Nutrient Spotlight: Reduce Joint Pain and Inflammation With Turmeric

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: Arthritis, Bone & Joint Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Learn how this common kitchen spice helps to reduce joint pain and stiffness

Some of the most powerful and safest therapies are found in nature. Turmeric is one that tops my list, particularly when it comes to helping reduce joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness that comes with arthritis.

What Is Turmeric Good For?

Why Is Turmeric Such a Powerful Antioxidant?

Historically, turmeric has been a component of Indian Auyrevedic medicine and has been used extensively in various Indian ceremonies for centuries. Research has identified curcumin, a bright yellow spice (Curcuma longa), as the active ingredient in turmeric, often used in many Indian, Pakistani, Persian, and Thai dishes.

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How Does Turmeric Work in the Body?

Curcumin is an antioxidant that protects cells from the normal, but damaging, process of oxidation. It does this by scavenging molecules known as free radicals which are one of the root causes of aging.

Preliminary cell studies suggest that the curcuminoids in turmeric promote a normal inflammatory response by inhibiting the expression of the COX-2 "pain" enzyme.

However, one of the biggest challenges is that curcumin is notoriously difficult for the body to absorb. Fortunately, scientists have found a way to counteract that.

They discovered that if they attach curcumin to soy-derived phosphatidylcholine, which is very well absorbed by the body, they could get more curcumin to painful joints. Here’s why: Phosphatidylcholine acts as a “shuttle,” moving the curcumin through cell membranes and into the bloodstream and tissues where it provides pain relief.

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What Scientific Studies Say About Turmeric's Active Ingredient

Curcumin is among the most thoroughly researched supplements, with more than 4,000 studies conducted and several more ongoing.

In one study, participants with osteoarthritis who took a concentrated form of curcumin had minor signs or symptoms of the disease. At the end of 90 days, they had a 58 percent decrease in pain and stiffness and improved physical function and mobility.

Other clinical studies have shown a 50-percent reduction in pain and stiffness, along with significantly reduced inflammation and swelling of the lower limbs.

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How to Make Turmeric Work for You

You can reap the benefits of turmeric by seasoning your foods with it. Add it to soups or stews, or drink turmeric tea. Taken orally, turmeric can stop arthritis pain throughout the body. If you want to try turmeric as a therapeutic measure, consider a supplement that contains a concentrated form of curcumin.

Applied topically, turmeric can be used to treat arthritic joints. I use a paste made from 2 tablespoons of turmeric power mixed with 1 or more tablespoons of a 70 percent DMSO. (To make a 70 percent DMSO solution, dilute some 99.9 percent DMSO with an amount of distilled water equal to 30 percent of the amount of DMSO.)

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