What is Turmeric / Curcumin?
Turmeric is a tasty, yellowish-colored spice used in Indian foods.
Curcumin is an chemical consituent of this spice.
Over the last few years, much has been said lately about curcumin’s potential role as a natural anti-inflammatory, arthritis and joint support supplement.
After spending some time looking closely at this alternative remedy, I can say that it does appear to be a pretty important herb with some real therapeutic potential.
A word of warning…
If you do some research into this natural alternative remedy on the Internet, I guarantee you will come across some pretty amazing claims for its healing power.
It’s mostly bullshit.
Nutritional supplements are very loosely regulated in many parts of the world, and retailers can – and often do – make claims that are not reflective of reality.
So don’t buy into the hype.
While curcumin is a pretty awesome supplement, it’s not a miracle.
Plus there is a fairly significant issue with curcumin / tumeric that I will discuss in a moment.
Does it Work? What’s the Science Say about Turmeric / Curcumin’s Anti-Inflammatory Potential?
Actually, it says quite a bit.
New research suggests curcumin…
- Demonstrates extremely potent anti-inflammatory characteristics.
- Inhibits the activity of COX-2 enzymes (like the drug Celebrex)
- Reduces the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
- May be even be useful in the fight against some cancers.
Preliminary data suggests curcumin works to help fight inflammation by inhibiting a number of different chemicals involved in the inflammatory process.
But there’s a bit of a problem.
Issues with Curcumin
If there’s problem with curcumin it’s that it demonstrates extremely poor bio-availability.
What does that mean?
It means it doesn’t dissolve very well.
This is a problem, because it means it means your body can’t absorb it very effectively.
And if you can’t absorb it, well… you’re very literally flushing your money down the toilet.
As a result, manufacturers are falling over each other to create a commercial curcumin product that’s more easily digested.
Some combine curcumin with BioPerine (a black pepper extract proven to boost the bioavailability of certain ingredients) and others are specialized formulas designed for maximum absorption.
Two such examples are Curcumin 95 and Theracumin.
Another specialized curcumin formula called Meriva actually has a little science “behind it”…
It’s been proven effective in a clinical study.
Performed on patients with osteoarthris of the knee, and its use lead to a reduction in pain and stiffness, and a reduction in the use of pain killers, nsaids (non steroidal anti-inflammatories) and Celebrex.
For the most part, however, we only have the manufacturer’s word on how much more effective these specialized versions of curcumin are, since to date, there is very little independently published clinical data to support their claims.
You may not see Meriva on the product label of the joint care product you’re checking out in your local Wal-Mart or Pharmacy.
Instead you may see “Curcumin Phytosome Phosphatidylcholine Complex.”
Yeah, really. It’s the same thing. Just for your information.
Dosage: How Much Turmeric / Curcumin Do I Take for Pain & Inflammation?
Determing the correct dosage for this natural arthritis cure is as bit tricky, for a number of reasons…
- Clinical studies have doses that ranged dramatically in size, so there’s no clearly established dosage for effectiveness.
- Specialized products optimized for absorption may or may not be as effective as they are claimed to be.
Studies using plain curcumin have used up to 8,000 mg/day.
No one expects you to take that much – it’s too high a dose to be practical for most people.
Specialized formulas – like those I discussed earlier – require that you take much, much less.
The study performed on the Meriva formulation I mention above used two 500 mg capsules daily.
The manufacturers of Theracurmin recommend a 300 mg capsule up to twice daily.
At this time, the best advice I can give you at this time is to stick to the recommendations on the bottle.
Is there a best time of day to take turmeric supplements?
From what I can tell from reviewing the clinical studies, there doesn’t seem to be.
Just take the remedy at the same time every day, or as recommended on the label of the product you’re using.
Turmeric / Curcumin Safety and Side Effects
Turmeric, the spice of whch curcumin is a constituent, is used in foods and has a GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) rating in the U.S.
