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Turmeric: Tasty in Curry, Questionable as Medicine

turmericA correspondent asked me to look into the science behind the health claims for turmeric. He had encountered medical professionals “trying to pass turmeric as some sort of magical herb to cure us from the ‘post-industrial chemical apocalypse.’” It is recommended by the usual promoters of CAM: Oz, Weil, Mercola, and the Health Ranger (who conveniently sells his own superior product, Turmeric Gold liquid extract for $17 an ounce).

Turmeric (Cucurma longa) is a plant in the ginger family that is native to southeast India. It is also known as curcumin. The rhizomes are ground into an orange-yellow powder that is used as a spice in Indian cuisine. It has traditionally been used in folk medicine for various indications; and it has now become popular in alternative medicine circles, where it is claimed to be effective in treating a broad spectrum of diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and diabetes. One website claims science has proven it to be as effective as 14 drugs, including statins like Lipitor, corticosteroids, antidepressants like Prozac, anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen, the chemotherapy drug oxaliplatin, and the diabetes drug metformin. I wish those claims were true, because turmeric is far less expensive and probably much safer than prescription drugs. It clearly has some interesting properties, but the claims go far beyond the actual evidence.

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database has reviewed all the available scientific studies and has concluded that it is “Likely Safe,” “Possibly Effective” for dyspepsia and osteoarthritis, and “Insufficient Reliable Evidence” to rate effectiveness for other indications, such as Alzheimer’s, anterior uveitis, colorectal cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and skin cancer.

Mechanism of action

The “14 drugs” website says turmeric is one of the most thoroughly researched plants ever, with 5,600 peer-reviewed studies, 175 distinct beneficial physiological effects, and 600 potential preventive and therapeutic applications. They provide a database of 1,585 hyperlinks to turmeric abstracts. Naturally I can’t read all of them, but a sampling indicates that they are almost entirely animal and in vitro studies. The NMCD has conveniently provided a list of the most pertinent studies.

The pertinent preclinical studies, in animal models and in vitro, indicate that curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties; can induce apoptosis in cancer cells and may inhibit angiogenesis; has antithrombotic effects; can decrease the amyloid plaque associated with Alzheimer’s; has some activity against bacteria, Leishmania, HIV; etc. These effects sound promising, but animal studies and in vitro studies may not be applicable to humans. As Rose Shapiro pointed out in her book Suckers, you can kill cancer cells in a Petri dish with a flame thrower or bleach. Preclinical studies must always be followed by clinical studies in humans before we can make any recommendations to patients.

Preliminary clinical research

There are preliminary pilot studies in humans suggesting that:

Clinical research on turmeric is being funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), but the NCCAM website is not very encouraging. Under the section What the Science Says, it reads:

  • There is little reliable evidence to support the use of turmeric for any health condition because few clinical trials have been conducted.
  • Preliminary findings from animal and other laboratory studies suggest that a chemical found in turmeric—called curcumin—may have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antioxidant properties, but these findings have not been confirmed in people.
  • NCCAM-funded investigators have studied the active chemicals in turmeric and their effects—particularly anti-inflammatory effects—in human cells to better understand how turmeric might be used for health purposes. NCCAM is also funding basic research studies on the potential role of turmeric in preventing acute respiratory distress syndrome, liver cancer, and post-menopausal osteoporosis.

Side effects

Turmeric is generally considered safe, but high doses have caused indigestion, nausea, vomiting, reflux, diarrhea, liver problems, and worsening of gallbladder disease. The NMCD warns that it may interact with anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs to increase the risk of bleeding, that it should be used with caution in patients with gallstones or gallbladder disease and in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease, and that it should be discontinued at least 2 weeks before elective surgery. Purchasers of supplements are not given that information.

Conclusion

The “14 drugs” website recommends that everyone:

use certified organic (non-irradiated) turmeric in lower culinary doses on a daily basis so that heroic doses won’t be necessary later in life after a serious disease sets in.

There is no evidence to support any part of that recommendation. And the scientific evidence for turmeric is insufficient to incorporate it into medical practice. As with so many supplements, the hype has gone way beyond the actual evidence. There are some promising hints that it may be useful, but there are plenty of promising hints that lots of other things “may” be useful too. Since I have no rational basis for choosing one over another, I see no reason to jump on the turmeric bandwagon. On the other hand, I see no compelling reason to advise people not to use it, as long as they understand the state of the evidence well enough to provide informed consent and know that they are essentially guinea pigs in an uncontrolled experiment that makes no attempt to collect data. I will keep an open mind and stay tuned for further evidence in the form of well-designed clinical studies in humans.

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements

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171 thoughts on “Turmeric: Tasty in Curry, Questionable as Medicine

  1. renckens says:

    Nice paper! But is not the correct name ” curcuma’?

    1. BillyJoe says:

      According to the following source, tumeric is one of about 80 species of curcuma.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curcuma

    2. Windriven says:

      Curcuma is the plant genus. Curcumin is the putatively active biological component, also diferuloylmethane.

      I wonder if Health Ranger would sell as much if it was labeled as diferuloylmethane?

    3. Flower says:

      It’s Curcuma longa (turmeric).

  2. Windriven says:

    “guinea pigs in an uncontrolled experiment that makes no attempt to collect data.”

    And you know what Adam Savage says!

  3. Windriven says:

    I apologize in advance for an off topic comment but comments are closed on the appropriate posts.

    Many claims have been made in the comments pages of SBM that US doctors don’t discuss diet and exercise with their patients. A new report out by the Commonwealth Fund places the US highest in cost by far and dead last in relative rankings on most outcome measures.

    But one area where the US led the pack was discussing diet and exercise with patients. See Exhibit 4A. Better than UK, better than Sweden, better than Germany. Best of the 11 nations studied.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Thanks for that windriven. I’m saving that in my archives.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      I wonder if that’s of necessity because of the number of obese patients they see?

      Oh data, you seductive, beguiling, misdirecting fancy-pants.

      1. Windriven says:

        Good question, William. But there are plenty of portly Germans and Swedes, though generally not as rotund as some in this country.

        But then diet and exercise aren’t just for the fatties. A sedentary lifestyle or one marked by consumption of limited foods can carry its own risks.

      2. mouse says:

        Wait! Maaaybe the additional discussion of diet and exercise is causing the obesity epidemic in the U.S. —huh? huh? Every think of that, smarty pants*?

        *The internet is sadly lacking in a tag for Pee-wee Herman voice intonation.

    3. irenegoodnight says:

      Interesting, but if I may offer an anecdote (!), in twenty years of being overweight not one of the (at least a dozen) docs I saw mentioned my weight–let alone “discussed” it with me.

      Another anecdote: my brother-in-law has been put on a severe diet (850 cal/day) by a cardiologist. I cannot imagine this will result in meaningful or permanent weight loss. There was a meeting with a dietician, but no other supportive services.

      One more: When I told my current internist that I had lost significant weight, but was worried about maintaining it, she shrugged and informed me she was a size 0.

      What I’m getting at is that the quacks offer a lot more support, which is what brings people into the fold.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        Wow…your doctors are assholes. Congratulations on your weight loss and here’s hoping you maintain it. And thanks for being willing to discuss it.

    4. Lytrigian says:

      If this is the off-topic thread, then I’d also like to call everyone’s attention to Dr. Oz being hauled before a Congressional committee today to be grilled over his “miracle weight loss” pills. He tried to paint himself as a victim of fraud. No one seemed to buy it, by the reports I heard.

      1. Harriet Hall says:

        Stay tuned. SBM will cover that.

        1. Lytrigian says:

          I can’t wait. *cracks knuckles*

      2. Andrey Pavlov says:

        Haha, indeed. I’ve already watched the relevant video here.

        And yes, let’s say a little birdie told me that it will be covered here and in other not-so-secret other places.

  4. Cervantes says:

    Well, one benefit of turmeric is that it is an essential spice in Indian cooking, which is heavy on the veggies. It’s a good culinary tradition on which to base a healthy diet, and what the heck, if the turmeric does indeed do you any good, you’ll be eating it anyway.

    1. DevoutCatalyst says:

      Always bought mine as whole root at the Indian grocery store in Chicago, they sold large amounts of it. Can be container grown at home in short season climates. Good stuff.

    2. Frederick says:

      Indian food is the best! That and sushi. my favorite food : 1: Indian, 2: Sushi 3: Italian 4 Thai, 5 all the rest :-)

      Just a out of topic question to you: is Cervantes your family name or something? I have a Friend here who from Chile, and his family name is Cervantes, it sounds badass! :-)

      1. Windriven says:

        I was right with you until Thai. Don’t know what it is – and of course there are Thai dishes that I enjoy – but it would never make my top 5.

        1. Frederick says:

          It depends of the meal I guess, But me and My GF spend a Month in thailand in 2006, and the chicken and green papaya salad was awesome, the papaya we have here is disgusting, but fresh, miam! They have good meat but also really good vegetarian meal, soup etc. We eat every kind of food!

          I could have had Egyptian/ north africa food too. In 2009 we spend a month in Egypt, and the food was also awesome. They ahve traditional food, and modern food mixte with traditional, like a Shawarma chicken pizza i ate in Alexandria. My god… so good

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:

            I’m more with you Frederick.

            My problem is that Asian food as a whole is my favorite. I know that is sort of “cheating.” If I had to pick only one, it would probably be Japanese, followed closely by Thai and Chinese, then Vietnamese, and lastly Korean. I could live my life without having Korean again, but lack of the others would leave me sad.

            I spent 2 weeks in Thailand back in 2008 and absolutely loved it (I already loved the food before going). I ate everything I could find and loved every bite of it. Upon returning home food was bland to the point of being nearly tasteless for a few weeks.

            1. Frederick says:

              One of the thing I really liked, Was in Bangkok, you get up in the morning, get a super cold fresh green orange juice ( So smooth and good, not like that nasty super acid tropica) with BBQ grilled banana, while walking on the street.

            2. Windriven says:

              Andrey,
              I wonder if you aren’t basing your dislike of Korean food on nasty restaurants. Real Korean food is as different from restaurant fare as real Chinese food is from the stuff you get at House of Wong. It is often spicy but in the vein of New Orleans spicy where the heat brings other deep flavors to the party.

              1. Greg says:

                The only place to get real Chinese food is in China, otherwise Chinese cooks adapt their recipes to incorporate locally grown vegetables. In a way it can still be considered authentic, however it would not be considered real Chinese food.

                Indian cuisine is much too spicy for my wussy stomach, however turmeric goes great with vegetables, rice, etc. Chinese food is also heavy on sauces, which as you know can be hiding lots of calories. I like that veggies are cooked el dente in Chinese cuisine but I can do without all the salt and sauces they use.

              2. simba says:

                Greg- try red lentils with a small amount of turmeric and ginger, boiled until a smooth paste. One of my comfort food staples, and not at all spicy. It’s the epitome of simple but effective foods.

          2. Windriven says:

            The food in Egypt is wonderful. Lamb is well understood in most of the Middle East and most especially by the Lebanese. Have you ever had kibbe nahiya(sp?)? Spiced chopped raw lamb that is beyond spectacular.

            As to our friend Andrey’s dislike of Korean food, I can only shriek in horror. One of my closest friends is Korean and we eat at each other’s homes almost weekly. Koreans understand fish as well – though differently – than Japanese. Koreans eat more sashimi than nigiri or maki. One of my greatest delights is Korean Fishbowl (I’ve forgotten the Korean name and I couldn’t spell it much less pronounce it if I did). A bed of rice, freshly picked salad greens, strips of Korean cucumber (and they are all I grow – similar to English cucumbers but not as long and with a very tender skin. I rarely peel them), sesame seeds, slices of three or four different types of fish, and a spicy but not overpowering sauce that one adds to their own bowl as desired. Nirvana.

            1. Andrey Pavlov says:

              Woah there Windriven!

              I never said I dislike Korean food. I actually rather like it and ate it regularly in undergrad (UCI and the surrounding region is heavily populated with Asians of all backgrounds). I was merely saying that of the ones listed it is the only one I could find myself not being sad at losing – not that I would prefer to lose it.

