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A highly promising pilot study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research[i] broke new ground in 2012 by identifying a safe and effective natural alternative to drug therapy in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a painful and debilitating autoimmune disease that can lead to a substantial loss of mobility and function, if not adequately treated. While gradual disfiguration of flexible joints in the fingers are a characteristic sign of this disorder, RA has the potential to affect many tissues and organs by contributing to chronic, systemic inflammatory activity. Estimates are that RA activity beyond the joints, also known as extra-articular rheumatoid arthritis, affects 15-25% of all individuals afflicted by the condition.[ii]
Standard treatment often involves the use of pharmacological painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs intended to suppress symptoms but not alter the underlying trajectory of the disease. In some cases steroids, and even chemotherapy class drugs like methotrexate are employed, which carry serious if not also on rare occasion lethal side effects.
In the study titled, "A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin patients with active rheumatoid arthritis," forty-five patients diagnosed with RA were randomized into three groups with patients receiving curcumin (500 mg) and diclofenac sodium (50 mg) alone or their combination. Curcumin is the most thoroughly researched pharmacologically active component of the spice turmeric, and which gives this root its bright, saffron colored hue. Diclofenac sodium is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) sold under over 100 different trade names throughout the world, e.g. Aclonac, Cataflam, Voltaren.
The primary study endpoints were reduction in Disease Activity Score (DAS) 28. The secondary endpoints included American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria for reduction in tenderness and swelling of joint scores.
Remarkably, the researchers found that while patients in all three treatment groups showed statistically significant changes in their DAS scores, the curcumin only group showed the highest percentage of improvement in overall DAS and ACR scores (ACR 20, 50 and 70) and these scores were significantly better than the patients in the diclofenac sodium group. They also noted, "More importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse events." [emphasis added]
"Our study provides the first evidence for the safety and superiority of curcumin treatment in patients with active RA, and highlights the need for future large-scale trials to validate these findings in patients with RA and other arthritic conditions." [emphasis added]
If you have followed our work at GreenMedInfo.com, you already know that we have reported extensively on the research indicating that turmeric, and its primary polyphenol curcumin, have a wide range of potential applications for disease prevention and treatment.* For additional information read our research review article titled "600 Reasons Why Turmeric May Be The World's Most Important Herb," or visit our research center: Health Guide: Turmeric Research.
Lastly, our Ailments database contains an extensive data set of Pubmed.gov citations on rheumatoid arthritis, including 41 natural substances of potential value, as well as problematic exposures including chemicals and vaccinations which may participate in the etiology of RA. View the Rheumatoid Arthritis database here.
*This statement is not intended to prevent, treat, diagnosis or cure any disease, rather to indicate that peer-reviewed research exists wherein the authors conclude turmeric (curcumin) has potential medicinal value.
[i] Binu Chandran, Ajay Goel. A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012 Nov;26(11):1719-25. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4639. Epub 2012 Mar 9.
[ii] Turesson C, O'Fallon WM, Crowson CS, Gabriel SE, Matteson EL (2003). "Extra-articular disease manifestations in rheumatoid arthritis: incidence trends and risk factors over 46 years". Ann. Rheum. Dis. 62 (8): 722–7. doi:10.1136/ard.62.8.722. PMC 1754626. PMID 12860726.