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Turmeric root and powder
Potentially edible!
Food woo
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Fabulous food!
Delectable diets!
Bodacious bods!

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a spice from the same family (Zingiberaceae) as ginger that originated from Southern Asia. As such, it is a popular choice in related cuisine, giving it a pleasant golden-yellow color (commonly associated with curry), but it is also used for dyeing.

Unfortunately, it is also used for dying as alternative medicine woo-meisters[1] including Dr. Oz, Joseph Mercola,[2] and Daniel Amen. NaturalNews seized upon it as a wonder herb panacea and superfood, due to its appeal as ancient medicine for centuries as Ayurvedic medicine. As such, turmeric has gotten popular to the point of being ubiquitous on store shelves. As medicine, turmeric can be used for pretty much anything. Traditionally, it is used to treat a range of ailments from stomach problems to the common cold and even disinfecting skin wounds, but today, in addition, it is claimed to treat cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and diabetes; prevent aging, treat depression, boost brain function, lose weight, aid in sleep; and it can be a somehow superior replacement for many drugs including oxaliplatin (a chemotherapy drug), steroids, pain-killers, and anti-coagulants such as aspirin.[1]

Turmeric is composed of chemical compounds called curcuminoids, which include curcumin (diferuloylmethane) (which turmeric has most of), demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Curcumin is an antioxidant and is the chemical the alt-meddlers really love. Thus, turmeric is also sold in capsule form as a dietary supplement as an aid for digestive problems and inflammation.[3] Curcumin has been used in in vitro research showing some effects including reducing inflammation and programming cancer cells to die (apoptosis) and may reduce amyloid plague, which likely plays a role in causing Alzheimer's.

Of course, turmeric is also found in yellow corn syrup mustard sauce and western industrial-made blue boxes of mac 'n' cheese as food dye, but if most people were aware that it was no longer "exotic", it couldn't be marketed as a superfood or whatnot.


Unfortunately, like many so-called "wonder-herbs", turmeric has demonstrated little evidence of effectiveness (on the claims being made) in preliminary pilot studies on humans.[1][4]

In a 1972 study,[5] however, curcumin has been shown to lower blood glucose, one of the first effects observed from curcumin. The effect is stronger if insulin is present. In rats with diabetes, it can also inhibit inflammation and improve insulin resistance due to the anti-inflammation effects. In one study, prediabetic populations taking curcumin supplements for nine months had a lower chance of developing diabetes compared to the control group.[6]

Curcumin is not useful as a drug, however, since the body cannot effectively absorb it due to its fatty properties, making it insoluble in water.[7][3] At higher doses, in animal studies, mice can develop liver toxicity while curcumin may cause nausea and diarrhea.

Evidence for specific endpoints:

  • Alzheimer's Disease: insufficient studies, lack of bioavailability of curcumin may hinder its usefulness.[8]
  • Arthritis pain: In a meta-analysis, turmeric/curcumin showed a significant different in pain relief from placebo, but no difference with pharmaceutical pain medicine.[9] However, the sample sizes and study quality of the individual studies meant that it was not possible to draw a definitive conclusion.[9]
  • Depression: possibly efficacious, but insufficient number of studies and sample sizes to be conclusive.[10]


In Scandinavia, tainted turmeric capsules manufactured by a California-based company were responsible for liver damage that led to some deaths.[11]

Jade Erick died from a intravenous transfusion of a turmeric-based solution that was administered by Kim Kelly, a licensed naturopath.[12][13][7] The most likely cause of death was subsequently found to be a poisonous chemical impurity in the transfusion, diethylene glycol.[14][better source needed] The amount of curcumin found in the IV bag was found to be only 1% of the intended amount and considered to be a non-lethal quantity.[14]

Prior to Erick's death, Kelly posted the following bullshit on his website:

I am excited to announce that I've started administering intravenous curcumin. Curcumin has been used for thousands of years for culinary and medicinal reasons. People have used it to help with pain, inflammation, immune system, arthritis, liver conditions and cancer. It's also been found that intravenous curcumin in combination with vitamin C and glutathione (I call it the "Mother of All Antioxidants") has a potentiating effecting in helping people with chronic health conditions e.g. hepatitis C, liver fibrosis. Intravenous Curcumin is absorbed better, faster and can be given in much higher doses compared to taking it orally. Therefore, the benefits usually can be seen much sooner. Patients who have received it thus far have reported benefits very soon after treatment.

If you are suffering from any type of inflammatory condition, whether it be arthritis, autoimmune condition (e.g. scleroderma, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis), Alzheimers or dementia, this may be a great modality of treatment to try. It may require multiple treatments or may be just one treatment, depending on each person and the condition.

