I know a few things about the incredible diverse gorgeous phytochemical terrains of Turmeric, I have been reading International bioscience journals for 35 years, I love to seek and see patterns, and I tell you, when I hear about recent fixation on Turmeric’s Curcuminoids, I both smile and sigh at the myopia of the situation.
The truth is there are dozens after dozens of acutely potent phytochemical gems cascading out from the cornucopia of wellness that Turmeric rhizome is…
Why the Misconception?
The situation is that because the majority of western Bioscience botanical research is all about BigPharm, which is all about the big Money, which is all about the big Patents, it actually puts quite an unscientific bias on most people’s understanding of herbs and herbal medicine. The fundamental goal of the process is surely not to understand the herb but to patent a synthesized molecule as the next big drug. And so we all tend to fall into this unfortunate habit of reducing an herb to a molecule, which is like reducing a forest to a single tree, or a lifetime to a day.
Here is a general view of the process:
Dig through ethnopharmacological research to find out what some tribe used a particular herb for over the course of a millennia or three.
Take that herb and test it on animals to see if it indeed has that action
If it does then take a variety of fractions, or extracts, of the herb, like water fraction, lipid fraction, hexane fraction, etc and then test those separate fractions on the animals again and see if you can determine which fraction gives the best results
Then start isolating individual molecules out of the winning fraction and test those molecules on the animals
Finally test the molecules on humans
The process takes about 120 PhDs, about 5 billion dollars, and typically a decade. It is a huge potential risk, of course, especially the deeper you get into it.
The financial uncertainty is not even the beginning of the risk as the real looming precipice is the alienation of our connection to nature that these patent pursuits set the stage for, in that it makes us think an herb is primarily about its select phytochemistry, or even a single phytochemical, rather than about its overall holistic energetics and spirit.
What is Curcumin?
Again I smile when I see this statement: “Curcumin is the active ingredient in Turmeric.” My goodness, that is like saying “Michael Jordon is the active ingredient in the NBA,” or “Meryl Streep is the active ingredient in Hollywood.” Better to say that:
“Curcumin is one of the many well-researched active components of Turmeric.”
Just look at the research of turmerin, elemene, furanodiene, curdione, bisacurone, cyclocurcumin, calebin A, germacrone, turmerone, alpha-pinene, limonene, zingiberene, caryophyllene, and phellandrene to name a mere fraction of the potent molecules in Turmeric. If you look at standard phytochemistry databases, like the database that Jim Duke, a precious paragon of herbalists, created, you will see well over a hundred entries!
This is just one of the reasons why one wants to consume whole herbs as then you get many molecules in a salubrious balance, as opposed to a single unbalanced molecule. Though there are exceptions, typically we need the whole herb to optimize its actions.
And when I say ‘whole herb’ I am referring to Spirit, Energy, and Mass, all whole, all present, all unified
To optimize the energetics and spirit in the Turmeric that you consume you might also consider using Turmeric that is grown consciously in the context of organic, biodynamic and responsibly traded situations, and then processed in a way that retains its fullness. Himalayan and Hawaiian Turmeric are my favorite. And again, it is almost always best to use the whole herb or the fresh juice of that whole herb, which Ayurveda calls the ‘swarasa,’ the self-arising essence.
Prashanti de Jager
31May15, West Marin