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Black Currants, Chamomile and Turmeric Updates

September 8, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Science is always marching forward. In order to keep up with the most recent developments, it’s essential that I regularly update previously covered topics. Sometimes the information I find expands upon or supports prior findings. On other occasions new complications and contradictory evidence presents itself. These instances are at least as significant as the supportive data. My primary goal is to present accurate natural health information that is scientifically based and that will hopefully yield positive results in a real world setting. Part of this process will involve periodic changes of position as dictated by emerging research.

In January of this year, I wrote a column about chamomile’s potential ability to combat cancer, diabetes and inflammation. A new study published in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology adds some scientific support for a more traditional use of this ancient tea. 57 patients with mild to moderate anxiety (GAD – generalized anxiety disorder) were enrolled in the trial. 28 received a standardized chamomile extract and 29 were given a placebo over an 8 week period. Several psychological tests were administered before and after the treatment period. A significant improvement in overall anxiety, as measured by the Hamilton Anxiety Rating (HAM-A) score, were detected in those using the chamomile extract. There was no difference in the number or severity of side effects reported between the treatment and placebo groups. (1)

Dyslipidemia is a term frequently used to describe a certain set of risk factors relating to cardiovascular disease. Specifically, it alludes to elevated levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol, high triglycerides and low levels of HDL “good” cholesterol. The controversial medications known as “statins” are commonly prescribed to address these undesirable lipid levels. But new research from China offers a safer and seemingly effective alternative. A combination of “anthocyanins” from bilberries and black currants were recently shown to improve the lipid profiles of patients with dyslipidemia. The study followed 120 middle-aged participants over the course of 12 weeks. Half of the group was given a placebo and the remainder took 160 mg of the berry extracts twice daily. The berry group exhibited a nearly 14% elevation in HDL “good” cholesterol and an equivalent decline in LDL “bad” cholesterol by the end of the trial. (2)

In previous blogs I’ve discussed natural methods to support healthy digestion and elimination. A Japanese study from August 2009 offers yet another alternative. In this research, 8 healthy volunteers were asked to eat two different meals on separate occasions. One of the meals included rice with turmeric and the other meal provided rice with curry that was turmeric-free. Turmeric is an antioxidant-rich, golden powder that is often used in Indian and South Asian cuisine. The authors of this trial determined that the meals containing turmeric “shortened small-bowel transit time”. This may bump turmeric, and its primary active ingredient “curcumin”, to a spot of greater prominence in the management of constipation and digestive disorders. Part of the reason is that curcumin has also been shown to possess potent activity against colorectal cancer. (3,4,5)

Source: NEJM Volume 357:1301-1310 – September 27, 2007 (link)

In June I wrote about the promise of arthichoke leaf extract (ALE) in combating indigestion, high cholesterol and liver disturbances. Unfortunately, new research published in this month’s edition of Phytomedicine tempers some of that optimism. A study conducted at the Center for Complementary Medicine, in Freiburg, Germany, examined the effects of high dosage ALE in 17 volunteers with chronic hepatitis C. The authors of the study hoped to find a reduction in aminotransferase (ALT) and viral load when comparing the pre and post blood test results. No significant changes in ALT (a measure of liver health) or viral count was noted. At the 4 week point, some patients did however report feeling less fatigued and fewer joint problems. Based on these preliminary results, ALE cannot be recommended for the management of chronic hepatitis C. (6)

There are triumphs and disappointments in both alternative and conventional medicine. I believe that one of the keys to truly improving health care is to to effectively separate “the wheat from the chaff”. The more successful we are at doing that, the greater the likelihood that we can choose from real alternatives that offer real hope.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Heart Health, Mental Health, Nutritional Supplements

13 Comments & Updates to “Black Currants, Chamomile and Turmeric Updates”

  1. Oct Says:

    Curcumin also has anti-inflammatory properties I think … at least it’s on my self-created list of things to take to potentially help improve my MS.

    Thanks JP! Very good article!

  2. JP Says:

    Thanks, Oct! 🙂

    It most certainly does! I’m not sure if you caught my previous column about curcumin. I mention some of the research about it’s potential with regard to MS.


    Be well!


