Curcumin (Active Ingredient In Turmeric Spice) Very Effective At Reducing Pain And Fatigue In Double-Blind Study


Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric root.

I saw this study on Dr. Greger’s site:

Efficacy Of Turmeric (Curcumin) In Pain And Postoperative Fatigue After Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Study, Surgical Endoscopy, December 2011

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.

9 thoughts on “Curcumin (Active Ingredient In Turmeric Spice) Very Effective At Reducing Pain And Fatigue In Double-Blind Study

  1. Shaun

    Those are results worth noting!

    It does bring up some questions, though:

    – As you said, it’s a drug at those levels. What, if any, collateral effects are happening? Is it safer over the long haul?

    – Does it need to be taken in such high doses? Might we be able to get away with a lower less and still get the benefits?

    – If someone wanted to go this route, where do they find a reliable source? A quick search pulled up ample results for me, and the prices aren’t too crazy. But how do I know what I’m really getting?

    I’m not at all trying to come across as negative/doubtful. Personally, I think a lot of that pharmaceutical money would be better spent going towards studies like this, and follow up research. It’s pretty exciting, actually.


    p.s. I’m working on very little sleep today, so forgive me if I’m reading this wrong but I think you may have this backwards: “.0314 of 2 grams is only .06 grams or .00006 mg”


    1. Bix Post author

      There was discussion over on Greger’s site:

      Lots of good stuff. This is interesting…

      Curcumin in capsules comes packaged with an ingredient in black pepper, piperine, which increases bioavailability “by inhibiting an enzyme in the phase II of liver detoxification.” I can’t speak to that, but it doesn’t sound good, if true.

      I’m wary of scaling all this up. I’d go the route of eating more turmeric (and ginger) with some black pepper. Your point about collateral effects is important, and doesn’t get addressed enough. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.


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