The Doctor’s Remedy: Turmeric for Joint Pain
Is your doctor open to alternative medicine? Research shows that despite longstanding resistance, alternative medicine is gaining ground in some doctors’ offices too. A study by Harvard Medical School in May found that one in 30 Americans — as many as six million people — used an alternative therapy after a doctor recommended it, and a recent report in the journal Health Services.
Dr. Minerva Santos, director of integrative medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York recommends turmeric for joint pain.
This orange and yellow spice, famous for its extensive use in South Asian cuisine, also has anti-inflammatory properties. Dr. Santos recommends it frequently to patients complaining of sore and achy joints, and uses it herself to relieve pain in her joints from sports and exercise.
"I use a lot of turmeric in my practice,” she said. “It’s an amazing spice. Usually what I do is I make sure nothing else is going on, that it’s just plain old inflammation from wear and tear."
While many people may encounter turmeric only in curry dishes and South Asian restaurants, Dr. Santos advises her patients to find it in health food stores in pill or capsule form. She recommends a dose of 1,000 milligrams a day. The benefit of buying it in a bottle, she said, is that it’s usually combined with a compound called piperine, which aids absorption.
“In India, whenever they use turmeric they usually have pepper in the meal,” said Dr. Santos. “Piperine is a pepper. It helps the turmeric get absorbed so that it goes into your bloodstream versus staying in your gut.”
Dr. Santos said she recently suggested to her father that he try turmeric after an operation on his hip. He was undergoing rehab and was experiencing pain and stomach issues, another area in which the use of turmeric has been studied.
“He was skeptical,” she said. “But he called me up a few days later and said he was pain-free.”
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