Turmeri, or Haldi – for centuries it has been one of the most important medicinal plants in India. Across the country, haldi is being used for medicinal purposes and to desirable effects.
In fact, haldi in Indian households is symbolic of good health as can be seen from the fact that it is used during important ceremonies and religious events. Turmeric is considered somewhat holy in India because of its numerous beneficial traits.
For instance, turmeric mixed with milk can treat cold. It can be used to heal wounds, clean the skin, as an antioxidant, antiseptic or even as a diuretic agent. Because it is can clean the body off germs, turmeric is applied on the bodies of the bride and groom during Hindu marriages both as a symbolic purification and as an agent that can help the nerves relax.
This is why in 1995, the US Patents and Trademark Office granted a patent to two Indian-American researchers who claimed that they had discovered the healing properties of turmeric. Two years later, in 1997, the same office revoked their patent when India’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) sought a re-examination – basically telling USPTO that they were wrong in issuing the patent.
All these years, before and after the issuance of the patent, the medicinal properties of turmeric was never questioned. The truth is that there was never a need to question the properties because of their proven effects over centuries. Yet for some odd reason a so-called “new study” has now revealed that there is no medicinal property in turmeric.
Scientists attribute all the benefits from turmeric to an “unstable” compound called curcumin. But because they have failed to produce a drug from curcumin, they have labelled it as “reactive, non-bioavailable compound and, therefore, a highly improbable lead [for drug development]”.
The researchers claim that any research on curcumin for the possibility of a drug is useless because according to them it has “never yielded a proven treatment”.
So what is their advice? Nature quotes Gunda Georg, co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry – the publisher of the review, “Much effort and funding has been wasted on curcumin research.”
Basically, they are saying that if you cannot create a saleable drug out of a proven Indian herb, you should not even look into it.
The lead author of the research, Michael Walters – a medicinal chemist at University of Minnesota, wants any research into curcumin (in other words turmeric) to be stopped.
“It may very well be the case that curcumin or turmeric extracts do have beneficial effects, but getting to the bottom of that is complex and might be impossible,” he says.
When the Quartz covered the story, they supported the research by concluding with this statement: The resources being wasted on difficult curcumin research could instead be spent on thousands of other chemicals lying on shelves waiting to be tested.
It is the most egregiously lame logic. Just because a bunch of scientists in the West have failed in identifying the usefulness of a herb that has been proving its usefulness for centuries in India does not mean that research into its properties should be halted. And, it does not mean that money should be re-directed for research on chemicals instead of natural herbs.
Just because it cannot produce a saleable drug which can mint billions in revenue for the pharma sector does not mean that promoting turmeric as a useful medicinal condiment should be stopped.