Turmeric was dubbed “the spice of life” in ancient times. It’s called “the holy powder” in India today and figures prominently in the millions of curries served up every day on the Indian Subcontinent. Ayurveda medicine attributes life-enhancing qualities to turmeric.
Those of us in the West might dismiss these claims as folklore, but over the past decade clinical studies have shown that curcumin — the active ingredient in turmeric — has great promise as a remedy for:
The Bigger Obstacle from Our Health System
Given turmeric’s gigantic promise, why is research so limited?
Bharat Aggarwal, professor of cancer research at the University of Texas and a leading curcumin researcher, says that big, expensive human trials haven’t happened because the drug companies can’t make money selling a curry spice that’s available at your local grocery store. But anecdotally, he says, “I have a thousand patients who correspond with me, and the response [to curcumin] has been overwhelming.”
Reviewing the mounting evidence of the powerful role this substance can play as an anti-inflammatory agent, an essay on the Nutrition Wonderland website concluded:
So we have to leave this story where we have left so many before it. Turmeric and its flavonoid curcumin show massive therapeutic benefits for all sorts of diseases and maladies. Inflammatory pain from arthritis, elderly suffering from mental decline and women genetically predisposed to cancer would appear to benefit from this compound. But no doctor in his right mind would recommend such a protocol until it was rigorously studied against the barrage of unknown drug interactions, and, of course, amidst a minefield of malpractice litigation.
Here we wait, for additional study that will probably never come on the scale required to elevate curcumin to the echelon of a true pharmaceutical-type product. The advances are novel and interesting but remain in a medical gray area until the structure of the medical system is updated to take herbal medicine seriously. Let’s hope for a day when someone with a bit more training than the clerk at your local vitamin/herb store can legally guide you towards therapeutic herbal remedies.
So there we are.
On a happier note, while it may be just another example of the powerful placebo effect, I feel like my arthritic back pain has eased after just two days on my new curcumin-piperine supplement.