‘Turmeric – the most powerful herb on the planet!’ says one of the ads I’ve just trawled through.
Anybody who makes claims like that is far more interested in making sales than in the herbs themselves, and is doing herbal medicine no favours.
Traditionally known as ‘The Golden Goddess’ in Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has a long and honourable record of use as an anti-inflammatory and an aid to digestion. More recently, it’s attracted a lot of attention as a potent anti-cancer agent. One of its most active ingredients is curcumin and, as often happens, a lot of studies have been carried out on curcumin alone. A lot of products containing curcumin are sold too, on the principle that the rest of the herb is of no interest, and you can make a lot more profit from a product than from a whole herb.
A study has just been published – see http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jmedchem.6b00975 - taking an overview of the research into curcumin to date, and concluding that there is no strong evidence for its efficacy. The researchers note that there were no double-blind controlled clinical trials, which is the gold standard for research.
In other words, most of the research was carried out on animals or in vitro. And it was only concerned with curcumin, not turmeric itself.
This is yet another example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Curcumin has never been traditionally used in isolation. Turmeric itself is never used in isolation, but is always combined with other herbs like black pepper, which increase its digestibility and augment its action. So don’t despair! Use turmeric wisely, the way generations of practitioners have worked out, and it will serve you well.