Brussels sprouts instead of broccoli…(Part 2)

Today I would like to focus on the case study (see my March 28th post).

The first mention can be found in the abstract: The present study describes a case in which bronchitis developed upon turmeric intake for gastrointestinal complaints. Further on (page 266), the authors state that they feel the need to express a word of caution based on a case in which the use of moderate doses of turmeric induced some toxicity, possibly related to immunosuppression.

Well, before I begin growling (hehe, thanks, Sandy, you gave me a good chuckle with your comment…), let’s have a closer look at this part of the study.

The case: a 57-year-old man with an IgG1 deficiency and borderline hypogammaglobulinemia who had suffered from all sorts of ailments, poor dear!, from early childhood. These included middle ear infections (=otitis media), chronic rhinosinusitis (Stefano has the same thing, chronic rhinosinusitis I mean, so I know how nasty it can be…he frequently cannot breathe through his nose, and only when he is on cortisone does he regain his sense of smell, etc.…I am sure he is, er, really going to appreciate my having made all this public…oh, by the way, his regular use of a Neti pot has worked wonders…oh I digress…), and rarely bronchitis. This patient also suffered from chronic constipation that turned into post infectious irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) when he reached the age of 25.

We then learn that the patient himself suggested to his doctors that he take curcumin for this bothersome intestinal condition. CURCUMIN, mind you.

But no, the authors recommended that he take TURMERIC, yes turmeric the spice…a dose of one gram, twice a day…two grams total. Well, I must say that I was and still am completely bewildered as to why these doctors would have come up with a daily dose of turmeric, especially since they knew that Holt et al (the Australian MGUS-curcumin team) had used 99.5% pure curcumin...Very peculiar…

Let me pause here for a moment. If my haematologist had ever suggested that I take turmeric instead of curcumin, you can bet your fluorescent green socks that my reaction would have been a very strong one. At the very least, I would have pointed out the difference between turmeric and curcumin and insisted on taking the latter…more likely, I would have gone to a more knowledgeable specialist. I mean, what would you do if you asked your greengrocer for some broccoli, and he handed you a big bag of Brussels sprouts? Thought so…

Now, I am sure that the authors of this paper acted in good faith…but turmeric is NOT the same as curcumin. Turmeric the spice contains only a small percentage of curcumin, its active ingredient…8-9% at the most. But this is only the first of many problems…

Reading through the study, a million questions popped into my head but remained unanswered. Where did the patient get his turmeric? Was it a reliable source? You see, I have read that you have to be incredibly careful about where you buy turmeric and spices in general…for instance, spices bought in an open market may be contaminated with all sorts of nasty things: lead chromate, yellow earth, sand or even cheap talc (see:

I always buy organically certified spices in a health food store…and even then, I cook them, just in case there has been any bacterial contamination. I would never ingest a tablespoon of any spice without cooking it first. Did this patient cook the spice or simply take it raw? No details are provided in the study. This is a crucial bit of missing information…

Okay, it is one thing to swallow a daily dose of turmeric of unknown origin and in an unknown manner, quite another to take C3 Complex curcumin capsules/powder, the same curcumin that has been tested in the MD Anderson curcumin-myeloma clinical trial…the same curcumin made by a company that has received Good Manufacturing Practice awards…the same curcumin that has been tested in so many scientific studies. Blablabla…

But let’s set aside the curcumin-turmeric enigma for a minute and continue reading. Even on a daily one-gram dose of this mysterious turmeric, the patient confirmed the positive results found by Holt et al; within weeks the complaints related to the enteropathy became significantly milder and the patient experienced a subjective improvement in quality of life. (Enteropathy is any disease of the intestinal tract, by the way.)

But six weeks later, the authors report, their patient developed mild bronchitis with chronic cough and wheezing. This was surprising since traditional Indian medicine recommends the use of turmeric for a number of health problems, including sinusitis (see page 266 of the study for more details).

No kidding. I would like to highlight that this is the FIRST time I have EVER heard of a negative connection between turmeric and bronchitis…on the contrary, in traditional medicine, turmeric is given as a REMEDY for bronchitis (not just sinusitis) as well as many other ailments. So this just makes zero sense to me. Let’s keep reading…

The authors then tell us that Turmeric treatment was discontinued, and was re-initiated several weeks later after the bronchitis had totally cleared…after 4 weeks, the first signs of bronchitis returned, so turmeric treatment was stopped for 3 weeks, then re-initiated at a dose of 200 mg two times per day. This dose ended up being the correct amount for this particular patient, who has now, after two years, experienced a significant improvement of the intestinal problems without any further respiratory problems. That is wonderful, of course!

