Turmeric pills are the latest version of snake oil promoted by healers and naturopaths. And although that may be bad, it's not as bad as their latest trick – administering turmeric using an IV and killing an otherwise healthy person.
It is one thing for a naturopath to push turmeric, the latest fad in fancy snake oils, as a cure all for everything from your bad sex life to diabetes. Because turmeric is metabolized so quickly in the stomach (it is used in food, after all) it is generally not dangerous and amounts to a lot of false hopes and wasted money.
It is another thing entirely for these 'healers' to hook a healthy person up to an IV and pump turmeric into their veins.
Unfortunately, that is what happened to Jade Erick, a 30 year-old woman who is dead because she opted for 'holistic health' to treat her eczema. Our vascular surgeon, Dr. Charles Dinerstein, suggests that, based on the information we have, "it seems that she may have suffered from an allergic reaction resulting in a cardiac arrest." Indeed, the San Diego County Medical Examiner went one step further to link that cardiac arrest directly to the IV. They ruled that the cause of her death was “anoxic encephalopathy due to prolonged resuscitated cardiopulmonary arrest due to adverse reaction to infused turmeric solution.”
But, what in the turmeric solution actually killed Jade Erick? The most obvious possibility is that Ms. Erick has an allergy to turmeric itself. However, there are other possibilities. In order to get the turmeric powder into a solution, it has to be solubilized (dissolved into a solution.) If this was not done properly, tiny particles of turmeric would be present in the solution - something that would stop a heart immediately. In order to create a solubilized solution, an emulsifier is required - another component that she made have had an adverse reaction to. Lastly, the turmeric could not have been pure turmeric. Turmeric has been allegedly contaminated with heavy metals in the past - it is not a huge leap to think that a wellness clinic was not using 100% pure turmeric. Spices do not exactly go through the same checks and balances as drugs that are intended to enter the bloodstream.
In the original report on abc, Mark Stengler, a naturopath, was interviewed regarding the use of IV turmeric in naturopathic practices. He said, “There are some doctors who use Turmeric extract in IV form to try and heighten the physiological effects, so the anti-inflammatory effects of the turmeric,” Stengler explained. “It hasn’t been well studied. It’s more theoretical, so it’s more investigational.”
Investigational? The definition of investigational is "a drug or medical procedure that is not approved for general use but is under investigation in clinical trials regarding its safety and efficacy." Or, something that you can get at a quack clinic in Encinitas that has absolutely no idea what they are doing.
So, why are naturopaths able to perform investigational procedures (otherwise known as experiments) on people? In order for a scientist to even draw blood from someone, an institutional review board (IRB) approval needs to be granted. It's no news that naturopaths don't play by the same rules as physicians and don't have the same oversight. They are licensed in twenty states, each with a state board to oversee them, and California is no different.
Another part of this tragic story that has sparked our curiosity is how prepared this facility (or any similar facility) is for an adverse reaction or a medical emergency? They should have the ability to provide 'advanced life support' - a crash cart with medicines that can be used in the event of a cardiac arrest and routine drills to ensure preparedness and someone who knows how to use it. Ironically, people go to these centers for 'healing' and 'holistic health' and to avoid medicine. But, the absence of medical interventions means that people can and do die.
Although it is difficult to get a sense of how many people are receiving IV turmeric 'infusions', the promotion of IV turmeric is all over the internet. So, although Ms. Erick may be the first to die from a turmeric infusion, she will most certainly not be the last.
If you swallow snake venom, you'll be fine. But, if you get bit by a snake - you're dead. And, the fact that naturopaths can't understand the difference between these two means that they are not qualified to put a band aid on someone, let alone treat people for disease.
The Medical Examiner is calling Erick’s death an accident, although it is still being investigated. How many needless deaths will it take to stop naturopaths from being allowed to kill people?
The committee regulations of IV administration in California can be found here.