Arthritis is a condition in which inflammation occurs in the joints in the body.
There are around 100 types of arthritis.
Juvenile arthritis (JA) is a common type that occurs in children less than 16 years of age.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) are common classifications of JA.
Children are susceptible to all forms of arthritis that can occur in adults but they are most commonly affected by JIA where cause of the disease is not known.
The cardinal symptom of JA is swelling of joints like knees, ankle, wrist, hip, shoulder etc.
Pain and stiffness that gets worse in the morning or after a nap are also common features.
Other symptoms include fever, rash, limping, fatigue, poor appetite and inflammation of other organs and lymph nodes in case of systemic arthritis.
Complications can result into eye disorders or growth problems.
JA is a chronic autoimmune disorder i.e. the body’s immune system attacks cells of the body in the same manner as it would attack a foreign body.
The body attacks its own tissue causing inflammation and stiffness in the joint which hampers and inhibits its growth.
This process spreads to other parts thus making the condition chronic.
Treatment for JA involves administering medicines that control inflammation, physical therapy and alternative therapy.
Juvenile arthritis occurs in children but affects the entire family in the sense that every member has to support and aid the child to overcome all challenges put forward by the disease.
To avoid side effects and the burden of expensive medicines one can opt for herbal remedies such as turmeric.
Turmeric or Indian Saffron, called so due its vibrant yellow color, is famous in Asia for its flavor.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) belongs to the ginger family. It is a perennial plant whose rhizome is famous for its flavor as well as its medicinal use.
Its bright yellow is contributed by compounds called curcuminoids which are proven natural antioxidants.
Studies have also reported their anti-inflammatory and anti- microbial activity.
Curcuminoids consist of curcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin and curcumin makes up 90% of the curcuminoids content.
Another fraction of turmeric is the volatile oil which contributes to medicinal properties and aroma.
7 Evidence Based Benefits of Turmeric For Juvenile Arthritis
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory property has been studied in conjunction with rheumatoid arthritis and not with juvenile arthritis specifically.
Yet the disease manifests in children in the same manner as it does in adults.
We will go over a few research studies involving turmeric’s anti-rheumatic property which can be extrapolated to some extent to juvenile arthritis too.
1. It has anti-arthritic activity
Turmeric can prevent arthritis as it has been reported to have anti-arthritic effects.
A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and food chemistry in 2010 reported that curcuminoids in turmeric extract showed potent anti-arthritic effects when tested in animal models with rheumatoid arthritis which is also an autoimmune disorder.
Moreover, the essential oils found in turmeric were capable of inhibiting swelling in the joints thus exhibiting a protective effect.
Another study carried out by Funk et al. was published in the Journal of natural products in 2006 suggested the efficacy of turmeric dietary supplements in treating animal models with rheumatoid arthritis. The study suggested that the major curcuminoids present in the turmeric extract exhibit anti-arthritic effects hence preventing arthritis.
What does this mean?
Turmeric has been proved to have anti-arthritic effects by various research studies and it can thereby be used for treating all kinds of arthritic conditions including juvenile arthritis.
2. It relieves pain
A study published in Nutrition journal in 2016 showed that consumption of anti-oxidant supplements containing curcumin reduced pain and improved function of the knee in patients with osteoarthritis indicating the beneficial role of curcumin in its treatment.
Anti-inflammatory agents like curcumin are likely to relieve pain. The potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin can work as an effective painkiller in reducing pain in the affected joints of patients with arthritis.
What does this mean?
Although various painkillers are available in the market to relieve pain associated with inflammation of joints affected by arthritis they may have side effects. On the other hand, Curcumin being a natural extract is an effective painkiller with little or no side effects and thus can be used to replace such side effect causing analgesics.
3. It improves activity of the immune system
Turmeric has the ability to suppress an overactive immune system and thereby regulate its activity. This property can be helpful in treating juvenile arthritis which is an autoimmune disorder.