  3. Sai Says:


    Another very good article. I am very much aware of the properties of turmeric (best place to get this is India Grocery store) and my grandma will give us turmeric milk (mixed with black pepper) for cough/cold/throat problems. The article about the berry extract is really good. Since Dyslipidemia seems alomost Metabolic Syndrome (minus some factors (bllod sugar/pressure) what product will have this hdl raising and ldl lowering effect? You know if any is available in the market or is this chinese natural medicine? I would very much appreciate this information. Again, a very good article.

    Best Regards


  4. JP Says:

    Thank you, Sai!

    The good news is that these kinds of berry extracts may also help a bit with the blood sugar angle. There’s some research to support that – as you know. 🙂

    The exact product used in the study is called Medox (linked below). It’s pretty expensive but you may find similar results by using different brands of bilberry and black currant extracts. I’ll give one example below.






    If you used about 2 tsp (not tablespoons) of the black currant juice concentrate and 1 capsule of a high potency bilberry extract … you’d get a comparable level of anthocyanins – as was used in the study.

    Please keep in mind that this would not be identical to the product used. But, it might be close enough to provide similar benefits.

    Be well!


  5. Sai Says:

    Thanks JP!

    I found this on the internet with both ingredients, it seems all of them talk only about the eye protection (which is good too)


    Serving Size: 1 Capsule

    Amount Per Serving

    Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) 80 mg *
    extract (fruit), 25% anthocyanidins

    Black Currant (Ribes nigrum) fruit 50 mg *

    *Daily Value not established

    Other Ingredients: Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (vegetarian capsule) and magnesium stearate.

    Do you think this will be OK? (since it is just one pill)

    Best Regards


  6. JP Says:


    I wish I could say “OK”. There are two reasons why I don’t think that supplement would approximate that which was used in the study.

    1. Each capsule only contains 20 mg of anthocyanins. 25% of 80 mg.

    2. The label doesn’t state how many, if any, anthocyanins are contained in the black currant portion of the supplement. It appears to be 50 mg of the “whole fruit”. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be expected to contain nearly as much anythocyanins as a concentrate or extract.

    That’s the upside of Medox. It provides a very concentrated extract in one pill (administered twice daily, in the study). The downside is the price.

    There may be other options out there. If you find any others, please feel free to run them by me.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update: Black currants may support oral health in smokers …


    J Med Food. 2015 Mar 3.

    Acute Effects of Black Currant Consumption on Salivary Flow Rate and Secretion Rate of Salivary Immunoglobulin A in Healthy Smokers.

    The role of saliva in maintaining oral health and homeostasis is based on its physicochemical properties and biological activities of its components, including salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA). Both salivary rates and immunological status of saliva are found to be compromised in smokers. The aim of this study was to investigate the acute time-dependent effect of smoking and black currant consumption on the salivary flow rate (SFR) and salivary IgA secretion rate (sIgA SR) in healthy smokers. SFR, sIgA levels in saliva, and sIgA SRs were determined in healthy smokers (n=8) at eight times of assessment within three consecutive interventions: at the baseline; 5, 30, and 60 min after smoking; 5, 30, and 60 min after black currant consumption (100 g), followed by smoking; and 5 min after black currant consumption. Smoking induced a significant delayed effect on SFR measured 60 min after smoking (P=.03), while black currant consumption preceding smoking prevented that effect. Salivary IgA concentrations and sIgA flow rates were not acutely influenced by smoking. Black currant consumption preceding smoking induced a significant decrease in sIgA concentrations 5 min after the intervention compared with the baseline (P=.046), with a further increasing trend, statistically significant, 60 min after the intervention (P=.025). Although smoking cessation is the most important strategy in the prevention of chronic diseases, the obtained results suggest that the influence of black currant consumption on negative effects of tobacco smoke on salivary flow and immunological status of saliva could partly reduce the smoking-associated risk on oral health.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Update 05/13/15:


    Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2015 May-Jun; 19(3): 347–350.

    Turmeric use is associated with reduced goitrogenesis: Thyroid disorder prevalence in Pakistan (THYPAK) study

    Introduction: South Asian population has a particularly high prevalence of thyroid disorders mainly due to iodine deficiency and goitrogen use. There is no data available for prevalence of thyroid disorders in the general population living in nonmountainous regions of Pakistan.

    Materials and Methods: A total of 2335 residents of Pak Pattan, Punjab, Pakistan were interviewed about demographic, dietary, medical and environmental history as well as screened for goiter. Individuals of all ages and either gender were included.

