I saw this study on Dr. Greger’s site:
OBJECTIVE: Better patient-reported outcomes (PROs) of laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) are premised upon PROs such as postoperative pain and fatigue. These PROs are indices of convalescence and return to normal activity. Curcumin (turmeric) is used in India for traumatic pain and fatigue for its anti-inflammatory/antioxidant and tissue modulation/healing properties. We studied the effect of curcumin on pain and postoperative fatigue in patients of LC.
METHODS AND PROCEDURES: From July to September 2009, 50 consecutive day-care LC candidates were enrolled for a prospective, double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study. A uniform general anesthesia and analgesia protocol was followed. Curcumin/placebo and rescue analgesic were prescribed at discharge. Patients were told to maintain pain/fatigue/adverse event diaries based upon 100-point visual analog pain scale (VAS) and 10-point interval rating fatigue scale (IRS). Patients were followed up at third day (D3), first week (W1), second week (W2), and third week (W3). The blind labels were opened at the end of study.
RESULTS: Demographic characteristics, comorbidity, and gallbladder pathology profiles were comparable in the study (n = 25) and control groups (n = 25). There was no adverse surgical outcome, adverse PRO or withdrawal. Pain and fatigue scores at D3 were similar in the two groups. At W1 and W2, the study group showed significantly lower (p value 0.000) mean pain scores, i.e., 15 ± 5.204 versus 30 ± 13 in controls. Fatigue scores at W1, W2, and W3 were significantly lower (p value 0.000) in the study group, i.e., 2.16 ± 1.748, 1, and 0, respectively, versus 5.16 ± 1.375, 4.20 ± 1.633, and 1 in controls. All patients were pain free at W3. Analgesic tablet usage was significantly lower (p value 0.000) in the study group, i.e., 6.96 ± 1.837 versus 39.32 ± 16.509 in controls.
CONCLUSIONS: Turmeric (curcumin) improves postoperative pain- and fatigue-related patient-reported outcomes following LC.
Here we have 50 people getting their gallbladder removed laparoscopically, which uses just a small incision. Half took a curcumin pill at discharge, half took a placebo. Those that took the curcumin had significantly less pain and fatigue in the weeks following surgery than those who didn’t. In fact, those who took curcumin ended up taking on average just 7 painkillers (paracetamol which is acetaminophen or Tylenol) compared to 39 for the non-curcumin group. And the p-value was <0.000! I never see p-values that low. The lower that number is, the less likely the effect occurred by chance. Dr. Greger: “[A p-value of] < 0.000, suggests you’d have to run the experiment thousands of times before you’d come up with such a dramatic result just by chance.” That’s efficacy!
A few comments:
1. The curcumin was prescribed after surgery. So the effect was immediate. Like Aspirin. You don’t have to be taking this for weeks to see an effect.
2. Turmeric and curcumin are not the same. Curcumin is an active ingredient in turmeric, which is a root in the ginger family. I think they used 500 mg of curcumin caps every 6 hours. That’s half a gram of an isolated, concentrated substance. That’s a lot. It’s like a drug at that point. Turmeric spice powder contains only about 3.14% curcumin by weight (Curcumin content of turmeric and curry powders, Nutrition and Cancer, 2006). A teaspoon of turmeric spice weighs about 2 grams, and .0314 of 2 grams is only .06 grams or 60 mg. To get to 500 mg curcumin you’d have to eat 8.3 teaspoons of turmeric spice powder – every 6 hours.
3. I’ve tried raw turmeric root grated in soup and cooked. It’s a taste that requires getting used to.