(Please note: This article was originally published on ProHealth on June 27th, 2016)
Last summer, I was outside walking my dogs when my neighbor, an intelligent, retired nurse anesthetist, approached me to talk about some lingering back problems that she was having. Having lived with Lyme disease and a host of overlapping conditions for more than a decade, I guess I’ve become known in my community as the “go-to” person for natural remedies.
After a lengthy conversation, I learned that conventional treatments like cortisone injections and prescription medications had failed my neighbor. As she hobbled down the street beside me, she expressed her discouragement with not being able to find anything to relieve her suffering. She was losing hope–fast!
Knowing that my neighbor preferred evidenced-based medicine to anything remotely considered “alternative,” I suggested she do some research on curcumin–an anti-inflammatory compound extracted from the medicinal herb turmeric. A search on PubMed alone yields 130 studies on the topic of curcumin and pain. I explained to her that curcumin assists the body in mediating several inflammatory processes; perhaps it could take the edge off the pain that she experienced on a daily basis. I gave her information on where I purchase my supplements, wished her well, and said goodbye. Honestly, I didn’t expect to hear from her again, as I feared this suggestion was too far out of her comfort zone.
Two days later, my neighbor visited me at my house. However, this time, she was smiling and walking with a bounce in her step–a noticeable difference from the last time I saw her. Following our initial conversation, she had immediately gone home and researched curcumin. She couldn’t believe that she had never heard about it sooner. Impressed by what she had read, she went out and bought the supplement that very same day. Forty-eight hours later, she was already feeling better. In fact, the results were so surprising to her that she began calling all her friends and family and telling them about the progress she’d made while taking it for only a few short days. More than a year later, she still thanks me for telling her about curcumin every time she sees me!
My Personal Experience with Curcumin
I stumbled upon the benefits of curcumin in 2010, as facial muscle spasms, neck, and low back pain kept me in constant agony. At that time, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and I wouldn’t learn that I had Lyme disease for another three years. To find some abatement of my pain, I tried medications for nerve pain, muscle relaxants, tricyclic antidepressants, and low dose narcotics. These drugs left me feeling hungover and with zero reduction in the discomfort.
Determined to find some help, I dove into the well-worn pages of one of my favorite books, Prescription for Natural Cures, by James Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D. In this book, the clinicians refer to curcumin as an outstanding anti-inflammatory herb. Could this be the answer I’d been looking for? Since I wasn’t obtaining relief from traditional treatments, I decided to mention this herb at my next appointment with my functional medicine doctor.
Thankfully, my doctor had been reading studies on the pain-reducing properties of curcumin, so he was highly in favor of me giving it a try. He recommended I take three to four 500mg capsules/day, and the brand needed to contain at least 95% curcumin for the most powerful antioxidant support. He advised me that it could take up to 8 weeks before I would feel a difference, so I needed to stick with the supplement until our next follow-up visit. Much to my pleasant surprise, I began to notice a decrease in neck and back pain around the seven-week mark. Furthermore, six years have passed since my initial introduction to curcumin, and I am still using it to help control my pain levels. While it hasn’t eliminated all aspects of my pain, it has reduced it to more tolerable levels. Hopefully, curcumin will be as beneficial to you as it has been to me.
More About Curcumin
- Curcumin is a beneficial compound extracted from the herb turmeric.
- It has been used for medicinal purposes in Ayurveda for centuries.
- Curcumin is an effective inhibitor of some of the body’s most potent inflammatory chemicals.
- By lowering inflammation, curcumin helps ease aches, pains, and soreness.
- In several studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be similar to those of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents like ibuprofen.
- It protects DNA against oxidative stress.
- Curcumin increases detoxification pathways in the liver–processes that are vital to rid our bodies of accumulated toxins.
- It provides the body with additional antioxidant support by boosting glutathione levels.
Potential Side Effects
- Don’t take curcumin if you are pregnant.
- Always consult with your doctor before adding curcumin into your Lyme treatment protocol; it could potentially interact with other medications or herbs you are taking.
- Some literature suggests curcumin may have blood-thinning properties. Please consult with your healthcare provider if you are already on blood-thinners or having an upcoming surgery.
- Although rare, allergies have been reported with the use of curcumin and usually show up in the first few days of using it. If you experience an increase in itching, swelling, or blotchy skin after consumption of this supplement, please discontinue it immediately and call your doctor.
- In high doses, curcumin may cause stomach upset. If this occurs, you may need to take the supplement with food, lower the dose, or discontinue it altogether.
Balch, J.F., & Stengler, M. (2004). Prescription for Natural Cures. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Turmeric. (n.d). retrieved from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78