              As for Middle Eastern – comes in 3rd for me (Mexican is always vying for top spot with Asian cuisine for me). It was – for all intents and purposes – what I grew up on. The Bulgarians were ruled by the Ottoman Empire for 500 years after all. And I’ve eaten it all – and loved it all. I’ve been to Turkey and loved the food. In undergrad I lived with a couple of Iranians and regularly had their mom’s home cooking. The funny part was when they would ask me if I’d tried a particular dish before. I’d say no, and then they’d bring it. Then I would tell them I had eaten it, we just have a different name for it in Bulgarian.

              The real point being that I love all foods. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Asian cuisine and if you called that cheating I’d say Japanese. But the difference in my love for all those cuisines could fit on a the head of a pin.

              All I was really saying is that Thai definitely cracks my top 5 regardless of how one decides is “fair” to break it up.

              Thankfully I don’t have to choose :-D

              1. Windriven says:

                Yes Andrey, foreign travel is a broadening experience. I have eaten a lot of odd things in a number of strange countries and I’ve found that the things that the locals eat are usually pretty darned good. Except for plain boiled okra and some kind of Tanzanian dessert that was a fond touchstone of a friend’s childhood that I just couldn’t learn to like.

              2. Frederick says:

                Food fight! lol

                I tried Korean food only once, a good restaurant in Montreal called Mr Bong, And the food was really good. I don’t remember exactly what i ate there, some kind a of stir vegetable with chicken maybe,it was a long time ago, but i remember clearly that i loved it. But i do not have more experience than that.

                I girl firend went to Burma in 2010, the food there is not really good, she told me, they don’t use spice. It is quit drab compare to other place in south east asia. Last February she went to Lao, so, now she have a good baseline for comparison of asian food :-) And she’s also a super cook!

              3. Andrey Pavlov says:

                a good restaurant in Montreal called Mr Bong, And the food was really good.

                With a name like that there may be some pharmacologically active flavor enhancers involved ;-)

              4. Kathy says:

                I went plant collecting a couple of years ago at a little coastal place called Port St Johns (in South Africa) with two visiting medical researchers, and dragged them off to a local eatery up the hill. No way to drive up, you had to walk and cross a very rickety log bridge on the way. They have awesome homemade food, especially the locally caught crayfish, and very good lamb schwarma. The place is just basically an open shed, but with a lovely view down into the bay. These two guys ate hamburgers, were horrified when the owner’s dog wandered in and lay down under one table, and admitted the last time they were there they ate at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in town. I got the impression that next time they visited they would be back at KFC.

                Sigh.

      2. Cervantes says:

        No, Cervantes is the pseudonym I use for blogging (see my website). My real identity is not a secret, you can go there and figure it out. I admire Cervantes as one of the first humanists, and I am interested in Spanish culture and speak Spanish (somewhat) as a second language.

  5. stuart says:

    Timely article. Thanks. One of the senior living centers here is being overrun with advice from a retired doctor who lives there telling all the residents to take this as it will cure their arthritis.

    1. egstras says:

      My husband, who is “riddled” with arthritis (according to his rheumatologist), runs into this magic cure stuff constantly.

      such idiocy.

      1. Gideon says:

        I am not into miracle cures myself, but my doctor recommended me a product when i complained about pain in my knees and he determined it was osteoarthritiis (after xrays.)
        It was a combination of circuminoids and glucosamine and claimed to be 3x faster than glucosamine alone in trials. (2 weeks as opposed to 6). I felt it helped significantly until I lost enough weight to stop having knee problems (through excercise and diet.) I don’t want to say I am sure it is a longtime cure, but my experience was at leasted shared by my doctor and the patient who recommended it to him.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Glucosamine doesn’t work anyway – it’s just protein. You break it down like any other protein. You lost weight and that’s what helped – take the credit.

  6. Frederick says:

    Excellent Article! yeah there’s always over-hype over the chemical ( CHEMICAL!!!! evil!!) propriety of some foods, but like a lot of them, it might be there, but the effect might also be super weak. Thank for the good read.

    In french, turmeric Is curcuma, that’s how it’s called, all types of curcuma are cucurma.

    The hype of “anti-cancer” ingredient in food is going a little too strong, of course it as some truth in it, but there’s a overhype of it, even in scientist. We have this guy Here, Richard Béliveau, ( English version of his site here http://www.richardbeliveau.org/en.html) he has a PHD in biochemistry. Unlike Americans, in french people with PhD are not called Doctor, only the MDs have this privilege, and for a while this guy was part of a tv show, and they called him Doctor, which confused peoples into thinking he was a MD, but he his not. So This man have written books about cancer prevention with food, the chemistry is there and all, but his studies are all in petri dishes
    ( 245 of them in pub med http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=B%C3%A9liveau%20RAuthor&cauthor=true&cauthor_uid=24326154)

    His promoting all that, green tea, olive oil and curcuma is ones of his big “anti-cancer” ingredients. The problem his, the guy his not a quack, he his a serious biochemist, he just seem to forget that, petri is one thing, human body can be different. So people buy what he his saying without question, his a scientist, so what he’s saying must be true!
    Not that it is dangerous,( I love Indian food, my girl friend made some really spicy lentils this week, tasty stuff) but it still not completely true, and he overhype those a little to much to my taste.

    Couple of years ago, I thought he was a MD at first, until I talk to My Girlfriend Best friend, ( she past her royal Canadian school of medicine test last week, congrats to her!) she explain to me he was not, and all his hype where in growing medias, I learned a lot that day on how studies work.

    1. Eldric IV says:

      Unlike Americans, in french people with PhD are not called Doctor, only the MDs have this privilege

      That is interesting, considering doctor comes from the Latin docere (to teach) and came to prominence as a term for the Church fathers in the early middle ages, later applied to those who held the highest degrees from university, and only in the mid 16th century did it come to be associated with the medical profession (and it did so via the association with university education).

      1. Frederick says:

        Often PhD in others area than medicine will be called “Professeur” ( professor teacher), That was the case with this guy after complains about him being called Doctor by his co-Tv host, while he was not a medical Doctor.

        I don’t know why in French we have this distinction, but maybe to avoid the confusion. or maybe it became so, just by tradition of calling doctors Doctor, origin of language is not an area I’m familiar with. But personally I prefer it that way, It make sense. So if the big bang theory was a french Tv serie, the jokes about Wolowitz not being called Doctor would not hold up lol :-)

    2. Lytrigian says:

      Strictly speaking, it’s not correct in America for PhD holders to use “doctor” as a social title either. (Thus sayeth Judith Martin, America’s leading expert on etiquette.) That many do anyway is a sign of pomposity, not propriety.

      In academia, calling someone “doctor” can be positively offensive, since a doctorate of some kind is a minimum expectation and indicates no sort of distinction at all.

      1. Egstra says:

        If I remember correctly, Miss Manners said tht, in her father’s world, “PhDs were like noses… more conspicuous by their absence.”

        1. Lytrigian says:

          It was her uncle, but yes.

          In the end you’re supposed to call people what they want to be called. So if someone with a PhD does call himself “Doctor” you follow suit.

  7. chris hickie says:

    Rearranged, turmeric spells mercurit.

  8. Boris Makharov says:

    For intelligent and interested readers who want to know the truth of current research about cancer and curcumin, go to this website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/.

    This amazing database comprises more than 23 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books.

    Once at the home page, type in the search terms “cancer” and “curcumin.” You will find a lot of unbiased information that contrary to this article indicates great promise for the use of this substance in treating cancer. So much so is this the case that you’d have to be an idiot not to use it if you have cancer.

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      “For intelligent and interested readers who want to know the truth of current research about cancer and curcumin, go to this website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/.”

      Guess what? I know all about PubMed and consulted it before writing my article. And as I said in my article, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database reviewed all the pertinent studies. Most intelligent and interested readers will know enough to use the “Clinical Queries” tab on PubMed to narrow the search to clinically relevant studies. Apparently you missed my point: there are lots of studies in animals and test tubes, but not enough clinical studies in humans to establish the safety and efficacy of curcumin for treating cancer or any other condition.

    2. Andrey Pavlov says:

      I find it hilarious that Boris thinks he is dropping some serious knowledge on us by telling us to use PubMed. One can also link directly to the search he is wishing us to do. Even better, Boris, you can do a search that shows only clinical trials on curcumin in humans and see there are only 33 listings. Or look at just systematic reviews and see there are only 14.

      Of those only 6 are specifically about curcumin only and specific effects on cancer.

      Of those only one is actually a review of actual clinical data on cancer – all the rest of reviews of pre-clinical bench data and potential effects on neoplastic proliferation in vitro. The one is on colorectal cancer and says:

      Recent clinical trials suggest a potential role for curcumin in regards to colorectal cancer therapy.

      [emphasis added]

      The rest of the articles have essentially the same thing to say:

      “These studies reported promising results in inhibiting human cancer cell proliferation and tumorigenesis in animal models”

      Curcumin might be helpful for some but certainly not for all patients with monoclonal gammopathies.

      [emphasis added]

      At present, there is no convincing clinical proof or evidence that the cited phythochemicals [incl. curcumin] might be used in an attempt to cure cancer of the prostate.

      With only one reference being positive enough to say:

      There is ample evidence to support its clinical use, both as a prevention and a treatment.

      The remainder of the references talk about molecular signalling pathways and the problems with curcumin and how to overcome them:

      Curcumin is well-tolerated but has a reduced systemic bioavailability.

      This review also discusses potential challenges involved in the use of curcumin in HCC, such as bioavailability, pharmacokinetics, drug delivery as well as paucity of clinical studies.

      [emphasis added]

      So, Boris, how is this any different to what Dr. Hall said when she concluded:

      There are some promising hints that it may be useful, but there are plenty of promising hints that lots of other things “may” be useful too… On the other hand, I see no compelling reason to advise people not to use it, as long as they understand the state of the evidence well enough to provide informed consent and know that they are essentially guinea pigs in an uncontrolled experiment that makes no attempt to collect data. I will keep an open mind and stay tuned for further evidence in the form of well-designed clinical studies in humans.

      Gee golly that sure seems to comport with the actual literature from PubMed (which, we here happen to know how to use rather well, thank you very much).

      But it certainly does not comport with your hyperbolic conclusion of:

      So much so is this the case that you’d have to be an idiot not to use it if you have cancer.

    3. R. Miller says:

      “unbiased information”

      There is no such thing. Papers, despite being the best tool we have for disseminating scientific findings are, ultimately, narratives. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lab, industry, advocacy group, or a sad 40 year old man in basement building perpetual motion machines trying to take something to publication – scrutiny by the reader is never optional.

      “great promise”

      Not good enough, I don’t promise patients things – I give them risks, costs, and benefits in the context of the best information available. To promise what is unknown is simply a way to rationalize lying.

      1. Windriven says:

        “scrutiny by the reader is never optional”

        Can’t be said enough times.

  9. Mike says:

    “certified organic (non-irradiated) turmeric ”

    Why the irrational fear of irradiation? The quacks pile quackery upon quackery.

    1. Kathy says:

      Why organic? Quacks are into selling their goods not improving people’s life skills or logic. They know what will press the buttons of their most likely customers, and “irradiated”, “organic”, “natural”, rhubarb, rhubab, will do the trick and bring in the dollars.

      1. Emily says:

        I realize that there’s no evidence that organic food is healthier for us, but what about people who work in the fields. Is organic farming, especially for fruits and veggies, more healthy for farm workers than conventionally grown food?

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          @Emily:

          Arguably not, as “organic” means that modern synthetic pesticides cannot be used. That means using older, less effective, and more toxic pesticides… and more of them.

          In fact, the process is so inefficient that many large farms produce both “organic” and not-organic produce. They surround the “organic” crops with the non-organic ones to make it so that the better pesticides can help protect the organic crops a bit more without losing the ability to put the nothing-but-marketing sticker of “organic” on the produce and sell it for 2-3 times as much money.

          1. simba says:

            Rotenone is ‘natural’, can be used in organic farming, and has been linked to a Parkinson’s-like illness in farm workers.

            I would absolutely be behind a certification that the pesticides etc being used were of above-average safety for humans and the environment, that measures had been taken to prevent run-off and water pollution, or to maintain some biodiversity and protect native fauna and flora. But people think that’s what ‘organic’ is, and it’s really not.

