In our modern world where Western medicine reigns supreme, it’s important to remember that long before there were synthetic medications for treating ailments, our natural resources saved the day. There are millions of people taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on a daily basis for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, but the controversy surrounding them continues to climb, with claims backed by research that they may alleviate symptoms, but are not safe for our overall wellbeing. So what’s the alternative?
There are many natural resources that act as anti-inflammatory agents, and turmeric just so happens to be one of them. Where’s the research? It’s sparse in large part because the capital available to fund expensive clinical trials is difficult. But what is available will certainly open anyone’s eyes looking to steer clear of pills and use their surroundings, including what’s in their kitchen, to cure their pains.
Decades of investigation have been done to confirm that turmeric ought to be a lead drug compound, but despite the thousands of preclinical studies, it remains in the kitchen as a spice for savoury dishes. But let’s look at the latest human study on its medicinal benefits:
Published in the Indonesian Journal of Internal Medicine in April, 2012, the study, titled Ability of Curcuminoid Compared to Diclofenac Sodium in Reducing the Secretion of Cycloxygenase-2 Enzyme by Synovial Fluid’s Monocytes of Patients with Osteoarthritis, discusses how the curcuminoid extract of turmeric reduced inflammation in patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a rheumatic disease. According to the published study, it is the second largest cause of physical disability in the world after ischemic heart disease. In 2005 alone, one third of the U.S. population aged 65 years and older suffered from it. The typical treatments for it include:
- Analgesics: Pain relievers that include acetaminophen, opioids (narcotics), and an atypical opioid called tramadol
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and celecoxib
- Corticosteroids: These are extremely powerful and can be taken by mouth or injected directly into a joint at a doctor’s office
- Hyaluronic acid: This acid occurs naturally in joint fluid to protect the infected area, but injections are also done in a doctor’s office
What happens during OA of the knee is that the synovial fluid, which exists within the cavities of the synovial joints to reduce friction between articular cartilage during movement, is hindered with overbearing inflammatory COX-2 enzyme activity by way of the immune cells called monocytes.
For this specific study, researchers matched up the effects the NSAID drug diclofenac sodium and curcuminoid extract had on lowering cycloxygenase -2 (COX-2) secretion by synovial fluid’s monocytes. To do this, they used two, randomly divided groups, both of which suffered from knee osteoarthritis. This is what they concluded:
Curcuminoid from Curcuma domestica Val.rhizome extract significantly suppresses the secretion of COX-2 enzyme by synovial fluid’s monocytes of patients with knee osteoarthritis. The ability of curcuminoid from Curcuma domestica Val. rhizome extract was not significantly different compared to diclofenac sodium in suppressing the secretion of cycloxygenase-2enzyme by synovial fluid’s monocytes.
Simply put, both curcuminoid and diclofenac sodium decreased the secretion of the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme nearly the exact same.
You may still be asking: But why does it matter which one is used then? The answer is simple, however: When you compare the effects of both a common kitchen spice like turmeric, and a drug like diclofenac sodium, while they may both be able to provide the same treatment for OA suffers, the latter has a much higher chance of causing other health conditions.
For instance, let’s compare the toxicities of the two: the primary polyphenol in turmeric, curcumin, and the diclofenac sodium. When you glance at their Material Safety Date Sheets (1, 2), you’ll find a significant difference.
LD50, or Lethal Dose, 50%, or median lethal dose, is the amount of a substance it would take, typically per body weight, to kill 50 percent of the test population.
- For diclofenac sodium, the LD50 for mice is 95 mg/kg. This means that it would only take 95 mg/kg of mouse to acutely kill 50% of the test population.
- For curcumin, the LD50 for mice is >2,000 mg/kg. This means that it would take more than 2,000 mg/kg of mouse to acutely kill 50% of the test population.
It seems like a no-brainer that people would toss out their pills and pick up turmeric and other natural healing alternatives, or at least give it a try, but the truth of the matter is that people are skeptical to try something with not enough research backing it. While we have covered why this research is lacking, you now undoubtedly have a justified reason to make a change: the natural alternatives won’t harm you.