Can this household spice help cure cancer? Remarkable new case raises the possibility

British doctors publish a study of a woman who cured herself of cancer with the aid of a household spice.

Turmeric.
Credit: Pixabay


A British woman had a remarkable turnaround in her battle with cancer thanks to, she claims, a household spice. While the scientific jury is still out on turmeric, the spice she used, doctors have studied her case and concluded that there is no better explanation at the moment than that the spice did, in fact, help her defeat an illness that five years of chemotherapy and other treatments could not tackle.

Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that you can find in curries and mustards. It is widely used in Eastern medicine and has been celebrated as a superfood, for its supposed anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, helping your body stave off cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  

Dieneke Ferguson, 67, has been fighting the blood cancer myeloma from 2007. After three rounds of chemotherapy and four stem cell transplants, she still suffered a relapse, with little hope for recovery. 

‘I have been on all sorts of toxic drugs and the side-effects were terrifying,’ she said in an interview. ‘At one point I lost my memory for three days, and in 2008 two of the vertebrae in my spine collapsed so I couldn’t walk. They injected some kind of concrete into my spine to keep it stable.’

But nothing worked, with Ferguson feeling that all her “options were exhausted, and there was nothing else I could do.”

Dieneke Ferguson

That’s when, inspired by information she read in an internet forum, she started to take 8 grams (2 teaspoons) of curcumin a day, with curcumin being one of turmeric’s main components. This led to the fact that now her cancer cell count is negligible. 

Jamie Cavenagh, professor of blood diseases at London’s Barts Hospital and co-author of the medical report on Ferguson, wrote that curcumin really does seem to have made a difference in her case. 

‘When you review her chart, there’s no alternative explanation [for her recovery] other than we’re seeing a response to curcumin,’ said Cavenagh.  

Dr. Abbas Zaidi, a haematologist at Barts NHS Health Trust, who co-authored the report on Ferguson, also expressed that curcumin is the answer to her improvement.

"Here we describe a myeloma patient who started a daily dietary supplement of curcumin when approaching her third relapse, “ wrote Zaidi. In the absence of further antimyeloma treatment the patient plateaued and has remained stable for the last five years with good quality of life.”

Ferguson’s intriguing case notwithstanding, the scientific evidence for turmeric’s healing properties has been spotty.

While there have been literally thousands of studies of turmeric, a 2017 review of such studies on curcumin concluded that the compound had limited scientific benefits. The researchers involved in the review stated that the stories of the spice’s effectiveness are largely “blown out of proportion” and are more folklore than science. The scientists found that none of the studies and trials they reviewed were double-blind and placebo-controlled, and many seemed to be generated by self-serving interests, being originated by people who were also trying to sell turmeric. In fact, curcumin is not easily absorbed by the body, said the researchers.  

Tengananese girls make a traditional potion from turmeric and vinegar to cure the wound during padanus war ritual on June 8, 2015 in Tenganan Pagringsingan Village, Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia. (Photo by Putu Sayoga/Getty Images)

Kathryn M. Nelson, the scientist from the University of Minnesota who authored the study, explained that the amount of curcumin that actually makes it through the body is “dismal,” making it unlikely the chemical is having much of an effect. 

“The compound itself is probably not doing anything,” said Nelson in an interview with the Washington Post. “It falls apart in water. Think about how well it’s going to survive your stomach and its acids.”  

Nelson thinks that it’s likely not curcumin but another compound in turmeric that offers any benefits. What that may be needs to be studied further. 

Despite such naysaying, there are scientists like Ajay Goel, a cancer researcher and director of Baylor University’s Center for Gastrointestinal Research, who has conducted several studies of curcumin and found it to be effective. Goel saw the benefits of curcumin in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis as well as improving the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs and even helping a small group of people with major depression. 

Looking at the University of Minnesota review, Goel, who is also on the board of a company that sells curcumin, thought that the scientists involved did not really understand how to study turmeric properly. 

“Does this thing work? Absolutely. Does it work amazingly for every single person? No,” Goel said, adding that the authors of the review “have no understanding of the topic.” 

You can read the study of the London pensioner, who was helped by turmeric, here in a British medical journal. 

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

A close up of Bathynomus raksasa

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
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Volcanoes to power bitcoin mining in El Salvador

The first nation to make bitcoin legal tender will use geothermal energy to mine it.

Credit: Aaron Thomas via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

In June 2021, El Salvador became the first nation in the world to make bitcoin legal tender. Soon after, President Nayib Bukele instructed a state-owned power company to provide bitcoin mining facilities with cheap, clean energy — harnessed from the country's volcanoes.

The challenge: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a digital form of money and a payment system. Crypto has several advantages over physical dollars and cents — it's incredibly difficult to counterfeit, and transactions are more secure — but it also has a major downside.

Crypto transactions are recorded and new coins are added into circulation through a process called mining.

Crypto mining involves computers solving incredibly difficult mathematical puzzles. It is also incredibly energy-intensive — Cambridge University researchers estimate that bitcoin mining alone consumes more electricity every year than Argentina.

Most of that electricity is generated by carbon-emitting fossil fuels. As it stands, bitcoin mining produces an estimated 36.95 megatons of CO2 annually.

A world first: On June 9, El Salvador became the first nation to make bitcoin legal tender, meaning businesses have to accept it as payment and citizens can use it to pay taxes.

Less than a day later, Bukele tweeted that he'd instructed a state-owned geothermal electric company to put together a plan to provide bitcoin mining facilities with "very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable, 0 emissions energy."

Geothermal electricity is produced by capturing heat from the Earth itself. In El Salvador, that heat comes from volcanoes, and an estimated two-thirds of their energy potential is currently untapped.

Why it matters: El Salvador's decision to make bitcoin legal tender could be a win for both the crypto and the nation itself.

"(W)hat it does for bitcoin is further legitimizes its status as a potential reserve asset for sovereign and super sovereign entities," Greg King, CEO of crypto asset management firm Osprey Funds, told CBS News of the legislation.

Meanwhile, El Salvador is one of the poorest nations in North America, and bitcoin miners — the people who own and operate the computers doing the mining — receive bitcoins as a reward for their efforts.

"This is going to evolve fast!"
NAYIB BUKELE

If El Salvador begins operating bitcoin mining facilities powered by clean, cheap geothermal energy, it could become a global hub for mining — and receive a much-needed economic boost in the process.

The next steps: It remains to be seen whether Salvadorans will fully embrace bitcoin — which is notoriously volatile — or continue business-as-usual with the nation's other legal tender, the U.S. dollar.

Only time will tell if Bukele's plan for volcano-powered bitcoin mining facilities comes to fruition, too — but based on the speed of things so far, we won't have to wait long to find out.

Less than three hours after tweeting about the idea, Bukele followed up with another tweet claiming that the nation's geothermal energy company had already dug a new well and was designing a "mining hub" around it.

"This is going to evolve fast!" the president promised.

How Pfizer and BioNTech made history with their vaccine

How were mRNA vaccines developed? Pfizer's Dr Bill Gruber explains the science behind this record-breaking achievement and how it was developed without compromising safety.

How Pfizer and BioNTech made history with their vaccine
Sponsored by Pfizer
  • Wondering how Pfizer and partner BioNTech developed a COVID-19 vaccine in record time without compromising safety? Dr Bill Gruber, SVP of Pfizer Vaccine Clinical Research and Development, explains the process from start to finish.
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  • The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to prevent COVID-19 for use in individuals 12 years of age and older. The emergency use of this product is only authorized for the duration of the emergency declaration unless ended sooner. See Fact Sheet: cvdvaccine-us.com/recipients.

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