An observational study published recently in the Journal of cellular physiology reported that curcumin has the ability to regulate the immune system by stimulating immune cells like T lymphocytes, dendritic cells, B lymphocytes, macrophages and natural killer cells. It can help prevent immune system related disorders.
An experimental study carried out by Gao et al. in 2004 demonstrated that curcumin in turmeric has an immunomodulatory activity. Curcumin reverses impaired functional activity of the immune system. It was also found to inhibit the activation of certain transcription factors which are produced in excess when the immune system does not function properly.
Results from another study carried out by Yadav et al. in 2005 suggested that curcumin inhibits cell proliferation and production of cytokines by regulation a target gene which is involved in the functioning of the immune system. The study concluded that curcumin gives a positive immunological response.
What does this mean?
Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disorder and curcumin’s ability to regulate the immune system and its cells can play a major role in preventing development as well as treating the condition.
4. It has anti-inflammatory defenses
Arthritis is characterized by inflammation and swelling of the joints. Turmeric extracts have found to inhibit inflammation of the joints in patients with arthritis.
An experimental study published in the Journal of Arthritis and Rheumatism in 2006 showed that curcuminoid containing extracts of turmeric prevented swelling and inflammation in the arthritis affected joints.
This fraction of turmeric was depleted of the essential oils and was capable of preventing activation of nuclear factor- kappa B involved in inflammation along with other inflammatory mediators.
A study carried out by Anna et al. in 2011 demonstrated the anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin in arthritis. The results showed that when turmeric was administered in animal models with arthritis it was capable of preventing degenerative changes in the affected bones and joints and hence reducing pain and inflammation.
What does this mean?
Curcumin regulates various inflammatory mediators preventing inflammation in the affected joints. It also prevents degenerative changes that reduce inflammation and pain to a greater extent. This can be helpful in the treatment of juvenile arthritis as inflammation in the joints plays a major role in pathogenesis of the disease.
5. It has anti-oxidant property
High amount of free radicals and oxidative stress are involved in pathogenesis of arthritis. A diet rich in anti-oxidants can prevent oxidative stress and alleviate symptoms of arthritis.
A study carried out by Panahi et al. in 2016 examined the role of antioxidant curcuminoids on oxidative stress in osteoarthritis by clinical controlled trials.
The results showed that curcuminoids reduce oxidative stress and alleviate symptoms when administered for a short term to patients suffering osteoarthritis. The study administered curcumin with piperine (an extract of black pepper) to increase its bioavailability.
An experimental study suggested that the antioxidant effects of curcumin are capable of reducing the formation reactive oxidant species that cause articular damage hence alleviating symptoms of the disease.
What does this mean?
The antioxidant property of turmeric can play a major role in preventing the articular damage and oxidative stress in joints of patients with juvenile arthritis.
6. It has anti-microbial activity
Sepsis may occur in joints of certain individuals. It is also referred to as septic arthritis as it is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection in the bloodstream that penetrates the joints. It is characterized by inflammation of the joints. If it occurs in infancy or in children it leads to a clinical emergency.
Turmeric has been proved to be an effective anti-microbial agent. Although various spices like ginger and garlic are known to exhibit this property too, turmeric is found to be the most effective amongst them.
A study published in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry in 2013 reported that curcumin inhibits bacterial growth and its essential oils help in preventing bacterial and fungal infections.
Another study published in BioMed International journal in 2014 demonstrated that curcumin and rhizome extracts of turmeric possess antivital, antibacterial, antiparasitic and antifungal activity.
The study also worked upon increasing the bioavailibilty and water solubility of curcumin to enhance its antimicrobial properties. The study concluded that the antifungal activity was stronger than the antibacterial activity.
What does this mean?
Consuming turmeric on a daily basis can reduce risk of development of septic arthritis for patients with juvenile arthritis hence preventing worsening of the condition.
7. It is safe for stomach
Certain drugs are known to cause side effects that include irritation in the stomach and sometimes other stomach disorders or ulcers. All drugs may not be safe for consumption. Curcumin being a natural agent has little or no side effects and research studies suggest that it has gastroprotective activity.