There are more details about this case, including an interesting discussion of vitamin B6 deficiency, but that isn’t what I would like to focus on right now.

I would instead like to offer a couple of examples of my own. Aside from having kept me stable for more than four years (in fact, my haematologist told me never to stop taking it…), curcumin has improved my quality of life in many ways, as we can see from the following…  

  1. Before January 2006, which is when I first began taking curcumin, I had recurrent and very (very!) bothersome yeast infections, which meant that I practically spent more time in my gynecologist’s office than at home. I was in pain/discomfort and on antibiotics almost constantly.
  2. I also had terrible bouts of bronchitis every single fall/winter. Wheezing was an everyday occurrence for me.

Points 1 and 2: I haven’t had a yeast infection since 2006. Not even the hint of one. I also haven’t had a serious illness in the past three plus years. These symptoms are a thing of the past, in spite of the fact that my immune system is extremely compromised. My IgAs and IgMs are hanging on a thread. My most recent tests show my IgA at 15 (normal range: 70-400 mg/dL) and my IgM at 10 (NR: 40-230). My haematologist is always amazed that I don’t have recurrent infections…she always asks me how I am doing and is always astounded to hear that I am in such good…health. My general good health must be due to my daily intake of curcumin. There is no other plausible explanation.

I don’t know what caused this patient’s bronchitis, but I would be very cautious about pointing my finger at his daily intake of…turmeric. Another question: was the turmeric analyzed for possible bacterial or mold contamination? I am not sure if mold can cause bronchitis, but it can certainly cause asthma…hmmm, if I were in this patient’s shoes, I would investigate this matter further…gather up my bag of turmeric and run to the nearest lab, I mean…Okay, I think my point is clear…

The authors end their discussion of the case study with the following: The development of bronchitis after the use of turmeric or curcumin has, to the best of our knowledge, never been reported in the literature. Thus, it cannot be ruled out that our patient may have been more susceptible to turmeric toxicity than other patients due to his mildly compromised immune system and/or the related tendency to develop vitamin B6 deficiency. While one case does not provide proof for turmeric toxicity, a review of the literature is warranted in order to find or dismiss a possible rationale for an immunosuppressive effect of turmeric.

Okay, I am always in favour of words of caution…I am also very much in favour of more research, just like these authors. I would, however, encourage authors of future papers on curcumin, turmeric and/or any other substance to present their data in a more open and logical manner. I would ask them, for instance, to provide a “Materials and Methods” section, which is sorely lacking in this study…leaving us with more questions than answers. Again, we do not know what type of turmeric was used…was it bought in an open market or in a health food store or…? Was it analyzed for purity? Sorry for all these repetitive questions, but I feel that these are extremely important points…points that the authors do not address, which is not good at all, in my opinion…

Oh dear, I have more to write about this study…but this post is already ridiculously long, so I will stop here for today…wow, there is a quite a thunderstorm going on out there…the cats are all freaked out…and now, the sun…weird!


  1. I also suffered from sinus problems. I developed a protocol based on xylitol and posted it on Google Groups-sinusitis. I coined this protocol “sinus steeping”. If you google this term you will find it, along with references. Maybe it will help Stefano

  2. Now I get it. I must have caught my bronchitis after seeing you take your curc … no other explanation…. LOL

  3. Margaret,
    As always, you are right on the money. The only issue in my mind is this: some indications are that curcumin effects are dose-dependent. People like me who dabble- taking small amounts instead of the whole 8 grams – should love to have a real series of trials (phase i, ii and iii) to know whether “dose dependent” also includes bad effects for dabblers – does the antigenesis effect reverse itself on different doses, for example?
    Here’s hope that the new healthcare situation (prohibiting insurance pentalties for those who participate in clinical trials!! yay!!) will prompt more research.

  4. Just wanted to drop a way late note (I’ve been reading your blog for a little three years now) to thank you for all the great information on curcumin, which I take (maybe 2-3 grams a day) to help control a sinus condition. Back in 2008 and on the way to my third sinus surgery in ten years I happened to eat some packaged Indian food and about ten minutes after finishing my totally blocked sinuses were absolutely clear. It only lasted for maybe 20 minutes but it was so noticeable that I went through every ingredient on the package and decided it was the curcumin, and so it was. Within a few days I had purchased a huge bottle of turmeric extract and have been taking it ever since. The best “hit” I get is when I take it on an empty stomach with coffee in the morning, but during the rest of the day I don’t always do the coffee but do take it on an empty stomach. Anyway thanks for the site and the great info.

Leave a Reply

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