Turmeric : A Natural Alternative to Omeprazole for Indigestion

Background and Introduction:

A groundbreaking study, published in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine (2023), suggests that a natural compound found in the culinary spice turmeric could be just as effective as omeprazole—a drug commonly used to alleviate excess stomach acid—in treating indigestion symptoms. This study is the first of its kind and sheds light on the potential benefits of turmeric.

Turmeric is derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and contains a naturally active compound known as curcumin. Curcumin is believed to possess anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and has a long history of use as a medicinal remedy, including for indigestion treatment in Southeast Asia. However, its comparative efficacy with conventional drugs for this purpose has remained unclear due to the absence of direct comparisons in previous research.

Method and Study Type:

To address this gap, researchers randomly assigned 206 patients aged 18-70 with recurrent upset stomach (functional dyspepsia) of unknown origin, recruited from Thai hospitals between 2019 and 2021, to one of three treatment groups for a 28-day period.

The treatment groups included:


Two large 250 mg curcumin capsules were taken four times a day, along with a tiny placebo capsule (69 patients).


One small 20 mg omeprazole capsule daily, accompanied by two large placebo capsules four times a day (68 patients).

Turmeric plus omeprazole:

(69 patients).

Omeprazole belongs to the class of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used to manage functional dyspepsia. Symptoms of this condition include postprandial fullness (feeling overly full after eating), early satiety (feeling full after consuming a small amount of food), and stomach or food pipe discomfort characterized by pain or burning sensations (epigastric pain).

It’s worth noting that prolonged use of PPIs has been associated with an increased risk of fractures, deficiencies in micronutrients, and a heightened susceptibility to infections, as observed by the researchers.

Of the 206 enrolled patients, 151 completed the study: 20 in the curcumin group, 19 in the omeprazole group, and 16 in the combined treatment group, with some patients dropping out.

At the outset of the trial, patients in all three groups had similar clinical characteristics and indigestion scores, as assessed by the Severity of Dyspepsia Assessment score (SODA). Patients were reevaluated after 28 days and then again after 56 days.


SODA scores revealed substantial reductions in symptom severity by day 28 for pain (with scores of -4.83, -5.46, and -6.22) and other symptoms (with scores of -2.22, -2.32, and -2.31) in the combined treatment, curcumin alone, and omeprazole alone groups, respectively. These improvements became even more pronounced after 56 days for pain (with scores of -7.19, -8.07, and -8.85) and other symptoms (with scores of -4.09, -4.12, and -3.71), respectively.

SODA scores also encompass satisfaction levels, which remained relatively stable over time among curcumin users, possibly due to the taste or odor of curcumin, according to the researchers. No serious side effects were reported, although liver function tests indicated some degree of deterioration among curcumin users who were overweight, as noted by the researchers.

Conclusion and Interpretation:

The researchers acknowledge the study’s small size and various limitations, including the short intervention period and the absence of long-term monitoring data. They emphasize the need for larger, long-term studies. Nevertheless, they conclude that this multicenter randomized controlled trial offers highly reliable evidence for treating functional dyspepsia. They suggest that the findings from their study may justify considering curcumin as a potential option in clinical practice.

Reference: Kongkam, P., et al. (2023). Curcumin and proton pump inhibitors for functional dyspepsia: a randomized, double-blind controlled trial. BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine.


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