Turmeric has been used as a spice and medicine for thousands of years. And in recent decades, it has been used as a dietary supplement, often sold as curcumin (a compound found in dried turmeric) and claimed to relieve joint pain, reduce inflammation, and improve mobility. It is gaining popularity.
In Thailand, turmeric is commonly consumed in the form of spices and supplements to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating and indigestion, said Dr. Krit Pongpirul, associate professor of preventive and social medicine at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. However, only a few small studies have evaluated such benefits.
In a study published Monday in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, Dr. Pompirul and his colleagues tested whether curcumin supplements could help patients with functional dyspepsia.
In the eight-week trial, researchers divided 206 patients with functional dyspepsia into three randomly assigned groups. One group took 20 milligrams of omeprazole (a drug that reduces stomach acid) once a day, and the other group took omeprazole (a drug that reduces stomach acid) once a day. The other is two 250-milligram curcumin capsules taken four times a day. The third person took both omeprazole and curcumin at the above doses daily.
151 patients completed the study, and at weeks 4 and 8, all three groups reported similar reductions in symptoms such as pain, burping, heartburn, and bloating.
According to Dr. Pompirul, curcumin appears to be as effective as omeprazole in reducing symptoms of functional dyspepsia. Although few side effects were reported, the authors noted that long-term studies are needed to assess the risks and benefits of supplements.
Despite these promising results, Dr. Brian Lacy, a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., said in an e-mail that he would be hesitant to recommend curcumin supplements to patients based solely on this study. stated in an email.
He said the results would have been more convincing if the study had included a placebo group. Without it, it is impossible to know whether a participant’s response is due to the treatment, a placebo effect, or the passage of time.
That said, because functional dyspepsia causes severe discomfort, there are no drugs approved to treat the condition in the United States, Dr. Lacey said. Omeprazole, commonly used off-label, appears to be effective in only about 1 in 10 patients.
In the absence of better treatments, Dr. Lacey said, people who prefer natural or herbal products “may be able to use this data with confidence to say, ‘Let’s try curcumin first.'”
However, Dr. Mahtab Jafari, a professor of pharmacy at the University of California, Irvine, cautioned that patients with painful gastrointestinal symptoms should not use curcumin without proper medical evaluation. Also, since dietary supplements are less regulated, there are important precautions to keep in mind.
Does turmeric help with other conditions?
According to Dr. Janet Funk, a professor at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, turmeric and curcumin are among the most studied dietary supplements.
In a comprehensive review published in March, Dr. Funk et al. looked at how curcumin supplements affect a variety of health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, digestive disorders, cancer, and dementia. We evaluated 389 clinical trials.
Although many of the studies are small and not well designed, the evidence suggests that supplements are probably effective for osteoarthritis and may also potentially help people with insulin resistance and diabetes. she stated.
Dr. Funk cautioned that the compositions of the products used in these studies varied widely, as did the supplements currently on the market. This makes it difficult to try a supplement, get promising results, and then find a matching supplement in the store.
Curcumin supplements have also been found to contain potentially harmful contaminants. In a study published in 2018, Dr. Funk and colleagues analyzed 35 curcumin supplements and found that all but one contained lead.
The researchers also found residues of toxic industrial solvents such as toluene, a chemical found in paint, nail polish and gasoline, in 25 products tested, although the solvent levels are generally considered safe. It was below the limit. Also, many curcumin supplements contain piperine, an extract of black pepper, which increases the absorption of curcumin but can also interfere with the action of some medications.
Dr. Jafari, who studies curcumin in his own lab, believes it has genuine anti-inflammatory effects, but large-scale, carefully designed trials and industry regulation are lacking. Considering this, he said, he does not recommend curcumin supplements.
Dr. Jafari said before using any dietary supplement, make sure it has been verified by a reputable third-party organization such as the United States Pharmacopoeia, NSF, or ConsumerLab.com.
You should also check with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with medications or interference with required tests. And to continue to monitor yourself for side effects from taking supplements, she said.
However, given concerns about the purity and safety of turmeric supplements, the best use of this plant may be its oldest. “Purchase the beautiful turmeric root, grind it up and enjoy it in your food,” says Dr. Jafari.