turmeric on a wood cutting board beside a wooden spoon

Turmeric – Top 4 Benefits for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Introduction

Turmeric is one of the most researched plants in existence, but also one the most over-hyped. That said, let’s go over the basics. Curcumin is the primary active component in turmeric responsible for it’s many benefits. This vibrant plant is much more than just that orangey spice powder used in Indian curry.

Turmeric can be found in the grocery store in either the rhizome form in the produce section or as a powder on the spice isle. This ancient spice has been used for centuries in Chinese and Indian medicine, but has made a major resurgence in the west in recent years.

Turmeric Benefits

1. Turmeric is a natural inflammation fighter. While acute, short-term inflammation is beneficial, as it can help the body heal from an injury, the low level chronic variety may lead to chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimers.

Curcumin may fight inflammation as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs — without the side effects of prescription drugs. It’s not an analgesic, but it helps take your pain away so you can get going and get your body moving.

By preventing the release of inflammatory enzymes and cytokines in the body, it may help relieve the inflammation in the tendons and joints related to RA.

2. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant. Tumeric gives a knock-out punch to oxidative compounds by neutralizing free radicals and boosting the antioxidant capacity of the body.

3. Tumeric may decrease to the risk of inflammatory diseases. If you have RA, you may be at increased risk of other chronic inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimers disease. Curcumin shows great potential in decreasing the inflammation associated with these conditions.

4. Turmeric may aid in reducing joint pain and swelling. Those of us with RA are all too familiar with the debilitating effects of chronic pain. Curcumin may work as well as NSAIDS or prescription drugs for some people. If taking a supplement, remember Curcumin makes up only a small percentage of turmeric — about 2-6%–so be sure to check the standardized amount of Curcumin in the supplement.

The Drawbacks

1. Unfortunately, Curcumin is not easily absorbed in the body. One simple remedy is to add black pepper when cooking as piperine in black pepper aides in absorption. Since turmeric is fat soluble, adding some fat when cooking may also boost absorption. Likewise, adding heat may increase its bioavailibility — a cup of turmeric tea anyone?

2. If taken in capsule form, be careful not to overdo as there may be mild side GI side effects such as nausea and indigestion. Tinctures don’t appear to have the same GI side effects as capsules.  

3. However, Turmeric supplements may be contraindicated with certain medications such as blood thinners, anti-diabetic drugs, and iron supplements. It is a uterine stimulant so should not be used in pregnancy or while breastfeeding as it can stimulate androgen, a male sex hormone.

Can Liposomes Improve Turmeric Absorption?

The short answer is yes. A liposome, along with a little nano technology mixed in, puts a hard shell around the nutrients in a supplement so it bypasses your stomach acids, thereby, improving absorption. 

But, what exactly is a liposome? Well, it’s a fat soluble compound that grabs onto the nutrient resulting in better absorption and less waste. Liposomes help nutrients better cross the blood – brain barrier which may aid its absorptive properties.

Liposomes are the gold standard for high quality concentrated herbal supplements as they’re better absorbed.  The Turmeric in a tincture may be better absorbed than a capsule. Tinctures are more potent and absorbed faster than capsules – 1-4 minutes for a liquid versus about 30 minutes for a capsule. 

If using a tincture, here is a quick at home test to see if the supplement does indeed contain liposomes.  Add 1 drop to a glass of water and if it dissolves, the supplement doesn’t have liposomes.  The drop should remain intact and drop to the bottom of the glass if liposomes are present. 

Conclusion

While not without its drawbacks, the benefits of Turmeric make it worth considering adding it to your RA regimen. I personally use a supplement and feel it has helped improve my joint inflammation. While supplements are not for everyone, it may be worth adding to your diet as the side effects are much milder.

About the author

Susan Taylor, RDN LD is a registered dietitian / nutritionist with 20+ years experience in the nutrition field.  Susan has worked in a variety of clinical settings including hospitals, longterm care, rehab, and private practice. She currently enjoys life in the Charleston, SC area and is always looking for ways to fit in a little more beach time.