Turmeric: What is it Good For?

The supplement industry historically is a conga-line of promoters selling unproven or disproven health products. Supplement claims are crank whack-a-mole for the most part—knock one down and another comes up. It is an industry that markets with a constant drone of miracle cures that fail to deliver the miracle. Turmeric is a newly popular herbal supplement. I see patients using it in ever-increasing numbers. Most of my patients are taking turmeric as an osteoarthritis remedy, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Historically there have been rare exceptions to the failure of herbal supplements; let’s take a look at turmeric and see if it’s good for something other than a tasty dinner.

Turmeric grows wild in southeast Asia. It’s commonly used as a flavor and color additive. Although it has a long history as a folk remedy, it is more commonly used as a spice. The plant’s roots are boiled and then dried in hot ovens; eventually they are ground into a orange-yellow powder with a variety of uses in cooking.

Due to its folk remedy status it has been popularized as a medical remedy. There is a lot of research evaluating the possibility of a medical benefit. Most of the medical research focuses on the primary ingredient curcumin. It is assumed to be safe for consumption since it is commonly used as a spice, at least in those typically small amounts. So is there any good reason to suspect that turmeric has escaped prior detection by the medical industry?

Frozen turmeric root (produced in Thailand) purchased from a Cleveland, Ohio Chinese grocery store. Via Wikimedia.

Turmeric has many positive attributes ascribed to it. Evaluating claims critically you will see most of it is either implausible or mutually exclusive. Interestingly there is a large volume of research associated with turmeric. Promoters provide endless links to peer-reviewed research. I estimate one turmeric site alone offered at least 1,700 different research papers, which were all disappointingly similar. A random sample of 20 varied topics in the bibliography revealed exclusively in vitro research, meaning kind of test tube research, rather than demonstrations in living organisms. I decided to independently research turmeric and I found thousands of individual studies. Since I do not realistically have the time to review 30 years of research I used the Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database. It provides a list of the leading research claims.

Their evaluation of turmeric research is generous. The authors feel it might possibly be effective for upset stomach, and may have anti-inflammatory properties. I reviewed the best evidence as compiled by their authors, but it was sadly disappointing. Although I can agree that turmeric is probably a low-risk supplement, there were problems for gall bladder patients or surgical patients. The disappointing part stems from the quality of the research. There were failings commonly found in alternative medicine. The research was primarily in vitro, or they were preliminary studies without replication. Additionally, most of the research had results consistent with normal variation as opposed to significant findings. All the research suffers from a lack of replication. I have written extensively in a prior post about the common failings of preliminary or in vitro studies, and why less than 1% of substances with positive in vitro/preliminary research ever eventually result in anything useful.

There is one piece of research often quoted as proof of turmeric benefit as an anti-inflammatory. This was a study comparing it to diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug available by prescription. This poorly structured study fails to have proper controls and it used a faulty system for measuring results. The researchers took 80 people off of anti-inflammatory medications, rested them, and then put them on curicumin and diclofenac randomly. Although the administration of medication was blinded, the COX-2 monocyte samples from synovial fluid used to determine relative inflammation of the joint were un-blinded. This undermines controls for researcher bias in any way. There is a multitude of other issues as well: the subject numbers were too few, there were no baseline comparisons, and no patient reported symptoms. Needless to say, I was not impressed and wondered why they didn’t just do a simple comparative study, double-blinded with three groups: one using diclofenac, one using curicumin, and one taking nothing. All you can glean from this study is that the “best research” is a disappointingly structured preliminary index study.

In my opinion this is huge red flag that turmeric is not effective. Anytime a promising substance has tons of research surrounding it, done over decades, yet has no replication or rigor, that combination is almost universally synonymous with “does not work,” even though a casual glance might lead one to assume “All that research must mean there is something to it.”

