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Getting to the Root: Turmeric for Rheumatoid Arthritis

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  • A Popular Spice

    A Popular Spice

    Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that has been used in cooking for 4,000 years in India. Referred to as “Indian saffron” in Southeast Asia, it’s has long been used by healing practitioners of Ayurveda, a traditional Indian medical practice. Turmeric has gained popularity among Western practitioners for its healing properties over the last 25 years.

    Click through the slideshow to learn whether this spice has curative properties for RA.

  • India's Gift to the World

    India's Gift to the World

    Turmeric is a South Asian tropical plant with tall, green spade-like leaves and trumpet-shaped white flowers. The plant reproduces by growing a part of its stem (called rhizome) underground. The rhizome's flesh is bright yellow-orange. The spice you see for sale in the grocery store is rhizome that’s been boiled, dried, and ground into powder.

  • From Folk to Western Medicine

    From Folk to Western Medicine

    Traditional Indian healing practices use turmeric to treat many ailments, including arthritis, stomach problems, poor circulation, and skin diseases. Turmeric is mixed with liquids, made into a paste or ointment, or burned for the patient to inhale.

    Turmeric contains about 100 different properties that account for its long-lived success.

  • Can Turmeric Help RA Patients?

    Can Turmeric Help RA Patients?

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body’s defense system to attack itself. RA mostly affects the joints, but it also may attack soft tissues, like the heart and lungs.

    When RA flares, the tissues around the joint become inflamed. This results in swelling, pain, joint destruction, and disability. Modern research shows that curcurmin, the active ingredient in turmeric, acts as an anti-inflammatory.

  • How Turmeric Works

    How Turmeric Works

    Turmeric blocks certain enzymes and cytokines that lead to inflammation. It seems to have an immune system-modifying effect too. It prevents the body from making an antibody called tumor necrosis factor (TNF).

    A small 2012 study of RA patients showed that a curcumin product worked better on joint pain and swelling than a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) called diclofenac.

    Another study showed that turmeric seems to be better at preventing joint inflammation than reducing it, but more research is needed.

  • Other Medical Uses

    Other Medical Uses

    None of the following uses for turmeric have been conclusively proven yet—studies remain ongoing. However, there is some evidence that turmeric may:

    • prevent or slow the spread of cancer
    • help prevent blood clots
    • help prevent or slow the loss of cognitive function
    • treat some digestive problems
    • lower blood cholesterol
    • treat viral infections
    • treat uveitis (eye inflammation)
  • Side Effects

    Side Effects

    Turmeric is used as a spice or for coloring in foods like cheese and mustard. It’s considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but possible side effects from large doses include stomach upset and diarrhea.

    In large doses, tumeric may interact with some prescription drugs. It might also have a bad effect on your health if you have certain conditions. Check with your doctor before taking turmeric if you take medicine for:

    • diabetes
    • inflammation
    • cholesterol
    • blood thinners
  • Know Your Options First

    Know Your Options First

    Scientists are still unsure about the anti-inflammatory properties of tumeric. But, it remains an intriguing possibility for medicine in the future.

    Always check with your doctor before taking turmeric to help relieve RA symptoms.