Research studies have found that turmeric helps to treat stomach ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, indigestion and other stomach illnesses like ulcerative colitis. It has been found that curcumin helps improve digestion. It also prevents symptoms like bloating and gas. It prevents worsening of ulcers.
A study published in the journal of Integrative medicine in 2017 showed that curcumin protects against gastrointestinal damage caused by an anti-inflammatory drug called indomethacin. The results suggest that curcumin provides gastro protective action against damage induced by the drug.
What does this mean?
Curcumin shows gastroprotective activity. It can be used in place of drugs that cause side effects and irritation of the gastrointestinal tract on consumption.
Dosage of Turmeric For Juvenile Arthritis
No specific dosage of turmeric is known for juvenile arthritis. However its consumption and inclusion in the diet is safe.
Turmeric is absolutely for children to consume. (Read Is turmeric safe for children?)
Although turmeric and curcumin are known to be poorly absorbed in the body there are various ways by which it’s bioavailability can be increased. (Read How to improve turmeric’s bioavailability?)
A recipe called Golden Paste includes turmeric with black pepper and healthy fats for enhancing its rate of absorption.Golden paste is made from turmeric powder and if you are making it from fresh roots then you can follow this recipe.
Start with small doses such as ¼-1/2 tsp a day for a week and if no gastric side effects are seen increase gradually by ¼-1/2 tsp every week. The recommend dose is 1/2-1 tsp 2-3 times a day depending on the child’s age and weight.
The intake of turmeric must be avoided on an empty stomach and avoid taking large doses of turmeric along with other medication. Maintain 3-4 hour gap between the medication and turmeric intake. (Read Does Turmeric cause acid reflux? Black pepper in GP: Does it cause drug interaction?)
Since there is no specific dose the ideal dose differs from person to person; some require less while some require more. Dosage depends on the amount your stomach can tolerate and metabolize.
Turmeric Milk and Turmeric tea are delicious ways to take turmeric. In fact turmeric milk is a great way of giving children turmeric. To identify good organic brands of turmeric please check our recommendations on best organic turmeric brands.
Consult a doctor if you are planning to take turmeric supplements instead of fresh turmeric.
How to apply turmeric topically?
To relieve arthritic pain turmeric can be applied on the affected joints. Turmeric powder can be mixed in extra virgin olive or coconut oil to form a paste. Slightly warm the oil prior to use to provide relief from pain.
This paste can be applied regularly to affected joint and gently massaged if pain is tolerable. The area can be covered with a gauze and kept for around 30 minutes after which the paste can be washed off with cool water.
Positive effects should be seen within two week if the paste is applied on a regular basis for at least 2-3 times a day. For more details read Topical Turmeric for Inflammation.
Although turmeric is safe it may have some side effects at certain times and following precaution should be considered to avoid these side effects: (Read Side effects of Turmeric):
• Avoid if suffering from gall bladder obstruction
• Avoid if suffering from a bleeding disorder
• Discontinue prior to surgery
Turmeric may cause acid reflux symptoms at times if taken on an empty stomach therefore this can be avoided. (Does turmeric cause acid reflux?)
For patients suffering from bleeding disorders small doses of turmeric in diet are safe but it is best to consult a doctor before taking turmeric or turmeric supplements in this case.
Turmeric may interact with drugs with stomach acid reducing effects of medication, antidepressants, blood sugar reducing drugs etc. Research has found that Curcumin found in turmeric interferes in drug metabolism.
Hence it is advised not to take curcumin supplements together with any other medicine. A gap must be maintained between the intake of both.
Cancer patients must consult a doctor before taking turmeric supplements.
Scientists are looking for all possible ways to treat juvenile arthritis in the most effective way.
Turmeric appears to be a boon to mankind due to all therapeutic and beneficial effects it provides. No study till date examines the efficacy of turmeric in juvenile arthritis, but it has pharmacological properties that can benefit in the same.
Its beneficial properties can be used in future to cure juvenile arthritis improving lives of the children suffering from this disabling disorder so that they can live a normal and healthy life.