Turmeric & Crohn’s disease

Original article posted on Turmeric for health

Along with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease is also clubbed as an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the intestines. Unlike ulcerative colitis that is found mostly in the colon and rectum, Crohn’s occurs in any part of the intestine. It could form in patches with healthy tissue surrounding it and thenspread deeper inside the tissues. People can suffer from fistulas, ulcers, anal fissure and malnutrition because of Crohn’s disease. Symptoms include watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and weight loss since the intestine does not absorb all the required nutrients.

There is no specific cause of Crohn’s disease although a faulty immune system usually triggers it. Genetics, consuming diets high in saturated fat and sugar and low in vegetables and fruits, cigarette smoking and people of European or Jewish descent are more vulnerable to contracting Crohn’s. There is no cure for Crohn’s, but it can be controlled and can go into remission with medication, surgery, better diet, alternative remedies etc.

Turmeric & Crohn’s Disease

Turmeric is said to have anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit those with Crohn’s. But as with most herbal / natural remedies further research is required to prove it with scientific rigor.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can be chronic and lead to cancer depending on how long the condition lasts. Since surgery and drugs rarely provide any cure, most doctors try to manage it with dietary therapy. This is especially effective in those suffering from Crohn’s disease. Curcumin has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties and its effects were studied in those with IBD. Mucosal biopsies of those with Crohn’s were cultured and treated with curcumin. There were signs that curcumin suppressed inflammatory mediators in both adults and children, therefore offering hope for those with IBD like Crohn’s disease.

In a study of 207 suitable volunteers with symptoms of IBD, 1 or 2 standardized turmeric extract tablets were given daily for a total of 8 weeks. After this period, it was found that there was a significant improvement in symptoms in both 1 and 2 tablet groups. There was a reduction of 22% (1 tablet) and 25% (2 tablets) in pain and discomfort also. There was improvement in bowel pattern and 2/3rds of all subjects treated said their symptoms were better after treatment. This shows that turmeric could reduce symptoms of IBD like Crohn’s and more placebo-controlled studies are required.  Crohn's Disease and turmeric

In a study of 4-5 patients with Crohn’s, it was found that when given curcumin of 360mg, 3 times daily for a month and then 360mg, 4 times daily for 2 months, there was improvement in their condition. Patients are advised to refer to the instructions on the label when taking turmeric supplements for Crohn’s.

Turmeric has a volatile oil fraction that has anti-inflammatory benefits. This is even stronger in curcumin that is the main pharmacological agent of turmeric. Studies have found that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory benefits are on par with corticosteroids and phenylbutazone and other anti-inflammatory drugs. Since it does not produce side effects like reduced blood count, ulcers or intestinal bleeding like these drugs, it could be used as a safe alternative in treating IBD.

In a study on mice induced with colitis, it was found that they were protected when pre-treated with curcumin 5 days beforehand. What is more, the mice given curcumin lost less weight and there were reduced signs of colitis like thickened intestinal walls, mucosal ulcers and inflammatory cells in the intestines. Researchers think the benefits offered by curcumin could be because it inhibits NF kappa-B a cell inflammatory agent and also has antioxidant properties. Another great advantage is that those with IBD like Crohn’s need not take high doses of turmeric. Even small doses like 0.25% offer significant benefits. This amount can easily be got by including turmeric in our daily diets.

IBD is characterized by oxidative stress, presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines etc. In a study on mice, they were given 50mg / kg body weight of curcumin for 10 days and they suffered less from colon disruption and diarrhea. Higher doses of 100 or 300mg / kg had similar effects. There was decrease in lipid peroxidatin and reduced serine protease activity also. These findings suggest curcumin could be an excellent treatment option for IBD like Crohn’s.

In two studies involving 99 patients, a combination of mainstream therapy of mesalamine, corticosteroids or sulfasalazine were given with curcumin. There was significant improvement in symptoms. Some patients could reduce their corticosteroid dosage and others stopped taking it altogether. This shows that turmeric may be a safe and less expensive alternative therapy for IBD like UC and Crohn’s.


Turmeric supplements are available as tablets, capsules, tincture, powdered root or liquid extracts. The dosage depends on the specific medical condition. It is not recommended for children. 1-2g of turmeric a day could benefit those with Crohn’s disease according to some studies.


Turmeric is safe when consumed within the recommended dosage and when eaten as a spice in food. Those who are scheduled for surgery must avoid turmeric for at least 2 weeks before the date since it can slow down blood clotting. Do not take turmeric supplements if you have gall bladder diseases or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Those who are taking turmeric must be careful for it can interact with anti-platelet drugs, drugs for stomach acid, analgesics and diabetic medications.  Always consult your doctor before including turmeric or other herbal supplements in your diet.

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