Everywhere you go, turmeric is there. It’s in your food, fused into your latte or tea, part of your skin-healing facemask. And some people even juice the stuff! What’s more, doctors are treating everything from Alzheimer’s disease to cancer with it. Whether used whole or in supplement form, there is seemingly nothing it can’t do.
Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is the Swiss army knife of the herb kingdom. This legendary spice has been used in Chinese and Indian folk medicine for over 5,000 years.
Is Turmeric as Effective as Conventional Drugs?
Turmeric is such an icon in the culinary and natural medicinal worlds that it often reminds me of a superhero. Today, 10,000-plus studies reference the powerful effects of turmeric and curcumin (its most active ingredient) in the treatment or prevention of several horrific diseases. A growing number of researchers have even concluded that this spice compares favorably with various conventional drugs, including antidepressants, anti-inflammatories, and even chemotherapy drugs.
Turmeric and the powerful polyphenol curcumin have been fighting crime (I mean disease) for millennia with much success. At the same time, the super villain Big Pharma (aka the pharmaceutical industry) will do whatever it takes to stand in its way. After all, nothing bothers Big Pharma more than natural, side effect-free solutions that work as well as or better than the pharmaceutical drugs they offer.
Media Attacks Turmeric, but Should You Believe Them?
The mainstream media appears to be the ally of drug companies. Exaggerated, embellished, and possibly fabricated headlines regularly make bad guys out of natural remedies that evidence suggests protect and heal us.
For instance, a Forbes headline read: “Everybody Needs To Stop With This Turmeric Molecule.” Another publication stated: “Forget What You’ve Heard: Turmeric Seems To Have Zero Medicinal Properties.” The job of these attention-grabbing titles is to warn scientists and consumers that curcumin, and likely turmeric itself, is a “waste of money and time.”
Where is all this coming from? The basis for this attack stems from a paper published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry in January. The perspective review stated that no double-blind, placebo-controlled, human trials (randomized control trials; RCTs) of curcumin have been successful. As a result, news outlets reported that curcumin doesn’t do anything for your health at all.
That’s an over-simplistic conclusion to come to. You see, the media and some scientists will ignore anything that isn’t a RCT. In other words, the first-hand experiences of success using turmeric are deemed as “anecdotal claims.” And thought of as completely worthless. Also discarded are the thousands of animal (in vivo) and cell (in vitro) studies that illustrate the therapeutic properties of turmeric and curcumin.
The basis for such ignorance is seemingly political, since researchers cannot prove that turmeric, or specifically curcumin, is useful as a drug. Conventional drug development studies run clinical tests on particular compounds, like curcumin. Chemists will favor a reductionist approach with chemicals—and how they interact with the body—while overlooking the fact that herbs have other properties.
The problem with this is that when you isolate a single constituent from a herb or whole food, it behaves more like a chemical and less like a natural food. Basically, extracting curcumin changes the functional properties of turmeric. Therefore, it is unfair to say that, since you have not found the healing powers of curcumin (in certain studies), the healing power of turmeric doesn’t exist. This is a flaw within medicinal chemistry, where the object of the study no longer is seen as a living thing.
Don’t Believe the Anti-Turmeric Hype
Overall, turmeric is much more than curcumin. Its hundreds of components all must work together to benefit a person’s health. While Big Pharma wants to create synthetic curcumin analogs that can be patented, bad curcumin research fails to show positive results experienced by traditional cultures that use natural turmeric.
And, although the media didn’t mention this part, the researchers suggested that future studies take a more holistic approach into account for its chemically diverse elements. They may synergistically add to its potential health benefits.
So, as turmeric gains popularity, the media will continue to discourage you from it. Should one study with an agenda negate the thousands of positive studies that support the beneficial power of this remarkable spice?
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Ji, S., “800 Reasons Turmeric Threatens Big Pharma,” GreenMedInfo, July 4, 2016; http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/800-reasons-turmeric-threatens-big-pharma, last accessed July 13, 2017.
Lemonick, S., “Everybody Needs To Stop With This Turmeric Molecule,” Forbes, January 19, 2017; https://www.forbes.com/sites/samlemonick/2017/01/19/everybody-needs-to-quit-it-with-this-turmeric-molecule/#47a97b9a79ff, last accessed July 13, 2017.
“Contrary to decades of hype, curcumin alone is unlikely to boost health,” ACS, January 11, 2017; https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2017/acs-presspac-january-11-2017/contrary-to-decades-of-hype-curcumin-alone-is-unlikely-to-boost-health.html, last accessed July 13, 2017.
Rathi, A., “Forget what you’ve heard: Turmeric seems to have zero medicinal properties,” QUARTZ, January 12, 2017; https://qz.com/883829/a-large-scientific-review-study-shows-that-curcumin-in-turmeric-has-no-medicinal-properties/, last accessed July 13, 2017.
MacMillan, A., “Turmeric May Not Be a Miracle Spice After All,” TIME, January 12, 2017; http://time.com/4633558/turmeric-curcumin-inflammation-spice/, last accessed July 13, 2017.
“12 Turmeric Benefits: Superior to Medications?” Dr. Axe; https://draxe.com/turmeric-benefits/, last accessed July 12, 2017.
Ji, S., “Science Confirms Turmeric As Effective As 14 Drugs,” GreenMedInfo, May 13, 2013; http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/science-confirms-turmeric-effective-14-drugs, last accessed July 13, 2017.