Sciatica is not a disease itself but a symptom of some health ailments.
Also commonly referred to as low back pain, it is caused by the injury of sciatic nerve responsible for sensation in most parts of the leg.
Sciatica is commonly caused by herniated disc, lumber stenosis, piriformis syndrome, tumours or pelvic injuries.
Some risk factors which contribute to the development of sciatica include age (45-65 yrs), height, mental stress, poor lifestyle habits like smoking, decreased physical activity or strenuous physical activity etc.
Studies and surveys have shown that sciatica is a very common symptom throughout the world.
So what should we do? How can we get rid of this symptom?
With the advancement and high popularity of allopathic medicine nowadays, the usage traditional natural herbal medication has reduced.
We spend large amounts of money on drugs unaware of the fact that most of the ailments we are suffering from can be easily and effectively prevented as well as cured with various kinds of herbs, spices etc.
Turmeric for Treating Sciatica
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a well known golden- coloured spice found in every Indian kitchen. Apart from being an important colouring and flavouring agent in culinary, it is also a powerful curative in the healthcare industry.
The credit for potent remedial actions of turmeric goes to the polyphenolic compound in it called Curcumin.
Various chronic health conditions like pulmonary diseases, metabolic diseases, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and tumours can be effectively cured with the help of curcumin.
Let us see with the help of scientific research studies and evidences if Turmeric can be used to fight the symptom of sciatica or not.
1. Anti Inflammatory action
Inflammation of dorsal root is an important cause of sciatica. Pro inflammatory cytokines produce inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs are widely used for curing low back pain.
A large number of studies have been performed to test the efficacy of NSAIDs for alleviating symptoms of sciatica.
One of the most important properties of curcumin is its ability to reduce inflammation.
A review article titled “Anti-inflammatory properties of Curcumin-A major Constituent of Curcuma longa.
A review of pre-clinical and clinical research” and “Curcumin- a natural anti-inflammatory agent “discuss in detail the mechanism of anti-inflammatory action of curcumin.
They indicate that curcumin inhibits the expression of inflammatory enzymes like cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), lipoxygenase and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS).
What do we conclude? Curcumin in turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory properties.
It reduces inflammation by a number of different mechanisms by targeting inflammation- inducing molecules.
Since proinflammatory cytokines produce neuropathic pain and turmeric can suppress the release of inflammatory cytokines, we can conclude that it may serve as an effective therapeutic against sciatica.
2. Turmeric is comparable to corticosteroids in producing analgesic effect
The lumbosacral radicular pain in sciatica can be effectively relieved by administration of corticosteroids.
Studies have proven that epidural corticosteroids produce analgesic effect for a short period of time and may also be effective for long-term durations.
Corticosteroids however produce a large number of adverse effects like immuno- suppression, Hyperglycemia , psychiatric disorders like depression , cardiovascular side effects like hypertension , gastric bleeding etc.
Several research studies conducted for other diseases indicate that Curcumin is favourably comparable to corticosteroids.
A research conducted on patients suffering from chronic anterior uveitis compared the efficacy of curcumin and corticosteroids in improving the condition of the suffering patients.
The research lasted for 12 weeks and it was concluded that although the results were comparable, curcumin was still better than corticosteroids because of no significant side effects that it produced in contrast to corticosteroid.
Similarly, another research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, titled “effects of curcumin in treatment of experimental pulmonary fibrosis:
A comparison with hydrocortisone” conducted on rats injected with bleomycin indicates that curcumin is as effective as corticosteroid hydrocortisone in prevention of bleomycin- induced pulmonary fibrosis in patients.
What do we conclude? These studies show that curcumin has similar therapeutic effects to corticosteroids which are commonly used as analgesics against lower back pain in sciatica.
But, considering the fact that corticosteroid produce harmful short- term and long- term adverse effects on patients’ health, curcumin should be preferred over corticosteroids.
Extensive research of curcumin on sciatica patients is thus required.
3. Anti-depressant properties of curcumin
Sciatica is also referred to as mixed pain syndrome as it is caused by neuropathic and nociceptive pains.
The commonly prescribed non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs only reduce nociceptive pain. To relieve neuropathic pain, the patients are needed to be administered with antidepressants.
A research published in Europe PubMed Central suggests the importance of anti-depressants like Amitriptyline along with Non- steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs to treat sciatica completely.
However, chemically produced anti- depressants also produce risks of several side effects.
Turmeric can be helpful in this context too. It has a proven potent anti- depressant like activity that too with no significant side effects.
A research shows that aqueous extracts of turmeric produced anti-depressant effects on mice in vivo by inhibiting monoamine oxidize enzymes and another indicates that curcumin also increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters.
A research published in the journal Current Therapeutic Research investigated the effects of curcumin in prevention of chronic neuropathic pain in rats with chronic construction injury (CCI) of sciatic nerve.
After observing them for 7 days, it was deduced that curcumin treatment successfully prevents chronic neuropathy caused after peripheral nerve injury by inhibition of p-ERK and p-JNK antibodies.
What do we conclude? The studies indicate that curcumin can be an efficient alternative to anti-depressants in relieving neuropathic pain in sciatica patients.
Its ability to increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine and decrease the levels of monoamine oxidize enzymes make it a potent anti-depressant.
Dosage and Consumption
Turmeric has been used for preventing and curing a large number of diseases like arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes etc. since time immemorial. However, the exact therapeutic dosage is not known.
Only Small amounts of turmeric are usually added in Indian and few other Asian cuisines for colour and flavour.
The therapeutic dosage is not well established for children.
It is best to make turmeric as part of your diet to get its amazing benefits.
One can take upto 1 tsp of good quality turmeric powder a day. If you already have a good brand or can make your own powder, that’s great. If not please check list of recommended brands here.
It is important to include fats or black pepper in your diet to get best results of turmeric as otherwise it is poorly absorbed in the body.
There are hundreds of other great ways to include turmeric in diet. Here are some awesome recipes
Turmeric is completely safe when consumed as a spice. Please avoid taking supplements unless absolutely required.
There may be some side effects of turmeric, but they are minor – It may cause stomach upset or ulcers if taken in large amounts.
Due to its anti-histamine properties, it can inhibit the process of blood clotting and can act like blood thinner. Therefore its consumption should be stopped 2 weeks before a surgery.
Pregnant or breast feeding women are advised not to consume turmeric in therapeutic dosage. It is safe if taken in small amounts with food.
Turmeric can cause hypoglycemia. Hence, diabetic patients who are already taking prescribed drugs should consult a doctor before taking turmeric supplements.
In a nutshell, we can say that Turmeric, also regarded as “The Indian Saffron” or “The golden spice” is a major spice in the eastern parts of the world.
Its golden colour and magical aroma make it an important part of the spice cabinet. However, its use is not limited only to culinary. It is highly popular in the health care industry as well.
Sciatica, a symptom characterized by acute lower back pain and pain in legs, feet and even toes can be treated with the help of turmeric.
Its anti- inflammatory and anti- depressant properties as well as the similarity of therapeutic effects of turmeric and usually prescribed medicines and corticosteroids for treatment of sciatica indicate that turmeric may work as a powerful remedy against sciatica.