Tag Archives: turmeric

My blog…mentioned in a BBC radio programme!

Even though my blog reader D. had told me some time ago that my blog might be mentioned in the BBC radio station that had interviewed her for the programme they were doing on turmeric, I was happy about that, of course, but I hadn’t really gotten too carried away…until today, when I found and actually listened to the programme, which is available online, right here: goo.gl/Gmda8N

BBC food programmeDieneke’s case study is mentioned toward the end of the programme, so please be patient. It’s a very interesting programme, anyway. With a nice turmeric-based recipe or two, which never hurts!

I have to admit that I got a bit teary as I listened to Dieneke (no point in trying to protect her privacy anymore, since her name is mentioned during the programme!) and her oncologist discuss her case…Teary in a good way, of course!

And at this point I would like to thank blog reader Jan who posted a lovely comment on my April 20th post…the comment that inspired me to have a look for the programme in the first place (but I didn’t think I’d find it):

“On Sunday 28th May 2017 ( repeated on Monday 29th) I listened to a programme on BBC radio 4 FM called ‘The Food Programme ‘. It was talking about health benefits of turmeric and in particular curcumin. The contributor to Margaret’s blog called ‘D’ was interviewed about her use of curcumin and how her MM has stabilised now for five years. Her oncologist was also interviewed and the study was mentioned. It all sounded very positive about curcumin. ‘D’ also said that she had discovered curcumin on Margaret’s blog. The programme presenter called Sheila Dillon also has MM and as I recall had a SCT a few years ago.
I’ve had MM for seven years and have been following Margaret’s blog since then. Have tried numerous alternative treatments but due to extreme pain had five months of Velcade etc last year. Pain now coming back so thinking of doing curcumin. Hadn’t done it before for various reasons.
Margaret this is so exciting! Your curcumin protocol and your blog has been talked about on the BBC!
Thanks so much for all your great work. You’ve kept me going over these seven years.

And ‘ D ‘ thanks to you too for your major contribution .

Best wishes to all,

Jan.”

And finally, thank you, Sheila Dillon and BBC Radio 4, for this very interesting programme! :-)

Turmeric compound boosts regeneration of brain stem cells

I’ve been working on a rather complicated post (don’t ask…) but decided to take a break today, after what happened in Paris yesterday…No words can express my horror..all I can say is: “Je Suis Charlie.”

It’s hard to focus on anything else…but earlier today I came across an intriguing Science Daily article on a study showing that another compound of turmeric — not curcumin, but something called ar-turmerone — “promotes stem cell regeneration and differentiation in the brain.” And so I decided to post the link: http://goo.gl/rNXok5

In addition to imbibing vast quantities of curcumin every day, I also use turmeric, the spice, in my cooking. Often. And now I’m VERY glad I do!

100,000 times stronger than curcumin…

I would like to mention that yesterday I updated my links to articles and studies, but mainly I put them in order by publication year. I hope that will make my blog more user-friendly (for me, too, eh…sometimes I have to do a search of my OWN blog to find stuff…!).

 

Now, let me explain the rather intriguing title of today’s post: the July 14 online edition of the Arizona Daily Star (http://www.azstarnet.com/metro/248162) had an article about a University of Arizona chemist, Prof. David Gang, who is currently studying the healthful effects of turmeric, ginger and sweet basil. Quick update: before posting this piece, I tested the above link and discovered that you have to register to read the article…a slight drag, even though said registration is free…(okay, I know I probably shouldn’t have done this…but I copied the article and would be happy to forward it upon request…no registration required…happy to do it…).

 

At any rate, Prof. Gang mentions the discovery of two other compounds found in the rhizome of turmeric that have up to 100,000 times the anti-inflammatory potency of curcumin. 100,000 times??? Now how come I wasn’t aware of this? Unfortunately, the names of these two compounds are not mentioned in the article…drat! I will have to put on my SR (=Serious Researching) cap at some point soon…

 

Prof. Gang has a holistic approach to health, which I very much appreciate, of course. And I was intrigued by his suggestion that adding turmeric to the diet would be more beneficial than taking a curcumin supplement: […] Gang believes it’s more beneficial to actually eat the spices than it is to take supplements of isolated compounds […] “You’re better off using it as part of your diet than waiting till you get sick and taking a supplement,” he said.

