Household Spice May Be the Golden Elixir for Indigestion, Comparable to Drugs: Study

A remedy for indigestion may be cheap, delicious, and readily available.
Household Spice May Be the Golden Elixir for Indigestion, Comparable to Drugs: Study
A new study published in the BMJ suggests that turmeric, which contains a compound called curcumin, may potentially treat indigestion. (NADKI/Shutterstock)
Jessie Zhang

A remedy for indigestion may be cheap, delicious, and readily available.

New research reveals that turmeric, the sunny yellow spice that gives curry its vibrant color and zesty flavor, may be just as effective as medication in easing this common abdominal discomfort affecting about a quarter of Americans.

Turmeric Matches Standard Medication for Treating Indigestion

Turmeric is a spice from the rhizome of the Curcuma longa plant. It has powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. However, its effectiveness in treating indigestion has been uncertain.
The new study, published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal (pdf), is the first to directly compare turmeric to omeprazole for treating indigestion.

Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) used to treat indigestion by reducing stomach acid. Long-term PPI use has been linked to an increased risk of fractures, nutrient deficiencies, and infections.


In a double-blind clinical trial, researchers compared turmeric, omeprazole, and a combination in treating over 200 people with indigestion symptoms like stomach pain, bloating, nausea, and early fullness. The severity of the symptoms was evaluated at 28 and 56 days of treatment.

Curcumin—the active ingredient in turmeric—matched the acid-fighting power of omeprazole in relieving symptoms.

Since there was no significant difference in symptom improvement among groups, the researchers concluded that the trial provides reliable evidence for treating indigestion and that the findings may justify considering curcumin in clinical practice.

Tips for Maximizing Curcumin Absorption

Turmeric has been traditionally used in Southeast Asia to treat stomach discomfort and inflammation. In the United States, it's commonly taken as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant supplement for conditions like osteoarthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.
The benefits of curcumin, the phytonutrient that gives turmeric its color, are enhanced when consumed with black pepper and fat.
Within an hour of eating turmeric, the liver tries to eliminate it as a foreign substance. But black pepper inhibits this process, increasing curcumin's bioavailability by 2,000 percent, according to Dr. Michael Greger, a physician and founder of Nutrition Facts.

Moreover, consuming turmeric with fat allows curcumin to directly enter the bloodstream through the lymphatic system, partly bypassing the liver. In India, this is exactly how turmeric is commonly used culinarily—with fat and black pepper.

Dr. Greger suggests adding turmeric with black pepper to your favorite soups and stews. They can also be blended with bananas and cashews to make a golden turmeric smoothie, he noted.

Study Limitations

While this study shows turmeric's potential for indigestion, some caution is warranted. The symptom scale used may not be the most common, and the measurement frequency raises questions.

For example, how might the results change with more frequent symptom assessments? What could be the cumulative effect on various inflammatory conditions?

The researchers recommend consulting a doctor before using turmeric, as it may interact with medications or cause side effects like allergies or bleeding, especially for those taking blood thinners.
Jessie Zhang is a reporter based in Sydney, Australia, covering news on health and science.