Q. I’ve been taking turmeric for psoriatic arthritis that has made my hands dry and my fingertips split. I have been taking two pills a day.

I have noticed an itchy rash on my arms that I didn’t have before. Although the turmeric has helped my skin and the arthritis pain, I am worried that it may have caused the rash.

l used to take ibuprofen every day but I haven’t needed any for weeks. I really hope my rash on my arms isn’t from the turmeric. Might it be?

A. Turmeric is the yellow spice in curry powder and yellow mustard. It has powerful anti-inflammatory activity, and many readers report it can ease both psoriasis and arthritis pain.

Turmeric can cause an allergic rash in some people, however. Here is another reader’s reaction: “I tried turmeric for its health benefits last May. In June I developed serious rash and itching on my chest and neck. I stopped the turmeric and it cleared up. I looked in your book and noted that some folks said they had a similar reaction to the spice.”

Turmeric is one of our favorite foods, both for the flavor and for its anti-inflammatory action. It is not for everyone, however; some people develop an allergy, as you seem to have. Others may be taking the anticoagulant warfarin. Turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin are incompatible with warfarin (Coumadin) and could cause bleeding. A number of people have reported an elevated INR as a consequence of this combination. We advise against it.

Those who would like to learn more about dietary components that can ease inflammation may be interested in our book, Favorite Foods from The People’s Pharmacy. It is available for free to those who purchase the Lip Balm and MoM Deodorant package.

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  1. Susan
    North Stonington, CT

    I’m 64. I have an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation. I’ve been taking Spring Valley Tumeric, 500 mg, daily for about 3 months. Several weeks ago my neck began itching. Now I itch just about everywhere on my upper torso and my neck. Some areas of my face and my entire neck are bright red with a rash. I’ll stop the Tumeric today to see if it’s responsible. I hope it isn’t because I haven’t had any inflammation since I began taking it. But the itching is interfering with my sleep. Can’t have that!

    • Werner

      For the last half year, I have been on Degalerix for prostate cancer. Listening to a natural health show, I started adding a teaspoon of turmeric powder to my meals every day.

      Last month, I suffered a Hobo spider bite on my right leg. It blistered terribly, but I am now healing up. At the same time, I was developing a rash on my legs, my arms and all over my body. The itching is very painful. After the antibiotic treatments, I expected the rash to disappear, but it is only a bit less severe now.

      Today, I examined what I have changed in my diet over the last few months. The only new thing is turmeric. I shall stop using it, after reading the comments here! It might just be the culprit! Thanks for the hints!

  2. LISA

    I too have been downing a half teaspoon of turmeric everyday as seen on a popular medical show. I have been recently getting a rash around my neck. I’m beginning to think this is the culprit as I have not changed soap, detergent or lotions. I had forgotten to take a few few days in a row last week and it was better actually. I started back up yesterday and I’m back with the redness and dry patches. This happened to my mom with turmeric capsules last year and I just put two and two together. I suppose used in food it’s not so potent but I’ll opt to stop for a while to figure this out. Thanks to all who have posted here, it’s helped to know some of us are sensitive to it.

  3. Noct

    I started taking Celadrin and Turmeric capsules together a few weeks ago and after about a week and a half I started to develop a very itchy rash on my torso and back (just as described below) as well as very stubborn scalp dandruff. At first I though it might have been the Celadrin but researched turmeric and found that indeed some people develop allergic reactions when taken in concentrated form. To previous posters, thank you for contributing your responses as they helped me realize that it’s probably the turmeric. Hope it clears up soon.

  4. Dennis

    I have been adding Tumeric powder to most of our meals for some time now. I have really come to enjoy the taste. I have been getting rashes ever since, but just didnt put two and two together. I make a huge breakfast on Saturday with it, and eat left overs on Sunday. Monday morning I start a slow cook crock pot with a lot of Tumeric in it for flavor, then eat on that most of the week.
    I went to dermatologist, got a cream, that helped heal, but the rashes always come back. Sometimes so itchy that I scratch until bruised and bleeding. Much like bug bites. When it heals, it is very dry. Dermatologist suggested that I change, soap and detergents, which I did.
    This weekend I got a little heavy handed with the Tumeric powder, and now the rashes are very inflamed! I decided to google it, end now I think I have discovered the problem. Im goint to stop it all together to see if it goes away.
    Funny thing is my girlfriend had a rash only once. We figured she caught it from me.

  5. Janice
    Jacksonville FL

    I started taking Turmeric about 2 weeks ago to help lower my blood sugar. Today, on the way to the beach, I discovered a rash on my neck. When I got in the water an sun it burned like fire. I looked up all the side effects for the other supplements I am taking, and this seems to be the cause.

  6. Lars

    I have been taking turmeric paste for 6 weeks now with the aim of reducing my psoriasis. A week ago I started to develop a rash. It is very itchy on my forearms, upper back, neck and my ‘warm areas’. At first I thought it was sunburn, but it came 5 days after I had been in the sun. Now it looks as small insect-bites, some even a bit swollen like mosquito-bites, in particular in my warm areas and neck. It gets worse when warm. I have never read about this side-effect on using turmeric, so I have tried to stop taking other supplements like ginsing and oil, but without any success. I will definitely stop taking turmeric now and hope it will vanish very soon.

