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Turmeric: Better than drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis

rheumatoid arthritis

Arthritis is a joint disorder in which joint inflammation causes pain. The inflammation can be in one or more joints. There are several forms of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are chronic autoimmune diseases that cause the body’s defense system to attack itself. Although Rheumatoid Arthritis affects mostly joints, it could also attack the heart and the lungs and cause extensive symptoms.

The disease is more commonly found among people aged 65 or over, but people of all ages can be affected by it.

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In the USA, about 52.5 million people or 22.7% of the population suffer from some form of arthritis. At least 2,000,000 Americans suffer from some type of rheumatoid arthritis and this number has been increasing in recent years.

Many researches have shown that anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a compound found in turmeric can be used effectively to treat arthritis.

rheumatoid arthritis
Healthy food. Bitter gourd curry with turmeric (Image: Creative commons)

The study

A research was performed in Italy where 50 patients diagnosed by x-ray with osteoarthritis of the knee were monitored for 90 days.

The participants were divided into two groups. The first group was given 1 gram of turmeric formulation per day in addition to standard medical treatment. The second group was the control group who continued following recommendations from their physicians.

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rheumatoid arthritis
Chicken with turmeric, honey and mustard (Image: Creative commons)


After 90 days, the turmeric group was found to have a 58% reduction in overall stiffness and pain and, also improvement in physical functions compared to the control group. Another scoring method found that the emotional health of the turmeric patients were improved by 300% as compared to the other group. C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation was found to have declined by 16-fold when blood tests were performed. Curcumin also enabled participants in the turmeric group to cut down on using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications by 63%, compared to the control group.

Turmeric has the ability to block certain enzymes and cytokines that trigger inflammation. Turmeric also seems to have properties to modify the immune system. It prevents the body from making tumor necrosis factor (TNF), an antibody.

Read more 10 proven health benefits of turmeric

rheumatoid arthritis
Turmeric rice (Image: Creative commons)

Bioavailable form of turmeric helps ease pain from rheumatoid arthritis

A 2012 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research showed that high bioavailable form of turmeric has been shown to perform better in easing joint pain and swelling in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients than a NSAID called Diclofenac. The patients receiving turmeric reported a higher percentage of enhancement altogether with no side effects, while 14% of patients from the group receiving NSAIDs reported side effects.

According to the researchers, the curcumin group displayed the highest rate of enhancement. These scores were remarkably better than the participants in the diclofenac sodium group.

What’s important is that turmeric treatment was safe and didn’t have any adverse side effects. This is the first evidence that for patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, turmeric treatment is safe and superior to others, they added.

Side effects of turmeric

Possible side effects from large doses of turmeric include stomach upset and diarrhea. When taken in large doses, turmeric may also interact with some prescription drugs. Patients taking medications for diabetes, inflammation, cholesterol or blood thinners should contact their doctor before taking turmeric.

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Salahuddin Ahmed is a freelance medical writer and blogger, who has been writing about medicine and health for more than a decade. A former New York transplant, he now lives in his native Dhaka. He received a Bachelor's degree from the University of Louisiana and a diploma on eTechnology from NIIT, Dhaka. A voracious eater, Salahuddin only dines at restaurants that offer free refills on rice.