My answer is two-pronged. Normally, the progression of research is common with effective treatments. Lack of progression in research means that the results for more rigorous studies are withheld or unpublished. So repeating endless preliminary work is window dressing without substance. Secondly, constant retreading of preliminary work happens only when it is being done by researchers who either lack expertise or are deliberately trying to avoid further questions. Good research does not retread preliminary research when you have something promising. Replication of results would make turmeric very valuable. That substance would be snatched up by a pharmaceutical company, become drug patented, and be turned from a million-dollar supplement into a billion-dollar drug. That may sound cynical, but it is accurate to say that most supplements are produced by the supplement wings of pharmaceutical giants. So why do you think they don’t move it from a less-profitable division to a more profitable one? If turmeric had been proven effective for any condition it would be a medical boon. Medicine is always hoping to find new treatments but historically very few available folk remedies have escaped evaluation. Most of the low hanging fruit (or roots, in this case) has been plucked.

So why has the research stagnated? The combination of easy-on-the-stomach and good-for-inflammation is a pharmaceutical gold mine: safe, effective, and better than current drugs in use. It would be widely used without question. None of this means absolutely that turmeric is useless, rather it is tremendous red flag that it underperforms.

A quick Google search will reveal another glaring red flag for pseudoscience. Turmeric is promoted as a safe and effective treatment for an impossibly large number of maladies. An abbreviated list of medical issues that turmeric is recommended for: anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulant, anti-platelet, anti-depressant, cholesterol lowering, antioxidant, deep vein thrombosis prevention, myocardial infarction prevention, dementia, memory loss, cancer, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and chronic pain. The hallmark of quack treatment is the cure-all treatment.

Far too many alternative medicine treatments offer such panaceas. The items on that list are extremely varied medically. You have cancer, genetic diseases, neurological dysfunction, psychological illness, all with vastly differing causes and mechanisms of action. The truth is that anything which claims to be a wonder drug for such an incredibly varied list of problems is impossible. The human body just doesn’t work that way.

Turmeric also has potential side effects. Reasonable evidence exists that it can give you gall bladder problems at high doses and may thin your blood. It should be avoided as a concentrated supplement prior to any surgery since it may have anticoagulant properties.

If you point at a drug and say X substance has Y problem it is because it has good research behind it. Remember that a drug has a history, that at one time it was a promising substance that had unknown dosage, side effects, and toxicity. If doctors started using Drug X when it was a promising substance rather than a proven drug it would just mean rolling the dice with your life. When you are taking something that you know nothing about, that ignorance does not make it safer. Unknown is just that: unknown. It does not in fact makes it less dangerous than a drug. Additionally, calling something a supplement yet promoting it as a drug because you lack evidence doesn’t make it a better option. It just makes your claims less reliable. Claiming that turmeric is safe merely because it is naturally derived and doesn’t have any good research is just plain wrong. “Natural” does not at all mean “safe” or “effective.”

For example, the anticoagulant warfarin (a.k.a. Coumadin) was originally derived from sweet clover. Sweet clover was unknowingly causing livestock to die from internal bleeding when they grazed on it. It was a mystery that perplexed farmers who didn’t realize for decades. When they eventually determined that the clover was the cause it was initially used as a rat poison. Eventually, with proper research it evolved into a drug that saves lives. Although natural, it was not safe until it was properly researched and dosed. Compare this to the pain medication acetaminophen, commonly called Tylenol in the United States. It is a completely synthetic compound derived in the laboratory. Yet it is arguably one of the safest of all available pain medications today. So a preliminary natural plant without dosing and research equals rat poison, and good solidly researched synthetic chemical equals safe drug. The point is this, tagging something as all natural is a marketing trick to make you feel good, distracting consumers from possible severe risks. The moral of the story is simple: an unknown natural substance is always more dangerous than a drug because the risks are unknown. All pharmacoactive substances have a downside. Natural doesn’t equate with no risk. It is illogical to assume that nature doesn’t want to kill or injure us, because more often than not it does.

Turmeric is a food additive for both color and flavor. We know that at those dosages it seems safe. What we don’t know is if it really does anything at those doses. We also don’t know if it has any benefits, dangers, how much it takes to get the supposed benefits, and we don’t know how much is dangerously too much.

