Arthritis, an inflammation of joints that can result in chronic pain, affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In addition to arthritis, there are other health issues that can cause joint pain. Prescription medications and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can provide relief in many cases, but are often accompanied by side effects — sometimes severe.
For many people curcumin, a component of the root of the turmeric plant, provides relief from joint pain. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that have been found to reduce swelling around joints, lessening pain without the negative side effects of non-herbal medicines.
Causes of Arthritis and Joint Pain
Joints are the many parts of the body where bones meet, such as knees, elbows, hips, and shoulders. Joints give the bones that make up the skeleton the ability to move. Unfortunately, joints can be subject to injury or illness that brings about soreness, discomfort, and pain. One of the most common causes of joint pain is arthritis.
Arthritis is an inflammation of joints that can cause swelling, stiffness, tenderness, and pain in the area of the affected joints. Arthritis can affect a single joint, or any number of joints. There are many dozens of different types of arthritis, but by far the most common types are osteoarthritis arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis, or OA, is the result of a breaking down of cartilage. Cartilage is a hard, slippery tissue surrounding the ends of a bone at the point where it forms a joint. Cartilage acts as a sort of shock absorber for joints, and over time the normal wear and tear of cartilage results in osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune disease — it occurs when the immune system attacks the tissues of joints. RA can in some cases be far more than just a painful condition, as it can result in the destruction of not only cartilage, but also bone itself.
Arthritis causes joint pain, but there are also several other reasons a person can experience pain in their joints. Several of the more common of these reasons include the following:
- Bursitis (inflammation of the cushioning pads surrounding joints)
- Infectious diseases (including hepatitis, influenza, and mumps)
- Infection (of a bone or joint)
- Tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon)
Curcumin or Turmeric?
If you shop for a curcumin supplement, you’ll likely come across a lot of supplements that also include the word “turmeric.” If you search for “curcumin” you might even see a supplement labeled as only “turmeric,” without the word “curcumin” in the product name. It might seem as if the two words are interchangeable — as if “curcumin” and “turmeric” are the same thing. So what gives?
Turmeric is the name of a flowering plant found in India and parts of Southeast Asia. The root of the plant, after being boiled, dried, and ground to a powder, is an ingredient common in many Asian dishes including curries. In addition to being used as a spice in cooking, turmeric has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda, the classical Indian medicine system.
Though turmeric has been, and still is, used for medicinal purposes, it’s primarily one compound in the root that is considered the active ingredient. That compound is curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it useful for treating health issues resulting from inflammation.
Whether a supplement is labeled “turmeric” or “curcumin,” you’ll be interested in the amount of curcumin in the serving of the supplement. Some supplements, usually labeled “curcumin,” are pure curcumin extract. Other supplements, usually labeled “turmeric,” aren’t pure curcumin extract — they’ll be high in curcumin content, but will also have other compounds of the turmeric root present.
How Curcumin Alleviates Arthritis and Joint Pain?
For people suffering from arthritis, the good news is that there are many treatment drugs available, and for any one person at least one of those drugs is often helpful in treating their condition. The bad news is that even the helpful drugs often come with side effects — and in many cases, the side effects can be severe.
Arthritis medication side effects can range from fatigue to diarrhea to vomiting to serious infections. It’s this potential for experiencing side effects that has causes many people to seek a more natural remedy for their joint pains.
Ayurveda, or Ayurvedic medicine, is a healing system originating in India thousands of years ago. This complementary, or natural, approach to health includes the use of the root of the turmeric plant to treat joint pain. Practitioners of Ayurveda assumed it was all of the roots that held healing properties. Modern research has isolated curcumin as the key active, or beneficial, component of the root. For this reason, turmeric supplements typically consist of 95% or even 100% curcumin extract of the turmeric root.
A major cause of joint pain is inflammation of the area surrounding the affected joint. Curcumin’s primary means of alleviating joint pain comes from its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Cytokines are a type of protein that play several roles in how the immune system responds to diseases, viruses, and bacteria. For the most part, cytokines are good — they stimulate the immune system to fight foreign invaders. Cytokines, though, can also be bad — they can over-react and bring about inflammation that harms the area the cytokines were supposed to be protecting. Curcumin has the ability to block an excess of cytokines, greatly decreasing inflammation.
Tumor necrosis factor, or TNF, is a chemical released by the immune system to act as a signaling agent, or directory, that tells the body’s defense system where to go and what action to take. Often the action is inflammation, which in small amounts is a good thing. Too much TNF tells the body to cause too much inflammation for too long of a time. Curcumin is able to limit the release of TNF, thereby telling the immune system to slow down or stop inflaming a joint.
Joint pain, whether brought on by arthritis or one of several other causes, affects millions of people. The cause of the pain is usually associated with the immune system inflaming the area surrounding the painful joint. Some inflammation is protective and good — too much inflammation is painful and bad.
Anti-inflammatory medication is commonly prescribed to patients suffering from joint pain. While they can be effective in reducing inflammation and pain, these medications also are often accompanied by side effects — sometimes severe.
Curcumin is a component of the root of the turmeric plant — an herb used for thousands of years in the Ayurveda system of medicine practiced in India. Curcumin is a natural, powerful anti-inflammatory that provides joint pain relief for many people, without the negative side effects of prescription drugs.