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Turmeric for Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Does It Help?

Medically reviewed by Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Written by Jennifer Shuman
Posted on July 23, 2021

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic skin condition that can cause lesions or abscesses, especially in areas where skin rubs together, such as in the armpits. The cause of HS is not completely understood, so current treatments usually focus on alleviating symptoms. Most mild cases of HS can be managed with good hygiene, loose-fitting clothes, antibacterial soaps, and antiseptics. As a part of mild HS management, some people have also tried home remedies such as turmeric.

Importantly, no studies have been conducted to determine whether turmeric has a significant effect on HS flare-ups or lesions, and more research is needed to understand its potential benefits for HS symptoms.

However, in one study, about 84 percent of people living with HS reported using a complementary therapy, including turmeric. Among people who have used turmeric for HS, some say they haven’t observed any benefit, while others have reported excellent results. As one myHSteam member shared, “I have been taking turmeric capsules for over six months now, but I really don't see any effect. … My condition has been getting steadily worse.” Another said, “I do find that these turmeric pills are working, as my flare-ups are not as severe as they have been.”

What Is Turmeric?

Turmeric comes from the plant Curcuma longa, and its active ingredient is called curcumin. It is commonly used as a food additive, spice, and food coloring. It is available over the counter as a dietary supplement or in the spice aisle of most grocery stores. In experiments in the laboratory, curcumin has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, help lower cholesterol, and help protect the lining of the stomach.

How Could Turmeric Help With Hidradenitis Suppurativa?

Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties come from its ability to inhibit molecules that signal the immune system to cause and increase inflammation. One study evaluated the effectiveness of curcumin-containing compounds for reducing inflammation in humans. The researchers found that as little as 150 milligrams of turmeric taken orally twice per day was effective in reducing levels of pro-inflammatory compounds in participants’ blood. Other studies to determine the effectiveness of turmeric as an anti-inflammatory therapy have reported no benefit or a mild benefit compared to the group without any treatment. The best anti-inflammatory results tended to occur when daily oral turmeric was combined with conventional treatment.

More than 60 clinical trials since 1937 have analyzed the effectiveness of turmeric’s active ingredient in humans, and more clinical trials are still underway. However, no scientific studies have been done to determine the effectiveness of turmeric for HS specifically, whether taken orally or applied topically.

Still, anecdotal evidence suggests that turmeric may be helpful to some people with HS. A myHSteam member shared their experience: “I am thankful that a member posted that using turmeric helped control her flare-ups, so I tried it. I am having great success using turmeric and tea tree oil. I take it in pill form. I am taking 350 milligrams once a day. It’s available in the vitamin aisle of most grocery stores.”

Although turmeric is a commonly used complementary therapy for HS, a survey of almost 300 people living with the condition who used complementary therapy found that turmeric was not among the top three most helpful complementary therapies — rather, dietary changes and CBD oil were among the most effective.

How To Use Turmeric for Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Members of myHSteam have shared their own positive experiences with turmeric, taken orally or used topically.

As one member shared, “I only take turmeric pills. I take two pills after each meal. The powder form I use as a paste when I have a flare-up. If you want to drink it in a tea, you’ll have to follow the directions on the package.”

Another member suggested, “Look for turmeric curcumin, as the curcumin is the active anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric. I add turmeric powder to almost all my dishes, too. Seems to help a bit, but trying to eat mostly anti-inflammatory foods will probably get you better results than the supplement alone.”

If you are considering complementary and alternative therapy, be sure to seek medical advice from your dermatologist as a part of your treatment plan. By talking with your doctor, you can learn of any potential complicating factors or drawbacks for your particular situation.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On myHSteam, the social network for people with hidradenitis suppurativa and their loved ones, more than 21,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand.

Have you tried turmeric for your HS symptoms? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on myHSteam.

Posted on July 23, 2021
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Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Jennifer Shuman is a graduate student at Vanderbilt University pursuing her Ph.D. in pathology, microbiology, and immunology. Learn more about her here.

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