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Turmeric


Turmeric


Traces of turmeric have been found in pots in India from 4,500 years ago, as this root has been used widely in Asia for spice, dyes and medicine. It is closely related to ginger, and looks quite similar. As the modern culture permeates even tiny villages in India, some women still smear it on their faces ‘for their skin’, and the yellow face is considered beautiful. The father of the bride smears a paste of turmeric on his daughter durning her wedding, and garlands of turmeric are exchanged. Some Indians still wear a piece of turmeric around their necks for an amulet. It is obviously held in high regard! However the Indians have also believed cow’s milk is about the best food you can consume, so just being a widely held belief for millennia does not make it true.


Turmeric has also been widely used in Chinese and other asian medicines. In India, it was traditionally used for disorders of the skin, upper respiratory tract, joints, wound healing, and promoting proper digestion.

The curcuminoids found in turmeric are curcumin, desmethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin, with curcumin being the main active component. Curcumin was first isolated from turmeric in 1815


Today, the refined curcumins are promoted for many conditions including arthritis, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, respiratory infection, allergies, and depression.


Multiple mechanisms of action of curcumin on these diseases have been researched, including the modulation of the eicosanoid pathway towards a more anti-inflammatory pathway, and the modulation of serum lipid levels towards a favorable profile. Studies indicate that curcumin acts on numerous targets with various mechanisms of action, altering enzyme, receptor, and transcription factor activity. (2)

Turmeric plays a role in reducing inflammation via the COX 2 pathway, without the side effects of drugs that target this, like Viox, or the drugs that target both COX1 and COX2 like NSAIDs. It also targets the arachidonic acid/inflammation response. Reducing inflammation can offer terrific benefits for autoimmune patients. This study suggests it has been shown to decrease cartilage degradation, and the progression of RA, unlike the drugs which ameliorate the symptoms yet do not halt the progression of the disease. (1)


Chronic inflammation is one of the causes of multiple diseases. A change to a more plant based diet without added fats can lower inflammation easily, as it is animal foods which promote chronic inflammation in the body by multiple pathways. Animal foods contain large amounts of arachidonic acid, which leads to inflammation. Animal foods also promote a disbiosis of the microbiome, with pathogenic gut bacteria promoting inflammation, along with these pathogenic bacteria making TMAO which promotes disease, and a resulting leaky gut which leads to pathogens entering the blood stream, and the resulting inflammation, and possibly leading to autoimmune disease. It is also important to reach a healthy weight as fat cells are a contributing factor to chronic inflammation.


In one study rats were given rheumatoid arthritis and then some were given Curcumin. Measurements were taken of inflammatory markers, observation of disability and then they were dissected to see the levels of deformity, and the Curcumin groups did much better. (9) They concluded that because of the side effects and cost of standard drugs for rheumatoid arthritis Curcumin should be studied and used instead. There are many studies showing that curcumin works as good as or better than ibuprofen for arthritis, looking at standardized pain scales and ease of movement. (1)


This study looked at several clinical trials on osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis patients, and found significant benefits used alone or along with existing treatments. (1) There do not appear to be any significant side effects except in high doses, for some, such as headache and nausea, bloating, acid reflux, flatulence and diarrhea at doses of 1000 mg, and very rarely a skin rash at doses of 8000 mg. (4) However there is some research showing a possible connection to improvement in digestion without any changes to gut bacteria, the opposite of acid reflux and nausea. (5)


There is promising research for using cur cumin for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cognitive decline because of its anti inflammatory properties, as it lowers CRP levels, a marker of inflammation, but these studies are short and have few participants. No long term studies have been done. (7) Again, a diet and lifestyle change has been proven to prevent and reverse heart disease, and taking a supplement cannot undo the damage caused by years of a destructive diet. (8)



I would recommend curcumin for patients with arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. Always start with a smaller amount to see if there is any digestive discomfort.




(1) Melissa Yang, Umair Akbar, and Chandra Mohan* Curcumin in Autoimmune and Rheumatic Diseases Nutrients. 2019 May; 11(5): 1004.

Published online 2019 May 2. doi: 10.3390/nu11051004


(2) Subash C. Gupta, Sridevi Patchva, and Bharat B. Aggarwal Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials AAPS J. 2013 Jan; 15(1): 195–218.

Published online 2012 Nov 10. doi: 10.1208/s12248-012-9432-8



(2) Binu Chandran 1 , Ajay Goel A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis.

2012 Nov;26(11):1719-25. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4639. Epub 2012 Mar 9.



(5) Adrian L. Lopresti, Stephen J. Smith, Alethea Rea & Shavon Michel Efficacy of a curcumin extract (Curcugen™) on gastrointestinal symptoms and intestinal microbiota in adults with self-reported digestive complaints: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study

BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies volume 21, Article number: 40 (2021)



(6) Kana Shimizu Masafumi Funamoto Yoichi Sunagawa Satoshi Shimizu Yasufumi Katanasaka Yusuke Miyazaki Hiromichi Wada Koji Hasegawa Tatsuya Morimoto Anti-inflammatory Action of Curcumin and Its Use in the Treatment of Lifestyle-related Diseases


(8) Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD Resolving the Coronary Artery Disease Epidemic through Plant-Based Nutrition http://www.dresselstyn.com/site/study03/


(9) Dai Q., Zhou D., Xu L., Song X. curcumin alleviates rheumatoid arthritis-induced inflammation and synovial hyperplasia by targeting mTOr pathway in rats. Drug Des. Dev. Ther. 2018;12:4095. doi: 10.2147/DDDT.S175763. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

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