If you’ve worked out or ran for any length of time, chances are you’ve had an encounter with tendonitis. Tendons, the thick bands of connective tissue that join muscles to bones, can become inflamed from injury or overuse. When they do, it causes pain and tenderness that makes working out unpleasant or even impossible. Typically, treatment is rest, ice and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation.
Unfortunately, non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications can have serious side effects. Studies show that people who take them are at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Some people also can’t take or tolerate them because they irritate their stomach. Could there be a natural treatment for tendonitis that doesn’t involve drugs?
A “Spicy” Treatment for Tendonitis?
In a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers used a culture model to look at the effects a common spice ingredient called curcumin would have on tendon inflammation. Curcumin is an ingredient in the spice turmeric that’s used to add flavor to Indian and Thai dishes. When they added curcumin to this culture system, it shut off a molecule that triggers the inflammation and pain of tendonitis. That’s good news if you’re an athlete who loves Indian and Thai food!
It’s not surprising that curcumin in turmeric would be effective against tendonitis. One of the ways in which it works is by blocking the action of Cox-2, an enzyme involved in inflammation that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also block. So, curcumin in the spice turmeric may have some of the benefits of anti-inflammatory medications without the increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In fact, research shows that curcumin may help to ward off some chronic diseases including heart disease.
Other Health Benefits of Curcumin
The anti-inflammatory benefits of curcumin may also reduce painful joint inflammation in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and help to control some autoimmune diseases by its effects on the immune system. It’s also a strong antioxidant that wards off some types of cancer, particularly breast and colon cancer in animals. Researchers are looking at the role curcumin might play in warding off Alzheimer’s disease and obesity. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, curcumin suppresses the growth of fat cells by reducing their blood supply.
Should You Add More Curcumin to Your Diet?
Is curcumin is as effective for treating tendonitis as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications? Hopefully, more research will clarify this. One problem is that curcumin in turmeric isn’t well absorbed by itself, but combining it with black pepper, as in the spice curry, enhances its absorption by up to 2,000%. So the best way to get curcumin naturally is by eating it in the form of curry, which also contains black pepper. Whether or not the curcumin in turmeric pans out as a treatment for tendonitis, you can’t go wrong by adding more curcumin to your diet.
The only people who should avoid it are those taking aspirin or blood thinners since curcumin affects blood clotting in the same way these drugs do. It can also increase contractions of the gallbladder, which isn’t a good thing if you have pre-existing gallstones or gallbladder disease. It’s also not clear whether it’s safe to use during pregnancy.
Otherwise, enjoy adding more of this healthful spice to your diet. It could be a safer alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs.
Arthritis Today. “NSAIDs Increase Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke”
WebMD. “Curcumin May Prevent Clogged Arteries”
J. Nutr. May 2009 vol. 139 no. 5 919-925.
Natural News. “Substance in Black Pepper Increases Nutrient Absorption up to Two Thousand Percent”