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This Spice May Cause Liver Damage, Recent Study Suggests

Turmeric may have adverse effects on your liver, according to a new report.
FACT CHECKED BY Jordan Powers Willard

Turmeric is a delicious spice used in many types of curry, soups, chilis, meat dishes, and even the trendy golden milk latte. It's been used for thousands of years in places like India, West Africa, and Jamaica, and it's also a staple in many Chinese medicine practices to help with inflammation, blood health, and more. While various cultures have been finding ways to capitalize on the health benefits of this spice for centuries, turmeric only made its way into Westernized practices relatively recently. And although the FDA has recognized turmeric and turmeric supplements as "generally safe," a recent report claims that this spice may have potentially damaging effects on liver health.

In addition to cooking, turmeric has traditionally been used in a wellness context as a means to combat inflammation and is believed to have antioxidant properties, hence the popularity of golden milk lattes and turmeric supplements. But aside from the pesky experience of having yellow-stained hands, there hasn't been much talk about any negative side effects of ingesting turmeric—until recently.

About the study

Published by the American Journal of Medicine in October '22, researchers assessed the correlation between turmeric intake and the potential for liver damage within those enrolled in the U.S. Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network (DILIN).

Young woman suffering pain at bedroom

According to the study, researchers found a total of 16 cases of turmeric-associated liver injuries among those enrolled in the DILIN program between 2011–2022. The extent of these injuries reportedly ranged from more moderate to severe, resulting in five hospitalizations and even one death due to acute liver damage. Further chemical analysis confirmed that three of these patient also consumed turmeric in conjunction with black pepper, an ingredient that many experts suggest taking with turmeric since it helps the body digest it more effectively.

While the findings of this study are significant, the low amount of reported liver across that 10-year period suggests that perhaps more research is needed. It's clear that there's a need to investigate the reasoning behind why turmeric may be the catalyst to such health complications.

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What other reports claim

Although the findings of this study may seem marginal, turmeric's propensity to possibly lead to liver damage is not one to discount. This is not the first study to connect liver damage to turmeric consumption; thus the potential dangers are worth taking into consideration.

There were two separate cases of adults who experienced drug-induced liver injury from turmeric, reported in the International Medical Case Reports Journal in 2021. Also in Tuscany, several more cases of liver injury from turmeric consumption have also been reported.

These reports shouldn't necessarily cause any immediate concern or alarm, as liver damage directly resulting from turmeric consumption still appears to be a rare occurrence. However, if you or someone you know frequently cooks with turmeric or takes turmeric supplements on a regular basis, it may be worth consulting a doctor or dietitian before adding another spoonful to your latte or curry.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha