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Can Turmeric Ease Arthritis?
Curcumin extracted from turmeric beat a commonly prescribed drug 11/04/2013 By Craig Weatherby
Turmeric root – which gives curry its yellow-orange hue – has long been prized in Asian medicine.
The term "curcumin" refers to turmeric's complex of yellow-orange compounds.
More accurately, curcumin is just one of a trio of three closely related "curcuminoids".
Lab experiments and preliminary clinical studies indicate that this synergistic trio of polyphenol compounds supports immune and brain health in uniquely powerful ways.
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, and preliminary studies suggest that it could deter or ameliorate various inflammatory disorders.
These include rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is caused by a mysterious auto-immune process that produces chronic joint inflammation and other symptoms.
Pick your curcumin carefully
The researchers noted that some curcumin studies in the past have been limited by the poor absorption and bio-availability of curcumin, but they used a well-absorbed form in this study.
Curcumin is far better absorbed when it is accompanied by turmeric volatile oils ... also known as essential oils. Vital Choice Curcumin in Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil extract includes the full spectrum of turmeric volatile oils.
Accordingly, clinical studies show that the curcumin in our extract is absorbed six to seven times better than the curcumin in conventional 95%-curcumin dietary supplements (Antony B et al. 2012).
This huge absorption advantage means that a 500 mg serving (two softgel capsules) of Vital Choice Curcumin – which contains 85% curcuminoids (425mg) – is equivalent to about 3,000 mg of a typical 95% curcumin supplement.
An NIH-funded animal study quantified the degree to which curcumin may limit the joint damage characteristic of RA (Funk JL et al J Nat Prod 2006).
Among other anti-inflamatory effects, curcumin acts (very safely) on the same COX-2 enzyme impacted (not so safely) by drugs such as Celebrex, and inhibits pro-inflammatory gene switches like NF-kappaB (Funk JL et al Arthritis Rheum 2006).
Surprisingly, there's only been one prior human clinical trial testing curcumin in rheumatoid arthritis patients, vs. a standard drug called phenylbutazone (Deodhar SD, et al 1980).
At the end of that six-week study, the curcumin and phenylbutazone groups reported similar improvements in morning stiffness and physical endurance.
Now, Indian scientists report more clinical evidence that RA sufferers seeking relief without harmful side effects may get it from curcumin.
Curcumin beat a common arthritis drug
In the second-ever clinical trial in rheumatoid arthritis patients, Indian scientists tested curcumin vs. a commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) called diclofenac (see “The downside to NSAIDs”, below).
The authors reported that 1,000mg of curcumin per day (500 mg twice daily) outperformed diclofenac for alleviating the pain and inflammation of RA ... with no adverse side effects.
This pilot clinical trial involved 45 participants, all of whom had mild-to-moderate rheumatoid arthritis, and lasted eight weeks.
The volunteers were divided into three groups, with one assigned to take curcumin, one to take diclofenac, and the a third group took both.
The primary outcomes measured were reduction in Disease Activity Score (DAS), while the secondary outcomes included American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria for reduction in tenderness and swelling of joint scores.
Patients in all three treatment groups showed statistically significant changes in their DAS scores.
However, the curcumin group showed the greatest improvement in overall DAS and ACR scores, which were significantly better than the patients in the diclofenac group.
The combination of curcumin and diclofenacworked even better, but produced some of the adverse side effects seen in the diclofenac-only group. 
Adverse side effects in the diclofenac group included itching and swelling around the eyes, dimness of vision, and liver toxicity.
The downside to NSAIDs
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), indomethacin (Indocin), celecoxib (Celebrex), and more.
They're blunt instruments that can alleviate pain and inflammation, but yield many undesirable side effects.
Some 107,000 people are hospitalized annually for NSAID)-related gastrointestinal (GI) complications and at least 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur each year among arthritis patients alone (Singh G 1998).
The full range of adverse side effects include these (Weisman SM et al. 2002; Wolff T et al. 2009):
  • Eye toxicity
  • Liver toxicity
  • Stomach bleeding
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Cartilage degeneration
  • Accelerated osteoporosis
  • Decreased production of blood cells
  • Hypersensitivity and allergic reactions
  • Nutrient deficiencies (folic acid, vitamin C, calcium, iron)
  • Aggarwal BB, Harikumar KB. Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2009 Jan;41(1):40-59. Epub 2008 Jul 9. Review.
  • Anand P, Kunnumakkara AB, Newman RA, Aggarwal BB. Bioavailability of curcumin: problems and promises. Mol Pharm. 2007 Nov-Dec;4(6):807-18. Epub 2007 Nov 14. Review.
  • Antony B, Merina B, Iyer VS, Judy N, Lennertz K, Joyal S. A pilot cross-over study to evaluate human oral bioavailability of BCM-95CG (Biocurcumax), A novel bioenhanced preparation of curcumin. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2008 Jul-Aug;70(4):445-9.
  • Antony B, Merina B, Rao SB. Enhancing the absorption of curcuminoids. Spice Board of India. July 2005, 23-26.
  • Antony B, Merina B. Bioavailability of Curcumax (BCM – 095™). Little Flower Medical Research Center, Angamaly, India (Research Center of Mahatma Gandhi University). September 2006. Spice Board of India.
  • Asher GN, Spelman K. Clinical utility of curcumin extract. Altern Ther Health Med. 2013 Mar-Apr;19(2):20-2. Review.
  • Chandran B, Goel A. 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. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4639. Epub 2012 Mar 9.
  • Deodhar SD, et al. Preliminary studies on anti-rheumatic activity of curcumin (diferuloyl methane). Ind J Med Res 1980;71:632.
  • Funk JL, Oyarzo JN, Frye JB, Chen G, Lantz RC, Jolad SD, Solyom AM, Timmermann BN. Turmeric extracts containing curcuminoids prevent experimental rheumatoid arthritis. J Nat Prod. 2006 Mar;69(3):351-5.
  • Gupta SC, Patchva S, Aggarwal BB. Therapeutic roles of curcumin: lessons learned from clinical trials. AAPS J. 2013 Jan;15(1):195-218. doi: 10.1208/s12248-012-9432-8. Epub 2012 Nov 10. Review
  • Gupta SC, Sung B, Kim JH, Prasad S, Li S, Aggarwal BB. Multitargeting by turmeric, the golden spice: From kitchen to clinic. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012 Aug 13. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100741. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Hatcher H, Planalp R, Cho J, Torti FM, Torti SV. Curcumin: from ancient medicine to current clinical trials. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2008 Jun;65(11):1631-52. Review.
  • Jurenka JS Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research. Altern Med Rev. 2009 Jun;14(2):141-53. Review. Erratum in: Altern Med Rev. 2009 Sep;14(3):277.
  • Martin RC, Aiyer HS, Malik D, Li Y Effect on pro-inflammatory and antioxidant genes and bioavailable distribution of whole turmeric vs curcumin: Similar root but different effects. Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Feb;50(2):227-31. Epub 2011 Nov 4.
  • Satsokar RR, et al. Evaluation of antiinflammatory property of curcumin in patients with post-operative inflammation. Int J clin Pharmacol Toxicol 1986;24:651.
  • Shehzad A, Rehman G, Lee YS. Curcumin in inflammatory diseases. Biofactors. 2013 Jan-Feb;39(1):69-77. doi: 10.1002/biof.1066. Epub 2012 Dec 22. Review.
  • Singh G. Recent considerations in nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug gastropathy. Am J Med. 1998 Jul 27;105(1B):31S-38S. Review.
  • Solyom AM, Kiela PR, Timmermann BN. Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Oct 30;54(11):3452-3464 [Epub ahead of print]
  • Weisman SM, Graham DY. Evaluation of the benefits and risks of low-dose aspirin in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events. Arch Intern Med. 2002 Oct 28;162(19):2197-202.
  • Wolff T, Miller T, Ko S. Aspirin for the primary prevention of cardiovascular events: an update of the evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med. 2009 Mar 17;150(6):405-10. Review.
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