bowl of turmeric spice

Q. I think I am having an allergic reaction to turmeric. After taking it for two days, I have broken out in red spots all over my stomach.

I have been taking Benadryl pills every four hours for a day. How can I get relief?

A. If you have stopped taking the turmeric, the reaction should fade. Some people are allergic to turmeric and must avoid it. Years ago, a reader offered this report:

“I am always interested in the arthritis remedies I find in your column. After reading that turmeric could help, I bought some and took the pills according to directions. Several days later I had such a terrible rash that I had to go to the doctor for prednisone. I’ll never do that again!”

It is worth remembering that nearly any compound may trigger reactions in some individuals. Now that you have discovered that you don’t tolerate turmeric, you’ll need to avoid taking it. You may also need to be wary of foods such as curry and yellow mustard that can contain significant amounts of turmeric.

Other readers have experienced unwelcome interactions between curcumin (an important component of turmeric) or the spice itself in combination with warfarin. Here is JM:

“I am taking warfarin. I had an elevated INR after having two meals of curry in an Asian restaurant. I discovered the advice not to consume turmeric in a book by the People’s Pharmacy concerning food and natural remedies. I think this is what caused the INR elevation.

“I belong to Kaiser and told their Coumadin Clinic after I had stopped eating curry and had a normal result, but the person there (probably a pharmacist) did not agree and said I could consume curry, since it was probably a small amount.

“I will tell my doctor. I believe it is true and do not plan to consume curry, since it will lead to being tested more often. The previous contact at the Coumadin Clinic thought it was due to diarrhea, but that has not been a big problem lately. Unfortunately, I am on a gluten-free diet, and the curry dishes were the majority of the gluten-free dishes in the restaurant.”

We do worry about an unexpected rise in INR (International Normalized Ratio), since it could be a red flag for dangerous bleeding.

Another reader on a different anticoagulant, clopidogrel, also reported a reaction. This is what Jill said:

“I had a reaction to Plavix and turmeric — a big surprise, as I didn’t know about an interaction. I began bleeding at the slightest scratch. It took me a while to figure out what was going on, as I often didn’t even feel it. I was taking high-grade turmeric capsules. I wish I could take turmeric instead of Plavix, as I can’t use NSAIDs and have arthritis. “

Animal research suggests that regular use of turmeric might also raise the risk of kidney stones (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May, 2008), though we have not heard from any visitors that they have experienced this dreadful complication.

You can learn more about the beneficial uses of turmeric from our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. It is available as part of a holiday gift bundle through December, 2014.

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  1. Natty
    Chehire, UK

    I have been taking turmeric in liquid form daily for maybe a year. Until recently felt great on it. But then suddenly out of the blue a week ago, I came up in a nasty rash with lots of big hives, on buttocks, thighs, the arms, hands and feet. It itched like crazy. The strange thing would be that it only came on when rising after a nights sleep, when my blood started to circulate … and after a few hours would settle down again, and then be back the next day! It took me a week before I started associating it with the Turmeric, and this was down to me feeling mostly well, and thinking that if it was a Virus I would feel worse.

    Something just told me to check out side affects of Turmeric, and when I did the first thing I saw was HIVES, and this fitted so well. So no more Turmeric for a long while, or maybe never depending on how and if the rash returns! Hope this helps others. Turmeric products should come with information that you are not supposed to take it longer than 8 months!! I appreciate that some people reacted badly to it straight away, but for me it was an accumulation of taking it for a long period of time.

  2. Nancy

    After eating Turmeric in curry last night my tongue became slightly swollen, red and sore wirh enlarged bumps on it. I was also nauseous and felt pretty awful.I took an antihistamine and went to bed. Better this AM but still have sore tongue! No more Turmeric for me!

  3. M.A.
    Raleigh, NC

    I have taken turmeric capsules for five years to curb the pain in my arthritic thumb joints. After successive acupuncture treatments during the same time frame improved my thumbs, I stopped. That was three weeks ago, and I have had hives on my back, my neck, under my arms and on my thighs. I cannot come up with another reason and have never had anything like this. So I have restarted turmeric thinking it must have masked a skin issue when I took it earlier. Any ideas?

