If you’re looking for a spice that has been the staple of Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, look no further than turmeric curcumin. It’s no secret that turmeric possesses a slew of therapeutic and medicinal properties when paired with piperine for increased absorption.
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant capable of boosting nearly every facet of mental and physical health. But, can turmeric reduce inflammation, swelling, and help with pain relief?
Turmeric for Inflammation
Research has shown that turmeric can assist with several health conditions. We’ve seen evidence to suggest that curcumin may improve diabetes, weight loss, and blood pressure. Turmeric may even be able to support liver detox and reduce allergy symptoms.
In recent years, several studies have emerged, putting curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties on display. There appears to be a precise mechanism of action at work that helps turmeric combat irritation at the source. To better understand how it works, first, we need to examine why inflammation occurs. (1)
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is your immune system’s response to a perceived threat or an irritant within the body. When you see a wound swell up, turn red, and become painful, that’s often a sign of inflammation.
There is an increasing body of evidence suggesting that chronic inflammation is a significant cause of disease advancement and the worsening of pre-existing medical conditions. Thus, it’s possible that blocking the inflammatory processes may serve as a natural treatment or therapy for these illnesses. (2)
Inflammation can arise from several external factors, including:
- Germs (pathogens) such as viruses, fungi and yeast infections, or bacteria
- External wounds or injuries (scrapes, cuts, splinters, etc.)
- Chemicals or radiation causing adverse reactions in the body
- Chronic inflammatory diseases such as IBD (Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease), psoriasis, or arthritis
When inflammation goes unchecked, it can cause several negative side effects. These potential reactions include, but are not limited to, feeling ill, exhaustion, fever, and chronic pain.
Many different immune system cells get involved in the healing process during bouts of inflammation. The increased blood flow directs more immune cells to the damaged tissue where they are needed. More fluid may also enter the infected area, which is what leads to swelling.
Once the threat is eradicated, the swelling subsides, the uncomfortable side effects dissipate, and your immune system returns to normal function. (3)
Why Turmeric Curcumin?
For decades, we’ve seen substantial progress in the number of studies about turmeric. In general, curcumin seems to be a highly effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Whether you’re dealing with a chronic inflammatory disease or trying to reduce back pain or arthritis, turmeric may be the natural spice to get the job done. (4)
In this post, we will examine the research and science behind curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammation and swelling.
Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Turmeric: Can Curcumin Reduce Inflammation?
Many ancient treatments get ignored due to the lack of understanding behind their specific mechanisms of action. Researchers have highlighted the link between inflammation and protein kinases, cytokines, redox status, adhesion molecules, and pro-inflammatory enzymes. Studies show that curcuminoids exhibit anti-inflammatory activity through their ability to modulate these transcription factors.
The process of inflammation plays a major role in neurodegenerative, pulmonary, autoimmune, cardiovascular, neoplastic, and most other chronic illnesses. By inhibiting several inflammatory markers, curcumin has shown a high potential to benefit these problematic diseases. (5, 6, 7)
Another research paper has confirmed the same, linking low-grade inflammation fueled by oxidative stress to aging. As our body ages naturally, we face an increasing probability of acquiring age-related diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s.
While aging isn’t a disease in itself, the process of aging and cell death can lead to morbidity. Accordingly, slowing the aging process may postpone the onset of age-related illness. Slowing cell aging is where curcumin comes into play.
Curcumin has an unparalleled quantity of molecular targets demonstrating its chemopreventive, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities. The strongest action turmeric brings to the table is the inhibition of NF-κB.
The NF-κB transcription factor is the principal regulator of the inflammatory process. NF-κB can activate the expression of numerous pro-inflammatory cytokines. Curcumin appears to help prevent this. (8, 9)
Research suggests turmeric is also a powerful TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor) inhibitor or TNF blocker. TNFs are potent mediators of inflammation. If we can control TNFs, then we can control inflammation.
Numerous inhibitors have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) exclusively for use in various autoimmune disorders. Curcumin appears to have a strong TNF blocking effect, helping to prevent and reduce inflammation in the body. (10)
It’s not merely turmeric’s ability to modulate NF-κB and TNFs that makes it an effective weapon against diseases. Research has verified that prolonged oxidative stress and oxidative damage can increase chronic inflammation in the body. Curcumin’s antioxidant properties play a key role in the treatment and prevention of these diseases by fighting free radicals and reducing oxidative stress. (11)
In natural medicine, turmeric and ginger go hand in hand in terms of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. One study sought to test the anti-arthritic potential of each plant against adjuvant-induced arthritis in rats. While both turmeric and ginger performed well in the tests, turmeric yielded slightly better performance with a 10.2% higher disease recovery rate.
Turmeric performs its function by decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and initiating the antioxidant defense system. This benefit proves that curcumin may have beneficial effects against several different forms of arthritis and joint pain. (12)
As far as natural anti-inflammatory agents go, turmeric is among the most potent in the world. When compared to other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or aspirin, curcumin consistently outperforms them for inflammation and pain relief. (13, 14)
Turmeric Dosage for Inflammation
How much turmeric should you take per day for inflammation? The answer to this question largely depends on the condition you’re facing, the severity of the inflammation, and how your body reacts to a specific dosage.
One human trial with 25 participants consumed a substantial dosage of 8,000 mg of curcumin per day for three consecutive months. The study found no evidence of toxicity using this dose.
We recommend starting your regimen with a small dose, around 500 mg of curcumin per day, assess the effects, and titrate upwards depending on your needs.
Final Thoughts on Taking Turmeric for Inflammation
Is turmeric good for inflammation? The answer appears to be yes. Curcumin has a definitive track record serving as an active anti-inflammatory agent with minimal side effects. With multiple human trials demonstrating both the efficacy and safety of turmeric, we may finally have an excellent natural therapy to complement traditionally prescribed anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). (16)
The curcuminoids within turmeric have shown an ability to inhibit several key inflammatory processes. Also, its antioxidant capacity may help patients further deal with diseases caused by chronic inflammation. For best results, always consult with a medical professional or primary care physician before using turmeric or any other dietary supplement.