28 November 2016


Turmeric is that wonderful traditional Indian herb with the golden colour and the subtle taste. We all know it well. It spices up many dishes, and increasingly it is becoming known for its many well-researched preventative and therapeutic benefits.

But are you confused? Want to know how much to take, and in what form? Natural herb? Fresh or dried powder? Tablets? What about curcumin? Where does pepper fit in? And what about other substances that are claimed to increase its uptake and efficacy?

This week, prompted by fascinating new research that suggests curcumin may prevent cancer from spreading, we review what is known and point to what to do, but first

         Thought for the day

                My wish 
                Is not to save my life
                But to savor my life

                              PhD student


Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizome of the ginger family.

Traditionally, like many other herbs, turmeric was widely grown and used in India for both cooking and medicine.

These days, scientists have identified curcumin as the main bioactive ingredient of turmeric.

Curcumin is a natural polyphenol compound and there is a growing body of good research demonstrating that curcumin has many therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-oxidant activity.

Personally I know of a good number of people who have had great relief from arthritis through taking turmeric.

The actual research indicates possible benefits relating to inflammation, indigestion (including dyspepsia, bloating, and gas), ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, osteoarthritis, heart disease (including atherosclerosis and lowering LDL cholesterol), blood clotting, antibacterial and antiviral properties, uveitis, neurodegenerative conditions (including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis) and it may help to reduce damage to cells and DNA caused by free radicals.

For a good academic review of the therapeutic properties, CLICK HERE
Luthra PM et al, Indian J Clin Biochem : 2001 Jul; 16(2): 153–160

Curcumin also has proven anti-cancer activity, specifically because it induces cancer cell apoptosis (cell death) through regulating various signaling pathways and arresting the tumor cell cycle.

Now, recent research from Sydney points to newly realised positive anti-metastatic mechanisms of curcumin, and the possible synergistic actions of combination therapy using curcumin with chemotherapy.

Reference, CLICK HERE
Deng Y et al. Molecular Mechanisms of Anti-metastatic Activity of Curcumin : Anticancer Research, Nov 2016 vol. 36; 11, 5639-5647

So the questions remain … How much do we take? What form do we take?

Having spent a good deal of time researching the subject, this is what I have concluded :

Turmeric contains about 3% curcumin.

Most positive therapeutic trials I found have been based on administering 6 - 8 gms of curcumin each

6 - 8 gms of curcumin is equivalent to around 250gms of turmeric. A teaspoon contains about 4 gms of turmeric powder, so this is equivalent to 62.5 teaspoons of powder!

Happily, several things are proven to increase the bio-availability of curcumin from turmeric, but first, let us clarify - fresh or powder?

Traditionally, when not used fresh, turmeric rhizomes were boiled for about 30–45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, after which they were ground into the familiar golden powder.

The evidence is that either the fresh herb or the powder is therapeutic; while most of the research seems to have been conducted using tumeric powder, often combined with an adjuvant, or curcumin as an extract.

Personally, I like using fresh wherever possible, but if you wanted the therapeutic levels of fresh turmeric, and you took turmeric on its own, you would need to take 250gms per day. While that would be ludicrous, there is a practical solution.

There are number of compounds, some natural, some proprietary, that combine synergistically with turmeric and greatly increase the therapeutic effectiveness of curcumin.

1. Pepper 
This is the traditional adjuvant. It contains about 5 -10% of the alkaloid piperine which is regarded as the key, active ingredient.

Piperine is well known for its ability to increase the bioavailability of many nutrients including curcumin. It does this by inhibiting key enzymes for metabolism, preventing substances from leaving cells, decreasing intestinal activity, and stimulating useful amino-acids. All of these changes work to keep substances in the body’s cells longer.

In the case of curcumin, several studies have demonstrated that piperine aids in absorption. The best evidence suggests that by using 5% by weight of black pepper compared to the amount of turmeric increases the positive effect by 20 times.

In other words, use 5% black pepper, and reduce the amount of turmeric needed by one twentieth.

