Have you considered taking turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties? Perhaps you’ve considered it as a way to ease psoriasis instead. Researchers have suggested that turmeric or its principal component curcumin may be active against cardiovascular disease (Campbell & Fleenor, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, June 29, 2017). Other investigators have found evidence that turmeric may help prevent cancer (Kunnumakkara et al, Clinical Science, July 5, 2017). How would you take it-in capsules or in food? Have you tried turmeric in milk?
Taking Turmeric in Milk:
Q. I used turmeric as a spice rather than buying capsules of it. It is absorbed much better if you take it with a little pepper or ginger.
I used to just put a little turmeric on a spoon with some kind of fat and some pepper and eat it, but I noticed that it was irritating my stomach that way. Then I read that in India they put turmeric in warm milk and give it to kids to drink. I tried that (in almond milk) and no longer have stomach upset.
Traditional Uses of Turmeric:
A. You are quite correct that in India people use turmeric regularly as a spice rather than take it in capsules as a dietary supplement. It is a key ingredient in curry. People in India also use it as a home remedy. Years ago, a scientist who had grown up in India called our radio show and told us about taking turmeric in milk when he had a sore throat as a child.
Medical Uses of Turmeric:
Medical uses for turmeric keep expanding. The active ingredient, curcumin, has been shown to ease inflammation and pain associated with arthritis (Amalraj et al, Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, June 15, 2016). It also has anticancer activity (Shi et al, Tumour Biology, July 2017; Rivera et al, PLOS One, June 19, 2017).
You can learn much more about the health benefits of turmeric and other spices in our book, Spice Up Your Health. We include special recipes for turmeric toast and scramble as well as turmeric milk. You might also be interested in a recent interview with cancer scientist Ajay Goel, MD, of the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute. In Show 1079, he describes the state of the research using turmeric against colon cancer.
A Word of Caution-Dangerous Turmeric Interactions:
When we first started writing about the potential benefits of turmeric, there was nothing in the medical literature about the possibility that it might interact with certain other medications, particularly warfarin (Coumadin). Then we began to receive reports like this one:
Q. I started taking turmeric to help my psoriasis. Then I developed a severe rash and stopped it.
My biggest concern is that I take Coumadin. When I went in for a routine blood test my doctor told me that my blood, which should be between 2 and 3, was extremely thin at 13. I was told to come in immediately for a Vitamin K shot to reverse this effect.
A. Thanks for alerting us to a potentially life-threatening interaction between Coumadin (warfarin) and turmeric. Another reader reported liver enzyme elevation with this herb. Turmeric is not for everyone.
We received that report in 2004. Ten years later, doctors published a case of an interaction between turmeric and an anticoagulant drug related to warfarin (Daveluy et al, Therapie, Nov-Dec. 2014).