            1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              Ironically, Round-Up is incredibly safe in humans as it latches onto a protein found in plants that humans completely lack (and it breaks down in the environment incredibly quickly) – yet the idea of Round-Up Ready crops horrifies the organic crowd.

  10. John Ford says:

    sadly, ironically, the Amazon page for “Suckers” hawks three SCAM links under “Customers viewing this page may be interested in these sponsored links”

    oy.

  11. Kevin says:

    I can say that turmeric helped heal my cancer – here’s a new video – Turmeric Benefits and Cancer Cure – its really good – check it out and btw can you do me a favour when you are watching it – leave a comment – like it and send it to your friends who may like it too…I will love you forever if you do :))

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fkHlXdNOuI

    1. Woo Fighter says:

      Of course Kevin is an asshole multi-level marketer spammer who just so happens to sell an entire line of “alkalizing” supplements and other crap no one needs.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      If tumeric is so great, why hasn’t it shown results in human trials?

      If it cures cancer, why do Indians, who eat a lot of tumeric, die of cancer? One “lakh” is 100,000 by the way.

  12. William M. London says:

    Many, if not most, cancer quacks promote turmeric among the many nostrums they recommend.

  13. CJ says:

    Thought I’d pass this interesting tidbit along. Was going to send it directly to the editors, but this post is as good a place as any.

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/17/health/senate-grills-dr-oz/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

    (CNN) — Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of “The Doctor Oz Show,” was grilled Tuesday by senators on Capitol Hill about the promotion of weight loss products on his show.
    Sen. Claire McCaskill, chairwoman of the subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance, led the panel that looked at false advertising for weight loss products. Subcommittee members took issue with claims Oz has made on his show about products that don’t have a lot of scientific evidence to back them up, such as green coffee beans.
    “The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles,’” said McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat. She said she was discouraged by the “false hope” his rhetoric gives viewers and questioned his role, “intentional or not, in perpetuating these scams.”
    “I don’t get why you need to say this stuff when you know it’s not true. When you have this amazing megaphone, why would you cheapen your show?… With power comes a great deal of responsibility.”
    Oz told the committee that he does use “flowery language” to describe certain products on his show, but added he believes in them so much he has given them to his own family.
    “My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience, and when they don’t think they have hope, when they don’t think they can make it happen, I want to look, and I do look everywhere, including in alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them,” Oz told the panel.
    He testified that he could not be held responsible for what certain companies say online about the products. He said he’s toned down some of his language and will publish a list of products he thinks really can help people lose weight.
    “To not have the conversation about supplements at all however would be a disservice to the viewer,” Oz said in a prepared statement after the hearing. “In addition to exercising an abundance of caution in discussing promising research and products in the future, I look forward to working with all those present today in finding a way to deal with the problems of weight loss scams.”
    In May, the Federal Trade Commission sued the sellers of Green Coffee Beans for deceiving consumers through fake news sites and invented health claims. The FTC said that weeks after “The Doctor Oz Show” promoted the benefits of Pure Green Coffee, some companies that marketed the product used video from his show to increase sales.
    The FTC told CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that there are just “too many” of these products to sue them all. But consumers should be wary of certain phrases that are most certainly false, the FTC said, including any that claim to help you lose weight without diet and exercise.
    Bottom line — don’t believe everything you see. Do your homework online and make sure any claim about a weight loss product is backed up by scientific evidence.

  14. Martin says:

    Examine.com has a good page on curcumin: http://examine.com/supplements/Curcumin/ (including a note on its pisspoor bio availability).

  15. Krishna Sanger says:

    I am from India. We as a people have been eating turmeric for ages and know not whether it has any particular curative properties but one thing is certain and that is
    it enhances the color (eye appeal) and the taste of the food (when cooked our way).

    1. Kathy says:

      Turmeric is certainly very useful in traditional Indian cookery, but exaggerating it’s uses makes it look silly.

      I was introduced to eating pomegranate seeds by some Pakistani friends, who included it in a salad, and it was very nice, but I shake my head and laugh when I read all sorts of daft statements about how it will cure all sorts of things. Same story.

      1. simba says:

        It’s the medicalization of food. It’s not enough that it tastes good, looks good, and is probably good for you- it has to have this specific component which will make your hair grow longer, cure cancer and make you lose weight.

        Of course it’s sooo much better to get it in a nice pill or spray form, rather than actually eating anything. Most of the health food shops I’ve been in have less space devoted to dry foods (brown rice, lentils, pulses) than to sweets, and have shelves upon shelves of nice (and pricey) pills and potions which claim to have antioxidants, green tea extract, pomegranate extract, fibre…

        No fruit or veg in the whole shop, of course. Pill trumps food every time. Maybe they could have a big sign describing the various wonderful things in their new kid-friendly, flavoured vitamin supplement, the apple.

      2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        Indeed, if these magic ingredients are so magical, why do people whose traditional cuisines include large amounts of each die at rates of any other people with similar access to similar standards of medical care? Why do Indians die of cancer (get arthritis, develop diabetes, insert your magical cure-all claim here) if tumeric is so effective a preventative and treatment aid?

        1. Pete says:

          http://www.mightyturmeric.com/80/cancer-rates-india-versus-us/

          Well apparently Indians have about a third as much cancer as we do….

          1. Windriven says:

            Interesting. Of course I suspect that the diagnosis and reporting rates for very many diseases is different in India than in the US. But it doesn’t seem likely that would account for such a great disparity. Of course there are so many other confounders. Many Hindi practice vegetarianism and those who don’t, I think, don’t eat beef or pork. Total caloric load is much lower than in the US. I’m sure there are dozens of other confounders.

          2. Harriet Hall says:

            Life expectancy in India is 70.

          3. Chris says:

            How would you know? According to the CIA World Factbook their average life expectancy is under 68 years (about ten years less than the USA), their literacy rate is under 64% and the risk of infectious disease is very high.

            Cancer is a disease that becomes more prevalent when one gets older. In this table the numbers of from “malignent neoplasms” triple from under 65 to over 65. So the statistic from “Mighty Tumeric” website is kind of meaningless.

            1. Windriven says:

              Age is an important variable that I hadn’t considered, Chris. And again there are many confounders. Also, tracing through to the IARC source data, the data quality for India is only rated C while it is A for the US.

              All that said, the incidence differences are really stark. Of course I’m not suggesting that turmeric has anything to do with it. But it is an interesting observation.

              1. Chris says:

                My brother spent two years in India as part of his job not too long ago. The differences in getting basic services contrasted greatly from his previous assignment in New Zealand. That includes water, electricity and even access to education.

                His stories have made me a bit more aware of the situation there, which is why I get annoyed with idle comparisons (though I see the literacy rate in India has improved 2% since I made that comment, so there is progress).

          4. MadisonMD says:

            A few likely reasons why unadjusted cancer rates are lower in India than U.S.
            (1) Younger population. India has a much younger population, not just due to life expectancy, but also due to higher birth rates. This can be seen from the population pyramids as indicated in Chris’ links for India here and for US here. (Click on people and society, then on population pyramid).
            (2) Less diagnosis due to lack of screening and awareness. What fraction of the U.S. population has regular screening mammograms, colonoscopies, PSA, pap smears? What is the fraction in India? Well, for mammograms, it is about 70% in the US age 50-74. In India, there is no data on mammography screening rate, but it is certainly very low– there is no national breast cancer screening program, and research interventions are aimed at getting poorly educated women to bring breast lumps to medical attention.
            (3) Data quality. The data source for “mightytumeric.com” is WHO, which reports the quality of the data here. How does the quality compare?
            U.S.: grade A
            India: grade C

            To deal with #1, you use age-adjusted measures. To deal with #2, you ignore incidence and stick to mortality (though this is confounded by better cancer care in U.S.). There is no possible way to deal with #3. Fortunately, the WHO website allows us to get age-specific mortality stats. Here is the result:
            age US India
            0-14 2.3 2.6
            15-39 8.8 13.2
            40-44 37.1 59.9
            45-49 80.1 94
            50-54 148.4 131.9
            55-59 248.2 175.7
            60-64 393.2 242.6
            65-69 590.7 321.3
            70-74 829.2 378.7
            75+  1368.5 452.1

            So this shows that age-specific cancer mortality is lower in the U.S. up to age 49 (why doesn’t tumeric work in the first 50 years of life?), but then is higher in the next 50 years.

            Don’t neglect competing causes of death. Could it be tumeric works only if you are older than age 50? Well, I’d certainly consider the alternative. Without regular medical care the likelihood of an elderly Indian dying of heart disease is twice the US, and death from stroke is more than 4x as high. Without universal access to clean water, Indians are more than 100x as likely as U.S. residents to die of cholera. Then there is TB. Right? Yep, compare rates right here. If you get cholera or have a stroke, that tumor in the colon doesn’t kill you.

            To be consistent with “mithytumeric” claims, we also need to conclude that tumeric causes increased deaths from stroke, heart disease, and cholera from these epidemiologic data? I wonder what “mighttumeric.com” would say? (not really).

            In conclusion, Pete, I call BS on your claim.

            1. Harriet Hall says:

              I wonder… since the death rate in India is higher at younger ages, is it possible that those who survive past 50 are a select group? Perhaps those who are healthy enough to survive the risks of youth and live past a certain age are likely to stay healthy and live longer. In the US, we may be keeping the less healthy population alive to an age where they succumb more readily to diseases that the more healthy are more resistant to. We could speculate endlessly, but I don’t see that speculating about turmeric is any more compelling than other explanations.

  16. Lane Simonian says:

    The bioavailability of curcumin is indeed a major problem. Some researchers are trying to develop forms of curcumin that are better absorbed into the bloodstream.

    Clinical trials of curcumin for Alzheimer’s disease are ongoing. The following is not from a clinical trial but shows that curcumin may be of some use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

    We describe here three patients with the Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) whose behavioral symptoms were improved remarkably as a result of the turmeric treatment, which is the traditional Indian medicine. Their cognitive decline and Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) were very severe. All three patients exhibited irritability, agitation, anxiety, and apathy, two patients suffer from urinary incontinence and wonderings. They were prescribed turmeric powder capsules and started recovering from these symptoms without any adverse reaction in the clinical symptom and laboratory data. After 12 weeks of the treatment, total score of the Neuro-Psychiatric Inventory-brief questionnaire decreased significantly in both acuity of symptoms and burden of caregivers. In one case, the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score was up five points, from 12/30 to 17/30. In the other two cases, no significant change was seen in the MMSE; however, they came to recognize their family within 1 year treatment. All cases have been taking turmeric for more than 1 year, re-exacerbation of BPSD was not seen. The present cases suggest a significant improvement of the behavioral symptoms in the AD with the turmeric treatment, leading to probable benefit of the use of turmeric in individuals with the AD with BPSD.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665200/

    Curcumin is a methoxyphenol which scavenges peroxynitrites which is a powerful oxidant linked to many diseases. Highly concentrated methoxyphenols such as eugenol in various essential oils (such as rosemary essential oil) that can be inhaled into the brain through aromatherapy or combinations of high concentrated methoxyphenols such as ferulic acid, vanillic acid, and syringic acid in heat-processed ginseng have partially reversed Alzheimer’s disease in human clinical trials in people with mild to moderately severe Alzheimer’s disease.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1479-8301.2009.00299.x/abstract

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22780999

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      @Lane Simonian:

      That is very good preliminary work. I hope that some derivative of curcumin can prove to be the basis for a treatment for Alzheimers one day.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        Does inhaling something allow it to bypass the blood-brain barrier? Or is it about skipping first-pass effects?

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          No, inhaling would not bypass BBB. It would bypass first-pass metabolism though.

          Making it less polar (more fat-like) is what will help it bypass the BBB.

          In a trivial sense sniffing can bypass the BBB since technically speaking your olfactory nerve is your brain extending outside the body and through the cribriform plate of the skull. However, mucosal absorption would still be the predominate way things gets absorbed via sniffing purely because the nasal mucosa has more surface area than the olfactory nerve. Either way it is a limited way of getting absorption which is why only rather potent drugs can be administered this way and they have a short duration of effect (for example one can give a whiff of fentanyl to kids to give a couple minutes of minor analgesia for a painful procedure).