 

Truth be told, this is not the first time that I have considered the “spice versus active ingredient” business, but this may be the first time I have written about it.

 

My thoughts at this time: if your goal is to PREVENT an illness of some sort, even cancer, making dietary changes should be high on your list. I wish that years ago I had known what I know now. One of the things I would have changed entirely is my diet. But that milk is long spilt.

 

But what happens once you HAVE cancer? Is it enough to change your diet and add spices? Hmmm, I wonder. And I think Prof. Gang would be doubtful, too. Perhaps that might work for some types of cancer…but I am a bit too tired right now to start wading out into the deep end of the pool. wink smiley Of course, it’s never too late to change one’s lifestyle etc., and in fact, since my cancer diagnosis, I have made more than a few changes in my diet, which is still not perfect but is heaps better than before. And, especially during the winter months, I cook with truckloads of spices, such as turmeric, red pepper and ginger. But I also take supplements of isolated compounds. Is all this enough to keep me stable–my goal at present? Only time will tell…

 

An interesting experiment might be to stop taking curcumin for a couple of months and try just adding more spices to my daily diet. BUT: would I have the nerve to do that? STOP taking curcumin? The very idea gives me the quivers. Yikes…

 

By the way, Prof. Gang adds that a colleague of his is already looking to form a private company to develop pharmaceutical remedies from the compounds he isolates.

 

Spices for thought…

“Why is it so?”

I came across a colourful article on curcumin and turmeric in the July issue of “Men’s Health”: http://tinyurl.com/654lqk It was written by a reporter who travelled to India to find out more about turmeric. Among other things, he describes his visits to India‘s largest producer of ingredients for the flavor and fragrance industry (where turmeric is processed, too), to a small turmeric farm and also to a spice shop in Kerala:

 

When I visit Kannan Balachandran, 34, who owns a small spice shop in Kochi, Kerala, he produces a large bowl of turmeric, over which he muses, “I have seen my granny, when the children get a cut, put it in the wound. When a chicken became ill, I saw her mix it with rice and feed it.”

 

Shagzil Khan, 29, a tour guide, listens and nods. “It is just something we know,” he says. “No one teaches you this. There’s never any asking, ‘Why is it so?’ “

 

There was nothing in this article that I didn’t already know, but anyway, it is a good read if you have a few minutes to spare, so please have a look. If nothing else, it will tell you why we don’t ever see any curcumin commercials! wink smiley

 

Have a great weekend!!!

Curcumin and radiation: uterine cancer testimonial

Yesterday the Kalamazoo (Michigan) Gazette (see: http://tinyurl.com/3c2n25) published a report by a woman who underwent radiation treatments for uterine cancer in January of 2006. She wrote that after three days, “the skin on my lower abdomen began to turn red.” Fearing that she would have to stop the treatment because of the radiation burns left on her sensitive skin, she began searching Internet for ways to prevent them. She found her answer: turmeric!

After reading a series of studies, including a 2005 University of Rochester study, which reported the successful use of curcumin during radiation treatments for breast cancer patients, she began taking curcumin (she uses the word "turmeric," but it must be curcumin): 

Using the rationale that radiation is radiation, I immediately began taking 1,500 milligrams of turmeric per day: a therapeutic dosage supported by numerous studies. Initially, my doctor was as skeptical as he was intrigued. But by day six of my radiation treatment, there was no denying that my previously scorched skin was completely healed. And by day 25, the radiated skin looked just like it did on day one: not a single blister or burn. It was East meeting West in a perfect blend of modern science and ancient herbal remedy.

An important fact mentioned in the article is that curcumin protects normal cells from the noxious effects of radiation while enhancing the anticancer effect of radiation. When you think about it, it’s really mind-boggling!
 
