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Should You Take Turmeric to Ease Pain?

A reader reports great results using turmeric to ease pain. Before you start swallowing pills, though, you should be aware of possible side effects.
Should You Take Turmeric to Ease Pain?
Top view turmeric capsules in plastic cup isolated on white background

Persistent pain can really wear you down. Consequently, when people discover something that works, they like to share the good news. We recently heard from a reader who got relief from months of terrible discomfort by taking turmeric to ease pain.

Can You Use Turmeric to Ease Pain?

Q. I started taking turmeric pills after reading that this spice might be helpful against pain. Because I work sitting in front of a computer all day, I had terrible pains in my hip, leg and back.

A few weeks after taking one pill a day my pain was greatly relieved. I’ve been taking three pills a week and have had no recurring back problems for three years.

Pros & Cons of Turmeric & Curcumin:

A. Many readers report that turmeric or its active ingredient curcumin can ease pain from a variety of causes. Scientists have found evidence to support this observation (Phytomedicine, Sep. 15, 2018). These reviewers cited “compelling evidence” that curcumin can be helpful. 

There may be risks, though, as this reader relates:

“The turmeric/ginger tea I have been drinking has been very helpful in easing my headaches and fibromyalgia pain. But a rash is driving me crazy! It started on the left side of my neck and has moved down to my chest. I have never had anything like this before.

“When I searched the web, bingo! I learned that turmeric can cause skin rashes. What else can I use as a natural anti-inflammatory without risking a terrible skin rash?”

While we are enthusiastic about turmeric to ease pain, caution is appropriate. Some people are allergic to turmeric. Others experience liver enzyme elevations when they take either turmeric or curcumin medicinally. In addition, people taking anticoagulants should also avoid this yellow spice. Unfortunately, a combination of turmeric with warfarin could lead to elevated INR values or possibly even dangerous bleeding.

Learn More:

To learn more about the benefits and risks of turmeric and other natural anti-inflammatory herbs, we suggest our book, Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life.

Additionally, other natural anti-inflammatory medicines come from the Ayurvedic tradition: ashwagandha and boswellia. Herbs and spices that can help ease joint pain include cayenne, ginger, juniper and rosemary. You’ll find more information about them as well in Spice Up Your Health.

You may also wish to listen to our interview with turmeric researcher Dr. Ajay Goel. You’ll find it in Show 1079: What Is the Science Behind Fabulous Foods for Health?

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Sun J et al, "Role of curcumin in the management of pathological pain." Phytomedicine, Sep. 15, 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2018.04.045
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