Arthritis pain is not easy to deal with especially if you’re having a recent flare-up. You would usually expect medications to work immediately, and sometimes you need an intramuscular or intravenous application to relieve pain in severe cases.
Turmeric has a substance called curcumin, which is useful for arthritis. It cannot be compared to those drugs used in emergency situations, but it is also pretty useful. There are many clinical trials on the use of turmeric for arthritis pain. But how much should you wait before it has an effect?
Some clinical trials on turmeric and arthritis
Most search engines would tell you that turmeric takes up to 12 weeks to relieve arthritis pain. But is this accurate? Does that mean that you need to use turmeric every day for 12 weeks before it starts having an effect? Not really. There is no final word on how much it takes, but we know it is not an immediate effect.
Most clinical trials take 1-6 months to complete, and the average is around 3 months. After 3 months, patients are followed-up, and doctors evaluate their pain symptoms and compare them to the baseline. That’s why some people think that it takes 12 weeks to relieve arthritis pain with turmeric. But measuring pain reductions at week 12 does not mean that patients did not experience pain reduction before that time. All we have to do is look for a short-term study, one that evaluates patients before that time.
We do have such a study. It was a randomized trial where participants took 1,500 mg of turmeric extract, and pain levels were measured at weeks 2 and 4. The results were similar to taking 800 mg of Ibuprofen every day. So, turmeric has the same anti-inflammatory effect as Ibuprofen, but without the gastrointestinal side effects.
We can take it further and examine another study suggesting that curcumin phytosomes start having an effect 2-4 hours after ingestion. Pain-relieving effects were compared to 2g of acetaminophen, but the study was not performed in patients with arthritis, and curcumin was administered along with other ingredients in a commercial supplement.
After evaluating the evidence, this is our final answer to the time it takes for turmeric to relieve arthritis pain:
Levels of pain in arthritis are expected to reduce after consuming turmeric for as little as 2 weeks. Turmeric’s short-term effect can start after 2-4 hours for certain supplements at a high dose and for certain patients.
Why is turmeric helpful?
Arthritis features a severe inflammatory process in the articulations. That is the primary source of pain. This is common for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The only difference is that rheumatoid arthritis triggers inflammation due to an overly active immune system and osteoarthritis’ inflammation is due to mechanical wear and tear of the articulation. In both cases, the body tries to defend itself by creating substances called cytokines. Many of those cytokines depend on one molecule known as NF-kB. This molecule switches the cytokine molecule on, and the body produces cytokines and causes inflammation.
When you treat arthritis with steroids, you’re making this NF-kB silent, not allowing this switch to turn on genes and synthesize cytokines. And, according to scientific evidence, turmeric does the same. It inhibits the formation of cytokines and reduces systemic and localized inflammation.
Another effect of curcumin has to do with the migration of macrophages. These cells circulate throughout the body. When they detect inflammation, they would stop, leave the bloodstream, and enter the inflamed tissue. They protect the body and kill the invaders, except that there are no invaders, and healthy tissue becomes their target.
What turmeric does is modulating the migration of macrophages. It reduces a substance called MCP-1, which recruits new macrophages into the tissue. It also reduces the count of macrophage precursors in the blood and reduces the activity of key enzymes for inflammation, such as LOX and COX2.
Should I spice it up or go for supplements?
Turmeric gives a great flavor and color to your foods, but a sprinkle of this spice is unlikely to cause any long-lasting effects. If your symptoms of arthritis are moderate or severe, it won’t make any difference. Just so you know, turmeric has less than 10% of total curcuminoids.
Most clinical trials use a minimum of 200 mg, and the best curcumin supplements should contain 95% of curcuminoids. We use such a high dose because curcuminoids are not easy to absorb. Sometimes we need to use other ingredients in the supplement, such as black pepper extract (piperine), to facilitate curcumin absorption. Otherwise, it would be eliminated in the feces.
For this reason, if you’re considering turmeric as a natural option to relieve arthritis pain, we recommend supplements instead of using the spice for this purpose. Indeed, it won’t be wrong if you complement the supplement dose with a sprinkle of turmeric. Neither curcumin nor turmeric has documented side effects other than minor gastrointestinal symptoms and dermatitis. So, they are considered “generally safe” to use and pose no danger to us regardless of our age.
Still, we recommend talking to your doctor if you are including turmeric as a complementary treatment for arthritis pain. Remember that the effect is not immediate, and you usually have to wait for hours or a few days before it has an impact. When formulated with other ingredients and at a high dose, turmeric may take 2-4 hours to take effect. Still, arthritis pain studies with turmeric-only supplements have a minimum of 2-4 weeks before an apparent effect is detected in most patients.
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