          My comment was more to stress the fact that this is good preliminary data. It is hypothesis generating not hypothesis demonstrating. There is no reason to believe a priori that curcumin would have zero effect on Alzheimer’s and the data presented shows it may be worth pursuing further. However, it is almost certain that just plain ol’ curcumin won’t be the final answer – just like all other drugs, if it shows promise in larger and more rigorous trials, it will need to be tweaked to make it more bioavailable, have less side effects, and increased potency.

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:

            That should be “pass through the BBB” not “bypass the BBB.” There are only two areas where one can bypass the BBB ever (assuming a healthy brain of course). The olfactory nerve as I mentioned and the area postrema of the chemotactic trigger zone. Basically a small area of brain just inferior to the 4th ventricle that does not have a BBB and is used in sensing toxins in the blood and inducing nausea. Evolutionarily speaking it is basically a way for the brain to detect and purge toxins that may not be able to pass through the BBB.

            The CTZ is a serotonergic nucleus of the brain, which is why the best anti-emetics are serotonin antagonists.

        2. Lane Simonian says:

          Inhalation is a potential way around the traditional blood-brain barrier. The molecule has to be small enough to get by the blood in the nose and to not be subject to the efflux defense mechanisms of the nose. The two conditions are met by the compounds in essential oils via aromatherapy.

          1. Lane Simonian says:

            I was not able to see Andrey’s replies before posting my own. Those replies are on target on every point.

            1. Andrey Pavlov says:

              Thank you for the kind words Lane.

              I also realized one more pedantically technical exception to my BBB discussion (and I know WLU loves pedantically technical stuff).

              The eye. Technically the optic nerve is also an extension of the brain outside the skull. The dural sheath extends all the way to the cup of the fovea, so technically there is still BBB there, but the retinal ganglionic neurons interface directly with the axons projecting from the optic nerve. Therefore, technically, there is a gap in the BBB there that could be accessed. But only by intra-vitreal injection. Which does happen, but for the most part it is used for treatment of the retina not for infusion into the brain since it would be an incredibly bad way of trying to get drugs into the brain.

              1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                and I know WLU loves pedantically technical stuff

                It’s true, I do. Pedantry is my real middle name, but people ask fewer questions if I stick with “Lawrence”.

                I wasn’t specifically asking about tumeric BTW, it was more aimed at Lane’s reference to essential oils that prompted my question. Upon review, it is indeed very preliminary work (I missed that it was only three patients on first read). I’m curious that the alleged antioxidant properties are being mentioned given AD’s etiology; wouldn’t you need to untangle the neurofibrillary tangles and break up the plaques to have an effect on the main causative agent?

                I don’t know, and I’m skeptical, but boy I hope I’m wrong – the world needs a treatment for AD, it’s fucking awful.

              2. Lane Simonian says:

                This one is mainly in response to Lawrence, but thanks again Andrey for your scientific knowledge and input.

                Peroxynitrite-mediated tyrosine nitration may be a critical factor in Alzheimer’s disease–contributing both to the formation of neurofibrillary tangles and the formation of amyloid.

                http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16816118

                http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21903077

                Water which may be a de-nitrating agent is a product of peroxynitrite scavenging (ONOO- + 2e- + 2H+=H20 + NO2-).

                http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10630617

                Through antioxidant and de-nitration actions, peroxynitrite scavengers also increase blood flow in the brain, contribute to the regeneration of neurons, increase the release and synthesis of neurotransmitters involved in short-term memory, sleep, alertness, social recognition, and mood, and inhibit the death of neurons. Methoxyphenols such as curcumin, ferulic acid, syringic acid, sinapic acid, and eugenol are among the best peroxynitrite scavengers. The following study of curcumin is instructive even though better derivatives need to be developed.

                http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781139/

                This is my favorite quote about the use of peroxynitrite scavengers as potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

                [Clinical trials with over-the-counter supplements have concentrated either on items which suppress inflammation, or on antioxidants which scavenge oxygen derived free radicals. Most of these items have proved to be worthless in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Similarly most drugs used to treat Alzheimer's disease do little to slow the deterioration, but instead offer a mild temporary symptom
                relief. However, evidence has been accumulating that the primary driver of Alzheimer's disease is a nitrogen derived free radical called peroxynitrite, which may mediate both amyloid and tau accumulation as well as their toxicity. Excellent results have been obtained with peroxynitrite
                scavengers, with reversals of Alzheimer's disease in human clinical trials being repeatedly demonstrated. IMHO, the only thing which may be preventing the abolition of Alzheimer's disease is the mental inertia of scientists, as well as the bureaucrats who fund them. Unfortunately, most bureaucrats keep throwing money into repeatedly testing discredited interventions, while ignoring successful ones. Common sense is anything but...]

  17. RobLL says:

    From observations on a diabetic blog I use, many or most supplements that are purported to help with blood sugar levels do so by delaying stomach emptying. Thus after meal blood glucose levels rises are delayed. If the pancreas is producing a fair amount of insulin these sorts of things may ‘sorta’ help, but they also aggravate GERD. Most people find them of no or very little use.

  18. MedsVsTherapy says:

    The Indians with whom I consult, advise, and teach for the most part all believe in turmeric as a remedy for a lot of stuff. They are firm on this, and are sorely disappointed when I challenge them to hand me one controlled study where it works in any clinically meaningful amount for any of the suggested indications.

    To avoid losing perhaps 20% of my audience, I have developed a quip: “somebody’s Grandmother has to be wrong.” -Then, I note how my Grandma has my family convinced about the goodness of chicken soup (we have not used curry in our anglo culture, so this is no confound) for a range of maladies, just like curcumin.

    Then, we have discussions about various health beliefs from our various cultures/traditions. I hate to interfere with culture, but at some point educated professionals have to cross a line and stick with the evidence.

  19. MedsVsTherapy says:

    “One website claims science has proven it to be as effective as 14 drugs, including statins like Lipitor, corticosteroids, antidepressants like Prozac…”

    Since SSRIs have questionable efficacy for depression, beyond placebo effects, curcumin very well may be in the range of Prozac for alleviating depression.

    1. stanmrak says:

      …not to mention that SSRIs are linked to just about every mass shooting in the past decade. Violent and suicidal behavior are just 2 of the “side effects” liste don the disclosure form. This is never mentioned in the news reports, maybe because the drug industry spends so much on advertising there.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hyla-cass-md/is-it-drugs-not-guns-that_b_2393385.html

      http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/14655-prescription-for-murder

      1. Andrey Pavlov says:

        …not to mention that SSRIs are linked to just about every mass shooting in the past decade.

        So does McDonalds. And water. And soda pop. Most killers have eaten McDonalds, had a drink of water, and some pop at some point before their sprees. Many of them very shortly before beginning them.

        Correlation does not equal causation Stan.

        1. Frederick says:

          They also listen to Violent music. I’m a Fan of violent music, nine inch nails, Tool, Rammstein, oh god, Marilyn manson… so i going to be a serial killer. I also play violent game on PC and Xbox. I’m doomed!

          Stan : what you say is just conjecture , not proof, it is more complexes than just a mono-cause explanation ­: they kill because of those pills, or because of music or violent movies etc etc. Mental illness and distress are not mono-cause. Thinking that is being blinded to reality. Or just a just a reason for ideologues to push their simple idea.

        2. stanmrak says:

          Read the disclaimer that’s inserted into the drug packaging… does McDonalds and Pepsi include a similar disclaimer?

          21 warnings on Paxil causing suicidal thoughts/behavior/risk
          5 warnings on Paxil causing hostility/aggression
          4 warnings on Paxil causing anxiety
          4 warnings on Paxil causing self-harm

          http://www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-drugs/antidepressantsideeffects/paxilsideeffects/

          1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Well thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for black box warnings as enforced by the FDA. Meanwhile, you are conveniently and deceptively not noting that they also have a role in treating many kinds of depression – major, minor, post-partum, to begin with.

            Yes, drugs have risks. But if they only had risks, they wouldn’t be licensed. And yes, research and marketing by drug companies has been deceptive – but independent research has demonstrated, repeatedly, that they do have benefits. Not for everyone, not in all circumstances, but in aggregate, there is evidence of benefit that makes their ongoing presence and use a valid and reasonable option with few alternatives. I’ve known people for whom SSRIs represent major improvements in their lives, and minor alleviations of an ongoing sense of oppressive malaise, and all were grateful for this. Yes, these are anecdotes – but anecdotes that accord with the larger scientific literature.

            So please don’t pretend that SSRIs are the equivalent to Russian Roulette or crystal meth. They’re not.

      2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        …not to mention that SSRIs are linked to just about every mass shooting in the past decade. Violent and suicidal behavior are just 2 of the “side effects” liste don the disclosure form. This is never mentioned in the news reports, maybe because the drug industry spends so much on advertising there.

        …and of course, it couldn’t be that the people began taking SSRIs because they were angry and sucidal.

        But increased support and resources for non-drug treatments for depression, anger and self-harm would definitely be a good thing.

        1. stanmrak says:

          Hmmm… we didn’t have very many of these mass shootings before the new age of SSRIs. I guess the angry and suicidal folks resorted to other methods to relieve their stress when they were on the old-school drugs. Oh – just a correlation. Nothing to see here, folks.

          Don’t you wonder why the news stories on CNN, NBC, Fox, et al, never mention the drugs these shooters were on, or had been on?

          1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Hmmm… we didn’t have very many of these mass shootings before the new age of SSRIs.

            What’s your definition of “not many”? Wikipedia lists dozens from the 19th century alone. But we’ll ignore those for your convenience, shall we?

            I guess the angry and suicidal folks resorted to other methods to relieve their stress when they were on the old-school drugs. Oh – just a correlation. Nothing to see here, folks.

            Well, there’s a considerable amount of ignorance to be seen. And have you seen this article? Just wondering. I mean, I know it’s not a hysterical article from a Scientology front organization, but just for giggles, let’s link to it.

            Now, it’s possible there is indeed a causal link, and it would be valuable to know this. Of course, this would merely call for more rigorous monitoring of subpopulations of patients found to be violent (primarily teens from my understanding), not to burn all the prozac in the world. Another option would be more support for antibullying legislation and non-pharmacological treatment for mood disorders, two things I would heartily support.

            Don’t you wonder why the news stories on CNN, NBC, Fox, et al, never mention the drugs these shooters were on, or had been on?

            Not really. I do wonder about peer reviewed journal articles that discuss links between them, but you didn’t provide any. Just a link to a scientology front organization.

            Do they buy your supplements?

            1. Harriet Hall says:

              “we didn’t have very many of these mass shootings before the new age of SSRIs”

              We didn’t have many of these mass shootings until the media started covering them extensively.
              We didn’t have many of these mass shootings before the Internet.
              We didn’t have many of these mass shootings before cellphones and cable TV.
              We didn’t have many of these mass shootings before illegal drugs became so available and widely used.
              We didn’t have many of these mass shootings before a lot of other things changed in our society.
              I’m not ready to assign the blame to any of those factors without evidence.

              1. Kathy says:

                Can I ask: what is the legal position w.r.t. discussing ilnesses or medications taken by people who are deceased? in this case mass shooters? I presume if they survive then their medical issues are confidential, like anyone else, but does this still apply if they are dead?

          2. Vicki says:

            No, because I have no evidence that they *are* on such drugs. What I wonder about, cynically, is why we are not being told “another terrorist shooting by a young white man.”

            Any excuse to avoid calling a white man a terrorist. Even if he puts lots of sexist and/or racist threats out there before killing, someone will blame mental illness.

            But this has nothing to do with curcumin, which as far as I know is not linked (positively or negatively) to murdering strangers.

            1. Windriven says:

              “Even if he puts lots of sexist and/or racist threats out there”

              Vicki, can you characterize racism or sexism as something other than mental illness? One of the hallmarks of humans is empathy and the ability to assume the intentional stance. It seems to me sociopathic to not be able to apply those basic traits to others because of their ethnicity, race, or the absence of dangly bits.

              I certainly don’t mean this in any way to excuse the behavior. No doubt some of this is caused by parental attitudes. But then so is genital mutilation and foot binding. Hmmm: mental illness as a communicable disease, arguably a heritable disease.