Well, I confess: this was not news to me. I have already posted about curcumin’s protective effect against the toxicity of radiation treatments (April 2 2007 post, also see my permanent page on Curcumin and radiation), so this article simply confirms my findings. It’s great, though, to read a personal story, a testimonial, no? At any rate, check out this article, it’s worth reading.

Happy blog anniversary!

Well, today marks the one-year anniversary of my entry into the blogging world. Has one entire year really gone by since my first post? Amazing!
 
In my wildest dreams I never thought I would come to have such a consistent, wonderful and loyal readership (ever-growing, too!)…on the contrary, in the beginning, I feared that my blog would encounter a lot of opposition. Well, I am happy to say that my fears were ill-founded. 
 
So let me take this opportunity to thank each and every one of my blog readers for your kind comments, helpful advice and for pointing me in the direction of some of the best research I have done. Without you, without this blog, I would never have discovered the vast majority of these anti-myeloma substances.
 
My first big "thank you!" goes to Beth for urging me to create a blog. Then: to Sherlock for joining me in my experiments (and for coming up with brilliant new experiment ideas; non per nulla ti chiamo Sherlock!) and for being such a good friend to me in real life; to Roberto, Don Sunshine Sweet Pea, Wally, Cathy, Paul, Sue, Linda, old Bill, LPC, Marcelo, all my Italian blog readers (Carla etc.), my two Lisas and Marys…oh, dear, the list goes on and on. Well, you know who you are!  Last but not least, thank you, Stefano, for being my best friend, for keeping my computer in working order, and, most importantly, for getting me through all the bad times (TAT! You know what that means). But this is going to be a long post, so let’s get going!
 
I thought it fitting that I celebrate my anniversary by reading a study that has been in my “read” file for quite a while, now. Published in December of 2006, it was co-authored by Prof. Bharat Aggarwal, who gave me a little push in the right direction by encouraging me to try curcumin (January 2006) and has been helpful and supportive ever since. I will be forever grateful to him. Even though there is no way I could ever pay him back, today’s discussion is my itsy bitsy tribute to this wonderful researcher, whom I hope to meet in person someday.

The study (abstract: http://tinyurl.com/yttmdh), published in the “Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology,” is titled: “From ancient medicine to modern medicine: Ayurvedic concepts of health and their role in inflammation and cancer.” 

Something I have read over and over again is mentioned in the abstract and discussed more in depth in the first part of the full study, which, by the way, Sherlock sent to me (eh, come sempre, grazie!): “In spite of the billions of dollars spent on cancer research and the availability of the best health care in the world, the reason for such a high incidence of cancer in the United States is unclear. Lifestyle has been named as one of the major contributors to the incidence of cancer. The higher incidence of cancer among immigrants from the Eastern world to the Western world further emphasizes the role of lifestyle.” I have read stories about populations where the incidence of cancer and other ailments is very low; but when members of these communities immigrate to the Western world, they begin developing cancer (etc.). This doesn’t sound like mere coincidence to me.

The study reminds us that the understanding of cancer at the molecular base is still very limited. That means that matters such as cancer prevention and treatment are “still lagging behind.” Good point!
 
Ayurveda, meaning “science of long life,” “is at least a 5,000-year-old system of Indian medicine (1500–1000 BC) designed to promote good health and longevity rather than to fight disease.” It treats the body AND the mind and spirit: “most diseases connected with the psychophysiologic and pathologic changes in the body are caused by imbalance in three different dosha (ie, vata, pitta, and kapha). The fundamental aim of ayurvedic therapy is to restore the balance between these three major body systems. Any imbalance can lead to inflammation.”
 
Interesting to note that the ancient concept of inflammation corresponds to the modern one: “redness, heat, loss of function, and swelling.”

Health is “the balanced coordination of body, mind and consciousness.” I have always been convinced that our mental state has a lot to do with how well we respond to treatments of any kind. My mother was told by a friend of hers, a nurse who worked in a U.S. oncology unit, that she could tell which cancer patients would do well just by looking at them. She was always right, apparently.