  4. Liz

    I have been taking turmeric pills for a week straight now, and for the past few days I felt like I couldn’t swallow. It felt like I had a lump inside my throat. The second day it felt worse. I drank water the entire day and didn’t take the turmeric today. As of 3:21 A.M., I feel a little better. Drank lots of water, and I will never take these pills ever again. Come to find out my throat could have closed. Am most definitely allergic. Could have died for all I know.

    • Mike

      I was taking Instaflex Advaced for knee pain ( contains Turmeric) and then developed small red bumps/rash. Stopped taking it and rash symptoms disappeared after several days.

  5. Delta

    I’ve been adding powdered turmeric to my cooking for over a year now. Apparently the powder is more effective when used in cooking than the tablet form.

    I’ve noticed several positive results from using turmeric but just recently I’ve noticed diarrhoea, dizziness and a hot face. It’s possible that these symptoms have been caused by something else but I researched turmeric side effects, just to be safe and it led me here.

    I truly hope it’s not the turmeric because turmeric has really helped me, and I know that sentiment is echoed by several others on this site.

    I wonder if a better course of action would be to take regular breaks from using turmeric, even if there are no side effects. I’d also be interested to know if reactions to turmeric are rare.

  6. Jane

    I started taking turmeric capsules about 10 weeks ago. developed a rash around my bra area that was slightly itchy. This has now increased to my upper body, arm and upper thighs. It is incredibly itchy. I stopped taking the turmeric a week ago but the symptoms as yet have not stopped.,Does anyone know how long it will take to get out of my system

    • pj

      You have a fungus, possibly ringworm or related, easy to get rid of; need to get the rash dry and use Clotrimazole Topical creme.

  7. Deirdre

    After reading the posts about allergic reactions to Turmeric, I noticed that everyone took capsules and not the Golden Paste. I’m wondering if it may be something built into the capsule form of Turmeric, black pepper combo? Perhaps something added to extend shelf life or something that keeps it from clumping? Could the cooked, Golden Paste with coconut oil or any of the other recommended oils prevent some of the bad reactions?

    • Jean

      I have had a severe allergy to what I thought was the
      Turmeric that I had been taking. It turns out that it was
      the bioperene added to the Turmeric, which is black
      pepper! I am very allergic to black pepper!! Who knew ??

  8. Teresa

    After taking 3 turmeric tablets with ginger and piperine a day for five days I genuinely felt 10 – 20 years younger. My whole body became much more strong and flexible, it was like a miracle. However, a week later I suddenly developed an intensely itchy raise rash over my neck, throat , shoulders ,chest and upper arms, also the skin around my mouth and nose started peeling off and bleeding. I stopped the turmeric four days ago and am still waiting for and hoping that my skin will return to normal. I can only think that it is the turmeric that has caused it, but I am extremely upset that something that gave me such a drastic physical benefit might also be responsible for the rash. Does anyone know of an alternative that may be as helpful?

  9. Katiedid

    I took Tumeric for approximately 2weeks. Noticed my hand itched but didn’t think anything of it. . One evening I took an NSAID because I had joint pain. Within a few hours I was in the ER with anaphylaxis and angeioedema. Thought it may have been a food I had eaten. Kept getting breakthrough angioedema reactions even though I was on a steroid dose pack. Discovered it was the Tumeris that was causing the issue. Also had angioedema in my esophagus which felt like I was having a MI ( heart attack). Now I wonder if I am also allergic to NSAID drugs . My allergist recommends staying away from then and not doing a challenge since I had such a severe reaction. Symptoms did not completely disappear for 3months. Continue to take antihistamine because I can sometimes experience slight hand itching. MD says mast cells are hyperactive now and need time to loose sensitivity.

