Turmeric is a popular Indian spice that has been used in cooking and medicine for thousands of years. It contains an active compound called curcumin which gives turmeric its distinct yellow color and provides most of its health benefits. While turmeric is generally considered safe and has many proven health benefits, some people do report feeling tired after consuming it. Here is an in-depth look at why turmeric may cause fatigue in some individuals.
Turmeric contains compounds that can have sedative effects
One of the main reasons turmeric may make some people tired is due to the natural compounds it contains. Curcumin and turmerone are two of the major active ingredients in turmeric that have been shown to have sedative and sleep-enhancing effects in research studies.
Curcumin has been found to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These neurotransmitters play a key role in regulating sleep and mood. Higher levels of serotonin and dopamine typically lead to feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. One study in animals showed curcumin had hypnotic effects and could decrease sleep onset time.
Turmerone is another compound found in turmeric that has exhibited sedative effects in studies on animals. Research suggests turmerone can affect areas of the brain involved in regulating mood and promoting sleep. When taken in significant amounts, turmerone may help induce a sense of relaxation and fatigue.
Turmeric can lower blood pressure
Turmeric also has blood pressure-lowering effects which may contribute to tiredness in some cases. Curcumin has been found to help dilate blood vessels, increasing blood flow and reducing blood pressure.
One study had participants take 500mg of curcumin daily for 8 weeks. At the end of the study, the curcumin group had an average drop in systolic blood pressure of 12.2 mmHg. Another study showed taking turmeric extracts 3 times daily for 12 weeks reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 10 mmHg.
Lower blood pressure often causes mild symptoms like drowsiness, fatigue, and weakness. The drop in blood pressure turmeric can provide may lead some to feel noticeably more tired after taking it.
It has anti-inflammatory effects
Chronic inflammation is known to cause feelings of exhaustion and low energy. Turmeric’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties may play a role in why some people feel sleepy after using it.
Multiple studies have shown curcumin can effectively inhibit many different inflammatory markers in the body. Inflammation has been linked to conditions like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and autoimmune disorders.
For those suffering from underlying inflammatory conditions, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects may provide relief from symptoms like pain and fatigue. The body’s energy spent fighting inflammation is no longer required, which could result in a more relaxed and tired state after taking turmeric.
May interact with other herbs and supplements
Using turmeric along with other herbs, spices and natural supplements may increase the likelihood of tiredness as a side effect. Turmeric is known to interact with medications and other supplements.
Taking turmeric alongside sedatives, sleep aids, antidepressants and medications that lower blood pressure can enhance their effects. Combining turmeric with other herbs like kava, passionflower, valerian root or St. John’s wort could also increase drowsiness and fatigue.
It’s important to be aware of potential interactions if combining turmeric with other supplements to avoid undesirable effects.
Contains iron which can cause fatigue when overloaded
Turmeric contains a small amount of iron, with 100g providing around 65% of the recommended daily amount. While iron is an essential mineral, getting too much can lead to fatigue and other symptoms.
Adults only require around 8-18mg of iron per day depending on age and gender. Consuming large amounts of turmeric means intake of iron can quickly add up. Too much iron can cause excess oxidative stress, inability to regulate body temperature, and worsen inflammatory conditions.
Those already getting sufficient iron from other dietary sources like meat and supplements may want to moderate their turmeric intake to prevent overconsumption.
Can stimulate the gallbladder
Turmeric has a stimulant effect on the gallbladder, encouraging it to contract and release bile. A few studies have shown curcumin causes the gallbladder to empty completely in response to consumption.
In those prone to gallbladder issues like gallstones, turmeric may trigger spasms, cramping, nausea and pain. The release of bile and stimulation of the gallbladder can also sometimes cause digestive upset and loss of energy as a side effect.
May cause low blood sugar in some cases
Some research indicates turmeric can reduce blood sugar levels, especially when taken in high doses. Studies have shown curcumin is able to lower both fasting and postprandial blood glucose readings.
People with diabetes or taking medication for high blood sugar should monitor for potential drops in glucose after using turmeric. Blood sugar crashes often result in symptoms like weakness, headache, irritability, confusion and fatigue.