Ayurveda and cancer. “According to ayurveda, cancer results from lifestyle errors, such as unhealthy foods, poor hygiene, or poor behavior, or from physical trauma, all leading to imbalances of vata, pitta, and kapha, resulting in injury to the inner layer of the dermis (rohini, the sixth layer of the skin) and the formation of abnormal branches of blood vessels.” This part is very detailed and interesting, but too long to post about here. I would be glad, though, to forward the full study to anyone who requests it.
 
Treatment of cancer. There are three approaches in Ayurveda: health maintenance, restoration to normal, spiritual approach and disease cure. The techniques were (are!) very modern: “The principles of patient safety were foremost, including meticulous aseptic techniques used for surgery (eg, careful boiling of instruments, cleaning of hands). Treatment involves the surgical removal of tumor, herbal remedies, dietary modification, and spiritual treatment (eg, detoxification, rejuvenation, prayers, music therapy, aromatherapy, gem therapy, sound therapy, stress relief, meditation, yoga, and astrology).” Diet and exercise (yoga, e.g.) were also considered to be important, and meditation, which I practise in my own fashion (having never been taught how to do it properly), “leads to emotional and stress release and detoxification of the cellular and tissue memories.”
 
In the 7th century, “surgery was considered one of the best methods of treatment for arbuda.” Arbuda is “definite malignancy.” Herbal treatments against cancer “were beneficial only in the beginning stage," but that also depended on the type of tumour involved. The surgical removal of tumours is described in detail…I must say, it’s really incredible to read about such careful sterile practises being used so many centuries ago. I was surprised and very impressed.
 
The review draws similarities between ancient Ayurvedic and modern Western cancer treatments. Although the different molecular targets “were not known 5,000 years ago, the components of herbs used at that time now appear to target these molecules.” Aha!

The review provides a Table that couples the modern targets of cancer treatment (such as NF-kappa B and COX-2) with ancient herbal remedies. Truly extraordinary. I must have a closer look at this list of herbs as soon as possible. Curcuma longa, of course, is everywhere.  The researchers state that the “Development of new synergistic anticancer agents based on these herbs would be beneficial for modern treatment modalities.” Indeed. “The use of Vinca rosea in the treatment of cancer is very well described in ayurveda,” and the modern chemotherapy drug vincristine derives from the plant Vinca rosea, or periwinkle. Just one example. 

Differences between modern science and Ayurveda: “Although modern science believes in using a single chemical entity for a particular cancer (eg, paclitaxel, vincristine, etoposide), ayurvedic treatment involves the use of whole plant extracts. It is possible that enhanced toxic effects associated with modern medicine are due to a lack of other components of the plant. Ayurveda usually recommends the use of several plant extracts in combination, which is somewhat similar to the combination of various chemical entities that are currently used for the treatment of cancer.” How about that?
 
Cancer treatment side effects. The review contains advice on how to “alleviate some of the common side effects associated with modern medical treatment of cancer;” even stress and depression, and how to diminish cancer cachexia: “the ayurvedic regimen rejuvenates the body tissues, tones up the body systems, and acts as a tonic to the body against cancer cachexia.” It also lists herbs that can protect us from the harmful effects of radiation. I already knew about curcumin, but not about ginger, e.g.

Relevance of anecdotes. “Treatment according to ayurveda is very individualized, thereby making it difficult to conduct a large population based clinical study. Thus, not many randomized, controlled, and double-blind clinical trials are available. Many anecdotal and case reports are available that show the efficacy of the herbs and the treatments used. The individualized therapies are sometimes poorly documented, unable to be accepted in the standardized Western field.”

Indeed, this is so true, and it illustrates the sort of opposition I have run into with my own cancer treatment, for instance at the recent conference in Calenzano, where I had a bit of a discussion with the cancer specialist sitting next to me. Will these close-minded attitudes ever change? I hope so. Blog reader Old Bill left me a good quote recently: “What’s wrong with an anecdote if it’s true?” (Beata Bishop). Exactly. And, even more to the point: what’s wrong with hundreds of anecdotes?

