Medical and Health care practitioners are advising more and more patients with inflammatory joint issues to take Turmeric as a natural form of pain relief. Although there has been a recent increase in the use of this herb it is not new and has been used for thousands of years in both Chinese and Indian medicine for a wide range of ailments including digestive complaints and chest pains.
Turmeric powder is the ground root of the turmeric plant and is what is responsible for the yellow colour in our curries. This yellow pigment is called Curcumin and is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in Turmeric.
Curcumin has powerful anti inflammatory properties and its effects have been comparable to Ibuprofen but without the toxic side effects. However the amount of Curcumin in turmeric is low and therefore you would need to take large quantities for the desired effect. Luckily for us in the competitive and profit driven world of pharmaceuticals and natural medicines there are plenty of turmeric powders, tablets and capsules from numerous different companies.
There is no definite data or reliable studies at present comparing different brands and anecdotally the message from patients does not seem to point to one brand being better than another. However we do know that Curcumin is not well absorbed when taken orally and it is therefore recommended to take them with black pepper and iperine to aid absorption.
The anti inflammatory properties of Turmeric make it a useful and safe way of managing inflammatory joint pain. A recent study found that a Turmeric supplement provided long term improvements in both pain and function in 1000 patients suffering from knee Osteoarthritis (OA).
Given the high prevalence of OA in our aging population and the associated problems it brings in regard to reduced activity and quality of life these positive findings will help future management of this condition.
Although Turmeric does not have the toxic side effects that are associated with other manufactured pain medication it does have side effects that people need to be aware of. It has been recommended to avoid using it in the lead up to surgery or when pregnant and high does can thin blood and therefore care needs to be taken when on any form of blood thinners. As with all medication, whether it is manufactured or natural, it is vital that your Doctor is aware of all the drugs you are taking and if in any doubt in regard to doses or brands then they should be consulted.
Turmeric has been around for a long, long time and used for various different ailments. Being a physiotherapist and working with musculoskeletal complaints I have focused on its anti inflammatory benefits and there is certainly scientific and anecdotal evidence that it has beneficial effects for inflammatory joint conditions. I therefore happily recommend it to patients with these complaints. The research is ongoing into what effects this drug has on the pathophysiology of certain diseases and I am confident in the months and years to come there will be more information regarding its benefits.