Gout affects the joints and is a type of arthritis which occurs when there is an excess buildup of uric acid in the body. This causes formation of crystals on the joints which leads to inflammation. Gout is usually a hereditary condition although those with high triglycerides, consume excess alcohol, eat purine-rich foods (shellfish, meat or sweetbreads) or have a metabolic syndrome can all develop gout. Men are more susceptible to gout although post-menopausal women can also develop it.
Inflammation and severe pain of one joint (usually the bottom of the big toe) is the classic symptom of gout. Other joints of the feet, wrist, fingers, elbows, wrist, ankles or knees can also get affected. Other symptoms are – high fever, red, shiny, hot and swollen joints. Doctors usually prescribe NSAIDs to deal with the pain and swelling. Patients are advised to avoid foods that trigger attacks and alcohol. Alternative therapies, nutritional supplements, herbs, acupuncture and homeopathy are also used to treat gout.
Turmeric For Gout
Experience has shown that herbal remedies for gout are safe for long term use. On the other hand long term use of NSAIDs and other anti-inflammatory drugs can cause side effects like stomach ulcers, indigestion etc. Natural remedies can be used as capsules, powders or teas, glycerites or tinctures. Some herbal medications are known to tone the body and protect the immune system. Some popular herbs used for inflammatory conditions like gout are cranberry, green tea, devil’s claw, cat’s claw, bromelain and turmeric. I would have been surprised if turmeric was not included in the list :).
Turmeric (curcuma longa) has been used for centuries in cooking and as an herbal remedy in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Curcumin which is the pharmacological agent in turmeric is a powerful antioxidant. It can also lower the levels of two inflammatory enzymes in the body. Curcumin is widely used to treat different types of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Since gout is a type of arthritis, turmeric could be used to treat this condition too.
Anti-inflammatory foods are a natural way to prevent gout. Turmeric, taken daily as a spice or supplement could reduce inflammation caused by gout. Other foods that can prevent gout are pineapple, ginger, cherry juice, watercress, hot peppers and lemons.
Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence about the benefit of turmeric for gout (this is the case with most herbal medications and their benefits). However, there are studies on its benefits for other arthritic conditions and these indicate that it could be used to treat gout too. In a study, 107 patients with osteoarthritis were selected and given either 800mg ibuprofen or extracts of turmeric 2g daily for 6 weeks. At the end of the study, both groups of patients suffered from less pain when walking or climbing stairs. There were no adverse reactions too. Since there was no significant difference in adverse effects of both groups, it is suggested that curcumin is a safe and efficient way to treat osteoarthritis of the knees.
Symptoms of gout are said to closely resemble rheumatoid arthritis. Curcumin can ease pain and swelling caused by gout in the following ways. It can inhibit prostaglandins production which causes pain. Being a powerful anti-inflammatory, it can reduce swelling and pain caused by gout. Curcumin has antioxidant properties which reduce production of COX-2 – the inflammatory enzyme. Studies on laboratory mice have found that curcumin is able to slow down start of rheumatoid arthritis. In another study, rheumatoid arthritis was induced in mice and they were then given curcumin. This treatment with curcumin reduced swelling and inflammation of the joints. Curcumin can also help the adrenal gland produce greater levels of cortisone. This could relieve inflammation and pain in gout.
The anti-gout benefits of various herbs and spices like rosemary, cinnamon, celery seeds and leaves and turmeric were studied in rats given potassium oxonate. The rats were given oxonate injection after overnight fasting and the levels of uric acid were determined. Oral administration of these different herbs and spices showed lower levels of both urine and plasma uric acid levels. These natural products also lowered inflammation and oxidative stress. All the plants had high phenolic levels. This study shows that plants with phenolic compounds (e.g. curcumin in turmeric) offer anti-gout activity since they have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Herbs can also reduce levels of uric acid and edema in patients with gout. There are herbal remedies that can be used to relieve symptoms of gout. Make juice out of fresh pineapple and to this add ½ teaspoon each of turmeric and ginger powders. This is a refreshing drink and can relieve inflammation in gout since both curcumin and bromelain (found in pineapple) have anti-inflammatory benefits.
A delicious tea made with turmeric can also help with inflammation. Boil 2 cups of water and to this add ½ teaspoon each of powdered turmeric and ginger. Simmer this mixture for 10 minutes, and then strain. To this add 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup and ½ juice of lemon.
Turmeric can be used as a supplement or spice. It makes delicious tea and can be added to salads, egg dishes and curries. Curcumin is available as capsules, tincture or fluid extract. The recommended dosage of curcumin standardized extract for inflammation is 300mg thrice a day. The recommended dosage for osteoarthritis of Mervia, Indena – a specific extract of turmeric is 500mg twice daily. The dosage of a non-commercial turmeric extract is 500mg four times a day. For rheumatoid arthritis, the dosage is 500mg twice daily of a specific curcumin extract. Try to get curcumin supplements combined with bromelain which is said to increase its anti-inflammatory effects and improve absorption levels.
Turmeric supplements are generally safe for most people. When used as a spice, it can be eaten by children and adults. You must not take turmeric supplements if you have gallbladder disease, pregnant or breastfeeding or require surgery – since turmeric has blood-thinning properties. It could interact with anticoagulant or anti-platelet drugs. It also reacts with diabetic medications and drugs taken to reduce stomach acid. Always consult a doctor if you decide to use turmeric for gout.