Turmeric has been around a long time. It was first isolated in 1815 and its chemical structure was determined in 1973. This powder has been extensively used as a spice, food preservative and coloring in the East (India, China, Central and Southeast Asia). Turmeric is also reputed to be of value for its medicinal properties, with some believing that it's useful in treating such conditions as biliary disorders, anorexia, cough, diabetic wounds, hepatic disorders, rheumatism and sinusitis.
A new clinical trial, headed by professor of Medicine, Dr. Janet Funk, at the University of Arizona, is set to investigate whether adding turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) as a dietary supplement will help patients with rheumatoid arthritis, or RA. Her group is studying its effects upon those patients who have had an inadequate response to standard therapy for the treatment of RA, which primarily includes anti-inflammatory medication, methotrexate, corticosteroids, and in refractory cases, the newer immunomodulators such as Enbrel and Humira.
The trial aims to recruit 45 participants who have been diagnosed with RA and will last two months. This study will seek to determine the safety of turmeric and its effective doses.
Dr. Funk and her team had been able to demonstrate that turmeric had chemical substituents that were able to blunt the body s inflammatory response. They aimed to determine which molecules were specifically responsible for this feature.
Per a quote in MDLinx, In our experimental studies, we found turmeric inactivates a protein that is essentially the commander of a fleet of inflammatory proteins made by the body. When you block this protein, the fleet does not sail, Dr. Funk said. Interestingly, the same protein is also a master regulator of bone breakdown, which is also a problem in RA, so turmeric s blockade of this protein is sort of a two for the price of one situation in RA.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune, systemic inflammatory disease. It's still unknown what triggers it. The body's immune system attacks the joints, eroding and destroying the surrounding architecture of the joint including cartilage and bone. If unchecked, persistent and unabated inflammation can lead to serious debilitating consequences.
One of the main goals of therapy is to recognize the disease early enough so that proper anti-rheumatic medications, known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), can be initiated . These medications help to control the disease and prevent joint injury and disability.
The problem with these medications, however, is that they are not without potentially significant side effects. Methotrexate, for example, is an anti-cancer drug that can have serious adverse effects, such as bone marrow suppression, lung and liver toxicities. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications also have considerable gastrointestinal irritation and can cause bleeding. Other agents such as steroids or biologic agents can suppress the immune system and predispose the patient to infections. There are some patients that may continue to have symptoms despite being on appropriate treatment.
Rheumatoid arthritis can range from mild to severe affecting not just the joints but other organs as well. Treatment for the disease is imperfect and potentially toxic. While it is never recommended to take dietary supplements, as they have not been properly studied and may have bad side-effects or drug-drug interactions, it is good to know that there are strides being made to study alternative options in a rigorous and scientifically sound manner. Hopefully, turmeric will add more than just flavor to the arsenal of medications at our disposal to treat RA.