Curcumin Gets to the Root of Arthritis Pain
Curcumin, the compound responsible for the bright orange color of turmeric root, is the same substance that provides much of the popular spice’s flavor and health benefits.
Medicinal use of turmeric dates back thousands of years and curcumin has been recognized as its active ingredient since it was isolated two centuries ago.
One of the most widely-studied herbal compounds, thousands of scientific studies have documented numerous health benefits of curcumin.
Key to curcumin’s success are its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, both of which make it particularly valuable for arthritis sufferers seeking a natural solution for decreasing arthritis pain and improving joint function.
The Golden Herb for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Curcumin offers rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients a way to potentially reverse damage to the cells that produce synovial fluid. In a tissue culture study, when the rheumatoid-affected cells were treated with curcumin their ability to carry out normal cellular activities, such as properly process proteins and fats, was restored nearly to that of healthy cells . Also important for patients with RA and other autoimmune types of arthritis is curcumin’s ability to inhibit white blood cells, which play important roles in initiating and amplifying inflammatory signals that lead to joint destruction.
It is thought by some in the field of rheumatology that RA starts in the small intestine, where chain reactions between intestinal hormones and the immune system set the stage for autoimmune diseases such as RA to manifest.
Coincidentally, some of curcumin’s arthritis-alleviating benefits have been found to occur in the small intestine, where it intercedes to shut off these errant hormone-immune system interactions.
In an animal study, curcumin supplementation increased secretion by small intestine cells of a hormone that modulates both digestive and immune activity to prevent autoimmune disease from taking hold .
Curcumin for Osteoarthritis
If you have osteoarthritis, characterized by cartilage and bone damage from mechanical wear and tear over time, you may benefit from taking curcumin.
Studies show that it promotes bone-building and inhibits bone breakdown, thereby slowing the progression of osteoarthritis .
One study found that when combined with collagen and green tea extract curcumin’s joint-building benefits become even greater .
In the tissue-culture study, a mixture of the three compounds was significantly more effective at fending off inflammation-related damage to cartilage cells than each of them individually.
Though curcumin has been proven to have strong anti-inflammatory benefits, its effectiveness is hampered by low bioavailability – simply put, its large molecule size and low solubility in water make it difficult to absorb. When consumed it in its natural state, up to 75% passes through without being absorbed .
Scientists are hard at work solving the curcumin absorption puzzle. In one study, fat-soluble nanoparticles of curcumin increased bioavailability by 300%, making oral curcumin supplementation a viable alternative to doctor-administered injections .
A water-soluble form of curcumin has also been developed. In a clinical trial, a commercial supplement containing a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate and water soluble curcumin resulted in 27-times greater blood levels of curcumin .
Participants with knee osteoarthritis who took the supplement for 8 weeks reported significantly less pain and were able to reduce the amount of prescription pain medication they needed to take.
Curcumin is on the US Food and Drug Administration’s list of generally recognized as safe (GRAS) compounds. No serious side effects have been reported for curcumin.
Mild side effects of high doses (8-12 mg/day) include diarrhea, headache, nausea, rash and yellow stool .
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