Have you noticed how popular Turmeric has become lately? The purported benefits of this ancient remedy have gone viral, and now you can find turmeric in everything from chocolate bars, lattes, teas, and of course, your favorite curry! So I wondered, is turmeric good for back pain?

If your back pain is a result of inflammation, then studies support turmeric’s ability to help relieve your back pain. There’s more to the answer, such as side effects and deadly drug interactions which I’ve written more about below.

Do you take turmeric or its extract curcumin? Comment below and tell me what you think. Also, check out my article about Heal-n-Soothe, a comprehensive supplement that targets inflammation.

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Isn’t Turmeric a Culinary Spice?

It is true that the yellow colored powder is a spice that is often found in curries. Turmeric is also used as a food color due to its bright yellow hue. American mustard, for instance, is colored with turmeric.

tumeric-curcumin

The spice has surged in popularity over the past decade or so due to increasing evidence suggesting its anti-inflammatory properties and claims of preventing other diseases as well.

Interestingly, turmeric has been used for hundreds, maybe thousands of years in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory treatment! It leaves me scratching my head as to why we are just getting around to studying its properties.

The Evidence

A 2006 study showed researchers who had already been able to use turmeric to prevent joint inflammation in rats a little more about how the extract works in the body. There’s some technical stuff in that study that I don’t fully understand, but the conclusion that the researchers came to was that the findings of this study supported further research to assess turmeric’s effectiveness on rheumatoid arthritis.

If your issue is osteoarthritis, like me, there is support for turmeric being able to help us too. A study in 2009 compared two grams of turmeric to 800mg of ibuprofen in patients with osteoarthritis. Both seemed to work equally well for pain relief. With the adverse effects of long-term ibuprofen use, turmeric appears to be the better choice.

Curcumin is the part of turmeric that eases inflammation, and a 2013 study described how it works. In a nutshell, several factors in our body trigger inflammation and curcumin down-regulates five of them.

How Best to Use Turmeric

The active part of turmeric that works on inflammation and back pain is curcumin. Unfortunately, regular turmeric powder (the seasoning) has around two to six percent curcumin according to physician Randy Horowitz of the University of Arizona.

Fortunately, you can get curcumin extract in supplement form. It is poorly absorbed, however, so Cathy Wong of Very Well Health recommends taking it with an extract of black pepper called piperine. The two work synergistically together to improve absorption of curcumin.

bioavailable curcumin

Doctor’s Best is the most bioavailable. Highly recommend. Available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2TIhGoF

I have found when shopping for curcumin, that most brands include piperine in their formulation. Be sure to check the label as you shop around.

Arthritis Foundation recommends the following dosages:

  • 400-600 mg of curcumin three times per day
    • Or – 1 gram of turmeric powder up to three times per day

Safety Issues

Arthritis Research U.K. has determined that turmeric is generally safe up to 10 grams per day (which is a lot). Considering that you only need about 2 grams to be as effective as ibuprofen, it seems to be a perfectly safe and natural solution.

But, do exercise caution and talk to your physician if you are on blood thinners, anticoagulants, or antiplatelet medicines. Turmeric can thin the blood. Ibuprofen does as well, so ask your doctor which is better.

The Arthritis Foundation also recommends avoiding turmeric if you are having surgery soon, pregnant, or have gallbladder issues, like stones.

Possible Side Effects

Like anything, turmeric can have side effects in some people. I’ve read that it can cause heartburn and upset stomach. Ibuprofen has the same results, especially when taken on an empty stomach. I recommend taking with food and start with a smaller dose to see how your body might react.

heartburn

It should also be noted that turmeric is high in oxalates, which can cause or aggravate kidney stones. Other foods, such as rhubarb, spinach, and almonds are also high in oxalates. If your doctor has told you to avoid these foods, then it’s best to avoid turmeric for your back pain as well.

Headaches, rashes, nausea, and diarrhea are reported in higher doses. Remember, more is not always better. If you stick to the recommended doses mentioned, you should be okay. Just listen to your body and doctor!

Conclusion

Turmeric probably won’t help your back pain as much as curcumin (the extract of turmeric with anti-inflammatory properties) might. Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory with antioxidant properties that studies have shown help to relieve pain from joint inflammation (arthritis). If inflammation is the cause of your back pain, then give curcumin a try before resorting to ibuprofen or other products.

If you want to know what I recommend for more effective pain relief then head over to my article here and see what I have to say about Heal-n-Soothe.

Curcumin is generally recognized as safe in the right doses, but can still have side effects and drug interactions, so be sure to check with your medical professional.

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References

Funk, J. L. Frye, J. B. Oyarzo, J. N. Kuscuoglu, N. Wilson, J. McCaffrey, G. Stafford, G. Chen, G. Lantz, R. C. Jolad, S. D. Sólyom, A. M. Kiela, P.R. and Timmermann, B.N. (2006), Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 54: 3452-3464. doi:10.1002/art.22180

Shehzad, A. Rehman, G. and Lee, Y. S. (2013), Curcumin in inflammatory diseases. BioFactors, 39: 69-77. doi:10.1002/biof.1066

Kuptniratsaikul, V. Thanakhumtorn, S. Chinswangwatanakul, P. Wattanamongkonsil, L. and Thamlikitkul, V. (2009) Efficacy and Safety of Curcuma domestica Extracts in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 15:8, 891-897. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0186