The spice is nice
Curcumin is the active ingredient in the Indian spice turmeric. With almost 3,000 pre-clinical investigations, it is one of the best investigated botanical constituents in biomedical literature. It has been shown to induce a range of positive effects, from lowering cholesterol to controlling blood glucose and, in particular, its successful treatment of the symptoms of osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and tendon injury.
Curcumin & osteoporosis
A 2016 review paper looked at eight clinical trials and found that curcumin-containing products demonstrated consistently significant improvements in osteoarthritis (OA) related symptoms compared with placebo. One test investigated curcumin’s effects on OA over an eight month period and it was shown that scores for OA symptoms (pain, stiffness and physical function) decreased by more than 50%, whilst the treadmill test showed an overall three-fold increase in walking distance compared to the control group. They also found a significant decrease in all inflammatory markers measured.
Curcumin may also have synergist effects when combined with other medication. Administration of curcumin with glucosamine lead to faster and increased improvements in pain, stiffness and physical function after 4 months when compared to glucosamine and chondroitin. Standard preparations of cur cumin are very poorly absorbed into the body and this issue has been substantially improved to improve curcumin absorption. We may therefore expect to see even better results with these new formulations. If you want to supplement with curcumin it is recommended to take it in a more absorbable form such as the brand ‘Meriva’.
Curcumin & tendon injury
There has been less published clinical research on curcumin with regards to other musculoskeletal problems. There is however promising translational data to show curcumin may be beneficial in osteoporosis as it can lead to improvement in indicators of bone health and mechanical properties. Another recent study also found that curcumin can improve the quality of tendon rupture healing. In this study it was shown that curcumin significantly improved the strength of injured tendons compared to control.
Many of curcumins positive clinical benefits are thought to be derived from its anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties comparable to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. However, compared to NSAIDs curcumin appears to have some notable advantages. Unlike NSAIDs, curcumin use is not associated with serious side effects such as gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, kidney and liver issues and, in fact, may be protective towards the gastric tract. Curcumin has been found to be well tolerated even in doses up to 10g per day and therefore represents a safe and effective alternative to NSAIDs, particularly with use for conditions that require long term management such as osteoarthritis or in patients with a history of stomach ulcers, cardiac or kidney problems. And whilst NSAIDs work on only one inflammatory pathway, curcumin has been shown to exert effects on many, explaining in part some of curcumin’s wide ranging health effects.