    Results: Median age was 34 (10–88) years and 1164 (49.9%) were males. Median monthly income was 49 (3.9–137) USD. Six hundred and sixty-nine (28.7%) subjects had palpable goiter. 77.5% (n = 462) and 22.5% (n = 133) had World Health Organization Grade I and Grade II goiters respectively, further screened by measuring thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). In subjects with TSH <0.4 mg/dL, free T3 and free T4 levels were measured. In 185 goiter subjects when TSH was measured, 50% (n = 93) were euthyroid, 48% (n = 89) were hyperthyroid, and one subject each was hypothyroid and subclinically hyperthyroid. 29/89 hyperthyroid subjects underwent radionuclide scanning. Twelve subjects had heterogeneous uptake consistent with multinodular goiter, 12 subjects had diffuse uptake, two had cold nodules and two had hyperfunctioning single nodules. Goiter was significantly more common among females, unmarried individuals and individuals drinking tube well (subterranean) water. Goiter was less common among those who consumed daily milk, daily ghee (hydrogenated oil), spices, chilies, and turmeric.

    Discussion: In our study population, goiter was endemic with very high prevalence of hyperthyroidism. Turmeric use was association with reduced goitrogenesis. Further studies to assess iodine sufficiency, thiocyanate exposure and autoimmunity need to be conducted. Masses consuming high goitrogen diets should be educated to incorporate turmeric, spices and green chilies in their cooking recipes, to reduce the risk of goiter development. In addition, use of iodized salt in their daily diet cannot be overemphasized.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update 06/11/15:


    Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice – June 09, 2015

    Efficacy and safety of topical Matricaria chamomilla L. (Chamomile) oil for knee osteoarthritis: A randomized; controlled clinical trial


    We assessed the efficacy and safety of chamomile oil in knee osteoarthritis.

    We evaluated the patients in the terms of analgesic use, function and stiffness.

    Chamomile oil significantly reduced the patients’ need for acetaminophen use.

    It may show some beneficial effects on function and stiffness of the patients.

    The patients did not report any local or systemic adverse events by using it.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 11/05/16:


    Phytomedicine. 2016 Dec 15;23(14):1735-1742.

    Long-term chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial.

    BACKGROUND: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one of the most common anxiety disorders treated in primary care, yet current therapies have limited efficacy and substantial side effects.

    PURPOSE: To evaluate long-term chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) use for prevention of GAD symptom relapse.

    METHODS: Outpatients from primary care practices and local communities with a primary diagnosis of moderate-to-severe GAD were enrolled for this two-phase study at a large US academic medical center. During Phase 1, eligible participants received 12 weeks of open-label therapy with chamomile pharmaceutical grade extract 1500mg (500mg capsule 3 times daily). During Phase 2, treatment responders were randomized to either 26 weeks of continuation chamomile therapy or placebo in a double-blinded, placebo-substitution design. The primary outcome was time to relapse during continuation therapy, analyzed using Cox proportional hazards. Secondary outcomes included the proportion who relapsed, treatment-emergent adverse events, and vital sign changes. This study is registered at ClinicalTrials.gov, identifier NCT01072344.

    RESULTS: Between March 1, 2010, and June 30, 2015, we enrolled 179 participants. Of those, 93 (51.9%) were responders and agreed to continue in the double-blind randomized controlled trial. A numerically greater number of placebo-switched (n=12/47; 25.5%) versus chamomile-continuation (n = 7/46; 15.2%) participants relapsed during follow-up. Mean time to relapse was 11.4 ± 8.4 weeks for chamomile and 6.3 ± 3.9 weeks for placebo. Hazard of relapse was non-significantly lower for chamomile (hazard ratio, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.20-1.33; P = 0.16). During follow-up, chamomile participants maintained significantly lower GAD symptoms than placebo (P = 0.0032), with significant reductions in body weight (P = 0.046) and mean arterial blood pressure (P = 0.0063). Both treatments had similar low adverse event rates.

    CONCLUSIONS: Long-term chamomile was safe and significantly reduced moderate-to-severe GAD symptoms, but did not significantly reduce rate of relapse. Our limited sample size and lower than expected rate of placebo group relapse likely contributed to the non-significant primary outcome finding. Possible chamomile superiority over placebo requires further examination in large-scale studies.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Updated 11/24/17:


    Complement Ther Med. 2017 Dec;35:109-114.

    The effects of chamomile extract on sleep quality among elderly people: A clinical trial.

