The spice that soothes osteoarthritis pain better and safer than NSAIDs

Of all the herbs and spices that are beneficial to our health, it’s fair to say that none surpasses the power of turmeric.

If you haven’t made friends with this bright yellow spice from India, it’s time you did! It has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine, and research has proven its benefits many times over.

Turmeric fights inflammation linked to breast and prostate cancer, relieves seasonal allergies, lowers cholesterol, fights Alzheimer’s disease and protects your skin from damaging UV rays.

Recent studies show that it is also a great alternative to NSAIDs for people who suffer from the pain of knee osteoarthritis. That’s great news considering the long-term use of NSAIDs has been linked in several studies to an increased danger of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and death from cardiovascular disease.

Turmeric is as effective as NSAIDs… without the side effects

For a clinical study published in 2019, researchers looked at 139 patients with knee osteoarthritis and at the effectiveness of curcumin (the bioactive ingredient in turmeric) on knee pain.

They compared it with the effectiveness of diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and compared the two in terms of side effects.

In short, they found that curcumin worked just as well as the NSAID, but with far fewer side effects.

Their conclusion: “Curcumin can be an alternative treatment option in patients with knee OA who are intolerant to the side effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.”

A 2020 study backs up these findings.

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Researchers from the University of Tasmania in Australia assigned 70 subjects with painful knee osteoarthritis to receive either two capsules of turmeric per day or two placebos.

After 12 weeks, they found that patients taking turmeric supplements reported less pain than those in the placebo group and did not report any adverse side effects.

And just as important, of the two groups, those taking turmeric supplements reported using fewer pain medications.

How to use turmeric for osteoarthritis pain

Turmeric sure seems like a good alternative to painkillers with documented side effects. You may be wondering how to get started with turmeric supplements.

In studies, a dosage of 500 mg of turmeric extract twice daily for 2-3 months has proven effective for knee pain.

However, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning a new supplement, especially to see if there could be any interactions with medications you’re already taking or conditions you might have.

Here are some considerations for supplementing with turmeric:

  • Kidney stones — If you suffer with kidney stones, you may have already cut down on foods that are higher in oxalate, like peanuts, rhubarb, spinach, beets, chocolate and sweet potatoes, because it can bind with calcium to form stones. Turmeric is high in oxalate, too, but according to the National Kidney Foundation avoiding these foods isn’t smart from an overall health perspective. You can click here to read more on what they suggest to make kidney stones less likely to form.
  • Blood thinning — According to WebMD, taking turmeric along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. So, check with your doctor if you’re on blood thinners or have a condition that affects clotting.
  • Diabetes — There is a lot of research on turmeric’s (and its active compound curcumin’s) favorable effect in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. But if you’re already on medication to lower blood sugar levels, talk to your doctor before adding turmeric to be sure your levels don’t drop too low.
  • Gallbladder disease — Turmeric may cause the gallbladder to contract and worsen symptoms.
  • Anemia or iron deficiency — Taking high amounts of turmeric may interfere with iron absorption.

Sources:

Effectiveness of Curcuma longa Extract for the Treatment of Symptoms and Effusion–Synovitis of Knee Osteoarthritis A Randomized Trial — Annals of Internal Medicine

Turmeric Supplement More Effective Than Placebo for Osteoarthritis Knee Pain — Neuroscience News

Safety and efficacy of curcumin versus diclofenac in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized open-label parallel-arm study — Trials

Anticoagulant activities of curcumin and its derivative — BMB (Biodiversity Management Bureau) Reports

Turmeric Dosage: How Much Should You Take Per Day? — Healthline.com

Turmeric WebMD

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.