Turmeric for Osteoarthritis, an Indian and Chinese Herbal Tradition

This chinese herbal remedy helps osteoarthritisIf you or someone you know suffers with arthritis, Turmeric is a Chinese herb you have probably heard about but not sure if it will work for you. Turmeric is what gives that yellow color to Indian food, this root has been used for centuries in Indian food and traditional remedies.  The yellow color, often in curry sauces comes from the active compounds known as curcuminoids, or mainly curcumin. 

A recent clinical trial in Italy studied the effects of curcumin on 50 patients with osteoarthritis in the knees.  The effects of supplementing ones diet with this Chinese herb was impressive.  The patients that took the turmeric supplement had a 16 fold decrease of inflammation markers in their blood.  If that wasn’t enough, these same patients were able to reduce their NSAID’s (Non-Sterodial Anti-Inflammatory) usage by 63%.   Remarkable, and these benefits occurred without unintended side effects.  Yes, that is the magic of mother nature and this data is consistent with other human studies done of various types of turmeric extracts. 

“This is great news for people who suffer from osteoarthritis and the physicians who treat them,” said Mark Blumenthal, Founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit, American Botanical Council an independent herbal medicine research and education organization in Austin, Texas.

So, what is this Chinese herb and how does it work?  First and foremost,  the active ingredient curcumin has been extensively studied around the world.  It has been used for thousands of years in both Ayurveda Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It is the root of the turmeric plant  that is used for herbal remedies. Chinese herbal medicine has always classified turmeric as a blood moving herb, interestingly it also has properties to clear heat from the blood,  break up blood stasis and benefit the gall bladder and help jaundice, most likely because it stimulates bile production.

Turmeric’s popularity has been rising quickly as its reputation for treating chronic inflammatory diseases, some cancers and also Alzheimer’s disease get more media attention.  In 2009 sales of turmeric dietary supplements were up about 23% from the previous year.  This is understandable, who wouldn’t want a safe, effective herbal supplement  to reduce the suffering of osteoarthritis?  Pacific Herbs uses turmeric to a combination of herbs to move blood and reduce pain.  Many of these herbs have been historically used together to reduce pain and improve blood flow. The Pacific Herbs product is called Corydalis Pain Relief Herb Pack and can be found here.

Pharmaceutical labs have been trying to chemically copy the chemical bonds of curcumin for years but it never seems to have exactly the same effect.  When turmeric is used as a whole herb, all the important and beneficial compounds of the plant are present. Science has not yet been able to copy this mix exactly to mimic the same effects.

More studies on curcumin can be found on Pubmed.com and from Dr. Weill here.