Turmeric kicks off my blog and I couldn’t think of a better ingredient to “break ground” with.
Today, I will be discussing how you can use turmeric and specifically its bioactive component curcumin (found in its rich mustard yellow pigment), to naturally and effectively treat many painful and inflammatory conditions.
So, why should you care about turmeric?
Here are a few good reasons…
None of us is immune to pain and most of us have likely had to reach for an over-the-counter or prescription medication to relieve their pain at some point in their lives. Turmeric can actually take the place of most conventional pain medications and save you from their undesirable side effects.
Another good reason to consider turmeric is its long-standing record of safety. Historically, it has been used for over 5000 years for a diverse list of anti-inflammatory applications ranging from stomach complaints to eye infections. It made its first appearance in Sanskrit medical records as far back as 250 BC.
Why else should turmeric be of interest? One very good reason is that traditional pain medications come with unwanted side effects. Two of the most commonly prescribed categories of pain medications today are the:
1- NSAID’s (which include aspirin, Advil, Motrin, Aleve): The fact is that these medications send tens of thousands of Americans to the hospital with stomach ulcers yearly. Their intake comes with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and kidney or liver problems.
2- Corticosteroid use can result in tissue damage, liver damage, osteoporosis, kidney damage, insulin resistance, weight gain, anxiety, weakened immune system and even cancer.
When you compare the above side effects with turmeric which, at the very most, may give you stomach upset at very high doses… and you come to recognize what a valuable herb it truly is. While its long term use is safe, there are some people who should avoid turmeric. That includes anyone with gall bladder stones, pregnant women, hemophiliacs and anyone on blood thinning medications.
The science of turmeric:
So, now a bit about turmeric’s efficacy. Oftentimes when we hear the word “safe”, we assume that equates with ineffective. This is not the case with turmeric. In a 6-week study of 107 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee (Kuptniratsaikul et al.), a 2g extract of Curcuma domestica was as effective as 800mg of ibuprofen in relieving pain and improving function in patients. In another 12-week study (Lal et al., (1999) of 32 patients with chronic anterior uveitis (an inflammatory condition of the eye) received a dose of 375 mg of curcumin three times a day. Results showed that the efficacy of curcumin and recurrences following treatment are comparable to corti- costeroid therapy. In yet another study (Lal et al., (2000) Curcumin was administered orally at a dose of 375 mg three times a day for a period of 6-22 months in eight patients suffering from idiopathic inflammatory orbital pseudo-tumours. Of five patients, four recovered completely and with one patient, the swelling regressed completely with some persistent limitation of movement.
I’ve chosen just a couple of studies to share with you here but theoretically, you can try using turmeric for any inflammatory or painful condition. Its mechanism of anti-inflammatory action is scientifically sound. Curcumin works to block the inflammatory process in three important ways. As a COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2 )inhibitor. COX-2 is an enzyme involved in the pain associated with inflammation. It also decreases amounts of prostaglandins which are involved in the transmission of pain signals. Finally, it works holistically to stimulate your adrenal glands to release natural cortisone.
Does turmeric have side effects? Happily, not the kind you’re used to hearing about. Turmeric is a potent antioxidant, anti-tumorogenic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and protects your liver from damage. When taking turmeric for a particular condition, it enhances your quality of life rather than depleting it.
So, by now you may be wondering how to use turmeric-curcumin to effectively manage pain/ inflammation.
It’s important to note that curcumin is not easily absorbable, but there are some VERY SIMPLE measures you can take to enhance its bioavailability.
Human studies show that taking turmeric with piperine (a component in black pepper) in a 2: .02 ratio enhances circulating levels of curcuminoids in the blood by increasing their bioavailability by 2000%.
Additionally, curcumin is lipophilic. That means it loves fat…so taking it with a fatty meal ensures better absorption.
Curcumin is heat and light sensitive. In India, when a piece of clothing is stained by turmeric, the first thing they do is lay it out in the sunlight to bleach out the stain. But remember that it’s in that bright yellow pigment where the active curcuminoids are found… so it’s best to add turmeric to a meal AFTER you’re finished cooking it (not during) or by using it in a cold preparation like salad dressing. Also, be sure to store it in a cool, dark place.
Finally, if you don’t want to bother with all the mixing and measuring OR if you’re not fond of its earthy flavor, you can ensure you’re getting in a measured amount of curcumin by taking a high quality supplement. I recommend any supplement that contains a patented form of turmeric called Meriva. Meriva is a a turmeric phytosome which enhances the herb’s bioavailability by blending it with a soy-based phospholipid called phosphatyldylcholine. I use this product personally and can attest to its superiority.
So…. how much should you take to see a difference?
Since its side effects are so minimal and rare, you can play with dosages to find what works best for you. However, here are some recommended dosages to give you a starting point.
From food sources, Try ¾ -2 tablespoons
From supplements, Try taking 500-2000mg; if taking over 500mg, divide doses at 500mg per meal or snack. This helps with absorption and keeps the bioactive curcuminoids circulating steadily in your blood throughout the day
Remember to take it consistently and be patient. Turmeric is not a “band-aid” solution, it works at the root to correct the problem. The average person reports seeing an improvement in their condition within 8 weeks time.