Arthritis affects one in five American adults. Two thirds of the people diagnosed with arthritis are under the age of 65. An estimated 67 million Americans will have arthritis by the year 2030.
Nearly 27 million Americans have its most common form, osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) results from the progressive degeneration of cartilage in synovial joints. Osteoarthritis is a condition caused in part by aging, injury, cartilage destruction, and an imbalance in inflammatory and anti-inflammatory pathways.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition and is characterized by systemic inflammation inside the body. The immune system mistakenly attacks your body tissues. Not only joints, but the skin, eyes, lungs, and blood vessels can also be affected in this condition. Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints and tendons and ligaments which hold the joints together. Eventually bone erosion and joint deformity develop. In RA five or more joints are progressively damaged.
Is there an herbal-based product that substantially reduces inflammation, ameliorates pain and protects the cartilage in the joints as well? Fortunately, there is!
Curcumin from turmeric possesses powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. In fact, it inhibits inflammation in joints by at least five known mechanisms. Curcumin-phosphatidylcholine phytosome complex decreased joint pain and improved joint function in individuals with OA. (1) In contrast to NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and prescribed cox-2 inhibitors, curcumin has no gastrointestinal or cardiovascular side effects. Curcumin also protects the weight-bearing surface of the joint and the cartilage cells from breakdown. (2)
Curcumin blocks the activity of certain T-memory cells that are involved in several auto-immune diseases, including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). One study found that 500 mg. of curcumin reduce the signs and symptoms of RA, including joint swelling and tenderness, significantly better than 50 mg.of diclofenac sodium, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. (3) Curcumin exhibits some of same activities similar to recently discovered alpha- tumor necrosis factor blockers and other recently developed drugs used for RA. (4)
Exposure of turmeric to light destroys curcumin. It is not easily absorbed. However, there are curcumin supplements in which phospholipids or a lecithin is added to improve its absorption. These products have a standardized dose of curcumin. Consult your pharmacist first before using curcumin or turmeric medicinally if you are taking either prescribed or over-the-counter medication.
Resveratrol, a phytochemical found in red grapes and blueberries, possesses powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds and also targets several inflammatory agents and cartilage destroying compounds involved in OA. (5), (6)
As helpful as these supplements are, more is needed in combating arthritis.
- Adopt a plant based, anti-inflammatory diet. (See article entitled “The Anti-inflammatory Diet” on this web site.
- Engage in appropriate daily exercise. Include stretching and range-of-motion exercises twice a day to improve flexibility.
- Physical therapy can help.
- If pain persists, please consult an orthopedic physician.
2. Henrotin, Y, et al., Biological actions of curcumin on articular chondrocytes, osteoarthritis, Cartilage 2010 Feb; 18(2):141-9.
3. Chandran B, A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012 Nov;26(11):1719-25.
4. Aggarwal BB, Curcumin: the Indian solid gold. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007; 595:1-75. Review.
5. Khalifé S, Zafarullah M. Molecular targets of natural health products in arthritis. Arthritis Res Ther. 2011 Feb 3; 13(1):102.
6. Csaki, C, et al., Synergistic chondroprotective effects of curcumin and resveratrol in human articular chondrocytes: inhibition of IL-1beta-induced NF-kappaB-mediated inflammation and apoptosis. Arthritis Res Ther. 2009; 11(6):R165.