  10. Maureen
    QLD, Australia

    I started taking Turmeric with black pepper to help ease my migraines and inflammation since I can’t take NSAIDs. It started off fine but after a couple of weeks I noticed the tip of my nose and the second toe on my feet became tingly and progressed to being numb. The symptoms cleared and finally stopped after stopping turmeric. I did a second challenge test, and the symptoms returned. I again stopped the turmeric, and again the symptoms abated. It’s such a shame, as my migraines improved while on the turmeric but the tingling and numbness were unbearable.

  11. Nico

    I have been taking turmercin to help with joint pain for five weeks. Last week I broke out in an alarming rash radiating from my abdomen to my chest, neck, back & arms. The only difference in my diet has been the turmeric compound & I have never been allergic to anything in the past, so I was incredibly suprised! I have only stopped taking it for two days, so hopefully that will alleviate the allergic symptoms in due course. I was not aware that this could happen & as my body tolerates almost everything, I’m stunned that this is not highlighted accordingly!

  12. Coleen

    I just started taking tumeric in capsule form. I took it with my c,e, calcium,& magnesium. All of the sudden I felt like my face was on fire, I look like I have a sunburn. Is this from tumeric?

  13. V.c

    Started taking 450mg of Tumeric tablets with peperine and cucumin and after a little while started experiencing heart palpitations with dizziness – also my blood pressure reading was on the high side. Took me some little while to question whether it could be the Tumeric, so I immediately stopped taking the Tumeric tabs and have not experienced these symptoms again – also my blood pressure reading has returned to normal.

  14. V.c

    Yes I started taking 450mg of Tumeric tabs with peperine and curcumim and started experiencing dizziness and palpitations – my blood pressure reading was also higher. Immediately stopped taking it and not experienced any dizziness or heart palpitations. Blood pressure readings now normal

  15. Elaine A

    I took One capsule ofTumeric/Black pepper And within a few minutes I went into Anafalactic shock. Lucky I have an Epi-Pen and was able to stop it I have to have one on hand because I have a allergy to SOY-Protien also Penicilin, now this!!! I always learn the hard way.

  16. Tessa
    Niagara Falls

    I have been taken tumeric for about a year and I keep breaking out in my face and neck. I am getting big red welts around my eyes and my mouth. When it dries, it becomes hard and seems to peel. I never thought about a connection with tumeric as I have a nickel allergy too. So I just always thought it is the nickel. But the past month I didn’t wear any jewelry at all and I am still breaking out. So now I think it might be the tumeric.

    • Ruth

      Wow I too took a capsule of tumeric yesterday and felt like I couldn’t breathe. It felt like I was dying. Wow

  17. Lucy

    I started taking 3100 units of turmeric (1 tablet a day). Within a week I had terrible pain in my eye. I have had right angle closure glaucoma surgery in this eye. The optometrist could find nothing wrong with the pressures and back part of my eye. Terrible headaches felt like eye strain. I have stopped the turmeric as it was the ONLY thing I had done differently, and within 3 weeks, the symptoms have stopped, and the eye has returned to normal. I won’t be taking any more turmeric!

  18. Denise

    About 6 months ago, after hearing that turmeric can help with arthritis I purchased it in tablet form from the pharmacy and commenced taking it. That night I suffered severe stomach cramps. It wasn’t until I experienced another painful sleepless night that I realized it was the turmeric. A couple of days ago I purchased a packet of hummus chips and tucked into them. Stomach cramps again and upon reading the packet I found the culprit – flavored with turmeric. No more turmeric for me!

  19. Janet

    So I have systemic Lupus and have taken Turmeric 1 teasp/daily for 5 year, and 1 year ago started a rash on my face. Doc said either Lupus rash or rosacea (or both).
    I have tried all the lotions/foams for rosacea, but makes rash worse. Also tried Doxycycline pills for 30 days.

    I follow the INFLAMMATION FREE DIET in book by Monica Reinegel for 11 years with great results for body pain, but rash on face is still there. So now I am stopping Turmeric to see if better. I am 73 years old and in good health otherwise.

    • Ruth

      So what are you doing for the pain now if I may ask?

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