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Can Turmeric Relieve Arthritis, Joint Pain & Inflammation?

By Christopher Walker

You can't run from father time. Its effects manifest in even the most health-conscious individuals. Arthritis is one of its symptoms. Even in younger folks, joint pain may occur as a result of overtraining. In any case, how do you alleviate an aching knee or elbow? At UMZU, we are advocates of the holistic path. This includes the use of natural remedies like turmeric and other herbal medicines. Its use for joint pain is well established in various scientific literatures.


What Is Turmeric?


If you have eaten curry at any point in the past, then you have probably consumed turmeric, but just didn't know it. This is an age-old spice derived from a flower related to the ginger plant. It's a mainstay in India and other Southeast Asian countries. Aside from food flavoring, turmeric also has medicinal applications. It's a main component in various Ayurvedic medicines. This spice is known to relieve blood clots, improve skin complexion, fight inflammation and even reduce depression.

READ MORE: What Is Bone Broth? Why Humans Have Been Drinking Bone Broth For thousands of Years

Is Turmeric for Joint Pain Really a Thing?

Use of turmeric for pain relief certainly qualifies as alternative medicine. However, this doesn’t mean it has no basis in science. In fact, according to a report in the Health Services Research journal, more doctors are prescribing alternative medicine to their patients. 

As far as turmeric goes, more people in western countries are swearing by it as an effective pain reliever. There are studies that actually validate its use for joint pain. What thousands of people are experiencing can’t be chalked up to a mere placebo effect.

What the Studies Show

Curcumin is the main active compound in turmeric. The research behind it suggests it’s one of the best forms of natural anti-inflammatories out there.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine revealed that curcumin was comparable to ibuprofen for treating osteoarthritis pain in the knee. What about rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which tends to affect younger people?

In one study, 45 patients diagnosed with RA were given either a curcumin supplement, an NSAID or both. The groups that took the curcumin only saw the most pain relief. The studies show that turmeric, or curcumin more specifically, is effective for treating both forms of arthritis. It also has the immense benefit of being a natural, non-synthetic alternative.

How Does Turmeric Relieve Pain?

Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from the harmful effects of oxidization. It also relieves pain by preventing inflammation, which it does by inhibiting the expression of the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme. COX-2 is believed to be the root cause of inflammation.

This is how NSAIDs also work -- by inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme. With that being said, we don’t recommend NSAIDs, or at least not as a long-term solution. Prolonged use has been linked to nausea, gastrointestinal bleeding, diarrhea, constipation and hypertension... just to list a few.

How to Take Turmeric

Turmeric is widely available in powder form. Just sprinkle some on your cuisine to add a hint of tangy spice. If you opt to use the turmeric plant as a whole, then you’ll have to boil the stem, dry it and grind it into fine powder.

Turmeric is also available in tea form. Before you head to the store to buy a bulk bag of turmeric, we must point out that turmeric actually has very little of the curcumin compound -- only about 2 percent to 9 percent of the plant is curcumin. On top of that, curcumin on its own also has poor bioavailability. Upon ingestion, most of it ends up in your gut and never enters the bloodstream. The compound needs to be assisted by a base to help shuttle it into the cell membranes. Curcumin needs to be combined with other ingredients that can act as a transport agent.

There are several compounds that can do this. Bromelain, found in pineapples and a very beneficial compound in its own right, has been shown to act as a curcumin transporter. With these points in mind, adding a spoonful of plain turmeric to every meal will probably do very little to counteract arthritis.

Turmeric Via Supplementation

For the bioavailability reasons explained above, turmeric absorption is best accomplished through supplementation. A good turmeric supplement should contain organic curcumin and a transporter ingredient, like bromelain.

Can You Apply Turmeric Topically?

Can turmeric and other natural anti-inflammatories be applied directly to the joints? The short answer is yes; however, as with ingestion, there are bioavailability issues. How well the substance absorbs into the skin depends on various factors, such as:
  • Concentration of the curcumin
  • Contact duration with skin
  • The compound’s solubility
  • Compound’s molecular weight
  • The condition or thickness of your skin surface

As with ingestion, topical turmeric must also be combined with some sort of base that can act as a transporter. While topical turmeric is feasible, we believe there are too many factors that can affect its bioavailability. We believe ingestion of turmeric is the better bet.

The Best Solution for Long-Term Pain Relief

Studies show that turmeric holds tremendous promise as an inflammation reliever. This is why it’s among many of the natural anti-inflammatories we have listed and touted about in prior posts. This is also why it’s one of the active ingredients in our zuRelief supplement. Inflammation is the root cause of arthritis and other chronic illnesses. This supplement has the proven ingredients to alleviate joint pain, reduce stiffness and restore mobility, regardless of age. Therefore, it's definitely worth a deeper look.