Cooking to Control Oseoarthritis Pain: Tumeric
Food is medicine. Believe it or not, that statement is really true of certain foods; particularly, those foods that are valued for their medicinal powers by the ancient forms of Chinese and Indian medicine. Tumeric is one such medicinal food that has captured the attention of scientists, patients, and healers for centuries.
Where can you find Tumeric? In the spice aisle next to the curry powder and other Indian cooking spices you will find Tumeric. In fact, Tumeric is the primary ingredient in curry. Derived for the Curcuma Longa plant, this spice has a very deep yellow/orange hue that comes from the primary pigment called curcumin. Interestingly enough, this pigment called curcumin is also the primary medicinal component of Tumeric. In other words, curcumin is the active ingredient with medicinal powers.
How does Tumeric help osteoarthritis pain? Well, as it turns out, curcumin is a powerful regulator of inflammation and of damage caused by inflammation. Of particular interest to those with osteoarthritis are the chondrocytes (the cartilage cells) which are constantly under attack by inflammatory chemicals. In the presence of curcumin, these valuable cells are protected from the harmful effects of inflammation. In turn, cartilage is less like to deteriorate and degrade when this chemical is protecting the cells. Some have tried to compare the effects of Tumeric to other more popular anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and steroids. The scientific evidence is somewhat inconclusive about the efficacy but because Turmeric is so well tolerated with minimal side effects many have considered it one of the safest alternative for treating osteoarthritis pain.
Can you sneak Tumeric into your regular diet easily? Yes, in fact you may already be regularly using it if you eat the ballpark style mustard often. Tumeric is used as the coloring agent in the bright yellow mustard. Although it is a bit peppery and warm, sneaking Tumeric onto vegetables like cauliflower or into egg dishes is quite easy and hardly noticeable. Try some experimenting and try some recipes using Tumeric, you might be surprised by the power of adding this medicinal spice into your life.
Are there other medical conditions that might benefit from the use of Tumeric? The research is ongoing so the list of potential benefits keeps growing. Some medical conditions being studied as targets for Tumeric/Curcumin therapy include: irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, prostate and colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease. So, turmeric might be good for everybody, not just those with joint pain.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.