This means when you use turmeric and black pepper, you ONLY need 62.5 teaspoons divided by 20, which is the equivalent of a bit over 3 teaspoons of turmeric plus .15 teaspoons of black pepper.

Sounding more do-able? Read on….

2. BioPerine
BioPerine is a patented product that is derived from peperine. The brand name BioPerine is owned by Sabinsa Corporation and it contains around 95% piperine.

BioPerine has been researched in clinical trials to validate its safety and efficacy.

It has been shown to increase the bioavailability of not just curcumin, but many other nutrients including CoEnzyme Q10, Selenium, Vitamin C and Beta-carotene, along with resveratrol, numerous other water and fat soluble vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids.

So BioPerine is added to quite a few other supplements as well as turmeric based ones - read your labels…

BioPerine is claimed to lead to a 30-fold increase in availability of curcumin, but research shows that there is a big decrease in blood levels after only 45 to 60 minutes.

This means when you use turmeric and BioPerine, you ONLY need 62.5 teaspoons divided by 30, which is the equivalent of around 2 teaspoons of turmeric plus .1 teaspoons of black pepper. Problem then is that BioPerine only comes in capsules already combined with turmeric.

3. Longvida
Longvida is made up of 20% curcumin and 80% phospholipids.

Longvida is the only form or formulation of turmeric or curcumin that has published research demonstrating its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and bind amyloid plaques. While others may do this, Longvida is the only one with the research evidence.

So this makes Longvida the preferred choice for those focused on brain-related conditions such as Alzheimers or traumatic brain injury. It may possibly have both preventative and alleviating possibilities. More research is needed to clarify this, but it is a strong selling point.

Longvida does have a good deal of research and clinical studies examining its effectiveness in curcumin absorption. Based mostly it would seem upon a 2010 article published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, which examined curcumin levels in the blood with and without phospholipids, Longvida claims to increase curcumin bioavailability by 65 times; making it the highest of the 3 we have examined.

This means when you use turmeric and Longvida, you ONLY need 62.5 teaspoons divided by 65, which is the equivalent of around 1 teaspoon of turmeric plus .05 teaspoons of black pepper. As with BioPerine, Longvida only comes in capsules already combined with turmeric. So what to do?

Reference : Absorption studies - CLICK HERE

Hope you have not already found this out the hard way… curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces. Be careful!

PART 2 What to do? What to use? Next week we solve the mystery… how to convert all this theory into powders and tablets, along with a great turmeric recipe for a concentrated, therapeutic spread.

14 November 2016


It is confession time. It seems I was wrong about Roundup.

For years, like many others I had believed the evidence quoted by chemical industry and organic farming sources that claimed Roundup was safe. We were led to believe it was non-toxic and had a short life in nature.

In days gone by I have said in public I thought it OK to use around houses and farms, with the proviso of keeping it away from vegetable gardens and home orchards – just to be on the safe side. At home, we used it to control weeds along roads, under trees and in the lawn.

However, there is a growing consensus among non-industry sponsored scientists that the current level of exposure to Roundup throughout the community, which is both increasing and relatively unmonitored and unregulated, carries significant risks for human and environmental health.

Having looked into this for some time now, this week we go Out on a Limb once more and examine the evidence, but first

        Thought for the day

             No wonder when all our flesh 
            Has decayed from our skulls

            They grin back at us.

            Death’s laugh lasts a long time.

                Barbara Berlin – laughing at the things we do.

How big is the problem?
A consensus statement from many leading scientists published in Environmental Health identified the broad spectrum herbicide glyphosate (common trade name "Roundup") as a major threat to human and environmental health.

