To say Tom Newmark is passionate about turmeric is an understatement. He’s farmed the herbaceous plant to understand its inner workings. He’s traveled the globe to meet with researchers studying how it affects the inner workings of the body. It’s all been in an effort to confirm what people for thousands of years have believed: that turmeric is good for you. Very good for you.
“Ours is not a casual fascination with turmeric,” says Newmark, chief executive officer of New Chapter, makers of organic, natural health supplements. “This is a dedication, a really deep commitment, to its healing principles,” one that has captivated him for more than a decade. And, on the strength of everything he’s seen, “I absolutely believe turmeric is the number-one most important healing botanical in herbal pharmacopoeia.”
Curcumin (the chemical ingredient responsible for the turmeric root’s orange pigment) and turmerones (its oils) are believed to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease; prevent the spread of certain types of cancer (prostate, breast, colon); promote wound healing; alleviate arthritis and inflammation; and enhance liver detoxification. And those are just the leading benefits.
To support his company’s trust in the safety and effectiveness of turmeric, Newmark cites numerous global studies, “but the most important confirmation,” he notes, “is the science of epidemiology—the ultimate human clinical trial” that studies a specific population’s health patterns and risk factors.
Take India. “Despite the increased risk of malaria and cholera and other conditions that lead to childhood mortality in this country of 1.1 billion people, you can look at people who have lived a long time there,” he says. “If you study how people in their 70s and 80s are doing in terms of Alzheimer’s disease and mental clarity, and then look at their comparable-age cohorts in the United States, the answer is very interesting. The incidence of Alzheimer’s is 4.4 times greater in the U.S. than it is in India. UCLA researchers, to my understanding, have not concluded that it’s all due to turmeric, but their scientific judgment and research seems to be confirming that turmeric consumption might be the explanation.”
The average Indian, explains Newmark, consumes about 2 or 3 grams of turmeric powder each day (an amount his company replicates in its full-spectrum turmeric extract, Turmeric Force). “It’s India’s mother herb. It’s what gets put on a baby’s tongue soon after it’s born and what gets put on people when they die. It’s profoundly important to them.”
Americans don’t have the opportunity to take in nearly that much turmeric. We’re typically exposed to only minuscule traces of it, mostly in mustard (which turmeric gives its golden yellow color). We can, however, begin to cook more with it, sprinkle it on food, or take it as a supplement. “And not just as curcumenoids, an isolated class of molecule inside turmeric,” Newmark explains, “but as a full-spectrum turmeric extract, which is how Mother Nature created this healing food and is what has been proven to be most effective in delivering the health benefits.”
The bottom line? “If a person is only going to take one herbal supplement in their daily life,” Newmark says, “it ought to be turmeric.”