              1. simba says:

                Folie en famille, folie a deux, mass hysteria… delusions can be very contagious.
                http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2824986/

              2. Andrey Pavlov says:

                Vicki, can you characterize racism or sexism as something other than mental illness? One of the hallmarks of humans is empathy and the ability to assume the intentional stance. It seems to me sociopathic to not be able to apply those basic traits to others because of their ethnicity, race, or the absence of dangly bits.

                I’ll take a moment to disagree with what I at least think you are trying to say here.

                Firstly, the hallmark of humans is actually profound xenophobia and in vs out – grouping. That is historically demonstrated and evolutionarily the case.

                Also mental illness can only be reasonably described as a dysfunction of the brain. That means pathological input/output. The best way I can explain is by story.

                One may argue that suicide bombers are mentally ill. The premise being that the desire to kill oneself must go against the fundamental premise of self preservation and that the ability to engage in that activity would be the hallmark of a brain dysfunction that would be selected against (for obvious reasons). However, I strenuously argue that suicide bombing jihadists are actually supremely rational and entirely not sociopathic. This is because they accept certain fundamental precepts as true and their actions follow logically and rationally.

                Their precepts are wrong, no doubt, but the acceptance of a false premise cannot in and of itself be a mental illness.

                So with racism and sexism. These people are not behaving or thinking irrationally or illogically. They just have accepted fundamentally flawed premises about race and sex and their actions also flow logically and rationally from those premises.

                Don’t get me wrong – mentally ill people can be jihadists or sexists or racists or anything else. All I am saying is that being sexist or racist does not necessarily, and most often does not, indicate mental illness.

              3. mouse says:

                Windriven”Vicki, can you characterize racism or sexism as something other than mental illness? One of the hallmarks of humans is empathy and the ability to assume the intentional stance. It seems to me sociopathic to not be able to apply those basic traits to others because of their ethnicity, race, or the absence of dangly bits.”

                Usually we define mental illness as beliefs and/or damaging behaviors outside the norm of the culture which the believer resides or a genuine break from reality (hallucinations, etc). Since racism or sexism is a norm in many cultures/sub cultures, it’s not really considered a mental illness, because it’s not really rooted in an individual’s mental state. Call it a societal illness, if you will.

                In the law, a distinction is made between mental illnesses and abnormal emotional/social functioning. Lack of legal mental competence may be a genuine break from reality, such as a psychosis that causes the perpetrator to believe that the victim is a risk to them or that causes the perpetrator to misunderstand that their actions will result in harm to others or themselves. Sociopaths are competent to understand the reality of the situation and competent to understand the consequences of their actions (including imprisonment) so they are legally consider mentally competent. (from my laymen’s understanding)

                As an aside, pop psychology – It’s my understanding that many people who would test high on a sociopathy scale actually live quite normal non-violent lives. They often have a very high threshold for fear and pain and may do well in high stress jobs such as pilot that require calmness under pressure. They may be danger junkies that maintain normalcy through high risk stimuli…At least that’s what I’ve been told by high risk world class rock climbers. ;)

                Which is just to say a lack of empathy, low pain or fear threshold does not automatically lead to hurtful violent actions, there is something else going on in individuals who are violent or harmful sociopaths.

              4. Windriven says:

                @Andrey and mouse

                Points well taken. A social disease then. Like gonorrhea but less attractive. :-)

              5. Andrey Pavlov says:

                @mouse:

                Spot on.

                @windriven:

                The mark of a true skeptic and scientist. Others should take note.

              6. n brownlee says:

                “It seems to me sociopathic to not be able to apply those basic traits to others because of their ethnicity, race, or the absence of dangly bits.”

                Isn’t it quite commonplace, in human behavior? “Us” and “them” is pretty basic, happens in every society and strata, from hunter/gatherer societies – which almost invariably each called themselves “the real people” or “the human beings” to modern societies which busily draw demarcation on the basis of race, gender, affluence, religion- you name it .

                NOT doing it a pretty recent cultural concept, I’d say.

    2. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Since SSRIs have questionable efficacy for depression, beyond placebo effects,

      Only in your overly simplistic understanding of depression and its treatment. SSRI’s have shown to be extremely valuable tools in the treatment of depression, particularly moderate to severe depression.

      Not that you’d be interested or have any desire to change your already made up mind, but James Coyne has a nice discussion on the topic.

      1. brewandferment says:

        Hey Andrey I think you might be aiming at stanmrak but it was MedsvsTherapy that said what you’ve quoted here. I don’t think I remember MvT being worthy of stan-level squelching…

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          It was MvT that said that and I recognized it.

          My statement stands – it is fallacious argumentation that “Since SSRIs have questionable efficacy for depression, beyond placebo effects” based on a handful of studies that examined the question poorly. In order to claim that they have questionable efficacy one must have an overly simplistic view of depression. There is absolutely no reasonable question that SSRI’s are efficacious beyond placebo for depression. Just not all types of depression. Equating curcumin with prozac without qualification does not recognize this.

          That sort of idea is something I think is worth squelching, because it does a huge disservice to people with depression and inappropriately maligns anti-depressant medication.

          If MvT meant it tongue-in-cheek then I apologize, but the comment itself gave me no reason to suspect that and was well in line with the standard anti-SSRI tropes.

          1. brewandferment says:

            no, I agree the concept needed squelching, but MvT’s comment just above the quote from the article seemed entirely reasonable and science-based, so I just thought perhaps you were a little harder on him/her than was necessary (“not that you’d be interested”.) But then again there might have been other interactions with MvT that I don’t remember that made it the right approach. If it had been stan, you’d have been right on the money though.

            1. Andrey Pavlov says:

              @B&F:

              Perhaps I may have been overly squelchy.

              I cannot say with certainty but for some reason in the back of my head I have had MvT pegged as similar in kind if not degree to stan and some of the other anti-SBM folk. If I am wrong on that, I once again apologize.

              I am perfectly happy to retract and apologize formally if MvT comes and explain that his intent in the comment was other than what I had assumed.

    3. Harriet Hall says:

      SSRIs have proven efficacy for severe depression but not for mild depression. So both curcumin and SSRIs might work equally as well as placebos for cases where SSRIs are not really indicated, and patients on curcumin would have fewer side effects, which would be a good thing. But substituting curcumin for SSRIs in severe depression could be fatal.

  20. stanmrak says:

    I never questioned the positive aspects of SSRIs, you can’t just dismiss the side effects.

    Read the disclaimer that’s inserted into the drug packaging for Paxil …
    21 warnings causing suicidal thoughts/behavior/risk
    5 warnings causing hostility/aggression
    4 warnings causing anxiety
    4 warnings causing self-harm

    http://www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-drugs/antidepressantsideeffects/paxilsideeffects/

    1. stanmrak says:

      James Coyne also doesn’t mention anything about the side effects….

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        James Coyne also doesn’t mention anything about the side effects….

        Considering his main focus was on therapy rather than drugs, that’s not super surprising. He’s also not a doctor prescribing an antidepressant – that is the point of contact at which risk-versus-benefit discussions are appropriate, since each patient has a different tolerance, symptom severity, etc. Dr. Coyne’s point was to emphasize the deceptive nature of a single clinical trial, not to give an exhaustive risk-benefit analysis of SSRIs.

        You pretending and insinuating his failure to do so indicates some sort of deliberate deception makes you an asshole.

    2. Woo Fighter says:

      You do realize that the CCHR is nothing but a front group for the cult of scientology? It exists for no other reason than to find new suckers to fund David Miscavige’s lavish lifestyle. Who gives a rat’s a$$ what the scientologists think about anything? They’re about as credible medically as whale.to.

      Lunatic doctor Julian Whitaker, Burzynski’s only supporter, was on the board of directors of the CCHR for many years, although he’s probably not a scientologist himself. He just takes their money to allow his name to be used on their website.

      1. stanmrak says:

        Ahhh – when you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger! The CCHR didn’t make up these warnings, they were made by drug regulatory agencies from seven different countries (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany) and the European Union.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          That’s actually a valid point. Of course, you didn’t link to the drug regulatory agencies from seven countries and the EU. You linked to the CCHR site, and anybody clicking on that link should be warned that even if their information on adverse effects is factually correct, they are not contextualized, the CCHR doesn’t provide honest information on main effects, and they are ideologically motivated to convince people to stop taking medications and start auditing (by which they really mean “start paying large amounts of money for something they can do for free with a galvinometer that can be built from a couple of bucks worth of Radio Shack parts”).

          Like you, it’s a veneer of reasonableness to disguise a dishonest, self-serving agenda.

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      I never questioned the positive aspects of SSRIs, you can’t just dismiss the side effects.

      Nobody here dismisses the side effects. They’re recognized, they’re prominently labelled and part of every advertisement of the pills on TV (which shouldn’t be allowed).

      Wouldn’t it be nice if all supplements had a similar list of side effects? I don’t mean “wouldn’t it be great if supplements were terrible for you and risky”, I mean wouldn’t it be great if supplements were tested for safety and side effects before they could be sold? Of course, since most supplements are placebos and expensive urine cocktails, packaging inserts would list neither main nor side effects.

      See my comment here.

  21. Harriet Hall says:

    “SSRIs are linked to just about every mass shooting in the past decade”

    I don’t think that is true. I remember cases where the media speculated about meds and it was later found that they weren’t involved; and in the recent case in California, the shooter was OFF his meds.

    1. stanmrak says:

      Did you read the articles linked to that have long lists of recent mass shooters and the SSRI drugs they were on? Almost every one! And sometimes, immediately AFTER you go off the meds is the most dangerous time because of a rebound effect.

      “I don’t think this is true.” isn’t a very scientific analysis of the situation, just denial.

      http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/14655-prescription-for-murder
      http://www.corbettreport.com/medicated-to-death-ssris-and-mass-killings/
      http://www.ammoland.com/2013/04/every-mass-shooting-in-the-last-20-years-shares-psychotropic-drugs/#axzz2PW9oo0Ec

      1. Harriet Hall says:

        ““I don’t think this is true.” isn’t a very scientific analysis of the situation, just denial.”

        Not denial, doubt. I’m willing to accept it as true if you can provide good evidence, not just links to sites with an agenda. They provide anecdotes for, and I provided anecdotes against. Neither is a scientific analysis. Since no good scientific analysis has been done, the only reasonable stance is doubt.

      2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        Did you read the articles linked to that have long lists of recent mass shooters and the SSRI drugs they were on? Almost every one! And sometimes, immediately AFTER you go off the meds is the most dangerous time because of a rebound effect.

        First, see my comment here. Second, the rebound effect is recognized and discussed. Third, Anders Breivik. Fourth, there are millions of SSRI prescriptions in the US. There are not millions of mass shootings.

        SSRIs are neither a necessary, nor sufficient condition for mass violence. At best you’ve shown an association, you’re missing any evidence of cause.

        1. stanmrak says:

          Yet there’s still that self-incriminating language in the disclosure form, warning about possible suicidal and violent behavior as a reaction to the drug! This is more than correlation.

          1. Windriven says:

            Hey stan, leave the frigging goal post where you first set it:

            “Did you read the articles linked to that have long lists of recent mass shooters and the SSRI drugs they were on?”

            is different from this:

            “Yet there’s still that self-incriminating language in the disclosure form, warning about possible suicidal and violent behavior as a reaction to the drug! ”

            NO ONE suggested that SSRIs don’t have potentially dangerous side effects.

            1. Harriet Hall says:

              And no one has tried to put the potential dangers of SSRIs into perspective with the dangers of untreated depression.

      3. mouse says:

        Stan. – Correlation does not equal causation. Note the correlation between Parkinson’s disease and the use of a walkers. Do walkers cause Parkinson’s disease?

  22. Vasileios Anagnostopoulos says:

    A year ago I found an article about curcumin and L-asparaginase. I am not a doctor. Is it garbage?

    http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/10428194.2011.649478

    Thank you in advance

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      Not garbage, but preclinical. Any relevance to treatment of humans is purely speculative at this point.

  23. weing says:

    “A year ago I found an article about curcumin and L-asparaginase. I am not a doctor. Is it garbage?”
    Interesting, but not ready for prime time. You know the saying about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread?

  24. Paula Kenney says:

    How much do you get paid by the pharmaceutical industry?

