Myeloma patients in the know recognize curcumin, an extract of the spice turmeric, to be a potentially powerful anti-myeloma supplement. But like most supplements, curcumin is unregulated and understudied. Anecdotal evidence looks extremely promising. So much so that activists (like me) in the myeloma community have endorsed it as a natural, inexpensive complementary medicine option for those of us with MGUS, smoldering or active myeloma.
But a review of the literature associated with curcumin when used as a supplement among MGUS and smoldering myeloma patients show using curcumin is not without risk.
One of our well informed readers, Steve, passed-along a link to a cautionary review that got me to sit-up and take notice.
The paper, Curcumin for monoclonal gammopathies. What can we hope for, what should we fear? was published last December in a well respected publication, Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology.
Reviewers (Ramaswamy Narayanan, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Dean for Res&Ind Relations, Florida Atlantic University, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science,Boca Raton, FL and S. Vincent Rajkumar, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Division of Hematology, Rochester, MN) warn that there isn’t enough known about how curcumin works in different classes of patients to justify experimenting with it outside of a carefully supervised clinical trial setting.
My view is these conservative physicians may be overplaying potential pitfalls associated with curcumin use. They focused their papers at a specific group of patients, identifying a helpful list of advantages and disadvantages of taking curcumin for patient sub-groups whose myeloma has yet to become active or symptomatic, except for suppressed immune systems, a condition that they found to could be made worse by taking curcumin.
I take between 2 gm and 3 gm (4 or 5 500 mg capsules) daily. I haven’t noticed any increase in immunosupresion or lower white counts. After stopping Revlimid therapy several months ago, my counts have rebounded nicely despite my curcumin supplementation.
But like so many things surrounding myeloma, my experience doesn’t mean others will respond in the same way. And while I could argue using curcumin hasn’t hurt my numbers, there is no proof it is helping keep my awakening myeloma at bay.
However, myelomacentric (is that a word?) readers should note that curcumin is one of the fastest growing supplement categories at companies like GNC for reasons that have nothing to do with myeloma. Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Even the doctors that contributed to this review concede there is no down side to that important benefit when taking it.
I am going to write more about this in the next day or two. In the meantime, online curcumin advocates should exercise due diligence and carefully read this report. Here’s the link:
It can be so frustrating! Just when I find a supplement that seems risk free and righteous for the job, a new study or report jumps-up and snatches my confidence away! But maybe not this time. I started taking curcumin for some very good reasons, and I’m not about to stop based on some ambiguous data from one scientific review. But honestly, it has given me pause.
More to follow. Feel good and keep smiling! Pat