I can’t recommend turmeric as a medical treatment. It is an unknown with many worrisome red flags and volumes of poor quality research. Its major appeal seems to be the appeal to nature fallacy, which is demonstrably false. But I can recommend turmeric as a spice. I have personally researched it and give it the Skeptoid blogger Seal of Approval. I recommend you try it. Here is one of my favorite Curry Chicken recipes, and for you vegetarians out there a nice Sweet Potato and Curry soup. Dose your food according to taste!

Indian Curry Chicken Via Wikimedia

Take a minute and support Skeptoid. The money doesn’t go to me, but instead goes to keep Skeptoid running as a resource of science and skepticism. Remember: all donations and gifts to Skeptoid Media, Inc. are tax deductible under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (sections 170, 2055, 2106, 2522).

You can follow me at Twitter @steveproacnp for a daily dose of skeptical nursing.

Disclaimer: This post is my personal opinion, it is not a substitute for medical care. It is for informational purposes only. Information on the Skeptoid blog is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. This post does not reflect the opinion of my partners, professional affiliates, or academic affiliations. I have no financial conflicts of interest to disclose.

About Stephen Propatier

Stephen Propatier is a board certified acute care nurse practitioner specializing in spine and sports medicine. He is a member of the Society for Science Based Medicine.
This entry was posted in Alternative Medicine, Consumer Ripoffs, Food, Health, Nature, Pseudoscience, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

78 Responses to Turmeric: What is it Good For?

  1. Bridget says:

    I knew it! That ignorant fool George Noory on Coast to Coast AM had been shilling turmeric as a cure-all for years….but then again he says he sees Shadow Rodents too. Perhaps a side effect from ingesting WAY too much turmeric?

  2. Karolyn says:

    But it’s OK that there are drugs that go through all the research, are approved by the FDA; and then ultimately found to be harmful.

    Acetaminophen has been found to be very bad for the liver. “Tylenol is not without its serious complications. It is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States, and the drug in some cases led to fatalities. The active ingredient in Tylenol, acetaminophen, accounts for more than 100,000 calls to poison centers, roughly 60,000 emergency-room visits and hundreds of deaths each year in the United States. In England, it is the leading cause of liver failure requiring transplants. In 2009, the FDA issued guidelines for adding overdose guidelines to packages and in 2011, the agency confirmed the link between the drug and liver damage.” https://www.drugwatch.com/tylenol/

    The best drug is no drug.

    • Jez says:

      “The best drug is no drug”: Umm, no. If I’m dying of scarlet fever, I’ll want some antibiotics please. The best drug is no drug, but only when you’re not ill.

      The best drug is the one that you take only when and how much you need. Acetaminophen is bad for the liver in high doses, just like alcohol. As Stephen points out in this article, Warfarin is deadly in high doses, but at low doses it saves lives. Going by the suggestion of “no drug” would be a disaster to those who need it.

      All drugs are poisons, what matters is the dose.

      • Karolyn says:

        The problem is how much is too much? Too much is prescribed. People are on so many drugs it’s ridiculous, especially antibiotics. There are other methods of treatment that don’t get enough airplay. People are to ready to go to the dr. at the drop of a hat and take whatever is dished out. Lazy people don’t want to take the time to research and help themselves. More preventive care and self care means less illness also. Rather than using a bandaid, why not work on causes and curing. Chemo does not cure and is a temporary fix.

        • Karoyln
          People are on so many drugs-By who’s measure? What constitutes too much? it is a weasel attack to say to much. For example I take zero haven’t taken an antibiotic in a decade.
          “There are other methods of treatment that don’t get enough airplay.”- False….put any health issue into google and the first links you will find will be filled with crank useless treatments. People love easy simple solutions to complex problems. Alternative treatments get too much attention.
          “Rather than using a bandaid, why not work on causes and curing. Chemo does not cure and is a temporary fix.”- Ya no if chemo doesn’t work you die cancer can reoccur because some is missed but many cures are for life.

          • Karolyn says:

            Go to any doctor’s office and see the people with their plastic baggies filled with vials. On any given day, mot dotors’ offices are full. You can’t really believe that all the medications kids are on are a good thing. When I go to the doctor, at 69, and tell them I’m not on anything, there i always an incredulous look on the nurse’s face, and i mean to keep it that way. Of course, I haven’t even mentioned during this discourse so far how important the mind is in healing.

