Turmeric is commonly used in curries and other Indian dishes, but its value goes beyond the culinary. Medicinally, turmeric has been highly valued for centuries and used in ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine to cleanse the liver as well as for treating other issues. Recently, turmeric has also been examined as an herb that could help ease arthritis pain.
Turmeric, or Curcuma longa, is a perennial plant that is part of the ginger family. Its roots are dried and ground into the familiar yellow powder found in so many kitchens. It can also be purchased as a supplement.
In ayurveda, turmeric is considered an anti-inflammatory herb. It is also known as a potent antioxidant. In traditional Chinese medicine, turmeric is used to treat liver and gallbladder issues, chest congestion and menstrual problems.
Researching Turmeric for Arthritis
Researchers are studying turmeric for the management of arthritis. Because turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, this would seem like a logical use for the herb and it has been used in this manner in India for years. Herbalists say that the effectiveness of turmeric is equal to that of steroids without unpleasant side effects. But what does the science say?
The most well known study on the effectiveness of turmeric for arthritis was conducted by Dr. Janet Funk along with researchers at the University of Arizona. In this animal study, researchers replicated the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in rats.
Some rats were treated with turmeric before symptoms were induced while others were treated eight days after symptoms were present. At the end of the study, it was concluded that turmeric was most effective at preventing arthritis before symptoms were present, though they acknowledged that it may also work if taken as soon as symptoms presented themselves. More studies are needed before a conclusion can be drawn from this hypothesis.
Should You Try Turmeric?
Evidence supporting the use of turmeric for arthritis is promising but limited. Clearly, more research is needed to establish turmeric as a definite preventative. That said, scientists already know that turmeric is an effective anti-inflammatory so it may prove useful in treating arthritis pain, especially if used in combination with other herbs.
Since turmeric is used in so many tasty foods, you might assume that it is totally safe for anyone to use. When used for cooking this is true, however, taking large quantities of a turmeric supplement can give you an upset stomach, so don't get too carried away with using it. If you have gallstones you should ask your doctor before trying turmeric. You should also consult your doctor if you are diabetic because taking turmeric can lead to hypoglycemia in diabetics.
Turmeric is a natural blood thinner, so if you are taking anticoagulants, including aspirin, you should use caution taking turmeric. Stop taking this herb at least two weeks before surgery to prevent slowed blood clotting. It can also interfere with antacids as well as medications for diabetes. It's also important to note that turmeric is not FDA approved to treat any health conditions.
You should avoid turmeric if you are pregnant because it could cause miscarriage.
If you think using turmeric for arthritis is right for you, discuss it with your doctor. If he agrees that turmeric is a safe option, supplement with a standardized powder and use as directed. Turmeric has other health benefits as well so it is well worth considering for your regular supplement regimen.