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Turmeric and the Immune System

In part seven of this series about the immune system, we are going to discuss turmeric and the benefits it has on the immune system. In future weeks we will further explore other herbs and spices that can help with boosting the immune system.

Common Names: turmeric, turmeric root, Indian saffron (1)

Latin Name: Curcuma aromatica, Curcuma domestica, Curcuma longa (1)

History: Turmeric is a plant who is related to ginger and has been traditionally grown throughout India, other parts of Asia, and in Central America. Turmeric has historically been used in Ayurvedic medicine, mainly in South Asia. It was used to treat breathing problems, rheumatism, pain, and fatigue (1).

In current times, turmeric’s use has become even more expansive. Today, turmeric is used for inflammation, arthritis, stomach, skin, liver, and gallbladder problems, and cancer (1).

Turmeric is also used a lot in cooking and is one of the major ingredients in curry powder (1).

The active ingredients in turmeric are turmerone oil and water-soluble curcuminoids, largely curcumin. Most research has been on the benefits of curcumin (2).

Curcuminoids protect the body in many ways including: they enhance the activity of an important detoxifying enzyme and they also act as antioxidants by neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals can cause damage to our DNA (2).

Immune (and other) Benefits

  • Cancer prevention (2, 4)

  • Treatment of infections (2)

  • Inflammation (2)

  • Helps to treat kidney stones (2)

  • Eases stomach and intestinal gas (2)

  • Potent modulator of the immune system (4)

Adverse Reactions

  • Allergic skin inflammation, hives (2)

  • Use caution during pregnancy (3)

  • Use caution when using with diabetes, turmeric can make blood sugar too low (3)

  • Use caution with hormone-sensitive condition (breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroid because turmeric (curcumin) might act like the hormone estrogen (3)

  • Turmeric might lower testosterone levels and decrease sperm movement in men (3)

  • Taking large doses of turmeric might prevent the absorption of iron (3)

  • Use caution when having surgery because turmeric might slow blood clotting


  • People with bile duct obstruction, gallstones, and GI disorders (stomach ulcers and hyperacidity disorders) should not take this supplement

Herb and Drug Interactions

  • Anticoagulants / Antiplatelets: Turmeric may increase risk of bleeding because it also has antiplatelet properties (2)

  • Camptothecin, Mechlorethamine, and Doxorubicin: Turmeric can inhibit camptothecin-induced apoptosis of breast cancer cell lines (2)

  • Cyclophosphamide: Dietary turmeric mayinhibit cyclophosphamide-induced tumor regression (2)

  • Norfloxacin: May increase plasma elimination half-life

  • Amphotericin B: Curcumin may enhance the effect and decrease the toxicity of amphotericin B (2)

  • Drugs metabolized by CYP3A4 enzyme: Curcumin inhibits cytochrome 3A4 enzyme

  • Drugs metabolized by CYP1A2 enzyme: Curcumin inhibits cytochrome 1A2 enzyme Drugs metabolized by CYP2A6 enzyme: Curcumin enhances cytochrome 2A6 enzyme

  • Celiprolol and Midazolam: Curcumin was shown to potentially downregulate intestinal P-gp levels (2)

  • Verapamil: Curcumin inhibited intestinal P-gp expression and function (2)

  • Tacrolimus: Pretreatment with turmeric increases the plasma levels of tacrolimus (2)

  • Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Aspirin: Cytotoxic effects of curcumin increased in the presence of Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, or Aspirin (2

Herb and Lab Interactions

  • Curcumin can interfere with thioflavin T assays because it has strong absorptive and fluorescent properties (2)

If you have an acute or chronic health condition or take medications, you should consult with your health care provider before taking any new herbs.

Interested in taking turmeric as a supplement? HERE is one of Kim's recommendations.

HERE is a recipe that includes turmeric!

About the Author: Leanne DiMaio earned her Master’s degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition from New York Chiropractic College in December 2017. She is currently working on her Doctorate degree in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health. Leanne is passionate about helping others achieve their optimal state of health and wellness. She is currently earning clinical hours toward the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential under Kim Ross's supervision.


1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Turmeric. NCCIH. Published 2016. Accessed September 16, 2018.

2. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Turmeric. Published 2018. Accessed September 16, 2018.

3. Web MD. Turmeric: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. Published 2018. Accessed September 16, 2018.

4. Bose S, Panda AK, Mukherjee S, Sa G. Curcumin and tumor immune-editing: resurrecting the immune system. Cell Division. 2015;10:6. doi:10.1186/s13008-015-0012-z.

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