Published: Jan 20, 2017
The New Era begins. And whatever happens, it’s a good idea to be healthy. Not because you’re going to lose your health care — nobody can predict what happens with that — or may have to make a run for the border, but because change means stress and stress is the petri dish of disease.
Shall we start with turmeric? It’s been used in Asia for thousands of years, both as the main spice in curry and as a medicine. In our country, it’s used in curries and to color mustard. In the last few years, it’s come on as a Thing. Now, in some circles, it’s considered an all-in-one miracle. The question is: How many of the claims for turmeric are valid, how many are hype?
These are the claims for curcumin, the principal chemical in turmeric: It’s an anti-inflammatory, good for pain relief. It’s an antioxidant. It fights and may prevent cancer. It lessens depression and anxiety. For pre-diabetes patients, it holds diabetes 2 at bay. It controls rheumatism. It prevents heart attacks among bypass patients. It’s an anticoagulant. [If you have low blood pressure, consult your doctor before you start taking turmeric.] And you can take it in high doses with no side effects.
I’ll get to the yes-it’s-great, no-it’s-not debate. First, my personal experience. Last summer, physical and emotional events conspired to wreck my back. In the morning, I couldn’t stand up straight. Walking more than a block was a career effort. And the pain could be acute. I tried acupuncture and Reiki. I was treated by a chiropractor. All helped. But it wasn’t until I started taking turmeric that the healing became dramatic. I am now so close to being myself again that I feel guilty about not going to the gym.
I take two 1000 mg capsules a day. But not any 1000 mg capsules. The liver quickly flushes curcumin — the chemical that makes turmeric worth taking — and you get no benefit. You must buy capsules that contain a bit of black pepper. Repeat: no pepper in your turmeric caspsules and you are simply burning money and wasting hope. As long as you’re at it, go for organic. [To buy 180 capsules of the best-selling 1000 mg Turmeric for $23 from Amazon, click here.]
The dose is less exact, but the traditional way to ingest turmeric is in a tea. On a trip to Okinawa — which has the world’s longest average life span, 81.2 years — Dr. Andrew Weil learned that Okinawans drink turmeric tea all day, either brewed or in cans. Here’s how he makes it. [To buy 3 oz of Organic Turmeric Tea Powder with ginger and black pepper for $20 from Amazon, click here.]
Now to the science.
The New York Times is yes-and-no. “Turmeric is neither a miracle drug nor a supernatural phenomenon.”
Forbes sneers. “Curcumin is… a talented pharmaceutical con artist… Chemists looking for potential drugs usually start with screening tests that can show how a molecule interacts with proteins implicated in various diseases, indicating the ways it might be useful. Despite its apparent worthlessness as a medicine, curcumin actually does really well in these screens.”
Andrew Weil — a medical revolutionary, but a sober one — is a total fan: “However you do it adding turmeric to your diet is one of the best moves toward optimal health you can make… People in India, who eat turmeric in their daily curries, have among the world’s lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease. That does not appear to be a coincidence. In fact, extracts of turmeric have been found to contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer’s disease.”
Here’s a formal study.
Here’s a report on pre-diabetes. “The study included 240 Thai adults with prediabetes who were randomly assigned to take either curcumin capsules or a placebo. The ones taking curcumin took six supplement capsules a day, each of which contained 250 milligrams of ‘curcuminoids.’ After nine months, 19 of the 116 placebo patients had developed type 2 diabetes. That compared with none of the 119 patients taking curcumin.
Here’s a laundry list of benefits.
And a video.
And now… you decide.