Several 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?
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.