How Turmeric benefits Arthritis


The use of turmeric in helping prevention and spread of arthritis is thoroughly explained in this article. The various properties of this home remedy and their positive effect on various aspects of arthritis may hold potential to wipe out artificial arthritis drug industry.

Arthritis is inflammation of the skeletal joints. It is accompanied by incessant pain, swelling, redness, rashes, lumps, fatigue, fever and stiffness. Inability to do mere daily chores. The way arthritis stealthily crawls and grows into the life of the elderly, makes one think that he/she won't be able to take care of their family thereafter, or that one just has to accept arthritis like destiny. But it isn't so, arthritis can be managed, its symptoms reduced and normalcy of lifestyle maintained. Though, there is no cure for arthritis, its progression can be halted by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs but with adverse aftermath. Nutraceuticals are the more favored candidates. They have no side effects yet are highly effective. The yellow pigment of turmeric color is one such nutraceutical, called curcumin, derived from the scientific name of turmeric, Curcuma longa.

The inflammation of joints may be caused by myriad of reasons, which brings us to its types.

  • Osteoarthritis is caused by age, wear and tear of joints, and exaggerated by obesity. The cartilage surrounding the joint thins out. To understand this, imagine the joint as a double cutlet sandwich, where the two cutlets are heads of the bones of joints, which need cushioning by the coleslaw synovial fluid and the shock absorbing packing, the cartilage bread.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when one's immune system acts against the body's own organs like the joints, chest, and eyes. A similar condition called lupus may be responsible too.
  • Gout occurs due to deposition of crystals in the synovial fluid hindering movement.
  • There can be many other causes of arthritis but the symptoms remain the same.

As the medical world advances, human life expectancy increases. Diseases of old age like arthritis, that evolve over decades, partake in the ascend. Since time immemorial, Indian mothers have been mixing turmeric in milk for their children who have wounded themselves. They have been unwittingly using its healing and rejuvenating properties. The very same properties have the potential to wipe out need for NSAIDS in treatment of arthritis.

Anti-Inflammatory Property of Turmeric extract relieves pain


Inflammation is human body's handyman. It is a mechanism to heal injuries and wounds. The area around a bump swells up and reddens as the blood flow to the area is increased to provide raw material for replacing and repairing the injured cells. In case of arthritis the inflammation is excessive. The inflamed synovial pushes against the cartilage and bone, eroding and degrading the tissue which results in the typical symptoms. The inflammation is caused by some pro-inflammatory compounds released by injured cells. Curcumins specifically chokehold these pro-inflammatory compounds by inhibiting gene expression of interleukins and cyclooxygenase-2 and production of prostaglandins and nitric oxide. Thus, curcumins decrease the inflammation in cartilage cells, the chondrocytes, alleviating the pain.

Curcumins Promote Anabolism and Anti-Catabolism Effect


Under normal conditions, along with inflammation of a wounded area, synthesis of new lipids, new proteins or new proteoglycans occurs to make new cells (anabolism) while catabolism (breakdown) and recycling of old injured cells occurs. There is a perfect balance. In arthritis, the inflammation of the joints is not followed by the healing process of anabolism, the balance is disturbed. Curcumins prevent breakdown of cartilage by preventing certain matrix metalloproteases (MMPs) that do so. Other anti-catabolic effect of curcumins is that it prevents cell death or apoptosis of chondrocytes, preventing further articular damage of the joint. Curcumins promote overall chondrogenesis i.e. formation of cartilage. In all, the progression and pathogenesis of arthritis is retarded by the use of medicinal doses of curcumins.

Anti-oxidant properties of Curcumins may help the symptomatic treatment


It has been observed that the blood levels of antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E, thiols, and glutathione dip, which accelerates the progression of the arthritis. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) like the nitric oxide, along with undue mechanical stress, pro-inflammatory species and other factors cause the acute or chronic pain associated with this disease. These ROS can be neutralized by the antioxidants made available by curcumins. Curcumins do not directly play a role, but their metabolism leads to formation of glutathione, thus, making curcumins effective scavengers of ROS. This restores the anti-oxidants in blood, reduces inflammation and curcumins thus, act as analgesics.

Challenges as a certified medicine


Nutraceuticals are not published recommendations of the two gargantuan international arthritis research societies Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) and European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR). Nutraceutical is a portmanteau, made of nutrition and pharmaceutical. These are those specific compounds which are derived from natural food, having nutritional value, and on exploration were found to have preventive or even treatment benefits for disease of interest. In addition, these have no side effects.
The advantages of turmeric have been exploited in the Ayurveda medicine but extensive scientific tests and research are yet to help this wonder herb wipe out the NSAIDS.
The turmeric powder has only 3-5% of curcumins and its absorption and availability at skeletal joint even lower, thus curcumins need to be extracted and mixed with other compounds which increase the bioavailability but do cause any side effects. Administration of medicinal doses of curcumins alone brings an improved Disease Activity Score. This score measures how well a patient is responding to a drug.

Conclusion


High efficacy, no toxicity and a safety profile with no adverse after effects, make curcumins the ideal candidates of arthritis treatment. NSAIDS are effective analgesics but the increased risk of cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal bleeding, lung and kidney damage are a heavy price to pay. Accuracy and precision on long term effects of curcumins are yet to be reported scientifically. Though, drugs like Meriva® and Arantal® with major composition of curcumins are already in the market with high results, fixed and standard guidelines are yet to come. Tuberculosis patients have risk of activating latent tuberculosis by use of curcumins, and there is no research on tissue accumulation or long term effects of curcumins. The ever growing market of synthetic drugs and synergistically their toxic effects necessitate bringing in botanical cures. Scientific approval of turmeric may just bring a little color to the lives of people suffering with arthritis.


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