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      @Paula Kenney,

      “How much do you get paid by the pharmaceutical industry?”

      Absolutely nothing. Ever.

    2. Windriven says:

      “How much do you get paid by the pharmaceutical industry?”

      Dr. Hall is pretty incorruptable. Me? Think cost-effective. Do you know someone at Big Pharma I can talk to?

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Paula, how much do you get paid by Gary Null, Joe Mercola, Mike Adams and the tumeric producers association?

      1. simba says:

        Another minion of Big Curry.

        But think of the delicious, delicious payola you’d get. Tastiest corruption ever.

  25. Judd says:

    New to SBM, and glad I found you.

    Anecdotally, my friends with MS (5 of them) all swear by turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties. They get a lot of relief from it.

    I’ve put teaspoons in my tea in place of ibuprofen for muscle pain, (one or two week routines, after injury) and it has helped reduce pain and swelling significantly.

    Of course, this does not go to the chemical cause of the interaction which brings me the comfort, but hey – KEEP AT IT SCIENTISTS!! – I’d love to know.

    While I appreciate the scientific effort to isolate the chemicals that perform the work in order to make them more directly effective, and I also appreciate the moments of joy and discovery that are perhaps involved in understanding the interactions of unexplored chemicals and the human body, I can’t help but return to the reality of our biosphere. I am saddened at how the focus on chemicals outside the environment in which they arise continues to detach us from our biosphere and in most cases makes us less sensitive to its needs. I see a cultural link from seeing an herb as merely the supplier of a chemical to heal us to the complete disregard for the well being of our environment and biosphere.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Judd, welcome and thanks for the kind words.

      As for your experiences with turmeric… I am genuinely glad it is proving helpful to you. Bear in mind, however, that while there is indeed evidence that curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties it has really poor bioavailability. Meaning that by eating it very little of it is going anywhere except into your toilet. That is precisely why additionally research to identify the compounds and then to modify them for increased bioavailability, potency, and minimizing of side effects is vital. This is called pharmacognosy and is in fact how we get a lot of our pharmaceutical agents.

      I can’t help but return to the reality of our biosphere. I am saddened at how the focus on chemicals outside the environment in which they arise continues to detach us from our biosphere and in most cases makes us less sensitive to its needs. I see a cultural link from seeing an herb as merely the supplier of a chemical to heal us to the complete disregard for the well being of our environment and biosphere.

      I’ve read this a few times and honestly am not quite sure what you mean to say here. Are you trying to say that we are ignoring the subjective pleasures and intrinsic value of the biosphere, because we view it as nothing more than sources of medicines and other useful chemicals for us, destroying or denigrating it in the process?

      If so, perhaps you are correct to a certain extent. But I would say that one does not necessarily flow from the other even if in practice that may be happening. I can see the argument made that reducing nature to merely a repository of chemicals for use to exploit could lead to devaluing it and destroying it. But I could also see the exact opposite argument – that it allows us true insight and scientific rationale for valuing nature and its diversity. This is a case of where the science gives us the “is” but not the “ought.” The chemicals are valuable. We ought to take that as reason to improve our stewardship of the environment. But seem people either don’t care or disagree. I concur with you that we should change their minds, but I don’t see that mentality as coming from the science of discovery.

  26. Trae Palmer says:

    Thanks for the great write-up on turmeric, Dr Hall: I’d heard its health benefits touted all over the place lately, and was looking for a more balanced view about what the science actually suggests and doesn’t suggest about it. I use turmeric frequently for flavor and color in curries, dressings and tofu scrambles, so if it eventually turns out down the road to have some health benefits, that’ll be fantastic; if not, hey, I still got to enjoy some really tasty food.

  27. David Yee says:

    All I know is that turmeric kills my gout–seems to be one of the consistent triggers….

  28. lisa says:

    Harriet… I know you know well! why lv cant not make claims!!!! But I know what it is capable of and obsevational studies dont lie!

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      “I know what it is capable of ”
      How can you know what it is capable of without proper scientific studies?

      “obsevational studies dont lie”

      Observational studies DO lie! They frequently reach wrong conclusions. Half of all published studies are wrong, and observational studies are more likely to be wrong than placebo-controlled RCTS. As Wikipedia says “observational studies cannot be used as reliable sources to make statements of fact about the “safety, efficacy, or effectiveness” of a practice.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observational_study

      1. Raiden says:

        Oops, I think my post went wrong. But I wonder what the article writer’s opinion on tocotrienols, vitamin K2, and coenzyme Q10 would be.

        Perhaps he will say they are worthless until big pharma publishes a massive study on them? Which would never happen.

  29. Raiden says:

    It’s common to see statements like “there is no such thing as alternative medicine, only medicine that’s proven to work and stuff that isn’t”.

    Mysterious this statement is when analysed closely: the mystery lies in the word “work”.

    In medicine this is commonly seeming to mean you see a disease, you hit it with randomly chosen differently shaped hammers until the disease goes away.

    But then what is disease? In modern western medicine where people live long lives and smallpox etc. are majorly eradicated for the most part, focus has shifted onto chronic health conditions.

    Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, alzheimers.

    It’s in these sort of things that herbs such as turmeric are most often reported as helping in some way. The sort of things that could just as easily be considered “ill health” as disease.

    That’s a line that is becoming blurred, and hence the strange tension between pharmaceuticals and natural remedies. There’s so much money (because of the large market) in chronic health conditions, that pharmaceuticals have moved in and this has led to competition with natural foodbased things.

    I have no doubt this is the reason for the multitudinous vitamin bashing reports in the media. Pharmaceuticals would have a fit if people started believing that tocotrienols, vitamin K1/K2, coenzyme Q10 was better than statins, *whether it were true or not*.

    They would probably say something like, “you have to have enough money (like us) to fund a massive study, and nothing else counts. And we choose not to run a study on tocotrienols, K1/K2 or coenzyme Q10. “

    1. weing says:

      “They would probably say something like, “you have to have enough money (like us) to fund a massive study, and nothing else counts. And we choose not to run a study on tocotrienols, K1/K2 or coenzyme Q10. ”

      Why should they run a study when they can make millions off of suckers by just insinuating that they work for whatever?

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      In medicine this is commonly seeming to mean you see a disease, you hit it with randomly chosen differently shaped hammers until the disease goes away.

      While there is an element of fact to this, it’s a little deceptive. You’re descibing perhaps high-throughput testing of pre-approved drugs, but missing the fact that serendipity can lead to identifying promising compounds such as what happened with penecillin, but also the fact that medicines are increasingly being designed and understood on a molecular level. And testing is highly rationalized and empirical.

      But then what is disease? In modern western medicine where people live long lives and smallpox etc. are majorly eradicated for the most part, focus has shifted onto chronic health conditions.

      Well duh, what else would medicine focus on? Curing diseases that don’t exist anymore? Not to mention – so what? Medicine gives patients information on proper health behaviours like adequate but not overabundant diet, exercise, sleep and smoking cessation (and of course vaccination, so acute diseases disappear). You’re also completely ignoring congenital conditions, genetic disorders, accidents and cancers.

      Further, should medicine not focus on chronic health conditions? Should people with type II diabetes just go blind and gradually have their limbs rot off?

      It’s in these sort of things that herbs such as turmeric are most often reported as helping in some way. The sort of things that could just as easily be considered “ill health” as disease.

      No, the diseases you list (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s), are all diseases with specific etiologies. If we can address the cause, we can cure them, and many cannot be prevented completel through lifestyle changes. And if tumeric or other herbs work – prove it, those positive results will show up in well-controlled trials. There’s no reason for an exception to the requirements for proof merely because it’s a food.

      That’s a line that is becoming blurred, and hence the strange tension between pharmaceuticals and natural remedies. There’s so much money (because of the large market) in chronic health conditions, that pharmaceuticals have moved in and this has led to competition with natural foodbased things.

      Food isn’t medicine. If the food is acting as a drug – it is a drug, and should be assessed for effectiveness and side effects. It shouldn’t get a free pass.

      I have no doubt this is the reason for the multitudinous vitamin bashing reports in the media. Pharmaceuticals would have a fit if people started believing that tocotrienols, vitamin K1/K2, coenzyme Q10 was better than statins, *whether it were true or not*.

      Pharmaceutical companies are the primary manufacturers of these vitamins. They sell to the companies that you, the consumer, buy from. They’re happy there are no safety or efficacy requriements, it’s a nice, tidy, safe, profitable line of industrial products for them to pad their bottom line with. “Vitamin-bashing” occurs because when high-dose vitamins are actually tested rather assuming safety and efficacy, they turn out to be mostly worthless, sometimes even harmful.

      They would probably say something like, “you have to have enough money (like us) to fund a massive study, and nothing else counts. And we choose not to run a study on tocotrienols, K1/K2 or coenzyme Q10. “

      Um…there are actually many studies of vitamin E variants and CoQ10, many of them quite large and expensive. It just turns out that vitamins are mostly useless bar the prevention of vitamin deficiency.

  30. Raiden says:

    What are you talking about?

    “They” refers to pharmaceutical companies.

    If they ran a scientific study it would be to determine the truth – that’s what science *means*.

    And I don’t think they would make millions. No patents, or other such structures in place to give market dominance.

    1. weing says:

      “And I don’t think they would make millions. No patents, or other such structures in place to give market dominance.”
      What impoverished companies are selling you the supplements?

    2. simba says:

      The pharmaceutical companies also make the supplements, often- look at marketing by the big pharmaceutical companies and watch how they want you to take daily vitamins, herbs etc. It means they can target everyone and not just the sick. ‘Vitamin-bashing’ is working against their interests, and they oppose it.

      Pfizer owns Centrum vitamins and Emergen-C vitamin supplements. Have a look here where they push for everyone to take daily vitamins (something which isn’t supported by the evidence): http://www.pfizer.com/health/senior_health/vitamins http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324392804578362073624344816

      They are already making millions off them. There is a reason the big boys make supplements- this is a huge market. The last thing they would want to do is endanger two hundred million dollars worth of sales a year on one brand alone, for just one company.

      http://www.statista.com/statistics/195561/leading-us-vitamin-brands-in-2010-and-2011-based-on-sales/

      Glaxosmithkline sells herbals and has brands, like Cetebe, of supplements, this is just two of the bigger companies that came to the top of my head.

      There are more people running studies than Big Pharma. Independent universities or government organisations across the world could take on the job if they wanted to. Heck, some of those nutrition companies selling it could too.

      In a lot of cases the problem is simply that they have, and haven’t found good evidence to support the claims made (for example that healthy people need nutritional supplements).

      Aspirin has been off-patent for decades. It’s still profitable, and it’s still being studied.

      I get why you think those things (off patent isn’t profitable, pharmaceuticals would oppose vitamins, you can’t make millions from vitamins.) But it’s not what the real situation is.

      Even if you manage to avoid a brand made by one of the big pharma companies, any of those from independent ‘companies’ are made in the same place by the same people with the same ingredients with different labels, by contract manufacturers.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        I get why you think those things (off patent isn’t profitable, pharmaceuticals would oppose vitamins, you can’t make millions from vitamins.) But it’s not what the real situation is.

        More specifically – Raiden thinks these things because he has been told to think these things by CAM promoters to distract from the only thing that matters, the complete lack of evidence supporting the effectiveness of turmeric for the prevention or treatment of any specific condition.

        Raiden – you’re a sheep, repeating what your corporate masters tell you to repeat. You just don’t realize who your corporate masters are.

  31. Harriet Hall says:

    The idea that natural remedies don’t get studied because they are not patentable is wrong on several counts. About half of our prescription medicines are based on compounds found in plants. The active ingredient can be isolated, purified, synthesized, and tweaked to increase effectiveness and reduce side effects; the resultant drug is not only patentable but is a great improvement over the original natural remedy. And methods of extraction and purification can be patented, too. The reason the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t invest their millions in herbs like turmeric is that they don’t find the testimonials and the preliminary evidence very convincing; they choose to study things that are more promising.