          • will says:

            Most people don’t discover “alternative” treatments until later in life (for better or for worse, which agreed, more often times it’s bunk). But people are generally brought up to trust doctors and medicine, and wind up on the alternaquack doorstep (again, for better or worse) when their treatments (or send-offs) leave them stranded or worsened.

            In that mindset, it’s far “easier” (probably due to familiarity and normalcy for those of us no living in a West Coast metropolis) to go to the doctor and swallow a pill then it is to do something like make turmeric palatable in a dose that is alleged to matter. I’ve used turmeric for cooking, it’s a pain in the ass and would require more than the pinch my recipes call for in the supposed medicinal dose, which also calls for a ration of black pepper blend etc. etc. Far easier to swallow Tylenol (which last mainstream, not alternative news cited for being “dangerous at even lower doses than expected”) or Advil or Aleve (which I just took now due to a back spasm) than having to mess with that nasty yellow staining powder.

            On the other hand, I’ve been prescribed things that worked immediately, and been prescribed things that did nothing for multiple years, and been prescribed a couple things that gave me permanent neurological issues after a ten minute “diagnosis” based on some quick cue-card responses when I was a naive twenty something. Yet I don’t shun medicine, despite how common those issues are. Likely far more common than the studies show, as those left up a creek don’t exist in studies in most cases. And since the “alternative” arena has far more room to run wild, of course it’s flooded, like a city with hucksters up and down. That isn’t going to negate the reality of when something actually does work for me (several times discovered accidentally, not because of some pie in the sky claims), I will value it.

            Just as there are foods that can harm, if there isn’t a natural food source in the world that has healing properties (outside of the not-so disputed vitamin C immune system boosts), that in itself would be highly suspect. The human body wasn’t designed to fail the second it stopped spending all day hunting and gathering until synthetics were born. Small pox? Vaccine please. Strep throat? Antibiotics please. Surgery? If it can’t be reversed, sign me up. A prescription cream that does nothing for over a year? I’ll try fixing my diet. Oh, that actually worked within weeks? Ok. I’m sorry there aren’t studies to validate it, but I’m not going to be spoonfed reality from either camp.

            If something as dirt cheap as Turmeric were validated for the grand claims (I’ve never had any benefits from it so this is hypothetical), the pharmaceutical industry wouldn’t scoop it up because they would know there’s no way they can get away with gouging the cost enough to make it competitive with synthetic painkillers without drastic measures; what are they going to do, orchestrate a shortage? It’s not a conspiracy theory to know how business operates. I’m sure turmeric is all hype outside of Eastern dishes, but it would never merge industries without some serious chicanery far beyond what these quack supplement companies can pull off.

            It’d be nice to see something published from a skeptical mind that isn’t coming from all-or-nothing camp with the only thing resembling the slack of consideration is mockery, despite a lot of alternative hucksters asking for it in a similar fashion that men who troll women for sex jade those women for men who are actually serious about looking for a relationship (or any other analogy that logic can be applied to).

          • will says:

            *than. (sorry for all the run-on sentences)

    • Again to restate the obvious from above Karolyn you are making the common mistake of the herbalist community. “I don’t know what the problems are with herb treatment” therefore it must be safe. I call this the ostrich approach to healthcare. I believe! Therefore why do I want to learn the truth. Pointing out that drugs have problems just proves the point that you need to know the problems of something before you take it. The word drug does not mean something is more dangerous. It just means it has been tested to know what the dangers are. Untested is just ignorance and ignorance doesn’t make it safer.

      • Karolyn says:

        Alternative methods have served me and millions very well. The number of people killed by prescribed medication is staggering.

        • All treatment carries risk. The lives saved and people fed are exponential numbers of magnitude higher than those harmed by drugs. The earth has more people living on it right now than the whole rest of human history combined. That is due for the most part because of science based medicine and medication. When unproven alternative treatments ruled the world there was appalling levels of death and disease. A life expectancy decades shorter and a unacceptable high child mortality. Pointing out science based medicine problems does little to promote the failed techniques of alternative medicine and it appalling historical failure. Your self serving anecdote that it help you is because you are surrounded by those who have the wisdom to utilize proven techniques for health which protects you from your own foolishness.