    BACKGROUND: The prevalence of insomnia increases with age. Chamomile is among the medicinal plants which are used as tranquilizer. Yet, there is inadequate experimental and clinical evidence regarding its hypnotic effects. This study sought to evaluate the effects of chamomile extract on sleep quality among elderly people.

    DESIGN: A single-blind randomized controlled trial was performed.

    SETTING: A convenient sample of sixty elderly people who aged sixty or more and lived in Kahrizak day care nursing home, Karaj, Iran, were randomly allocated to a control and a treatment group. The treatment group received chamomile extract capsules (200mg) twice a day for 28 consecutive days while the control group received wheat flour capsules (200mg) in the same manner. Using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, sleep quality was assessed immediately before, two weeks after beginning, immediately after the completion, and two weeks after the completion of the intervention. The data were analyzed via the independent-sample t, Chi-square, and Fisher’s exact tests as well as the repeated measures analysis of variance.

    RESULTS: The means of age in the control and the treatment groups were 70.73±6.44 and 69.36±4.99, respectively. Except for the habitual sleep efficiency component of the Sleep Quality Index, the study groups did not differ significantly from each other at baseline regarding the scores of the other components of the index. Moreover, at baseline, sleep quality in both groups was low, with no statistically significant between-group difference (P=0.639). However, after the intervention, sleep quality in the treatment group was significantly better than the control group (P<0.05).

    CONCLUSION: The use of chamomile extract can significantly improve sleep quality among elderly people. Thus, it can be used as a safe modality for promoting elderly people's sleep.

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Updated 1/19/18:


    Nutr Neurosci. 2018 Jan 17:1-11.

    The impact of blackcurrant juice on attention, mood and brain wave spectral activity in young healthy volunteers.

    There is a growing body of evidence from randomized controlled trials which indicates that consumption of berries has a positive effect upon the cognitive function of healthy adults. It has been recommended that studies combining cognitive and physiological measures be undertaken in order to strengthen the evidence base for the putative effects of flavonoid consumption on cognitive outcomes. This pilot study utilized a randomized, double-blind and placebo controlled crossover design to assess the influence of the acute administration of anthocyanin-rich blackcurrant juice, standardized at 500 mg of polyphenols, on mood and attention. Additionally, this trial used electroencephalography (EEG) to assess if any changes in cognitive performance are associated with changes in localized prefrontal cortex neuronal activity in nine healthy young adults. Outcomes from the pilot EEG data highlight an anxiolytic effect of the consumption of a single serve blackcurrant juice, as indexed by a suppression of α spectral power, and an increase in the slow wave δ and θ spectral powers. There was also an indication of greater alertness and lower fatigue, as indexed by an increase in β power and suppression of α spectral power. Outcomes from the CogTrack™ system indicated a small acute increase in reaction times during the digit vigilance task.

    Be well!


  13. JP Says:

    Updated 09/16/18:


    J Res Pharm Pract. 2018 Jul-Sep;7(3):128-135.

    Effect of Topical Chamomile Oil on Postoperative Bowel Activity after Cesarean Section: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

    Objective: Postoperative ileus (POI) is a common complication after surgery that requires a multifactorial therapeutic approach. This study aims to assess the effect of topical chamomile oil on postoperative bowel activity after cesarian section.

    Methods: This randomized controlled trial was carried out in 2015 at Chamran Hospital in Iran. A block randomization list was generated for 142 parturient divided into three groups. In the intervention group (arm A) (n = 47), chamomile oil was applied topically on abdominal region after the stability of the patient. Placebo group (arm B) (n = 47) received placebo oil and control group (arm C) (n = 48) had no intervention. A recovery program was used after surgery for all participants. The primary outcome was time to first flatus. Secondary outcomes were time to bowel sounds, defecation, return of appetite, hospital stay, and rate of nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain.

    Findings: Times to first flatus were significantly shorter in Group A (arm A vs. B, P < 0.001 and arm A vs. C, P < 0.001). In addition, time to first bowel sounds (arm A vs. B, P < 0.001 and arm A vs. C, P < 0.001) and return of appetite (arm A vs. B, P < 0.001 and arm A vs. C, P < 0.001) were significantly shorter in arm A. The times from surgery to first defecation were shorter in Group A versus B and C. However, there were no statistically significant differences between three groups. Conclusion: These results suggest that topical chamomile oil has a potential therapeutic effect on gastrointestinal motility and can reduce the duration of POI. Be well! JP

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