  32. Eligalilei says:

    While I certainly agree that there is a dearth of specific clinical studies on curcumin, I cannot help but add that I have found curcuminoids compounded with piperine extremely useful (though I can only speak with some amount of objectivity regarding the acute effect; n=1 long-term data are hopelessly confounded) in treating my as-yet-specifically-undiagnosed inflammatory condition (as indicated by phenomenology, gastrointestinal symptoms, elevated CRP). While the specific mechanism(s) are understudied, I am deeply grateful to the quackticioner of neurofeedback (another highly efficacious and quack addled esoteric paramedical discipline) by whom I was recommended it.

    While I consider myself a scientist and am in agreeance with the spirit of this blog, it often seems as if the writers are situated/situate themselves in a world (upon which my eyes have yet to have had the privilege of alighting) of perfect doctors who never miss subclinical manifestations of chronic-less-visible sub-lying conditions, and who ought to be chastised for being too careful and ordering ‘too-many’ tests because their statistically determined discrete algorithms work in one hundred percent of cases and never miss significant causal factors (see the antacids and low-stomach acid GERD debacle of the last quarter century… can’t off the top of my head determine whether my evidence therefor is up to snuff for the staff of this blog, but there it is).

    While this is certainly Ideal, I have yet to be convinced it is Real, and there is certainly a baby in the bathwater which is in this instance suffering people using experimental low-risk interventions for intractable conditions. Modern medicine has indeed left many behind (talk to almost anyone treated for Lyme or parasites, or parents of autistic children – whose disease is poorly understood, but not outside the realm of all medical interventions), and the doctor, being the most visible appendage of that system bears the brunt of the resentment. Any cogent analysis of this situation will lead the querent to the irksome conclusion that no individuals are culpable in any real sense, and that the fly in the ointment of pure, perfectly practiced medicine is institutional, sociological and capital, and that the caring individuals which comprise it are the only reason it still works at all.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Modern medicine has indeed left many behind (talk to almost anyone treated for Lyme or parasites, or parents of autistic children – whose disease is poorly understood, but not outside the realm of all medical interventions), and the doctor, being the most visible appendage of that system bears the brunt of the resentment.

      Bullshit. These people are not “left behind”, either their condition is extraordinarily complicated and currently intractable to modern medicine (autism) or blatantly made up with a strong psychogenic component (chronic Lyme disease) or incredibly rare (most parasites in the first world). Patients must understand that medicine is not a miracle, that some conditions can’t be cured, that for some conditions the intimation that they should be cured is a bit insulting (high-functioning autism), and that it’s a bit of a miracle that a parent can have a single child and be well-reassured that they will survive to die of cancer in their senescence.

      Nobody pretends doctors are perfect, but unlike so many within the CAM world, there is a recognition of the limited resources of society and the ethical obligation to have proof before treatment. Patients are free to use low-risk interventions to self-treat (most low-risk interventions pimped by CAM, like turmeric, are simply foods). Nobody is coming to take your spices away.

  33. Eligalilei says:

    BTW, curcumin has low bioavailability by itself, but high BA with pipeline, significantly smallening the gap between some of the in vivo and vitro data. Other adjuvants may increase bioavailability more.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9619120

    1. MadisonMD says:

      Gee that’s great. So if you are a rat and if you happen to take curcumin with piperine well then a bit actually is absorbed into your system. You have found this useful in your uncontrolled n=1 self trial for an unspecified illness. Now you treat us to this wonderful data so it can be generalized and used how? You may consider yourself a scientist, but I would be more likely to consider you such if you could ‘bigger’ your critical thinking a bit.

      One other little thought. Do doctors miss subclinical medical issues? Well, yes… by definition. Nobody here claims that doctors are perfect… in fact many posts are quite critical about particular doctors and common but unsupportable medical practices. The other parts of your first post are somewhat interesting as a point of view. I suggest you read some of the SBM posts on placebo and stay tuned for Pete Moran’ s upcoming guest post.

  34. Eligalilei says:

    The study I referred to includes data on the bioavailability in rats and humans, and the placebo jab was cute, if that is what it was.

    I suppose I should have stated my intentions more clearly. The “14 drugs” target/straw man of the OP is highly questionable on linguistic grounds alone; for something to be better than something else it needs to be ‘comparable enough’ in effect. The effect in question, in medical discourse at least, is typically a quantifiable/observable symptom. Curcumin does not share enough method-of-action based similarities with the drugs in question to make a properly scientific comparison of degree, except in in vitro studies (where it seems to perform well, but that won’t mean anything if grappling with in vitro data is always someone else’s job) and on the level of symptom control, in which it has not been proven equivalent to drugs with very different methods of action. And while there certainly isn’t much ‘conclusive, double-blind proof’ linking curcumin to the treatment of specific illnesses, there is plenty of in homo data linking curcumin (controlling for studies which use forms of curcumin with low BA) to improved biomarkers which are considered targets in the treatment of many pathologies.

    The baby-and-bathwater situation which I am indicating is that of the generally black and-white attitude taken toward complementary medicine on this blog. ‘Complementary’ designates complementary. While there are plenty of marketing geniuses trying to market this-or-that as a replacement for this-or-that, structure-activity relationships more or less dictate that there few true equivalents in the world of biochemistry. Curcumin deserves consideration as a synergistic or complementary method influencing biomarkers of clinical relevance, if not as monotherapy. It only stands to reason that if A influences BiomarkerX to extent +1, and C to extent +.5, C may be a good candidate for use as a complementary method in BiomarkerX-increase-therapy. I’m not saying that syllogism is proof, just that it makes decent hypothesis, and given safety and tolerability, a decent candidate for further research.

    I’m not saying that you need to consider it yourself (seems you foreclose that possibility by saying that you don’t need to), I just question the integrity of an approach which seems to me to relegate something to uselessness as a medical material because it ‘isn’t as good as fourteen drugs’ , or fails to pass the ‘is it better at doing this exact thing than the thing we used to construct the standard against which we are testing it’ test. There’s a good bit of wiggle room in practice between ‘this is snake oil’ and ‘this is a panacea’. Curcumin oughtn’t be faulted generally for failing to live up to oft-quoted straw-horse proclamations of efficacy.

    M point was not that doctors miss the subclinical; that would be tautological. Rather, my point was that, variation in personal reaction – central nervous and other – a biomarker needn’t necessarily cross a statistically determined line in the sand in order to cause real suffering. Bodies do not always conform to our expectations, and ‘main-stream’ medicine all too often passes sufferers off to its dumb cousin psychiatry or leaves them to the dogs of quackery rather than adopting a multi-valued logic in the management of its categories. There are, of course, doctors who do not do this, but I have seen laziness do far more harm than overzealousness in the ferreting out of diagnostic niceties. Insulin resistance, for instance, is a continuum; need we believe that there are only two values of relevance to the alleviation of human suffering: diabetes and not diabetes? Owing to the dosage of prescribed pills, many people are chronically over or under-dosed on medications simply because ‘that’s the size they come in’, and liquid and compounded forms appropriate for titration are not as common as caution and good sense seem to indicate. The reasons for this are, of course, logistic.

    Human studies are notoriously expensive. And while the “natural=unprofitable’ argument fails in general, curcumin and black pepper, due to their ubiquity, are paradigmatic orphans of the profit driven drug selection process. And is already in wide use by many who don’t give a whit what the scientific evidence is and will continue to buy the stuff forevermore, thus decreasing market pressure to do more research in order to get the stuff to sell. I’m sure more studies will emerge, but the mass of evidence is large enough, and the safety profile is good enough, that most sufferers just buy a bottle (hopefully they did their research and it is bioavailable) and run the test themselves.

    I understand that quack world is full of low-hanging fruit for for the critic, but curcumin is not that. I would be more than happy to provide references for anything, I’m just trying to be as readable and untangential as possible.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      The “14 drugs” target/straw man of the OP is highly questionable on linguistic grounds alone

      You do realize that Dr. Hall was using that as an example of one of the many sites and purveyors of turmeric as a therapy that are highly overreaching? And thus the rest of your paragraph is essentially moot. Also there is not “plenty of in homo data” to really demonstrate much of anything. Biomarkers are handy, but are very tricky beasts to work with.

      The baby-and-bathwater situation which I am indicating is that of the generally black and-white attitude taken toward complementary medicine on this blog.

      If you take a little more time to read and see our thoughts here, you’ll find that in fact we have a rather simple attitude towards CAM: that it is a false category with no scientific rationale or useful definition. Even the NCCAM can’t define it! (I apologize but I am about to start my post call day and have very little time to write, so I can’t afford to dig up links. However, I have said it here elsewhere and linked copiously so if someone, ahem WLU, might be so kind as to find the time to link to it and any others you may wish to have links for I would be greatly appreciative, as would Eli, I’m sure sure).

      Furthermore, we simply take the approach of the same standard of evidence for every claim. And what that finding yields is that CAM as a category can only really be defined as “that which has been tested and shown to not work or that which has yet to be adequately tested.” In the latter category the Bayesian prior comes into play along with what data there may be in making a tentative assessment. But in general, we know that most proposed therapies (whether they be drugs of any kind, including herbs, or any other therapeutic modality) don’t pan out. Finding effective therapeutics is simply a very low yield proposition, even in cases where a high prior probability exists.

      Most particularly so when it comes to the use of herbs/spices/plants whatever – e.g. the field of pharmacognosy. One in which I did a year of post-grad research myself. Besides being extremely low yield, almost invariably the naturally occurring compound that gives rise to viable pharmaceuticals must be chemically altered in order to make it more BA, less toxic, more potent, have fewer side effects, have a better pharmacodynamic and kinetic profile, or any combination thereof.

      So when it come to turmeric you have a paucity of studies, some prior plausibility (though still very small for the reasons above), and the realization that even if there is something useful there it is very likely to need some kind of alteration to be useful in humans. Which is why Dr. Hall’s conclusion is perfectly reasonable and accurate:

      And the scientific evidence for turmeric is insufficient to incorporate it into medical practice. As with so many supplements, the hype has gone way beyond the actual evidence. There are some promising hints that it may be useful, but there are plenty of promising hints that lots of other things “may” be useful too. Since I have no rational basis for choosing one over another, I see no reason to jump on the turmeric bandwagon. On the other hand, I see no compelling reason to advise people not to use it, as long as they understand the state of the evidence well enough to provide informed consent and know that they are essentially guinea pigs in an uncontrolled experiment that makes no attempt to collect data. I will keep an open mind and stay tuned for further evidence in the form of well-designed clinical studies in humans.

      So when you say:

      Curcumin deserves consideration as a synergistic or complementary method influencing biomarkers of clinical relevance, if not as monotherapy.

      Based on what exactly? Do you have some data that we don’t? Or, more likely, you are putting more weight and profundity to evidence that we, as medical doctors and scientists, think deserves much less.

      Influencing biomarkers is simply not particularly compelling. Certainly not to the extremely limited extent turmeric can. We’ve been skunked a few times recently in chasing down biomarker changes (much more profound than turmeric can induce) and having it demonstrate no change in actual outcomes. That is the tricky beast of biomarkers.

      I’m not saying that you need to consider it yourself (seems you foreclose that possibility by saying that you don’t need to)

      It isn’t that we don’t need to. It is that we recognize how worthless that sort of “self testing” actually is. Once again, as Dr. Hall said, we wouldn’t argue against taking turmeric if you wanted to. But we also see no rational reason for recommending to take it either.

      There’s a good bit of wiggle room in practice between ‘this is snake oil’ and ‘this is a panacea’. Curcumin oughtn’t be faulted generally for failing to live up to oft-quoted straw-horse proclamations of efficacy.

      Agreed. But you also should not be pretending there is a middle ground supported by the evidence that turmeric lives in. And, more specifically, realize that this post was about the purported popular claims and how incredibly over-hyped they are.

      Rather, my point was that, variation in personal reaction – central nervous and other – a biomarker needn’t necessarily cross a statistically determined line in the sand in order to cause real suffering.

      On the one hand you are using some biomarkers to bolster your claim that turmeric could be effective and on the other you are admitting that it is not necessary to be the case. You are arguing it both ways and selectively picking when it applies in a way to bolster your claims. On the one hand, when you wish to argue that there is that middle ground turmeric occupies, biomarker data is great. On the other hand, when it doesn’t meet statistical significance, we don’t need biomarker data to continue letting turmeric occupy that middle ground.

