In a study reported in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, researchers investigated the potential efficacy of turmeric, specifically its active component curcumin, in relieving gastrointestinal symptoms comparable to omeprazole, a medication used to reduce excess stomach acid. Turmeric, derived from the Curcuma longa plant’s root, has a history of medicinal use in Southeast Asia, particularly for the treatment of dyspepsia, although its comparative effectiveness to conventional medications had not been well-established due to the lack of head-to-head research.
To address this, the researchers conducted a randomized trial involving 206 individuals aged 18-70 with recurring upset stomach (functional dyspepsia) recruited from Thai hospitals between 2019 and 2021. Participants were divided into three therapy groups for a 28-day period:
- Turmeric Group: Participants received two large 250 mg curcumin capsules four times per day along with one small dummy capsule (69 patients).
- Omeprazole Group: Participants were given one small 20 mg omeprazole capsule daily and two large dummy capsules four times per day (68 patients).
- Combined Treatment Group: Participants received both turmeric and omeprazole (69 patients).
Omeprazole belongs to a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) commonly used to treat functional dyspepsia. The study highlighted concerns associated with long-term PPI use, including increased fracture risk, nutritional deficiencies, and a higher risk of infections.
The trial initially involved 151 participants, with some dropouts from each group. At the beginning of the research, all three groups exhibited similar clinical features and indigestion scores measured by the Severity of Dyspepsia Assessment (SODA) score. Patients were evaluated after 28 days and again after 56 days.
The SODA scores revealed significant reductions in symptom severity by day 28 for pain and other symptoms in all three groups. These improvements were even more pronounced after 56 days.
Interestingly, satisfaction scores among curcumin users remained relatively stable over time, possibly linked to taste or fragrance considerations, according to the researchers. They also noted no major side effects but observed a slight worsening of liver function tests among curcumin users who were overweight.
Nevertheless, they conclude: “This multicentre randomised controlled trial provides highly reliable evidence for the treatment of functional dyspepsia,” adding that “the new findings from our study may justify considering curcumin in clinical practice.”
However, the study had limitations, including its modest size, a brief intervention time, and the absence of long-term monitoring data. The researchers emphasized the need for larger, longer-term investigations to provide more comprehensive insights into the potential benefits and safety of using curcumin as an alternative or complementary approach to managing functional dyspepsia.
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