          • Karolyn says:

            Sanitation plays the most important part in the increase in longevity. However, predictions seem to point to shorter lives in the future due to lifestyle (obesity for one).

          • “The earth has more people living on it right now than the whole rest of human history combined.”

            Another popular myth. Check it out. The numbers aren’t even close.

          • mudguts says:

            Sorry even on raw numbers more people live on and are saved by modern drugs.

            I was going to be clever and point out rate or raw number (which is a fun thing to do) but in this case. The number of people without access to modern medicine of any sort is very small wrt former population spreads.

            Stephen there is a number agreement (very minor error) that may have led to Tershius’ argument

        • NoseyNick says:

          Scientific methods have served me and millions very well. The number of people killed by alternative medication is staggering. Hey, this game is easy!

          Or to quote the great Tim Minchin… “By definition […] Alternative Medicine[…] Has either not been proved to work, Or been proved not to work. Do you know what they call alternative medicine
          That’s been proved to work? MEDICINE!”.

        • A Comma in Infinity says:

          No it’s not staggering. Wrong.

    • A Comma in Infinity says:

      Eyes rolling. That’d there’s a recommended limit on acetaminophen consumption at 3000-4000mg a day.

      Water intoxication can kill you. Drink too much water and you will die. But Whole Foods just keeps marketing it so they make big bucks!!! It’s a conspiracy by Big Natural Foods to prevent you from drinking Coca Cola!! Water sellers are out to hurt you!

      • Karolyn says:

        See my link above. 128,000 people dying from drugs prescribed to them is not acceptable. Roll your eyes all you want. Your superiority complex holds no sway.

        • Alison Hudson says:

          As is always the case with numbers, simply quoting that one count without context is misleading. Considering that there are, in any given month, something like 149 MILLION people taking a prescription drug in the U.S., to have only 128,000 of them dying from those scripts in a year is actually quite good. That’s better odds than eating at Chipotle, based on last year’s data 🙂 .

          • Wordwizard says:

            Not to mention that the people who were taking the prescriptions were SICK.

          • NoseyNick says:

            Or to phrase it another way… For every 1300 people prescribed medicine, ONE died from it. It’s probably safe to assume none of those 1300 were prescribed medicine for fun, they presumably all had some noteworthy health issues, so how many of those 1300 do you think might have died WITHOUT their medication? I’m willing to bet it would be VASTLY more than 1… In fact, I would be quite willing to very literally bet my life on it thanks! 😀

    • A Comma in Infinity says:

      Eyes rolling. That’s why there’s a recommended limit on acetaminophen consumption at 3000-4000mg a day.

      Water intoxication can kill you. Drink too much water and you will die. But Whole Foods just keeps marketing it so they make big bucks!!! It’s a conspiracy by Big Natural Foods to prevent you from drinking Coca Cola!! Water sellers are out to hurt you!

  3. Wordwizard says:

    Could you do a column on ginger? I use candied ginger for nausea, gas, gastrointestinal upsets, and (to mask) tooth ache. My dentist told me it has another beneficial effect for tooth ache as well, but I’ve forgotten what…

  4. Wordwizard says:

    (forgot to check “Notify me of follow-up comments”—you can delete this one…)

  5. gymgoki says:

    Thanks Stephen. In depth and well written as usual.
    Herbs or whatever have downsides. I have seen that herbs can cause significant bleeding.
    check out:

  6. Mudguts says:

    Ah… The usual Karolyn meh…

    For those who suddenly find tumeric stains on the counter … A bit of bleach..

    Seeing we got a curry recipe, mays as well be able to clean the surprise stains…

    Now bleach is supposed to be wonderful.. Altie loons swear by it…

  7. Karolyn says:

    Thanks for your testimonial Pat. Supplements are like medications in that nothing works the same for everybody. Personally, I don’t know what has helped my arthritis because I have been taking so many different things for so long. Al I know is that I used to have terrible pain in my hands some years ago, and it’s disappeared. I only started taking turmeric about 6 months ago, mainly because of the benefits I had read about. I feel like I’m getting younger and healthier every day.

