Joint pain from osteoarthritis (OA) or “wear-and-tear” is a nearly universal human experience. Over time, joints lose some of their natural cushioning due to daily activity, the same way brake pads in a car eventually wear down and need to be replaced. This loss of joint-cushioning leads to inflammation and pain. Due to differences in genetics and lifestyles, OA affects people to varying degrees. The most common joints affected are at the base of the thumbs and in the knees.
Standard medical treatment for OA pain starts with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen, which can have significant health risks with long-term use, including kidney damage and stomach ulcers.
Turmeric can be a safer alternative and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years to treat inflammation. Now science has shown that curcumin (the major ingredient of the yellow spice turmeric) acts like an “herbal ibuprofen,” with similar anti-inflammatory effects as these drugs but without the dangerous side effects. Curcumin is derived from turmeric plants, which are related to ginger, and whose roots are dried and ground into a spicy orange powder that has been used in India for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory that reduces OA pain and the only side effect is that in its natural form will stain.
In an eight-month study of 100 osteoarthritis patients, supplementation with curcumin decreased arthritis pain and reduced inflammation (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21194249). In another study, curcumin was found to be better at reducing pain and swelling in arthritic joints than NSAIDs (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=22407780). The only caution is to talk with their healthcare provider first if they also take a blood thinner like warfarin, as curcumin can increase the blood-thinning effects of these medications.
About the Author
Ginevra Liptan, M.D., is a graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine and board-certified in internal medicine. She is the medical director of The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia, a fibromyalgia specialty clinic (www.fridacenter.com). She is the author of the “The FibroManual: A Complete Fibromyalgia Treatment Guide for You and Your Doctor,” which can be ordered on amazon.