Grit Blogs > Waking up in Kansas

Turmeric for Inflammation Is Now Mainstream

By K.C. Compton

Tags: Tumeric, Herbal medicine, Herbies,

KC ComptonSeveral years ago when I first read about taking turmeric to fight the pain of arthritis, the notion was quite alternative and woo-woo. It didn’t seem so to me, because I know that at least a quarter of the medicines on the market in this country originated with plant medicines, and turmeric (the spice that gives curry its yellow hue) has been used for thousands of years as a healing herb.

However, any time I mentioned to a doctor that I was taking turmeric or any of the other herbs I use for various maladies, I would get The Look, a mixture of patronized bemusement that mentally patted me on the head for my quaint belief system. In a sign of how far we’ve come in just a decade or so, I recently was going through the routine “What medications do you take?” conversation with my doctor, and when I said, “turmeric,” she nodded and said, “For inflammation?”

Yessssss! A minor triumph to be sure, but I’ll take ‘em where I can get ‘em. Now I see that this month’s issue of the AARP magazine (hey, Vince Gill and Amy Grant were on the cover – and they’re not that old) has an article on “Painkillers in Your Pantry” that mentions turmeric. The magazine also has a sidebar on the anti-inflammatory diet, which could go a long way toward reducing a lot of our aches and pains if we were willing to forego bad fats and processed foods and eat lots of fruits and veggies. A simple step, yes?

Turmeric gives curry a distinctive color, and it fights inflammation as well.Even the iconic Reader’s Digest has now come out with “The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs,” which includes not only cooking and gardening, but information on each herb’s uses for health and beauty. We herbies have arrived!

Without going all Old Hippie on you, I will say that giving herbs, spices and teas a chance, along with a healthy diet, can keep our medicine cabinets a lot less cluttered. I don’t subscribe to the “herbs = good; prescription medications = automatically bad” paradigm. Some prescription meds are important and useful. What I can get on a very creaky soapbox about is trying herbs, diet and exercise before we go to the hard stuff.

I know taking turmeric daily has so far meant that my family history of arthritis has bypassed me. As soon as I forget to take the bright yellow herb for a while, I notice myself aching and feeling old. I start the turmeric again and in a few days I forget that I had been hurting.

NOTE: as with most plant medicines, the effect is not instant. You sometimes have to take it a while – a month or longer – before you notice the effect. But if you could give up anti-inflammatory drugs, with their toll on your internal organs, wouldn’t it be worth the wait? If you want to try taking turmeric, you can take it while you’re taking the hard stuff, then taper off the drugs and see how you feel. The herb doesn’t have side effects. As with all things medical, be sure to involve your health-care professional in this decision.

Turmeric is readily available in capsule form – a fact I didn’t know when I first started taking it. I tried to sift it into capsules myself and ended up with some gnarly looking fingers. Learn from my mistakes, Grasshopper, and you might ease your aches and pains without having to go around looking as though you had randomly tattooed your fingertips.

mary carton
5/8/2011 2:05:04 PM

I know when I first started drinking green tea, I got the look at work and was hearing snide comments. Now half of my friends are drinking green tea after all the articles came out about it's benefits. After having severe problems with an arthritis drug which later was taken off of the market, I've been using glucosamine/chrondroitin since I had one of my knees replaced 12 yrs ago. I'll have to try the tumeric. Oh hope your orchid is better. Mary

k.c. compton
5/6/2011 4:32:38 PM

Hi Shannon - You would have to eat a lot of curry or whatever to get enough of it to make sense medicinally, so yes, taking it in capsule form is probably necessary unless you're a HUGE fan of curry. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. :=} But yes, it definitely helps to add it when you can to your diet, too. Ganso - Thanks for the information. That tea sounds delicious. I don’t know about heat reducing some of the turmeric’s activity, but I do know it’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, so it must be good for something! --kc

5/6/2011 12:26:08 PM

I like to add tumeric, as well as a pinch of cayenne pepper and fresh ginger, to Indian masala tea, along with whatever combination of cloves, cardamom etc. and granular Brooke Bond type tea. Tastes great. Not sure if heat denatures some of the activity in the tumeric, but I started doing this a long time ago because my Indian friends (in India) put tumeric and pepper in their tea, especially when they have a cold.

s.m.r. saia
5/2/2011 7:33:26 AM

Hi K.C., Can you get the same effects just by eating it in your food? Is the reason to take it in capsule form so that you can ingest a sufficient amount every day to keep it in your system, without eating the same kinds of food every day? Or would it make a difference to just include food seasoned with turmeric into one's regular rotation of meals? I use it from time to time...the main thing I do wtih it is to make a paella kind of dish, I use it to season the rice and to turn it yellow. It's kind of my fake-saffron stand-by..... Thanks for the information!