Among the many types of arthritis, one type is gout or gouty arthritis. It a complex type of arthritis and it can cause burning pain, tenderness, soreness and redness in the affected joint.
The most common joint to be affected is the joint near the big toe. The person having gout can experience a sudden attack of pain which causes burning sensation in the affected region . The gout occurs when excess of uric acid starts accumulating in the blood. This uric acid starts to form crystals in the joints and the joints starts to inflame.
The chances of getting gout increase if a person is taking a lot of alcohol, meat and fish which has purines .
Turmeric for gout
The herb, turmeric, is very popular in Indian and Asian cuisine as a spice which is used in various food items including curries. It is known for its yellowish pigment and its unique pungent flavor.
This herb belongs to the ginger family and it has been a part of the Indian Ayurvedic medicines for thousands of years. The roots of turmeric (Curcuma longa) are usually dried and powdered for use or consumption. Turmeric has been used for healing wounds, beauty regime and hair treatment by the women in ancient times. There have been many studies stating its medicinal properties and its use as treatment for numerous medical conditions.
The main component of turmeric is curcumin which is responsible for most of the medicinal properties. Curcumin has been reported to have anti-arthritic, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
Although there are numerous studies reporting curcumin as a potential treatment for many types of arthritis like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc., there are very few studies reporting the benefits of turmeric for treating gout. The mechanism and mode of action of curcumin is almost similar for all forms of arthritis but there is a need to conduct more studies to spread the awareness of benefits if turmeric for gouty arthritis.
A recent study used a recently purified extract of curcumin-flexofytol to study its effect on gout. Flexofytol has been added as a food additive to many food items used for treating joint related problems. The study reported that flexofytol was effective on gout based on the clinical trials the researchers conducted on patients with gout problems.
They had conducted out trials on 19 people and gave them flexofytol. Out of 19, 17 patients reported that they experienced relief after taking the curcumin extract within 24 to 48 hours. The improvement in the gout condition was of equal significance to that experienced on taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
These NSAIDs are usually conventional drugs which are given as a treatment for many forms of arthritis. These conventional drugs tend to have adverse side-effects. It has been observed that the gouty arthritis condition tends to return even after treatment and patients taking the curcumin reported that this extract was not only beneficial in protecting the joints against the inflammation but also prevented the gout from reoccurring.
The study reported the detailed mechanism by which curcumin is affective as an anti-inflammatory agent. Curcumin is known to block several anti-inflammatory mediators which are involved in the inflammation cascade.
Curcumin is known to suppress the production of interleukins (IL-12) by the CD8, CD4 (type of T-helper white blood cells) and NK cells (natural killer cells-type of white blood cells which control infection and tumors). The interleukins (group of cytokines expressed in cells) further produce nitric oxide which can be harmful for the cells and tissues. It also blocks the production of inflammatory mediators by the gamma interferons (IFN-g- proteins released by cells in response to pathogen attack).
In addition to this, curcumin also blocks the action of enzymes which are involved in inflammation. These enzymes include cyclooxygenase-2, phospholipase and lipoxygenase. Other factors which are inhibited by curcumin are the NF-kB or nuclear factor kappa factor (activation factor for uncontrolled growth of cells) factor which controls the production of cytokines (signaling inflammatory proteins).
Curcumin also has the ability to trap the free radicals produced by the injured cells and tissues. Some studies have reported that it also traps the proinflammatory metals like copper and iron. The curcumin extract was able to have positive effect on the gouty arthritis without any harmful side-effects. In addition, it also slowed down the progression of the medical condition and provided further protection to the cells and tissues of the joints from further damage .
Another study conducted in China investigated the effect of curcumin on gout arthritis. This study reported that curcumin was able to suppress the chronic inflammation. Based on this fact, the researchers speculated that turmeric might be able to treat gouty arthritis. Turmeric was able to inhibit the release and production of an enzyme known as xanthine oxidase.
This enzyme plays an important role in the formation of uric acid. They study observed that turmeric was able to down regulate the production of uric acid and relieved the pain experienced due to gout. The mode of action and mechanism of turmeric was similar to that of conventional drugs used to lower the level of uric acid in the body.
Curcumin in turmeric is known to suppress the production and activity of prostaglandins (PGE1- inflammatory mediators) which cause inflammation and pain in the gout affected joints. In addition to this, turmeric triggers the adrenal glands (endocrine glands present on top of kidneys) to produce and release high amount of cortisone (steroid hormone).
Cortisone plays a vital role in pain relieving and reduction of inflammation. As it reduces the amount of inflammation, subsequently there is a decrease in the oxidative stress which further lowers the amount of uric acid in the blood .
It has been observed that symptoms of gout are similar to that of rheumatoid arthritis . The anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant mechanism is almost similar in all types of arthritis.
