Turmeric is a traditional Ayurvedic medicine used to treat inflammation and reduce pain. Several studies suggest that its main active ingredient, the golden-yellow curcumin, is as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for alleviating knee pain in osteoarthritis.
Both NSAIDs and curcumin work by reducing the production of inflammatory chemicals. NSAIDs do this by inhibiting the synthesis of two particular enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2. Curcumin works via a number of cell signalling pathways, however, including COX-2, each of which separately reduces the production and activation of different inflammatory mediators. This wider ranging activity has the potential to reduce pain and inflammation with less potential for side effects.
What does the research show?
In a study involving 367 people with moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis, half were randomised to receive ibuprofen (1,200 mg per day) and half to take turmeric extracts (1,500 mg per day) in divided doses for 4 weeks.
A validated joint questionnaire (WOMAC) showed that symptoms significantly improved in both groups at 2 weeks and 4 weeks, and there were no significant differences in pain, stiffness or function scores between those taking ibuprofen and those taking curcumin.
The number of people experiencing abdominal pain or discomfort was significantly higher in the ibuprofen group than that in those taking curcumin, however, and the researchers concluded that turmeric extracts are as effective as ibuprofen for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis but with fewer gastrointestinal side effects.
If you prefer taking a natural medicine, have experienced side effects with NSAIDs, or are concerned about their adverse effects on the stomach, kidney, liver and cardiovascular system, curcumin could be a good alternative.
Curcumin can also be taken together with painkillers to help boost their effectiveness so lower doses are required.
Curcumin can also be combined with glucosamine and chondroitin to produce a faster onset of action and improved results.
For more information on how turmeric and curcumin can improve immunity, liver health, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine and its other medicinal uses, click here to read Turmeric – The Golden Medicine.
Have you used turmeric or curcumin supplements to treat knee pain? How did you get on?
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