THE safety alerts page of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TPA) warns against over-the-counter food supplements stacked with turmeric (Curcuma), which is recovered from a number of Curcuma plant varieties.
Those marketing these supplements claim that they relieve symptoms of mild osteoarthritis, such as mild joint inflammation, and mild joint aches and pains.
It’s clearly a supplement many older people might be attracted to.
The problem is that they can also cause serious liver injury.
Safe turmeric intake-level
The safe daily limit for turmeric is 180 milligrams of curcumin per day for an adult weighing 60 kilograms. That’s the maximum, so if you are partial to Indian food and want to take turmeric pain relief supplement, you need to take that into account. A meal heavy on turmeric can contain about 30 milligrams.
Turmeric is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. Consumption of excessive amounts of turmeric puts a severe strain on the liver.
Manufacturers of turmeric supplements say their turmeric supplements are formulated to be absorbed more readily into the bloodstream than turmeric by itself and therefore do not damage the liver.
For example, the product details for Naturopathica Turmeric Daily Tablets 3,100 mg provide the following information: “Naturopathica CurcuMax Turmeric Daily 3,100mg combines curcumin (from Turmeric) to relieve inflammation plus black pepper to enhance curcuminoid absorption” (our italics).
But how much turmeric is there in a Naturopathica Turmeric Daily Tablet 3,100 mg? From the label you would assume 3,100 milligrams, way above the safe daily intake.
Here’s a bit of gobbledegook under ‘Ingredients’: “Curcuma longa (Turmeric) rhizome ext. dry conc. Std. 47.69mg-equiv. to dry rhizome 3.1 g …”.
With the help of a myriad Google searches, we concluded that the product name ‘Naturopathica CurcuMax Turmeric Daily 3,100mg’ is probably misleading marketing. It should really be ‘Naturopathica CurcuMax Turmeric Daily 47.69mg’.
Perhaps the manufacturer should rethink how this supplement is labeled.
A single tablet contains 47.69 milligrams of turmeric, extracted from 3,100 milligrams of turmeric root. A single ‘daily’ tablet therefore remains under the daily safe turmeric intake limit (as mentioned, set at 180 milligrams for a person weighing 60 kilograms as mentioned earlier).
Just as well, because with a tablet containing 3,100 milligrams of turmeric, you would have to weigh in excess of one thousand kilograms to stay within the daily safe turmeric intake limit.
So, check the ingredients listed on the label or webpage for these turmeric supplements. Also, don’t eat them like lollies, because that way it is easy to go over the safe intake limit..
Side effect: hepatitis and other liver complaints
Recently, Italy has recorded around 20 cases of hepatitis involving food supplements containing turmeric. In France, over 100 reports of adverse effects were received, including 15 reports of hepatitis, potentially related to the consumption of food supplements containing turmeric.
The TGA completed a safety investigation, which showed that there is a rare risk of liver injury from taking turmeric in medicinal (i.e. high) dosage forms. People with existing or previous liver problems may be more likely to develop problems.
The TGA concluded that “there is not enough information at this time to conclusively identify which medicines are higher risk”.
But, the TGA says, that you should immediately stop taking it and seek medical advice if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
- dark urine
- unusual tiredness
- stomach or abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
If you currently have, or have had liver problems, you should avoid these medicines and herbal supplements immediately.
If you seek relief from osteoarthritis or generally pain in your joints, the best policy is to go and see your GP to decide what the best way is to address your discomfort.
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