 posted by Sydney Clinton

    Would have been nice to read about proper dosing.

  • Comment Link Rohan White Wednesday, 19 October 2016 09:46 posted by Rohan White

    Using the planetary herbs turmeric, what dosage would you recommend for a cancer patient with yin deficiency (not extreme)but needing the antioxidant and anti inflammatory effects.

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