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Turmeric: The New OTC for Pain and Headaches?
Pain Relief at a Price.....
Most of us in today's fast paced world are looking for products that can relieve pain asap from slowing us down from our busy, busy schedules. A hammering headache or a throbbing knee or achy lower back can dramatically slow down ones work pace. Fast, effective remedies are in high demand for the afflicted consumer; and relief is often just a drug store away with a list of very powerful drugs marketed over the counter to quell aches and pains in a pinch. Chief among these products in the pantheon of pain relief are NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
NSAIDs are a popular type of pain reliever that are available and widely used as the over the counter drug of choice for those who suffer from aching joints or headaches; and rightfully so, because NSAIDs do work wonders in relieving intense pain. Migraine or arthritis suffers can easily be tempted into the false sense of security in using NSAIDs for daily use for quick pain relief. But relief comes at a price. A strong, established body of research has confirmed that regular use of NSAIDs can result in mild to serious gastrointestinal issues such as:
- Gastric ulceration/bleeding.
- Possible increased risk of stroke or heart attack
These drugs can be especially dangerous for those who have pre-existing conditions for inflammatory bowel or renal diseases. So the million dollar question here is, are there any other less risky options? The answer is YES! A spice found in your pantry or local grocery; turmeric. Might sound off the wall or too good to be true, but a growing body of research increasingly points in this spices direction for inflammatory based pain relief without the nasty side effects of NSAIDs.
According to the August 2009 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine turmeric worked as well as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. In a case study in Medical Herbalism: Journal for the Clinical Practioner, a female patient suffering from an autoimmune disorder was able to lower her daily dose of prednisone, lost 35 pounds, decreased incidence of flare ups, decreased edema of the limbs and reduced frequency of arthritis pain all with the incorporation of a standard turmeric extract.
Part of the mechanism for the miracle herb lies in its ability to smack down inflammation based pain through a specific chemical component of turmeric called curcumin. Curcumin functions as a powerful anti-oxidant that, according to studies, possesses a COX-2 inhibitor; an anti-inflammatory enzyme. This anti-inflammatory enzyme is what gives turmeric its' amazing and near "magic pill" like ability in treating inflammatory conditions such as the previously mentioned osteoarthritis. One helpful tip to increase turmeric and curcumin's bioavailability is to take it with food that includes both black pepper and olive oil. This helps to ensure your body absorbs all of the anti-inflammatory components for maximum health benefit.
Whether turmeric will progress to being prescribed by your local MD or not still remains to be seen. The jury is still out on using turmeric for more acute inflammatory conditions in a conventional medical setting. But a growing body of academic evidence via research studies and nearly any given blog testimonial are all helping to give weight to the validity of this herbal powerhouse moving from "mom and pop cure all remedy" to definitive medical pharmacopeia.
Turmeric in doses above 800mg has demonstrated nausea and/or diarrhea, but is generally considered safe except in cases involving those on blood thinners. Always check with your doctor before beginning a supplement regime.
1. Buhrmann C, Mobasheri A. , Matis U, Shakibaei M. Curcumin mediated suppression of nuclear factor-kappB promotes chondrogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells in a high-density co-culture micro-environment. Arthritis Res Ther. 2010; 12: R127.
2. Csaki C, Keshishzadeh N, Fischer K, Shakibaei M. Regulation of inflammation signaling by resveratrol in human chondrocytes in vitro. Biochem Pharmacol. 2008; 75: 677-87.
3. Henrotin Y, Clutterbuck AL, Allaway D. Lodwig EM, Harris P, Mathy-Hartert M, Shakibaei M, Mobaasheri A. Biological actions of curcumin on articular chondrocytes. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2010: 18; 141-149.
4. Henrotin et al.: Curcumin: a new paradigm and
therapeutic opportunity for the treatment of osteoarthritis: curcumin for
osteoarthritis management. SpringerPlus 2013 2:56.
5. Aggarwal BB, Sung B (2009) Pharmacological basis for the role of curcumin in
chronic diseases: an age-old spice with modern targets. TIPS 30(2):85–94.
6. Ameye LG, Chee WS (2006) Osteoarthritis and nutrition. From nutraceuticals to
functional foods: a systematic review of the scientific evidence. Arthritis Res
7. Medical Herbalism 11(4):6-9. http://medherb.com/Materia_Medica/Curcuma_-_Case_Study_--_Turmeric_and_NSAID_withdrawal.htm
Would you use turmeric over NSAIDS?
Would you consider reaching for turmeric instead of an NSAID?
India has some of the lowest rates of cancer and brain dementia in the world which researchers believe is attributed to the high consumption rate of turmeric in Indian cooking. The East Indian medical system, known as ayurvedic medicine, one of the oldest in the world, classifies turmeric as a king herb, that helps to keep all of the bodies systems healthy.
For some tasty recipes to use turmeric in your cooking, check out the youtube channel, Country Foods, with Mastanamma, everybody's favorite 106 year old granny! Features a beautiful backdrop of the East Indian country side with some gorgeous recipes that all use turmeric and other healthy spices! The video is listed below:
Mastanamma Emu Egg Fry
Wrapping it up......
The broad ranging health benefits are quickly growing in medical research that currently range from cancer prevention to reduction and in some cases reversal of type 2 diabetes. Tea is one popular way to take turmeric but current research suggests that however you consume turmeric, it must be taken with black pepper and a fat source to maximize absorption.
What are your thoughts on the research surrounding turmeric? Will it endure the tests of academic scrutiny and time or will it disappear into just another health trend?