Research has shown curcumin to be a powerful antioxidant that is ten times more active than vitamin E. It's also a potent anti-inflammatory, with efficacy rivaling that of both cortisone and phenylbutazone. How does it work? Many ways, but one of the primary modes is by shutting down pro-inflammatory protein.
A number of animal studies support curcumin's ability to relieve the pain and swelling of both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. One study found that when curcumin was given to arthritic rats, it lowered levels of an inflammatory protein by a stunning 73 percent.[i] Another study, also in rats, showed that turmeric extract profoundly curbed joint inflammation and joint destruction. And a study in dogs with osteoarthritis found that turmeric extracts reduced lameness and joint pain.
Curcumin seems to work in humans too. In a study of 18 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin caused significant improvements in morning stiffness, joint swelling, and walking ability after just two weeks. Human cell studies have additionally shown that curcumin suppresses the inflammatory chemicals that contribute to the development of osteoarthritis, and decreases some of the abnormal changes in joint tissue that characterizes rheumatoid arthritis.
Curcumin is also thought to be an antinociceptive agent (pain reliever). In the November 2006 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, a study was published that showed the effectiveness of turmeric in the reduction of joint inflammation, and recommended clinical trials as a possible treatment for the alleviation of arthritis symptoms. It is thought to work as a natural inhibitor of the cox-2 enzyme, and has been shown effective in animal models for neuropathic pain secondary to diabetes, among others.
I've seen tremendous improvement in arthritis patients who take large doses of curcumin. But I also think it's a great tool for preventing this disease in the first place. Remember, joints don't just "wear out" with age; they wear out with inflammation. If you can keep your inflammation levels under control with a daily curcumin pill, you may reduce your risk of ever getting arthritis.