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Most of us wouldn’t think of embarking on a culinary adventure without making sure we have the right herbs and spices. After all, these ingredients are usually what gives recipes their flavour, taking a dish from ‘meh’ to magnificent.
While you probably appreciate the ability of spices to improve your cooking, you may not be aware of how much they can do for your health. Many common herbs and spices have a long history of traditional use as medicine, with modern science supporting their clinical applications.
Take turmeric, for instance. Some experts believe medicinal use of this bright yellow powder dates back nearly 4,000 years. Turmeric features prominently in Ayurveda, the holistic medicine of India, as well as traditional Chinese medicine and other healing systems around the world.
Derived from underground stems of a ginger plant known as Curcuma longa, turmeric is commonly used in Indian curries. It’s also a popular supplement thanks to a powerfully anti-inflammatory and antioxidant constituent called curcumin.
What is curcumin and where is it found?
Curcumin is a curcuminoid, a natural polyphenol with a vivid yellow colour. Curcumin is the most active compound in turmeric, and it possesses strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
While it makes up anywhere between 2–6% percent of turmeric, curcumin is considered to have poor bioavailability, meaning it isn’t well utilised by the body on its own. For this reason, curcumin is often combined with substances like black pepper that have been shown to boost its absorption, despite the mechanism of action not yet being fully revealed – the piperine in black pepper, for example, might inhibit the liver from getting rid of turmeric, so the amount in the blood stays higher. Pepper also helps the gut absorb curcumin more efficiently.
Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties have made it a popular subject of research, and studies indicate a number of health benefits. Among these, curcumin’s ability to reduce joint pain and treat arthritis stands out as particularly promising.
How does curcumin relieve joint pain and other arthritis symptoms?
Science suggests curcumin can suppress inflammation through a number of different mechanisms, making it an effective treatment for inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Several studies have demonstrated the ability of curcumin to relieve joint pain in patients with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Here are some of them.
- In one randomised double-blind placebo-control parallel-group clinical trial, patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee received either 1,500 milligrams of curcuminoids in three divided doses or a matched placebo. After six weeks of treatment, patients in the group that was given curcuminoids experienced significant improvements in pain and physical function compared to the placebo group.
- In an Italian study of patients with osteoarthritis in one or both knees, those who took a turmeric formulation for 90 days showed a 58% reduction in overall pain and stiffness compared to controls. They were also able to reduce their need for painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen by 63% compared to patients on conventional medical therapy alone.
- In 2016, a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials looking at the efficacy of turmeric and curcumin for alleviating the symptoms of joint arthritis concluded: ‘This systematic review and meta-analysis provided scientific evidence that 8–12 weeks of standardised turmeric extracts (typically 1,000 mg/day of curcumin) treatment can reduce arthritis symptoms (mainly pain and inflammation-related symptoms) and result in similar improvements in the symptoms as ibuprofen and diclofenac sodium. Therefore, turmeric extracts and curcumin can be recommended for alleviating the symptoms of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis.’
Can curcumin reduce joint pain and treat arthritis in Lyme patients?
Many people with Lyme disease experience joint pain as a symptom, sometimes to the point of debilitation. And, in cases where Lyme infection goes untreated and/or advances to the chronic phase of the disease, arthritis is a common problem.
By the estimation of certain experts, around 60% of patients with untreated Lyme disease will develop a condition called Lyme arthritis. Patients with Lyme arthritis typically experience symptoms like swollen, painful joints that cause pain and inhibit joint function and mobility.
Given the ability of curcumin to effectively reduce joint pain and swelling in patients with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, it is perhaps unsurprising that this potently anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound can also alleviate symptoms in those with Lyme arthritis.
Stephen Harrod Buhner, a prominent herbalist and author who is an expert in alternative therapies for treating Lyme disease, believes curcumin can be a powerful tool when it comes to reducing joint pain and treating arthritis in Lyme patients. In his acclaimed book, Healing Lyme: Natural Healing & Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis & Its Co-infections, Buhner says research shows curcumin is a promising agent for Lyme arthritis.
Another Lyme specialist, Kenneth B. Singleton, also recommends curcumin for Lyme patients with arthritis. Singleton mentions curcumin in his book, The Lyme Disease Solution, as an important anti-inflammatory agent in Lyme treatment due to its ability to inhibit pro-inflammatory eicosanoid production.
Books by both Buhner and Singleton can be excellent resources for Lyme patients seeking non-traditional treatment options for Lyme disease symptoms.
With the weight of tradition and modern science behind it, curcumin shows immense promise for effectively reducing joint pain and treating arthritis in Lyme patients and should be considered as part of any Lyme disease treatment protocol.