Dosage and timing may play a role
The dosage and timing of turmeric supplementation may impact how likely it is to cause tiredness. The sedative and relaxing effects of turmeric appear most prominent when taken in larger doses.
One study found taking 500mg of curcumin twice daily for a week led to significant improvements in fatigue and mood compared to a placebo. Other studies have used turmeric extracts providing close to 200mg curcumin without reports of fatigue.
Taking turmeric earlier in the day may help prevent daytime sleepiness and drowsiness. You may also consider splitting up the dosage into multiple smaller doses if turmeric is causing excess drowsiness.
Quality and composition of the supplement
The specific formulation and quality of the turmeric supplement can also play a role in potential side effects like fatigue. Not all turmeric supplements contain the same compounds at the same percentages.
Some turmeric supplements are standardized to contain 95% curcuminoids, while others contain more volatile oils like turmerone. Extracts concentrated with higher curcumin content may have stronger sedative effects.
Using pure turmeric powder may provide less potential for drowsiness compared to highly concentrated extracts. Paying attention to the type of turmeric supplement and its unique composition can help minimize unwanted effects.
Individual sensitivity and tolerance
It’s important to remember that people can react differently to herbal supplements like turmeric. The sedative and hypotensive effects appear most prominently in some individuals.
Those more sensitive may experience noticeable fatigue and drops in energy at lower doses. Others are able to tolerate high amounts of turmeric for extended periods without issue. Starting at a low dose and gradually increasing intake can help determine your individual tolerance.
Other potential causes not related to turmeric
While turmeric can definitely cause fatigue in some instances, it’s also important to rule out other potential factors if you feel tired after taking it.
Your fatigue may be a result of poor sleep, stress, underlying health conditions, dietary changes, medication side effects, or normal daily fluctuations in energy levels. Don’t immediately assume turmeric is the culprit without considering other possibilities.
Keeping a symptom journal recording your energy levels before and after taking turmeric can help you determine whether it tends to instigate feelings of tiredness.
Ways to prevent turmeric induced fatigue
If turmeric is causing unwanted drowsiness for you, there are some things you can do to help minimize this side effect:
- Lower your dosage – Try reducing your intake to see if a smaller amount is better tolerated
- Take earlier in the day – Consume turmeric supplements in the morning or earlier in the afternoon
- Avoid combining with other sedatives – Don’t take turmeric alongside other herbs, drugs or supplements with sleep-enhancing effects
- Check for interactions – Be aware of potential interactions with any medications or health conditions you have
- Try reducing inflammation – Address and treat any underlying inflammatory issues you may have
- Regulate blood sugar – Manage diabetes and control blood sugar fluctuations
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of fluids to avoid concentration of compounds in the blood
- Get enough physical activity – Exercise and movement can help combat fatigue
Making some adjustments to your supplemental routine and lifestyle habits can often minimize the chances of turmeric use resulting in fatigue, drowsiness and low energy levels.
Who may want to avoid turmeric due to sedative effects
While occasional turmeric use is generally considered safe for most people, some may want to exercise more caution or avoid it altogether if they experience feelings of fatigue.
Those more prone to turmeric’s sedative effects include:
- People taking sedative medications, sleep aids or antidepressants
- Those with low blood pressure or hypotension
- Anyone prone to low blood sugar or hypoglycemia
- Individuals with gallbladder problems like stones or disease
- People who already get adequate or excess iron in their diets
- Those sensitive or allergic to turmeric or ginger
It’s best to consult your doctor before taking turmeric if you have any medical conditions or take other medications to prevent complications.
Turmeric is a beneficial spice that offers a wide variety of potential health benefits. But some people do report feeling tired or fatigued after taking turmeric supplements. This can occur due to its natural compounds that induce relaxation and sedation, effects on blood pressure and inflammation, and interactions with other herbs, drugs and pre-existing conditions.
Fatigue is most common when taking large doses of highly concentrated turmeric/curcumin extracts. Using pure turmeric powder or whole root at culinary doses is less likely to cause drowsiness. Those very sensitive may still feel sleepy taking supplemental doses of turmeric.
Adjusting the dosage, timing, and ruling out other causes can help determine if turmeric is responsible for your fatigue. Being aware of the potential sedative effects can help you make informed decisions about using turmeric.