While the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer recently concluded that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans," the scientists who authored the consensus paper also produced a Statement of Concern, summarised as follows:

1. Glyphosate Based Herbicides (GBHs) are the most heavily applied herbicides in the world and usage continues to rise

2. Worldwide, GBHs often contaminate drinking water sources, precipitation, and air, especially in agricultural regions
3. The half-life of glyphosate in water and soil is longer than previously recognised
4. Glyphosate and its metabolites are widely present in the global soybean supply
5. Human exposure to GBHs are rising
6. Glyphosate is now authoritatively classified as a probably human carcinogen
7. Regulatory estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate in the United States and European Union are based on outdated science

Having been gathering material on Roundup and glyphosates for some time, they are grouped here into the different spheres of concern. My apologies for not having references for all the claims; quite simply there is so much here that to reference it all is simply beyond what I can manage. However, I have been very selective with sources and believe what is recorded here to be consistent with current research evidence.

Human health concerns
1. Glyphosate feeds antibiotic resistance
Environmentally relevant concentrations of commercially available GBHs alter the susceptibility of bacteria to six classes of antibiotics (for example, either raise or lower the minimum concentration needed to inhibit growth). GBHs can also induce multiple antibiotic-resistance phenotypes in potential human pathogens.

2. Glyphosate linked to celiac disease
According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), glyphosate appears to be strongly correlated with the rise in celiac disease - see more under the wheat section below.

         BREAD - looks good,
         but why do so many people have trouble with 

3. Roundup blocks Vit D production 
Roundup is thought by some to inhibit the conversion of Vit D2 to D3 in the body. This could explain how some children in areas that have plenty of sunlight have low Vit D3 levels.

4. Roundup disrupts important gut bacteria
The synthesis of amino acids is critical to the good health of friendly gut bacteria – what we call probiotics. These bacteria play a critical role in human health; they aid digestion, prevent permeability of the gastro-intestinal tract, synthesize vitamins and provide the foundation for robust immunity.

Disruption can lead to meta-inflammation, a known precursor of all the chronic degenerative diseases.

5. Glyphosate inhibits cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes 
CYP enzymes are produced by gut microbes.  They are critical to human biology because they detoxify the multitude of foreign chemical compounds that we are exposed to in our modern environment today.

As a result of all this inhibition, people become even more vulnerable to the damaging effects of other chemicals and environmental toxins they encounter.

Effects in the food chain

1. Roundup and wheat. 
When I started running groups in 1981, hardly anyone had wheat or gluten sensitivities. Now it is easier when we run groups to provide a wheat free diet to all as so many have intolerances.

What has changed? What has led to so many people developing gluten intolerances?

It seems the answer may well be related to Roundup usage.

       The graphic correlates the increases in Roundup usage on wheat and the incidence of coeliac disease since 1990.

Pre-harvest application of Roundup or other glyphosates to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980. Over the past 15 years this practice has become routine.

Roundup is commonly sprayed on wheat 7-10 days before harvest.

Why would this spraying be done?

It seems that firstly, dead wheat plants are less taxing on the farm equipment. Next, drying out the whole crop at once – by killing it - makes for an earlier, easier, more evenly ripe and bigger harvest.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, as of 2012, 99% of durum wheat, 97% of spring wheat, and 61% of winter wheat has been treated with herbicides. It is evident that those who eat these sprayed grains absorb a significant amount of Roundup.

2. What is going on with soy?
Weeds are a big problem when growing soybeans. Monsanto sells Roundup-ready soybeans to growers that are genetically engineered to be resistant to Roundup, which is also sold by Monsanto. These beans allow growers to spray Roundup, killing the weeds but not the soy.

Recently, Norwegian researchers described the amount of pesticide residues found in GMO soy as high compared to the maximum allowable residue levels.

The legal limit for glyphosate in foods had been set at 0.1 - 0.2 mg/kg.

Recorded levels exceeded the legal limits by an average of about 2000%, whereas organic and conventional non-GMO soy both had none.

                   So what happened? 

In Brazil, the safe levels we reset at ten. In the U.S. and Europe – 20! It seems the adjustment was not based on new evidence indicating glyphosate toxicity was less than previously understood, but pragmatically in response to actual observed increases in the content of residues in GMO soybeans. Now that is a worry!

Next week we continue, examining the adverse effects on the environment and agriculture, along with the even worse effects of the surfactants used in Roundup and similar sprays. Then some recommendations – aside from the obvious one :


Buy, grow organic produce and support its production.