Naturopathic Doctors Look Bad After California Woman Dies From Turmeric Injection
By Britt Marie Hermes
“I cover medical pseudoscience as an ex-naturopath.”
March 27, 2017
A San Diego woman, Jade Erick, 30, recently died of cardiopulmonary arrest after receiving an intravenous injection of turmeric, a common spice in Indian food. Until the medical examiner’s investigation of Erick’s death is complete, the identity of the person who injected the herbal solution into her body will not be known. But local naturopathic doctors have rallied to defend this esoteric medical treatment.
Kristine Reese, N.D., and Hadas Hilewitz, N.D., claimed that intravenous turmeric can be effective for certain conditions but made it clear they don’t offer it themselves. Mark Stengler, N.D., told ABC 10 News that he knows of doctors in the area who give turmeric intravenously, but also does not do it himself.
Reliable evidence for using turmeric for any medical condition is scanty at best. There have been preliminary studies on intravenous turmeric in combination with conventional chemotherapy, but no firm conclusions can be drawn. In other words, intravenous turmeric poses unnecessary risks.
Naturopathic doctors frequently offer treatments that have not been fully vetted for safety or effectiveness, and many therapies used in naturopathic practice have been disproved by rigorous trials. This is likely the result of naturopathic education blurring the line between treatments backed by good evidence and practices using “natural” substances that turn profits.
I searched for doctors in the San Diego area offering intravenous turmeric, which goes by curcumin after the main chemical constituent in the plant’s root, and found three clinics advertising its use that staff or are run by naturopathic doctors. A one-hour IV infusion of turmeric costs $200, which would also require an initial visit to establish care at a price between $200 and $400 at Livv Natural Health.
In the days since Jade Erick’s death, one of these naturopathic doctors, Kim Kelly, N.D., at a different clinic, has purged his website and Facebook page of advertisements for intravenous turmeric. But based on a now archived blog post for his website and a promotional piece in the San Diego edition of Natural Awakenings, he began offering intravenous turmeric in September 2016.
In the blog post on intravenous turmeric, Kelly writes that numerous clinical trials have been completed showing positive effects on a variety of serious health conditions, including cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and blood disorders. He explicitly writes, “The safety, tolerability and nontoxicity of curcumin at high doses have been well established by human clinical trials.” His assessment is absolutely false.
Kelly and the other naturopathic doctors advertising intravenous turmeric did not respond to interview requests for this article.
Friends of Jade Erick report she was being treated for eczema. I reached out to Dr. Jeanette Jacknin, M.D., who is board certified in dermatology and runs a “holistic” clinic in the San Diego area. She told me that she is not familiar with the use of intravenous turmeric for eczema and that this treatment does not make sense for any dermatology patient.
Jade Erick’s death should not be seen as an isolated incident at the hands of a rogue practitioner. Naturopathic doctors across California advertise intravenous therapies with dangerous substances, including hydrogen peroxide, ultraviolet light and ozone gas. And their descriptions of these substances delivered directly into the blood raise serious concerns about their medical training and ability to serve as state-licensed doctors.
On his website, Kim Kelly, N.D., erroneously claims, “When H2O2 [hydrogen peroxide] runs through your veins, the oxygen surrounds the disease, causing its cells to suffocate and die.” With more twisted logic, he argues that hydrogen peroxide delivered into the body will give white blood cells a “boost” by replenishing their own oxidative compounds used to fight infections. According to Kelly, “H2O2 is considered a food, so it is natural and it is also effective.”
Putting hydrogen peroxide into the blood stream is not safe or effective for any medical condition. Patients have died receiving this treatment. In 2004, Dr. James Shortt, M.D., lost his medical license in South Carolina and settled a wrongful death lawsuit after one of his patients died from intravenous hydrogen peroxide. Physicians in other states have faced similar disciplinary actions for giving intravenous hydrogen peroxide.
Californian naturopathic doctors are also pushing a variety of invasive treatments using ozone gas. The FDA describes ozone as “a toxic gas with no known useful medical application.” But California naturopathic doctors claim that there are hundreds of studies validating its use to treat a dizzying array of disparate health conditions.
Take, for example, Sonja Fung, N.D. and Brian Myers, N.D. in La Quinta, who cite on their website a long list of biomolecular pathways in their justification for how ozone gas reduces inflammation and increases “cellular energy,” which they say treats conditions ranging from vascular diseases of the brain to Ebola. These naturopathic doctors appear to have strung together biochemical terminology lifted from the abstract of a dubious article in a seemingly predatory medical journal.
Further web searches returned dozens of naturopathic clinics in California offering ozone therapy. This includes Mark Stengler, N.D., who spoke on television after Jade Erick’s death and defended intravenous turmeric as “experimental.” He does give ozone and hydrogen peroxide intravenously, according to advertisements on his website.
The naturopathic profession’s endemic relationship to dangerous and medically unnecessary therapies seems to go ignored by the California Naturopathic Medicine Committee, the agency charged with regulating the practice of naturopathy in the state. A would-be crackdown on naturopathic doctors might be at odds with the state’s professional organization and livelihoods of its members.
The California Naturopathic Doctors Association, the state’s professional organization, has promoted continuing education credits in the category of pharmacology for a course titled “Clinical Applications of Medical Ozone Therapy,” which the California Naturopathic Medicine Committee has approved for naturopathic doctors to maintain their licenses. This scenario is further complicated by the fact that hydrogen peroxide and ozone gas are not substances legally permitted to be used by California naturopathic doctors, and the FDA has ruled that purchasing ozone generators for medical use is illegal.
The notion that naturopathic doctors are practicing safely and competently will likely come under intense scrutiny as the profession’s regulatory committee grapples with obvious cases of harmful quackery. Jade Erick’s death from an intravenous injection with a preparation of an Indian spice could become a lightning rod issue for those seeking to rollback naturopathic laws, especially if additional adverse events are uncovered.
The California law that grants the licensure of naturopathic doctors is set to expire at the end of 2017. An effort to extend the charter will undoubtedly involve a debate between advocates for patient safety and believers in “natural” medicine.
Many thanks to my friend Evergrey for finding the above article.
This reminds me of a blog post I made back in 2010 after another friend showed me a study in which curcumin was injected to mice with surgically-induced endometriosis. The study showed that the curcumin was effective in reducing inflammation in the MMP-9 gene protein. Per the study, “Curcumin at a dose of 16, 32 and 48mg/kg b.w. showed a gradual decrease (over 21 days) in secreted MMP-9 activity by 50%, 70% and 80% respectively.”
So my friend used this info of a study of mice being injected with curcumin… to go out and buy me 2 pounds of powdered turmeric and double-zero pill capsules, and harassed me relentlessly to take 2 pills a day filled with powdered turmeric. Not having any relief from doctors or surgeries, I decided to give it a try. The side effects were immediate in the form of intense indigestion, followed by my hands breaking out with eczema. When I noted these effects to my friend, he dismissed them and got upset with me!!! I stopped taking the pills. Then he went to a health-food store and purchased turmeric pills for me. Again I had the same side effects. Over the years, he grew more extreme in his efforts to ‘treat’ my condition, to the point where I had to cut him out of my life. He’s no different than these naturopath doctors. Only I didn’t have to pay him any money to do the same damage.
I like turmeric. I cook with turmeric. I’m not going to take it intravenously or in pill capsule format to treat my condition.