Can turmeric relieve pain? Some conventional doctors believe that this ancient spice can provide excellent pain relief sans the side effects that many people experience when taking prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers. The use of turmeric for pain is based on the knowledge that curcumin, its main pharmacological component, is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, which may be a factor in its pain-relieving abilities. To better understand the anti-inflammatory action of curcumin in the pain management, it is important to understand first the pathway responsible for pain.
In spite of its far-reaching benefits, curcumin’s biggest health attributes may be its action in its simple ability to relieve pain by reducing inflammation. Pain is directly connected to inflammation, as pain response itself is part of the entire inflammatory process. Different forms of injuries on the tissues cause inflammation such as burns, scrapes, cuts, bruises, bites or any blunt force injury, which results to swelling of skin tissue as defensive fluids fill the damaged tissues between cells. Nerves may be indirectly hurt. All these conditions are accompanied by pain response. Internal injuries are also another case, and are often related to diet and eventual wear-and-tear. Aging ligaments and joints can be chronically inflamed, still resulting to pain. As such, the best way to stop the pain is to stop the inflammation as well.
Similar to anti-inflammatory drugs acetaminophen and ibuprofen, curcumin inhibits the production of COX-2 enzyme, a protein known to be a precursor of inflammation. However, unlike these synthetic drugs, curcumin influences the activity of other soluble factors in inflammation and pain, which includes PPAR Gamma transcription factors, NF-kB and 5-LOX. When all activities of these inflammation soluble factors are inhibited, curcumin provides superior pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory activity even better than that provided by conventional drugs.
The use of turmeric for pain in India has been extensively studied by various Indian universities. In the 1980s, it was proven that patients given with 1200mg curcumin daily achieved pain relief at par with conventional NSAIDs. In the past years, interest in turmeric and curcumin in the West has begun.
However, the sole drawback with curcumin is that the body could not absorb it easily. Luckily, there are numerous new curcumin formulations today supplemented with natural substances that can result in sevenfold to 20-fold increases in the curcumin product’s bioavailability compared to straight curcumin alone.
Pain could be one of the body’s natural inflammatory processes, yet it does not mean you have to experience its natural state. Whether you are suffering from chronic joint pain or muscle pain, recuperating from extensive skin injury, or just looking for a health supplement after a tough workout, taking turmeric for pain can be an ideal and inexpensive solution to free yourself from discomfort. The best part about it is that it is non-toxic, with no side effects when taken as directed. Curcumin supplements are another excellent choice as well and are ubiquitously found in many health food shops. As it is important to ask advices from a doctor before starting any herbal supplement, it is necessary to consult about this option with your physician first.