The safety, tolerability, and nontoxicity of curcumin at high doses have been well established by human clinical trials. Promising effects have been observed in patients with various pro-inflammatory diseases.[15]

As can be seen from this text, Kelly intended to give a much higher dose of curcumin, apparently being ignorant of its potential lethality, but instead gave a lethal dose of diethylene glycol. Kelly is still practicing naturopathy as of 2021.[16] As well as having a naturopathic degree from Bastyr University, he also has a master's degree in public health from the University of Minnesota,[16] so he should have known better.

Curcumin is listed as one of the ingredients in 187 Fake Cancer "Cures" Consumers Should Avoid.

A series of studies researching an high incidence of lead poisoning in Bangladesh was traced to unscrupulous turmeric processors who used lead chromate, an industrial pigment, to improve the color of turmeric.[17]


Turmeric is ritualistically applied to the face of a bride as part of Bengali marriage ceremonies (see Gaye holud),Wikipedia and was traditionally used on the Indian subcontinent as a temporary skin dye for obtaining a golden complexion.[18] For this reason, turmeric is promoted by naturopathic clickbait and mommy blogs as being useful for acne, dark spots,[19] facial hair removal, sun protection,[20] anti-aging and skin brightening,[21] much to the confusion of Indians. There is insufficient evidence that it does any of this,[22] but your DIY turmeric facemask might dye your hairline bright yellow.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hall, H. (June 17, 2014). Turmeric: Tasty in Curry, Questionable as Medicine. Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  2. Mercola. Turmeric: How This Spice Can Potentially Improve Your Health. Retrieved April 3, 2017
  3. 3.0 3.1 Heid, M. (August 5, 2015). You Asked: Should I Take Turmeric Supplements?. Time. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  4. Turmeric. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Last updated December 16, 2016. Retrieved April 3. 2017. Note that even National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health isn't that impressed.
  5. Srinivasan M Effect of curcumin on blood sugar as seen in a diabetic subject. Indian J Med Sci. (1972). Retrieved April 19, 2017
  6. Chuengsamarn S, et al Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. (2012). Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Orac. (March 23, 2017). An as yet unidentified "holistic" practitioner negligently kills a young woman with IV turmeric (yes, intravenous). Respectful Insolence. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  8. The Mechanisms of Action of Curcumin in Alzheimer's Disease by M. Tang & C. Taghibiglou (2017) J. Alzheimer's Dis. 58(4):1003-1016. doi:10.3233/JAD-170188.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials by James W. Daily et al. (2016) J. Med. Food 19(8):717–729. doi:10.1089/jmf.2016.3705.
  10. Clinical Use of Curcumin in Depression: A Meta-Analysis by Q. X. Ng et al. (2017) J. Am. Med. Dir. Assoc. 18(6):503-508. doi:10.1016/j.jamda.2016.12.071.
  11. Sharling, S. (March 23, 2009). Tainted turmeric supplements linked to Scandinavian deaths. Nutra Ingredients. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  12. Confirmed: Licensed Naturopathic Doctor Gave Lethal 'Turmeric' Injection by Britt Marie Hermes (Apr 10, 2017, 04:45pm EDT) Forbes.
  13. San Diego woman dead after turmeric IV infusion by Allison Ash (March 23, 2017) ABC10 News.
  14. 14.0 14.1 FDA Finds Lethal Poison in Naturopath's Turmeric Solution Julianna LeMieux (August 7, 2017) American Council on Science and Health.
  15. From Dr Kim Kelly Constant Contact (archived from August 14, 2020).
  16. 16.0 16.1 Profile: Dr. Kim D. Kelly Naturopathic Doctor Encinitas (archived from June 6, 2021).
  17. Kris Newby, The spice sellers' secret: A hunt for the sources of lead poisoning in Bangladesh. Stanford Medicine Magazine, 2 June 2023.
  18. P.N. Ravindran; K. Nirmal Babu; K. Sivaraman. (2007) Turmeric: The genus Curcuma. Taylor and Francis Group. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  19. The Honey-Turmeric Face Mask That May Replace All Your Skincare Products. (2016). Healthy Holistic Living. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  20. Turmeric Face Mask The Dermatology Review. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  21. Telfer, T. (November 7, 2013). This Turmeric Face Mask is Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Aging, and the Color of Sunshine. Bustle. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  22. Effects of Turmeric (Curcuma longa) on Skin Health: A Systematic Review of the Clinical Evidence. (2016). PubMed. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  23. Jenni. (November 11, 2014). Turmeric Yogurt Brigthening Mask. Jenni Raincloud. Retrieved May 3, 2017.