Curcumin itself has been demonstrated to be safe in 6 relatively short clinical trials.
However, some experts argue its safety has not been clearly established, and long term toxicity studies need to be performed in order to confirm that it is indeed safe.
As a precaution, therefore, you may want to limit your treatments with this supplement to 3 months or less before taking a break. Pregnant and lactating women… you guys will definitely want to see your doctor before giving this stuff a try.
In addition, some animal studies show that curcumin can be toxic to the liver when taken taken at high doses for long periods of time.
So people with any sort of liver disorders may want to give this supplement a wide berth.
In general, however, side effects of curcumin supplementation, if they occur, seem to be limited to minor stomach upset and gas.
Consult with your physician if youre taking anti-coagulant or anti-platlet drugs like Fragmin, Aspirin and Coumadin, among others, as curcumin may interact with them.
Personal Experience with Turmeric / Curcumin
I really wanted curcumin to work for me.
After doing the research for this article, I was pretty excited about experimenting with this promising supplement for joint pain and stiffness.
And I tried 3 different types of curcumin – the two pictured here above on my kitchen counter, and one other one (for the life of me, I can’t remember its name. I should have kept the bottle. Damn!).
Despite being very excited about curcumin and its potential to help with my joint aches and the arthritis pain in my thumb (obviously, since I bought 3 bottles of the stuff), I never noticed anything other a little bit of stomach upset, gas and loose stools.
But that’s the way it goes sometime.
Of course, my experience isn’t evidence of anything, I only provide it here as some real world perspective. You may try it and love it.
Customer Reviews, Testimonials and Feedback
To see what people are saying about curcumin, I reviewed the feedback of the top 8 products on iHerb.com’s curcumim page.
With around 900 pieces of feedback left by customers, all the products rated 4.5 stars out of 5.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Of course, not everyone was happy with this remedy. To the left, I’ve highlighted the feedback for one popular curcumim supplement from Doctor’s Best to show you what I mean. As you can see…
15% of users rated this product 3 stars or less, which suggests that my negative experience is not particularly unique.
Nevertheless, while personal testimonials are anecdotal, large numbers of happy customers do suggest that something good is going on (yes, despite my lack of success with the product).
iHerb is my go to place for reviews and testimonials because the only way you can leave a review is if you buy the product. This doesn’t make the reviews any less anecdotal and subject to human biases, but it does mean reviews are less likely to be left by people who are hired by supplement companies to create an “un-naturally positive” product profile.
Curcumin didn’t do a damn thing for me. It didn’t help with pain relief and inflammation.
Not one bit.
But it seems like – based on the feedback I reviewed – my experience is not normal.
And there is some science supporting its benefits.
As a result, I’m not going to discourage you from giving curcumin a try to see if it helps with pain, stiff joints and arthritis.
Do I have a product preferance?
Well, if I were to use curcumin again, I would probably try a “phytosome” version, since…
- There’s a small clinical trial confirming it works.
- It’s one version I haven’t experimented with yet.
Here are two links to phytosome products on iHerb for you to check out if you’re interested…
Although any phyosome product from a reputable brand is worthwhile. You’ll need two 500 mg capsules per day.
I would not recommend a “plain” curcumin / tumeric supplement simply because of the absorption issues I outlined earlier.
I’ve stumbled across a few online retailers who are hyping the crap out of curcumin phytosome, and selling it for a ridiculously elevated price.
Don’t buy from them.
A respected brand product sold from a reputable retailer should cost you between US$14-20 for a 30 day supply. Any more than this, and you’re being ripped off.
Your Turn. What Do You Think?
Here’s where you get your say.
Share your feedback. Insights. Comments. What have you.
The big question is…
Have you used curcumin or turmeric for chronic joint pain, stiffness and arthritis?
What did you think?
Please let us know in the comments below.
Your experience may be very helpful with other readers who are struggling with their own similar issues, so please…
Don’t be shy. 😉