    • Karolyn-so your comment isn’t to thin air.
      Had no problem with pats anecdote but he was promoting a specific product. Pat please resubmit your comment here with out the advertising we cannot allow testimonials promoting specific products.

      • Pat says:

        Stephen, I didn’t mean to advertise the Curcumin suppliment I took, it was a brand my friend was taking I bought off the internet…they are not an MLM company and I am not a sales person to this company at all…I wanted to really make a point that the curcumin supplement has to have the combination of pepper to absorb into your system, and the amount I took for it to help me. CVS type with curcumin only, will not work as well, if at all…Please let know how I can take the brand name off. Thank you…

        • Mudguts says:

          … why dont you guys learn to enjoy a fantastic diet and learn to cook like demons?….

          Honestly.. life has to be far more fun than considering your food as “medicine” and going on sophisticated rants justifying the fact that you cant cook.

          Yes.. here in the west, there is no excuse for not being able to draw on our multicultural heritage.

    • Pat says:

      Karolyn, I started feeling better within a week (4 weeks until gone) on the Curcumin C3 Complex BioPerine (pepper), but not all curcumin supplements are equal. I found out that the curumin supplements have to also contain a pepper within the curcumin to absorb into your system. My ranch friend informed me of what the difference was. Just curcumin (from CVS) might not work.

      I asked my OBGYN if there would be any side effects from me taking curcumin with my 10mg dose of estrogen I take twice a week, he said “no”. I am not on any other meds. I rarely use OTCs and I do not like using pharmaceutical drugs ( ok, my estrogen) unless I am at dire needs. I am very healthy at 58, according to my recent CTA scans and all my blood work. I have had very high cholesterol all my life (average 350-450, yes!). I have refused to take any pills for my cholesterol, and my doctors were surprised “recently” to see how healthy my heart was and my arteries are clear with no calcium buildup!! That is another story!

      I recommend anyone who wants to try herbal supplements, please check with your doctor, they can react with medications you are taking, and what worked for my bursisitis, may not work for you. And you have to be patient, the curcumin took 4 full weeks, 3 @ 500ml tables a day( i weigh127 pounds) until my 28 years of bursisitis was completly gone, but it can take 8 weeks or longer with the supplement, I was just lucky…… I did stop taking the curcumin after my bursitis was gone though….still pain free 8 months and going!

      • Karolyn says:

        Good for you! I take a very good brand of curcumin not available in stores. It is from a company that does a lot of its own research & development, and I trust their products. I take no medications. As a matter of fact I declined treatment for hepC 15 years ago and am doing just fine. Now they have the new treatment that costs $84,000, but I wouldn’t take it even if it was good for my type of HCV.

        • mudguts says:

          Lets wheel out the comoparative hypochondria… The best sign of a religious altie bod there is.

          I am afraid Karolyn will wheel out her health (or avoidance index) quite often in her attempts to grease up an already poor anecdote.

          How often does this need to be pointed out to the altie loons on altie “therapy” posts? Possibly every 3rd comment.

          • Karolyn says:

            You don’t have to read my comments, and there are people who do not comment here often. Personal experience goes a long way with many people. As someone who likes to help others, I use my experience in that manner.

  8. Andrew Krajewski says:

    All I know is thaty it has worked for me

  9. Andrew Krajewski says:

    All I know is that Turmeric tablets have worked for me

  10. Jamie says:

    After literal gut wrenching problems using Celebrex….not to mention the cardiac issues associated with this FDA approved medicine, I decided to try glucosamine with turmeric for my osteoarthritis.

    Well, as I mentioned before, my personal healthcare is hybrid. A mixture of western & alternative/complimentary.

    So, after 6 months is it working for me. I would say yes. Pain/stiffness scale from 5-6 while on the Celebrex to a 8-9 while taking nothing to a now 3-4.

    Another positive, I can exercise more again! (That other free alternative medicine magic pill that so many people seem to be forgetting about now)

    For me at least it seems to be working so I’ll keep doing so long as it works and I’m not jeapordizing my health or safety….in comparison to the side effects from the Celebrex, this seems to be, for the time being, a “safer alternative”.

