Curcumin arthritis

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Turmeric, a component of curry spice mixtures and an integral component for Asian and Latin cooking, has long been used for disease treatment in both traditional Chinese and Ayurevedic medicine.

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Dr Nadir Arber (Lev-Ari S, Strier L, Kazanov D, et al. Curcumin synergistically potentiates the growth-inhibitory and pro-apoptotic effects of celecoxib in osteoarthritis synovial adherent cells.Rheumatology 2006; 4:171-177 ) reports that curcumin not only has anti-inflammatory properties but also synergistically potentiates the beneficial effects of celecoxib (Celebrex).

The effects of curcumin are due to inhibition of COX-2, resulting in a 95% reduction in production of prostaglandins, but also to non-COX-2 processes. The synergy with celecoxib was so striking that adding curcumin might permit the use of much lower doses of celecoxib, thereby reducing the risk of side effects such as cardiovascular problems.

Curcumin inhibits COX-2 and has been the subject of considerable interest in cancer treatment and prevention. Arber reasoned that combining curcumin with a COX-2 inhibitor with a different mechanism of action might also be useful for treating joint inflammation such as OA or rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Arber used bits of human synovial tissue collected during total-knee-replacement surgery to prepare cultures of OA synovial adherent cells. These cells were then exposed to different concentrations of celecoxib and curcumin and combinations of the two.

A synergistic effect was observed in inhibition of cell growth when the cells were exposed to various concentrations of celecoxib combined with curcumin.

The effects of curcumin are only partly due to reductions in COX-2 activity. Curcumin affects numerous molecular targets, including transcription factors such as NF- B, cell-cycle proteins such as cyclin D1 and p21, and cytokines such as TNF, IL-1, and IL-6. It also appears able to directly protect cartilage from inflammation-related damage. Shakibaei et al found that curcumin protected cultured human chondrocytes from IL-1- (IL-1b)-induced degradation by preventing activation of matrix-degrading enzymes, preventing downregulation of matrix production, and reducing chondrocyte apoptosis (Shakibaei M, Schulze-Tanzil G, John T, et al. Curcumin protects human chondrocytes from IL-1-beta-induced inhibition of collagen type II and beta-1-integrin expression and activation of caspase-3: an immunomorphological study. Ann Anat 2005; 187:487-497).

Another recent study compared the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin versus standard non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDS). Not only was curcumin (in the form of cilantro) miore effective than NSAID, it also was tolerated better. Score one for the natural medicine crowd!

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