      Insulin resistance, for instance, is a continuum; need we believe that there are only two values of relevance to the alleviation of human suffering: diabetes and not diabetes

      And now a complete straw man. We also have “pre-diabetic” states which we address accordingly. We also realize that the old nomenclature of Type I and Type II do not adequately capture the realities of diabetes and thus are using more sophisticated understandings to better approach each individual patient. So no, we do not believe that there are only two values.

      Owing to the dosage of prescribed pills, many people are chronically over or under-dosed on medications simply because ‘that’s the size they come in’,

      Also a straw man. In the vast majority of cases the doses are quite accurately prescribed. This is because most drugs have a large enough therapeutic window (as a result of post-discovery modifications, commonly). So we dose them by rounding to the next nearest dose. Which is perfectly reasonable since all drugs come in a range that is appropriate. It is extremely uncommon to be over or under dosed for the reason you state. That is just silly.

      And while the “natural=unprofitable’ argument fails in general, curcumin and black pepper, due to their ubiquity, are paradigmatic orphans of the profit driven drug selection process

      And now a bit of special pleading – “sure I get that money can be made off of natural stuff, but this specific stuff is different.” You may be surprised that you aren’t the first to make that argument for his or her herb du jour.

      And is already in wide use by many who don’t give a whit what the scientific evidence is and will continue to buy the stuff forevermore, thus decreasing market pressure to do more research in order to get the stuff to sell.

      Which is why studies on yogurt and antibiotics or other indications never happened right? Because yogurt was so commonly consumed by people who don’t care about the science?

      I understand that quack world is full of low-hanging fruit for for the critic, but curcumin is not that. I would be more than happy to provide references for anything, I’m just trying to be as readable and untangential as possible.

      See here’s the thing – I did a pubmed search on it. And found very few bits of data to support the claim. It simply isn’t there.

      (Once again perhaps WLU could dig up that comment and link it :-D)

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam

        Three seconds on google to type in “nccam what is cam” Andre! Took more time for the page to load! I mock you thusly :P

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      The baby-and-bathwater situation which I am indicating is that of the generally black and-white attitude taken toward complementary medicine on this blog.

      There are few black and white approaches taken by this blog, but the main one is “there should be evidence”, with a substantial “it should make sense within the context of what we know of human biology”. In some cases, black-and-white makes sense. Homeopathy doesn’t, and can’t work. In some cases it’s far more nuanced – there is a very good chance that plant-manufactured molecules will have biological effects (i.e. herbalism is a poor approximation of pharmacognosy). Contributors to this blog have long recognized these differences, noting that homeopathy doesn’t deserve even research funding, while herbal medicine should be formalized.

      Put another way, you pretending this blog takes an absolutely black-and-white approach to all CAM doesn’t make it so. Indeed, one might note that Dr. Hall said quite prominently that there is promise regarding turmeric, but the data is all preclinical (and thus not worth spending $14 an ounce on some proprietary extract). You’ve set up quite the straw man to knock down.

      Insulin resistance, for instance, is a continuum; need we believe that there are only two values of relevance to the alleviation of human suffering: diabetes and not diabetes?

      So, you think that doctors only look at the number and no other factor in assessing diabetes risks, harms and treatments? That might say more about you, possibly the doctors you’ve seen, than “all doctors”. There are some doctors who want to treat all diabetes with cinnamon for instance. Most doctors want their diabetic patients to eat better and exercise. You’re missing a rather large amount of nuance here, apparently based on the idea that the blog authors aren’t nice enough to your preferred CAM modality. But it really comes down to – what are the risks and what are the benefits. Nobody is going to stop you from eating turmeric, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to cure what ails you.

      And while the “natural=unprofitable’ argument fails in general, curcumin and black pepper, due to their ubiquity, are paradigmatic orphans of the profit driven drug selection process.

      The NCCAM pretty much exists to fund studies like this – you don’t need industry funding to do a study. Further, many off-patent, or unpatentable substances have been studied – vitamin C for one, aspirin for another. Third, companies can and will fund studies if they think it will support their bottom lines due to promising preclinical data – witness yogurt companies happily slapping “helps digestive function” on their containers. So straw everything.

      I understand that quack world is full of low-hanging fruit for for the critic, but curcumin is not that. I would be more than happy to provide references for anything, I’m just trying to be as readable and untangential as possible.

      I would be more than happy to read any human studies you link to. But I’m pretty sure that the NMCD would include them.

      Go ahead, eat your curry, nobody here will stop you. Just please don’t complain here about how nobody will fund studies on curry – we don’t care, and it’s not true.

  35. Eligalilei says:

    I don’t want to sound like I’m railing on the blog, which I like. I’ve spent a lot of time reading back-posts and it has been very informative. I just wanted to point out what seems to me a bit of a recurrent dogmatism and picking on easy targets and straw men, sometimes seeming to foreclose avenues of thought prematurely.

    1. Windriven says:

      You might be reading but you don’t seem to be understanding. Go back and read the responses of Madison and Andrey to your comments.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      It sounds very much like what you dislike about this blog is that now it has chosen to criticize something that you think works based on personal experimentation. You may share a position on this blog similar to Isaac Hayes’ position regarding South Park – a fan, right up until it criticizes something you are emotionally invested in.

    3. MadisonMD says:

      sometimes seeming to foreclose avenues of thought prematurely.

      Thought or investigation? Whether an avenue of scientific inquiry is worthy of foreclosure is a matter of judgment. For this reason, NIH establishes review panels of scientists which recommend how limited research resources are invested. We cannot absolutely rule out a very unlikely therapy. Yet, it is certainly not work investing in homeopathy, for example. I think Harriet’s judgment on curcumin was quite fair; in fact she reserved final judgment but said existing evidence is not sufficient to recommend for any condition.

      However, I do share your concern that I– and probably others here–employ heuristic shortcuts that might assume that anything recommended by practitioners of CAM are worthless. However, this is one of the strengths of the blog, because:
      (a) Every now and then, some blog posts (especially Harriet’s) provide counter-examples. I like her post on biotin, for instance.
      (b) Moreover, if you or another provides good evidence to show we are wrong*, we learn something. I, and I believe others here, would value contributions from you or others demonstrating that a post or commenter is factually wrong.

      ————-
      *Incidentally I was wrong above about the rats– I apologise for missing the human absorption part of the study. Yet, the rest of my critique stands. An N=1 of study for an unspecified illness remains an issue. My allusions to placebo were not meant as a personal jab, only an indication that this is why controls are needed for subjective or varying clinical endpoints.

  36. Flower says:

    I realise that there is not a huge amount of evidence for the efficacy of turmeric in the way of clinical trials, though there is considerable in vitro and animal based research available – see the following review for example:

    http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/.fulltext/14/2/141.pdf

    AND

    Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edn

    Chapter 13 – Turmeric, The Golden Spice

    This chapter reviews research, which includes clinical trials, showing turmeric to be an efficaceous medicine for various conditions.

    Available online at
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/

    However, doesn’t historical, traditional evidence count for anything at all?

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      However, doesn’t historical, traditional evidence count for anything at all?

      Only slightly above completely worthless. At best it may hint at a direction to start looking. But it doesn’t really demonstrate much of anything at all.

    2. Windriven says:

      Following up on Dr. Pavlov’s excellent response, did you trouble yourself to follow the citations to their original source documents? I didn’t check them all but the few I did check had much subtler results than suggested by the chapter text and were invariably animal models.

      That said, some of the results were mildly interesting. But one wonders whether or not the interesting results were followed with further testing and if not, why not. One paper doesn’t prove much. One would expect, in the case of a promising intervention, follow on papers, each moving a little farther forward. Where are these?

    3. Dave says:

      Looking at the site and going over the citations, there are a lot of papers on rodents (mice, rabbits, hamsters) and some pilot studies otherwise. Did you find any in there which were good studies on human conditions? Animal studies are starting points, unless you’re practicing veterinary medicine.

    4. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      though there is considerable in vitro and animal based research available

      Thaldiomide is a potent anti-nausea medication and is perfectly safe in rats. A solution of 90% H2O2 will kill any cancer cell in a petri dish.

      Turmeric is an ingredient, it’s not medicine. Eat it because it is delicious and pretty, not because you prefer it to medication. Even if it has medicinal properties, it will inevitably have adverse effects when taken at drug-level potencies, because the human body is badly designed and reuses the same receptors in different tissues throughout the body. It may upregulate something in the gut and downregulate something else in the liver.

      This chapter reviews research, which includes clinical trials, showing turmeric to be an efficaceous medicine for various conditions.

      The money shot section is 13.6, which opens with the delightful statement “Although modern medicine has been routinely used in treatment of various diseases, it is less than 100 years old. Traditional medicine, in comparison, has served mankind for thousands of years, is quite safe and effective.” Which is fucking stupid. Real medicine has been around for slightly longer than a century, thanks, but my real objection is the assumption that since turmeric has been around for milennia, it’s automatically successful. This hideously ignorant statement ignores the fact that real medicine has done more to increase the healthy, longevity, and decrease the child mortality in that brief century than all the bullshit worthless herbal medicines that existed in the past. Turmeric has been used for thousands of years – if it’s so useful, why did it take the advent of real medicine to make so many diseases disappear?

      Section 13.6.1 are in vitro studies, and can be ignored. 13.6.2 are in vivo studies with tumor-prone mice, rats and hamsters taking massive doses of turmeric that would probably turn you orange. It talks about the potential antioxidant effects of turmeric – well, nearly all food, and the human body itself, contains and produces antioxidants. The studies cite a lot of proxies, markers and other lab results, which are always of questionable utility, even when the lab result changes are in humans. One that the chapter relies on a lot is “oxidative stress”, that perennial favourite of people who want food to be medicine. Apples also reduce oxidative stress. Though curried apples would be delicious.

      The chapter also uses the howler “Turmeric is also useful against depression” and goes on to cite no studies of depression, merely rat swim tests.

      13.6.3 talks about human studies. There are far fewer of them, and they seem to scrape the bottom of the barrel. One study had only 16 subjects, another only eight, two others didn’t include a control group. One of those studies was on gastric ulcers and, in addition to lacking a control group, failed to reflect the fact that ulcers come and go – and even if the turmeric were effective, the real benefit to effective treatments like antibiotics to kill off H. pylori is in preventing the ulcer’s return, not merely transitorily supressing it. Oh, and one study was from 1987.

      With results like these, it’s no wonder turmeric isn’t seen as a treatment for anything. So maybe don’t brag about that book with anyone who is scientifically literate.

      However, doesn’t historical, traditional evidence count for anything at all?

      Nope. If something worked in the past, it should be easy to prove it works in the present. At best such information is useful as a potential starting point – but realistically, molecular screening studies and receptor matching are far, far more likely to lead to meaningful information these days. In the past people used herbs because they had no other options. In fact, herbs were selected on the basis of the “doctrine of signatures”, the idea that if it looked like an eye, it probably treated eye problems. Can you see the problem with that approach? When herbs are actually tested, not only can we sort the effective from the ineffective, we can discover new properties that weren’t appreciated – for instance, Aristolochia‘s tendency to cause cancer and destroy kidneys, or St. John’s Wort’s tendency to cause photosensitivity and interfere with medications. The ancient’s weren’t necessarily unwise, they simply completely lacked an appropriate framework and materials with which to identify harms, toxicity and effectiveness. So don’t fetishize them.

      If turmeric is as potent as people claim it to be – it should be easy to demonstrate it in controlled trials. Would you take a drug based on its effectiveness in petri dishes and rats? If not, why not? And why is it OK to recommend turmeric based on such shoddy studies?

  37. Andrea says:

    I’m so glad I found this blog. I have recently been told I may have Rheumatoid Arthritis (plenty of symptoms, but needs confirmation by a rheumatologist). Since then, I have been bombarded by advice on alternative remedies which are all apparently miracle workers. GAPS diet (for me and my 4yo son with sensory issues and fussy eating), turmeric, alkalising my body, just to name a few. It is great to read an alternative view to the Mercola/Weston Price mob.
    And to have that view based on logic and science is priceless.

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      Please do see a rheumatologist for confirmation and treatment. RA can lead to permanent joint damage with deformity and disability. There are medications that can help prevent the damage, especially if started early in the course of the disease. They are called DMARDs – disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs.

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