    • Pat says:

      Jamie, ditto for me, 28 years of bursisitis mainly on my left arm with major flairups. My doctor gave me steroid shots with a combination of Celebrex during my flairups. It did help, but “never” got rid of my aches and limited movement on my arm. Last August I took a combination tablet with curumin and pepper (500mg) for 30 days 3 x a day. For the first time in 28 years my aches, major flairsups and limited movement went away! I have been 100% (like new) pain free for the last 9 months! I did stop taking the curcumin after my bursitis went away 9 months ago…..which I was unsure if my bursitis would come back….it hasn’t. …

      • Steven Yentzer says:

        Same story for me! Tennis elbow, steroid shots every 6 months for a few years, Took Curcumin for about 3 months… Pain 100% gone. Have not taken any more for over a year.

        • Steven and Pat the answer to your anecdote is the same. The story you state relies upon a presumption that you have correctly nailed the only factor that has changed and that that factor is causally linked to your improvement. We just are plain bad at determining that. Too many factors to judge. Did you work out exactly the same? do the same pre workout prep, eat the same food. How do you know it wasn’t the soda you drank, or the amount you iced your elbow. Did you keep a diary? is your memory accurate? Did you in fact start to get better before the alt supplement or is it random chance that you just got better on your own? You are an extremely poor judge at correlation. It is not you personally, rather it is the normal function of the human memory. We make bad connections link together things that have no meaning and dismiss memories that don’t fit our narrative memories. That failing is why we remember nationwide jingle and don’t remember what we did last thursday at three in the afternoon. our memories are not video recorders our brain picks and chooses what we remember and when as well as why. The dismissive nature of our neuro-anatomy is what allowed our ancestors to exclude all input and focus on a fast moving predator stalking us or focus on prey for our cooking fires. The mistake you are making is the same mistakes that allowed generations of humans to believe in witchcraft, magic and bloodletting. Personal experience in a substance that has no reputable evidence after 3 decades of research is a feather on the scale trying to counterbalance a 60kg lead brick.

          • Mudguts says:

            Thats just not fair Stephen.. asking people to be good recordists of their ailments will certainly interfere with their opportunity for anecdote..

            And before you reply.. think about this..

            I was always sicker than ANY of you and I healed it with an anchovy on rye

          • Pat says:

            Stephen, I had a severe flare up from my bursitis after babysitting my grandson. He was an infant, and throughout those two weeks, I was constantly having to pick him up. My pain was so bad for months afterwards, that I finally decided to take curcumin/ pepper supplements three times a day for 30 days. That was the first time that I’ve ever tried the supplements. My neighbors husband was the one who recommended me to try curcumin/pepper 3 x a day @500 MG…. I rarely take over the counter medications, so I was not on any other medications or any other supplements before I started the curcumin. Believe me, I was hoping I could at least ease the pain, but not only did the pain go away, I could fully move my arm!

            But….my husband’s arthritis in his knees, which he also has bone spurs, the curcumin did not help his pain go away…

        • Mudguts says:

          Have I ever played social hypochondria? Just would like to complain about my sore hip that bugs me when I am driving…

          Must be all the spicy food I eat…

          er no..

          I’ll bet you five chi’s to a woobie that my etheric is tumeric

          Social hypochondria.. the language of the nat therapy enthusiasts.

  11. Tom Ewing says:

    Dear Stephen,

    No argument with your research and conclusion about Turmeric and many another “cure de jour”, but regarding:

    Compare this to the pain medication acetaminophen, commonly called Tylenol in the United States. It is a completely synthetic compound derived in the laboratory. Yet it is arguably one of the safest of all available pain medications today.

    Please consider the low dose liver toxicity of acetaminophen, and I would suggest calling it one of the safest is misleading to a popular audience.


    • Tom based upon what measure. What is low dose? Most APAP liver damage comes from inappropriate self dosing either intentional or unintentional. What pain medication are you equating to? Name another pain medication that has fewer interactions, cross reaction, or safety profile?

      • Torchwood says:

        Steve, does Skeptoid ever get accused of taking all the fun out of things?

