How to Treat Lupus with Turmeric

Different autoimmune diseases tend to target different organs. If our immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in our pancreas, we can end up with type 1 diabetes. If it attacks our thyroid gland, we can end up with hypothyroidism. But, in the autoimmune disease lupus, our immune system attacks the very nucleus of our cells, often producing antibodies and attacking our DNA itself. So, lupus can damage any organ system and result in almost any complication. Women are nine times as likely to get it, and the peak age of diagnosis is too often at the peak of life. Hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of Americans suffer from this dreaded disease. One of the most common organ-threatening manifestations is kidney inflammation, occurring in as many as half of the patients.

Kidney inflammation is also one of the most serious effects of lupus, caused by the disease itself “or as a result of intense immunosuppressive drug toxicity.” Chemotherapy drugs like Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), for example, can have severe, life-threatening side effects that may include leukemia and bladder cancer, and many women lose their hair and become permanently infertile. There is a desperate need for better treatment options.

As I show in my video Fighting Lupus with Turmeric: Good as Gold, oral supplementation of turmeric decreases proteinuria, hematuria, and systolic blood pressure—the cardinal clinical manifestations in patients suffering from relapsing or refractory (meaning, untreatable) lupus kidney inflammation––according to a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The study looked at proteinuria, the spilling of protein into the urine, “an ominous prognostic sign.” In the control group, three people got better, three people got worse, and the rest pretty much stayed the same. In the turmeric group, one got worse, one stayed the same, but the rest all got better.

Note that the researchers used turmeric, the whole spice, and not curcumin, which is an extracted component often given in pill form. They took women with out-of-control lupus and had them take a quarter teaspoon of turmeric with each meal for three months. From my local supermarket, that would come out to be about a nickel a dose, compared with $35,000 a year for one of the latest lupus drugs. Which of the two treatments do you imagine doctors are more likely to be told about?


For more on the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric, see:

What about its anti-cancer effects?

For practical considerations, see Boosting the Bioavailability of Curcumin and Who Shouldn’t Consume Curcumin or Turmeric?.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

The Spice Proven to Benefit Prediabetes

In my video Turmeric Curcumin for Prediabetes, I talk about “Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes,” an extraordinary study published in the journal of the American Diabetes Association. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of folks diagnosed with prediabetes, half of the subjects got supplements of curcumin, the yellow pigment in the spice turmeric and curry powder, while the other half got identical-looking placebos, and the researchers just followed them for nine months to see who ended up with diabetes.

After nine months of treatment, 16 percent of subjects in the placebo group went on to get full-blown diabetes. How many in the curcumin group? None. The curcumin group saw a significant improvement in fasting blood sugars, glucose tolerance, hemoglobin A1C, insulin sensitivity and pancreatic insulin-producing beta cell function (measured two different ways.)

What if you already have diabetes? Another study found the same beneficial effects—and at a fraction of the dose. The prediabetes study mentioned above used the equivalent of a quarter cup of turmeric a day, whereas this other study used only about a teaspoon’s worth, which is doable through diet rather than supplements.

What’s particularly interesting here is the purported mechanism: Fat in the bloodstream plays “an important role in the development of insulin resistance and ultimately type 2 diabetes.” Fat builds up inside your muscle cells and gums up the works, and all the inflammation this causes interferes with insulin signaling. However, curcumin decreases fat levels in the blood, making this the first study to show that these turmeric spice compounds may have an anti-diabetic effect.

So, if you are pre-diabetic, it might be a good idea to add turmeric to your diet, but it’s important to recognize that prediabetes is a disease in itself, increasing the risk of death, cancer, heart disease, and vision loss. So, it’s not enough to just prevent progression to full-blown diabetes when prediabetes may be cured completely with a healthy plant-based diet.

As was the case in the smoker pee study I covered in Carcinogen-Blocking Effects of Turmeric, those who abuse their bodies with unhealthy diets can lower their risk by eating powerful plants. Of course, it’s better to cut the crap out altogether. Indeed, if just one plant can have that effect, what about a whole diet composed of plants? Watch Plant-Based Diets and Diabetes and How May Plants Protect Against Diabetes? to get the inside scoop.


Interested in learning more about how fat is involved in the development of diabetes? See:

For more on treating prediabetes and preventing it in the first place, check out:

Diabetes is not the only reason I encourage everyone to consume a quarter teaspoon of turmeric every day. Learn more with these videos:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

What to Take After Surgery

Medicine is messy. One of reasons researchers experiment on animals is they can create uniform, standardized injuries to test potential remedies. It’s not like you can just cut open 50 people and see if something works better than a sugar pill. But, wait a second, we cut people open all the time. It’s called surgery.

In my video Speeding Recovery from Surgery with Turmeric, I discuss a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study that investigated the efficacy of turmeric curcumin in pain and post-operative fatigue in patients who had their gall bladders removed. Fifty people were cut into and given either curcumin or an identical-looking placebo, along with rescue analgesics—i.e., actual painkillers to take if the pain became unbearable. Even though it’s just laparoscopic surgery, people don’t realize what a toll it can take. (You can be out of commission for a month!) In India, turmeric—found in curry powder—has traditionally been used as a remedy for traumatic pain and fatigue, so the researchers decided to put it to the test.

According to the study, in the weeks following surgery, there was a dramatic drop in pain and fatigue scores in the turmeric curcumin group, with p-values of 0.000. Those are my kind of p-values! The “p-value” refers to a measure of the strength of evidence. The smaller it is, the stronger the evidence is that the result they found didn’t just happen by chance. By convention, a p-value under 0.05 is considered small enough for a result to be considered statistically significant. This means that you’d only expect to find a result that remarkable simply by coincidence 5% of the time, or in 1 out of 20 cases. So a p-value like the one in the study, <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.

It’s hard to come up with objective measures of pain and fatigue, but drug-wise, the curcumin group was still in so much pain they were forced to take 7 of the rescue painkillers. In the same time period, though, the control group had to take 39 pain pills. Of course, it’s better not to get gallstones in the first place, which you can learn more about in my video Cholesterol Gallstones, but the researchers’ conclusion was like no other I’ve ever read in a drug trial.

“Turmeric is a natural food ingredient, palatable, and harmless.” Okay, so far so good. It continued: “It proves to be beneficial as it may be an ecofriendly alternative to synthesized anti-inflammatory drugs which have a definite carbon footprint due to industrial production.” Since when do surgery journals care about the greenhouse gas emissions from drug companies? I just had to look up the reference in the journal Surgical Endoscopy entitled “Journey of the Carbon-Literate and Climate-Conscious Endosurgeon Having a Head, Heart, Hands, And Holistic Sense Of Responsibdlity.” I don’t know what’s stranger, seeing the word “holistic” in a surgical journal or the name of this guy’s practice: “Dr. Agarwal’s Surgery & Yoga.”


The benefits of turmeric are clear—and not just as a remedy for pain. The spice also serves as a potent treatment against cancer, as I explain in these videos:

Turmeric is effective at fighting many other health conditions, too, as is evident in these videos:

Finally, you may be wondering whether turmeric is best taken as a supplement or in whole food form. I invite you to watch Turmeric or Curcumin: Plants vs. Pills and find out.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations: