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Natural Health

Better living through nature

The Science of Botanical Medicine


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Studies on botanical medicines abound, but often get mixed results. This is frequently because the wrong part of the plant or the wrong preparation is used in the study. Occasional studies compare use of botanical therapies with conventional therapies. I’d say, overall, they come out to be comparable or better. One such study, published in the journal Clinical Interventions of Aging in 2014, compared the use of turmeric to ibuprofen. In the study, 367 patients with knee osteoarthritis pain that scored five or higher (out of 10) and were 50 or older were randomly given ibuprofen (1,200 mg a day) or Curcuma domestica (turmeric) extracts (1,500 mg a day) for four weeks. They were measured throughout the study on pain qualification measurements, as well as walking distance measurements to evaluate pain, stiffness and function. The study found the turmeric extracts equally effective as the ibuprofen; however, the ibuprofen had more side effects such as abdominal pain. Ibuprofen also carries known risks of kidney damage and other side effects that turmeric does not have. Turmeric can be supplemented in a variety of ways, as well—it can be eaten; mixed into drinks called “golden milks;” and taken in capsules, tinctures and much more. I like to mix the powder with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and honey and eat a teaspoon of it a couple of times a day. Preparation does matter with herbs, and turmeric is better absorbed if it is eaten or ingested with things like fat, lecithin, black pepper or other spices. (This goes to show that Indian cuisine is practically a food pharmacy.)