One of the most ancient home remedies for stiff, aching joints is a poultice of turmeric, the natural source of the antioxidant curcumin, with black pepper, the natural source of the surprising anti-inflammatory chemical piperine. Ayurveda, the medicine of ancient India, and Unani, the medicine of Kashmir and Pakistan, have used this combination for centuries with everyday success.
If you don't have time to stir herbs into a pot of bubbling butter fat to make your turmeric poultice for joint pain, however, you may want to try a curcumin supplement, a natural antioxidant remedy for inflammation that has been proven in no fewer than 87 published scientific studies.
How Curcumin Helps Relieve Joint Pain
Primarily in rheumatoid arthritis but also in osteoarthritis, curcumin helps fight excessive inflammation. More specifically, curcumin helps suppress the excessive inflammation that breaks down healthy tissue inside a joint. Curcumin counteracts COX-2, the inflammatory compound that is also the target of the prescription drug Celebrex (celecoxib). In addition to regulating COX-2, curcumin also acts on interleukin 1-beta stimulated nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2, interleukin 6, interleukin 8, and at least three more tissue-destructive immune chemicals that cause the destructive process of both kinds of arthritis.
Primarily in osteoarthritis but also in rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin stimulates the growth of healthy replacement tissue. By keeping a wide range of destructive inflammatory chemicals in check, curcumin stimulates a process called chondrogenesis, which helps the joint rebuild itself in both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
How to Take Curcumin to Relieve Joint Pain
Any curcumin product will help relieve joint pain and inflammation, but products that combine curcumin with another natural product known as phosphatidylcholine, or soy lecithin (sold under the trade name Meriva), are best.
The lecithin in curcumin products made with Meriva helps the curcumin pass through the lining of the small intestine so that more curcumin finds its way into circulation. Meriva itself is also anti-inflammatory, and the combining of curcumin and Meriva ensures that the product travels to the liver, where the curcumin it contains is activated into a form that has maximum usefulness in the joint.
Also helpful are products that combine curcumin with a chemical found in red wine (but mass produced from a plant called polygonum or Chinese knotweed) known as resveratrol. This compound stops a process called apoptosis, or planned cell death, in the chondrocytes, the cells that generate new connective tissue and bone. Resveratrol is especially useful in treating back pain caused by degenerated disks of the spine.
If you have osteoarthritis, it can also help to drink pomegranate juice or to eat pomegranates. The tannins in the juice that give it a puckery taste are the component that helps preserve joint tissue.
And it also helps to take green tea extract, at least 360 mg a day. The epicatechin gallates in green tea extract are anti-inflammatory, reducing pain and inflammation, although they do not have curcumin's broad action that helps rebuild the joint. Drinking green tea usually does not have an anti-inflammatory effect, unless it is consumed in extremely large amounts, over 40 cups a day. Use green tea extract rather than green tea to help keep arthritis in control.
Buhrmann C, Mobasheri A. , Matis U, Shakibaei M. Curcumin mediated suppression of nuclear factor-kappB promotes chondrogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells in a high-density co-culture micro-environment. Arthritis Res Ther. 2010; 12: R127.
Csaki C, Keshishzadeh N, Fischer K, Shakibaei M. Regulation of inflammation signaling by resveratrol in human chondrocytes in vitro. Biochem Pharmacol. 2008; 75: 677-87.
Henrotin Y, Clutterbuck AL, Allaway D. Lodwig EM, Harris P, Mathy-Hartert M, Shakibaei M, Mobaasheri A. Biological actions of curcumin on articular chondrocytes. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2010: 18; 141-149.