Small studies suggest that high dose turmeric supplements might reduce some symptoms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. However, turmeric is not a substitute for standard treatment or lifestyle changes.

People with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) have inflammation and fat accumulation in the liver. Over time, this can affect liver functioning and overall health, even though most people with fatty liver initially have no symptoms.

NAFLD develops without excessive alcohol use. Certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, may increase the risk. As many as 75% of people with obesity may develop NAFLD.

However, some people develop the condition in the absence of any risk factors, and most estimates suggest that at least 20% of Americans have a diagnosis of NAFLD.

A healthy diet and lifestyle, as well as weight loss for people who have overweight or obesity, may help treat NAFLD.

Read on to learn about turmeric and other remedies for fatty liver.

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Several studies suggest that turmeric, or a compound it contains called curcumin, plays a role in treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Turmeric may help reduce inflammation, a key symptom of NAFLD.

In a 2021 study, 64 people with NAFLD took either 2 grams of turmeric or a placebo every day for 8 weeks. Liver enzymes dropped significantly in the turmeric group. Liver enzymes tend to climb with NAFLD.

Serum levels of triglycerides and cholesterol also declined in the turmeric group. The placebo group did not show similar changes.

A 2019 systematic review assessed five prior trials of turmeric for NAFLD. Each of the trials was small, and all had methodological shortcomings that reduced the quality of the evidence. However, the review did suggest that turmeric might be useful. The findings were as follows:

  • Three of four trials with data on turmeric or curcumin compared to baseline showed reductions in liver enzymes and the severity of NAFLD.
  • Two of four placebo-controlled studies showed significant reductions in the liver enzymes ALT and AST with turmeric or curcumin compared to placebo.
  • One trial of four placebo-controlled trials used turmeric instead of curcumin. That study did not show improvements in liver enzymes or NAFLD severity compared to the placebo group. This suggests that curcumin, rather than turmeric, could be the more important supplement.

These studies have assessed turmeric and curcumin for the treatment of NAFLD, not prevention. While it is possible that turmeric might have similar benefits in the prevention of NAFLD, research does not currently support its use. However, lifestyle factors such as maintaining a healthy body weight may prevent NAFLD.

One 2019 study did not find benefits for curcumin compared to a placebo. It included 50 people with NAFLD who took either curcumin or a placebo for 12 weeks. Researchers also provided both groups with information about lifestyle changes to combat NAFLD.

The curcumin group did not experience benefits greater than those of the placebo group.

Taken together, the data suggest that turmeric may have some benefits for NAFLD. But the research does not prove that it is a viable treatment or superior to standard treatments.

As turmeric is a supplement and not a prescription medication, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not test its effectiveness or make dosage recommendations.

Instead, supplement manufacturers recommend a range of doses — usually ranging from 500–2,000 milligrams (mg) per day. Most studies also examine dosages in this range.

To try turmeric, a person should consider starting with a lower dose of a few hundred mg, then increasing the dose weekly as long as they do not experience side effects.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that turmeric supplements and creams are likely safe, with no or few established side effects or risks. However, researchers are working to develop more concentrated, bioavailable forms of turmeric. While these might work better as a treatment, they might also cause more side effects.

Researchers do not know if it is safe to use turmeric as a supplement in amounts larger than those found in food when pregnant or breastfeeding.

Very few studies have directly tested the safety of turmeric with other drugs. While there is no clear evidence of drug interactions, there is also no evidence that it is safe. People using antibiotics, antihistamines, chemotherapy drugs, blood thinners, and any other medication should talk with a doctor before taking supplements.

While turmeric and curcumin supplements are likely safe for most individuals, it is important for a person to consult a healthcare professional on whether turmeric or curcumin supplements are safe and appropriate for their specific needs.

Rarely, turmeric and other supplements may damage the liver. A 2019 study details two case reports of turmeric-induced liver injury at relatively low doses of turmeric.

Several interventions may help treat fatty liver disease. In most cases, lifestyle interventions are the first line of treatment. They include:

Evidence suggests that people who lose as little as 3–5% of their body weight may see improvements in liver fat, but a person may need to lose up to 10% of their body weight to reduce liver inflammation.

Doctors may also prescribe medication to control and reverse symptoms, but the evidence supporting these medications is weak. Some potential drugs include:

Additionally, a person will need to treat any underlying condition that increases the risk of NAFLD, such as type 2 diabetes.

Learn more about the best diet for fatty liver disease here.

A 2019 study states that curcumin in turmeric may help prevent or reverse inflammation, which is a common problem in many disease processes. The same study suggests that the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric might be helpful in the prevention or treatment of a range of inflammatory disorders, including:

Learn more about the health benefits of turmeric here.

Some evidence suggests that supplementing with turmeric or curcumin may be helpful for those with NAFLD. However, this disease is complex, and lifestyle issues often play a significant role in both its development and treatment.

Natural remedies are not a substitute for standard treatment. They are also not an alternative to practicing a healthy lifestyle for preventing NAFLD.

People should talk with a doctor about the risks and benefits of trying turmeric and the range of treatments that might improve liver health.