Turmeric vs. NSAIDs for Knee Osteoarthritis

Turmeric vs. NSAIDs for Knee Osteoarthritis

In 2009, a human trial compared the effects of turmeric (Curcuma domestica) versus a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for osteoarthritis of the knee joint. This randomized controlled study examined the safety profile and clinical efficacy of Curcuma domestica extracts for pain reduction and overall functional improvement in subjects with knee osteoarthritis. Subjects with a pain score of >= 5 were given either 800mg/day of ibuprofen or 2000mg of turmeric extracts for 6 weeks. The end points of the study were reduction in pain upon walking, pain climbing stairs, and knee function assessed by subjects walking up and down stairs.

Results of the study showed no difference in pain and functional outcomes for both the NSAID and turmeric groups; there were also no significant difference in the adverse events between the groups; as such the authors reported that Curcuma domestica as being comparable in safety and efficacy to ibuprofen for the management of osteoarthritis of the knee (J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Aug;15(8):891-7.

Naturopathic Options:

While the aforementioned study reported no difference in the adverse events for either NSAID or turmeric, I would advise for subjects with a previous history of peptic or duodenal ulcer to avoid the former in consideration of the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and ulceration. Secondly, the intake of NSAID with alcohol increases one’s risk for liver toxicity, of course, depending on the amount of NSAID and alcohol consumed.

While  turmeric is a great alternative for its anti-inflammatory effects, the herb is also used clinically to support the liver’s detoxification processes (it may alter metabolism of certain prescription drugs); additionally, it is a potent anti-oxidant as well as a blood thinner secondary to its antiplatelet aggregating activity (*Caution for those on Warfarin or Aspirin). Used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, this spice has been found to be useful in traditional medicine for relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. Preclinical studies also indicate curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) has potent chemoprotective actions against a variety of tumors.

Vancouver Health Coach