  7. Betsy Hudson
    United States

    Bummer. I too, have developed a very itchy rash on my forearms. I was wondering if it was from the Turmeric, since the rash began about a week after starting the Turmeric capsules. I was taking the equivalent of 1tsp of Turmeric per day to help with blood sugar and for general health.

  8. D.F.

    I used a turmeric mask on my face and within a week I noticed small itchy bumps covering the surface of my face. I normally never get acne so this was alarming to me. I discontinued use of the mask but am still waiting for the rash to alleviate. Is there any way to speed up the process?

    • Kristy

      Did you only use a turmeric mask once before you developed the rash? I foolishly used a turmeric mask (for 15 minutes) tonight BEFORE reading/considering these side effects. I have psoriasis and sensitive skin, prone to inflammation, psoriasis, and acne. So I am really worried that within a week i will develop bumps/rash all over my face just from the one time use. How long did it take for your rash to go away?
      Thanks! Waiting for your reply!

      • JV

        Hello Kristy

        Is your rash gone ? B’se I did apply locally turmeric and rash spread in my thigh.
        Please suggest any cream can help .

        Thanks . JV

  9. sg

    Rash yes. I started taking Turmeric because of it’s reported health benefits. I developed a rash on my arms torso and legs. It’s exactly as described above… (looks is like flea bites, bedbug bites) or dust mites. Unfortunately it took a long time to figure out what was going on because a lot of things in my daily routine were changing and I thought it could have been allergies to pesticides I’ve encountered somewhere.
    I read a post somewhere about trying to rub the turmeric on a clear part of your skin as a test for a possible allergic reaction. I did this and noticed that area didn’t give a strong reaction but a subtle dry feeling followed by an itchiness. I have only done this just now but I suspect that if that area is scratched unconsciously then the skin could be broken and result in the sores like I have on the rest of my body. I will undoubtedly stop taking this and be mindful to not scratch.

  10. Mrs F

    My husband suddenly developed an alarming-looking rash all over his torso, but as it didn’t itch and he had no other symptoms didn’t seem worried or want to go to the doctor. I was looking up all kinds of horrible things online and going through with him anything different he may have eaten or come into contact with and eventually he said that his colleague had given him some turmeric supplements to help with stress and irritability and he had taken a couple over the last 3 days.
    Thank you Annie P for the comment, as he is indeed allergic to aspirin so the salicylate component has probably caused the reaction! Much relief, hopefully after stopping taking any more it will fade. Too bad as I know it can do a lot of good.

  11. Ahmet

    To relieve pain you can use ginger or cinnamon (Ceylon variety) instead of turmeric. Hope this helps, good luck.

  12. enriched

    I started taking a supplement that contains curcumin, ginger and boswelia. this worked wonders with my lower back pain but I am so depressed now as I started itching. Is there anything I can do to control itching while taking this as I am allergic to most painkillers and prefer natural products. I’m only taking half the daily dose. I haven’t taken it in 24 hrs and I am still itching on face, arms and neck. Just want to know if there is something I can use to reduce the itching and if this allergy means it can harm my body even at this low dosage.

  13. Kimimila

    I took turmeric a few days in a row in a glass of water in order to find relief for a stomach ache.
    The morning after the first time I got a painful rash on my back, but I did not associate this with the turmeric. I took turmeric again and the next day the rash was worse.
    I’ve researched it on the net and it could be because of the turmeric. The description of the way it looks is like flea bites, bedbug bites and even shingles (minus the blisters and the fatigue).
    It is very painful but did not itch… phew.
    Others have also reported a rash after taking turmeric. We suspect that this may not be as rare as some people might think.

  14. JM

    Turmeric – Amazing stuff!!
    My Dad had terrible back problems about 2 months ago. He went to the chiropractor every second day and the rest of the time he spent in bed as nothing was helping and this acute pain was going on for 3 weeks. I got him to have Turmeric tea twice a day (1 teaspoon with some honey). Within 3 days, he was out of bed and feeling much better. Now, he uses it in his food, not as much as when he was ill, and since has been diagnosed with degenerative discs in the lower back, but, he has no pain any more. This is highly recommended to anyone with acute, immobilising pain and also as a preventative measure!

  15. Sha

    Just had reaction to turkey burger, (I think) with Rosemary extract, salt, & pepper?
    I’m in process of adding foods back after allergy testing; does anyone know possibility of reaction to Rosemary extract?

  16. Barbara W.

    WHAT is INR???????
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: It’s an abbreviation for International Normalized Ratio. Now, that makes sense, doesn’t it?
    It’s a way of measuring the likelihood of bleeding. They “normalized” the lab test internationally because there was so much variation from one lab to another in the basic test of bleeding propensity, presumably a PT (prothrombin time…how long does blood take to clot). People on warfarin learn to monitor their INR just as people with diabetes monitor blood sugar and HbA1c (glycosylated hemoglobin, another abbreviation that is tough to understand).

  17. fbl

    Your reader could try curcurmin, which is the active ingredient in tumeric. I have used it for years without problems. Believe me my body is sensitive to a LOT of different things, especially pain meds.

  18. Cindy

    I do not know if this would work or not. However, since the Turmeric is helping in so many ways it might be worth a try. I take Stinging Nettle for allergies. I virtually have no allergy while taking it. One capsule a day does it for me. Perhaps it would reduce her bodies allergic reaction to the Turmeric.

  19. Annie P

    Tumeric is very high in salicylate which is related to aspirin.

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