Curcumin’s anti-oxidant property enables it to down regulate the production of the COX-2. A study investigated the effect of various spices and herbs including turmeric on animal models which were artificially induced with gouty arthritis by giving an injection of potassium oxonate. These animals were made to fast overnight and the uric acid level was measured on the next day. these animal models were then given the extract of different herbs including turmeric.
The high level of phenolic content in the herbs was able to lower the amount of uric acid in the plasma and urine of the animals. There was a decrease in the amount of inflammation and oxidative stress. The phenolic component in the turmeric and other herbs was able to impart anti-gout activity and lower the gouty arthritis. these herbs like turmeric lower the uric acid level and also lower the edema (swelling caused due to retention of fluid) in the patients suffering from gout .
A study conducted in Arizona University on rheumatoid arthritis investigated the effect of curcumin on animal models artificially induced with arthritic conditions. These rats were administered with doses of curcumin and the results were observed. The results showed that curcumin was able to lower the amount of inflammation in the joints and the associated swelling .
Another study reported the effect of curcumin on the adrenal gland. As mentioned above, curcumin stimulates the adrenal gland to produce cortisone. Thus, it was speculated that by this particular action curcumin could act as anti-inflammatory and pain relieving agent in gouty arthritis as well . Moreover when the white blood cells fight the uric acid crystals, it leads to formation of inflammation in and around that region. The curcumin being an anti-inflammatory is able to reduce the inflammation .
In addition to this, curcumin is a natural agent which relieves the patients from symptoms of gout which include soreness, redness, sudden burning sensation and tenderness of the joints.
Although there are very few studies reporting the actual use of curcumin or turmeric for treating gout, the numerous other studies of curcumin as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can be used as reference to deduce that turmeric is highly beneficial for treating the gouty arthritic condition. Since the basic mode of action is similar in most types of arthritis and gout is a type of arthritis, a conclusion can be drawn on the effectiveness of turmeric on gout.
How to take turmeric
While cooking turmeric is usually added as a spice to curries. the spice impart its yellowish pigment to the dish it is added in. besides the color, turmeric’s unique pungent flavor is also considered a delicacy. Turmeric is most commonly used in the form of a powder where the roots of the herb are dried and ground to fine powder.
The amount to be added to curries depends on the type and amount of curry being prepared. This powder can also be added to milk and taken daily for good health. The most important concern with turmeric is that it has low bioavailability. This is due to the fact that the curcumin molecule is hydrophobic in nature, so it does not dissolve easily into water and water based liquids.
This quality makes it difficult to be absorbed into the blood vessels as it is not properly absorbed into the elementary canal. However, there is a solution to increase the bioavailability i.e. to mix turmeric with healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil and linseed oil. Mixing turmeric with these fats makes the curcumin easy to be absorbed.
That is why when turmeric is added to curries it mixes with the fat content and is absorbed into the system.
The powdered turmeric can also be added to food items like vegetable broth and soups. It can also be added to herbal decaffeinated teas for relaxation and treatment. Besides eating, turmeric powder can be mixed with fats and directly applied to the affected area as a scrub. Turmeric is also a major ingredient in many ointments, face washes and skin creams .
Turmeric can be taken in many forms and the dosages vary according to the form it is taken. However, these dosages are specified only for adults as there is no evidence of studies which report the dosages for children. The standardized turmeric powder available in the market should be taken within the range of 400-600mg regularly.
The dried root powder can be consumed from 1 to 3 grams daily and the cut toots from 1.5 to 3 grams. Turmeric is also available in the tincture and fluid form. The tincture for can be taken four times daily from 15-30 drops while the fluid extract should be take from 30 to 90 drops on the daily basis .
The spice form of turmeric is safe for regular consumption in food and there have hardly been any repots of people suffering from side-effects of taking the spice regularly. However, if used as treatment for a specific health condition, it is recommended to take turmeric under the supervision of a doctor. There are also certain precautions that should be kept in mind.
Taking very high doses of turmeric regularly can cause ulcers and other stomach related problems. People who have gallstone, breastfeeding women, pregnant women and people about to undergo surgery are advised to refrain from taking turmeric. In addition to this, mixing turmeric with diabetic medicines can lead to lowering of the blood sugar level.
It should also not be mixed with blood thinning medicines as turmeric tends to enhance the effect of these medicines. In the same way, turmeric can alter the mode of action of other medicines, if combined with them. Thus, one should consult a doctor before mixing the two medications .
Gout is a complex for of arthritis and it closely resembles the rheumatoid arthritis in many ways. The main problem with having gout is that it tends to come back even after proper treatment.
And the treatment given involves anti-inflammatory drugs which tend to have adverse side-effects. Turmeric offers a great candidate for treating gout as it has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties.
Studies have reported that not only does turmeric treat the gouty arthritis but it also prevents it from coming back if the herb is taken regularly.