        (for “things” read “gossip)

    • Torchwood says:

      As always, moderation is what keeps you out of trouble, along with forgoing alcohol at the same time and actually following the recommended dosages. My mother got cirrhosis of the liver taking double handfuls of acetaminophen for severe back pain. To be fair, she also got 3 bleeding ulcers from taking similar doses of ibuprophen at the same time for the same problem. I suspect her doctor never did ask her how much of either drug she was taking on a daily basis.

      Safe is relative. If you choose to take any drug read the instructions and stick to them.

      • Yes TorchW I agree.
        but to be honest I often fight with patients who are taking massive overdoses, they tell me about it. I say things directly about this behavior to them, that unless they stop they will end up on dialysis. Their counter argument is a dismissive, I’ve been doing it for years or I’m fine. My personal favorite is… well it just kept hurting so I had to take more. There are very very good reasons why more medications are not OTC and that some have been removed…. for example codeine

  12. Bridget says:

    The comments show, without a doubt, that almost everyone totally missed the point of Stephen’s article.

  13. Bill says:

    Yes prescription abuse is rampant but the key word is “abuse”.
    Karolyn, please stop fear mongering and cherry picking stats. There is no context to your information.
    As mentioned by others, WHY did those 128,000 people pass away and what were the circumstances?
    Overdose, intentional or mistaken?

    I live in Alberta and we have had just recently two high provide cases of anti vax/medicine parents losing their children.
    One to meningitis the other to tonsillitis. Both parents treated their child with home remedies with homeopathic treatments. Both children died a horrible painful death. One set of parents are in jail, the others are in custody awaiting justice.
    If there was something in turmeric that even came close to what the hype claims, then it should be investigated. It should be understood thoroughly as to how much, whats too much and ultimately if it has any medical qualities at all.
    Do we need to keep an eye on the big pharmaceutical companies? Of course we do.
    As for homeopathic remedies, I prescribe eat healthy, be happy and see a doc only when needed.
    If someone tells me to eat tree bark because it’s natural, I say “you first”.

  14. Bill says:

    Profile cases not “provide cases”.
    Why is it always after posting I see my mistakes .. dohh.

  15. Joanne G Murphy says:

    I couldn’t help notice your reference to acetaminophen as “safe.” No, it is not. Even the FDA admits there are terrible problems with Tylenol, which even at non-extreme dosages can cause fatal liver damage.

    The problem with Tylenol is that the window between the maximum safe dose and the lethal —yes, LETHAL — dose, is incredibly narrow. The max safe dose is about 7 tablets per day—and 9 will KILL you! The FDA is currently in conference with Tylenol manufacturers and others to remedy this, either by modifying the stated max safe dose, reducing the dosage, or some other means. But with facts like this I would NOT consider it safe.

    You can fact check this info with NPR, which reported the research.

    • Noah Dillon says:

      That’s true and I heard that episode of This American Life, too. There are problems with Tylenol toxicity. But the vast, vast majority of people take Tylenol as directed and are totally fine. It’s really safe for an over-the-counter product.

      • mudguts says:

        Cars are deadly too

        • NoseyNick says:

          Water is also deadly if inhaled in large quantities.

        • Noah Dillon says:

          Yeah. The point is that things which can be toxic for some people can still be considered generally safe in most circumstances in which they’re used properly. Just because it’s possible to die of a Tylenol overdose doesn’t mean it’s typically unsafe.

          • Mudguts says:

            Yep.. always had a thing about banning milk and peanuts meself… Especially if transported in cars with way to much water as coolant..

            Feel like a daffy duck insurance skit all of a sudden

  16. Edwin says:

    Hi Stephan,

    Great work and througout in providing this information. I’m a big fan of curcumin myself, but nobody seems to know what absorbent agent is really the best.

    I’ve read different studies, but they are mostly provided by the manufacturiers or somebody associated with their product.

    Do you know which absorbent agent is the best for curcumin?

    thanks in advance.

    Kind Regards,


    • mudguts says:

      I love the stuff.. I grow it.. It has gorgeous flowers
      I use it in asian cooking

      The health benefit is.. It makes a great addition to your food
      Thats it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *