Most herbal supplements come with a long list of possibly detrimental interactions with prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs. Curcumin, however, comes with a short list of potentially beneficial interactions with prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. There are a few common medications that actually make curcumin work better, without causing unpredictable effects of the drug.
Drugs That Help Your Cells Absorb Curcumin
The problem with curcumin is that it is hard for the digestive tract to absorb it. If you take curcumin in a pill form with cold water, less than 1% of the curcumin in the pill (about 0.2%, to be precise) ever reaches the organs of your body.
Drinking a warm beverage or eating a hot meal before taking your curcumin might raise the percentage of curcumin in the supplement that finds its way out of your digestive tract to about 5%. And if you take curcumin phytosome or liposome, the amount of curcumin your body absorbs is even higher, although not a whole lot.
Once the curcumin gets into your bloodstream, however, it still has to get inside cells. That’s where beneficial drug interactions make a huge difference.
If you happen also to take aspirin, even a small dose such as the 81 mg baby aspirin, or ibuprofen, the cells in your body absorb curcumin at least 10 times faster than if you don’t. (Acetaminophen/Tylenol does not have the same effect.) The synergistic effect of curcumin and aspirin or curcumin and ibuprofen is especially beneficial to colon cells¹.
Don’t take more than the 81 mg dose of aspirin in a baby aspirin every day without consulting your physician, and, of course, don’t take aspirin at all if you are allergic to it or your doctor has told you not to take aspirin. You don’t need more 81 mg per day to get the fullest benefits of curcumin, and if you can’t take aspirin or Ibuprofen, you can always just take more curcumin.
Theoretical Interactions with Prescription Drugs
What about prescription drugs? The simple fact is, there are no documented cases of interactions between curcumin and any prescription drugs.
A clinical study conducted in China, however, found that curcumin acts on the way the the liver uses enzymes to accelerate the breakdown of caffeine, implying that taking curcumin results in taking the “buzz” off your morning cup of coffee faster. Curcumin also affects the way the liver uses two detoxifying enzymes called CYP1A2 and CYP2A6². It inhibits the action of the first enzyme but enhances the action of the second.
This basically means that curcumin potentially interacts with the same prescription drugs as grapefruit juice (and also black mulberry juice, star fruit, and pomegranate juice). There are no reports of problems from taking prescription drugs and curcumin in the medical literature, but just to be on the safe side, if your doctor tells you not to drink grapefruit juice with your medication, you should not take curcumin, either.
- Choi HA,Kim MR,Park KA,Hong J. Interaction of over-the-counter drugs with curcumin: influence on stability and bioactivities in intestinal cells. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Oct 24;60(42):10578-84. doi: 10.1021/jf303534e. Epub 2012 Oct 16.
- Chen Y, Liu WH, Chen BL, Fan L, Han Y, Wang G, Hu DL, Tan ZR, Zhou G, Cao S, Zhou HH. Plant polyphenol curcumin significantly affects CYP1A2 and CYP2A6 activity in healthy, male Chinese volunteers.Ann Pharmacother. 2010 Jun;44(6):1038-45. doi: 10.1345/aph.1M533. Epub 2010 May 18.