I would like to end with a long but significant quote taken from the Conclusion: “Ayurvedic treatments are still followed by 75 to 80% of the rural population of India. As much as 70% of the Indian population is vegetarian, and this may also contribute to the lower incidence of cancer. It also, however, raises several questions about current treatment. Although current treatment tends to be highly focused at the molecular level, it is highly unfocused at the whole organism level, making it reductionist. Ayurvedic treatment of cancer is a holistic approach and is currently preferred. The new wave of ‘‘system biology’’ and ‘‘genome revolution’’ is expected to provide a holistic approach to the treatment of cancer. In spite of it, this approach tends to ignore the relationship between mind, body, and spirit. It is our hope that ayurveda can help fill this gap.”
 
That is my hope, too.

Foods that fight cancer

Today’s post is about two books that I will add to my Recommended Readings page. Ah, I would like to thank Sherlock publicly for having found these books. Bravissima!

1. The first is titled “Foods to fight cancer,” by Richard Béliveau and Denis Gingras. Fascinating book, I must say. I haven’t studied all of it (yet), but it’s extremely well done, easy to follow, and has heaps of examples, great charts and colourful photos. First-rate job. If you have just been diagnosed with any sort of cancer, buy this book. Actually, eh, just buy this book, period! 

Okay, we have all heard that bad diets are…bad for us, right? I myself have been guilty of following a terrible diet in the past, particularly when I was in college and grad school. My diet is still not perfect, but it’s a LOT better than it used to be. Ah, but read this: according to Béliveau and Gingras, your poor dietary habits give you a 30% chance of developing cancer. THIRTY PERCENT? I should have eaten more broccoli and Brussel sprouts when I was younger! Drat.  But the shocking part for me is that 30% is also the risk factor percentage assigned to smokers (I have never smoked, by the way)! So if you smoke AND have a poor diet….yikes! Hereditary factors, which most folks believe are high risk factors for cancer, amount only to 15%.

In Part One, the researchers explain what cancer is, how to prevent cancer growth, indeed how to prevent cancer itself. How?

With FOOD. Consider this: even at a one part per thousand dilution, garlic is very toxic to medulloblastoma cells, a very aggressive type of brain tumour. Garlic, one of my favourite foods.

Part Two is devoted to nutraceuticals, that is, foods with anti-cancer potential. Members of the cabbage family, garlic and onions, soy, turmeric, green tea, berries, omega-3, tomatoes, some fruit, resveratrol and (saved the best for last!) chocolate (!) all have separate chapters. My favourite chapter title: “Cancer hates cabbage.” Hehe.

Toward the end, there is also a chapter on supplements. Béliveau and Gingras rightly point out that it’s easier for us to take a vitamin pill than modify pre-existing unhealthy eating habits. These are short-cuts, they write. We would do better (and they explain WHY, of course) by leading a healthier lifestyle. Okay, I agree that we cannot "just eat anything and then get off the hook by taking a pill," but I must point out that, in order to obtain my daily eight grams of curcumin, I would have to consume an enormous amount of turmeric, the spice from which it is extracted. Turmeric contains only 5-8 % of curcumin. I don’t need to whip out my calculator to figure out how much turmeric I would have to consume in my food. I can tell that it would simply not be possible. I do agree, though, that, for instance, we should eat broccoli and garlic and not take broccoli and garlic-based supplements.

2. The second book, by the same authors, is titled “Cooking with foods that fight cancer.” I haven’t yet really examined the first part, which is an introduction to cancer, but I have tried a couple of the recipes: the broccoli soup and the tomato and apple soup. I would suggest adding less water to both recipes, unless you like watery soup. I also always add more turmeric than the amounts listed. Eh!

I will leave you with a couple of fascinating titbits from book 1:

1. “Turmeric was already featured in the list of over two hundred and fifty medicinal plants mentioned in a series of medical treatises dating from 3000 BC, written in cuneiform on stone tablets, collected by King Assurbanipal (669-627 BC)…”
2. “Turmeric content in mustard is about 50 milligrams per 100 grams; a North American or British adult would have to eat four kilograms (about nine pounds) of mustard per day to have a turmeric intake similar to that of an Indian!”