Aug. 9, 2011 — Curcumin, which gives the curry spice turmeric its bright yellow color, could be helpful in treating painful inflammatory conditions, such as tendinitis and arthritis, according to researchers at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. and Ludwig-Maxmillians University in Munich, Germany. Their studies show that curcumin can be used to suppress inflammation in tendon diseases.
Not a Cure
Ali Mobasheri, DPhil, of the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, who co-led the research, says, “Our research is not suggesting that curry, turmeric, or curcumin are cures for inflammatory conditions such as tendinitis and arthritis. However, we believe that it could offer scientists an important new lead in the treatment of these painful conditions through nutrition.”
Turmeric has been used for centuries in traditional Indian, or ayurvedic, medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent and remedy for symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome and other disorders. Based on its potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, researchers in several countries are investigating curcumin for use in a variety of diseases, including some types of cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.
The Nottingham-Munich study, due to be published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, used a culture model of human tendon inflammation to study the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin on tendon cells. The main objective of the study was to observe the effects that curcumin had on the inflammatory and degenerative properties induced by molecules called interleukins. The results showed that curcumin prevents interleukins from promoting inflammation.
Tendons, the tough cords of fibrous connective tissue that join muscles to bones, are essential for movement because they transfer the force of muscle contraction to bones. However, they are prone to injury, particularly in athletes who overstretch themselves and overuse their joints.
Tendinitis is a form of tendon inflammation that causes pain and tenderness close to the joints, and it is particularly common in the shoulders, elbows, knees, hips, heels, and wrists. Examples of common tendon disease include tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and Achilles tendon injury.
The global incidence of tendinitis is on the increase in line with the rise in aging and inflammatory diseases. It is also linked to other arthritic and rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, are used to relieve the pain and inflammation of tendinitis. In more serious cases of tendon injury, steroid injections can be given directly into the tendon sheath to control pain and enable physiotherapy to start. However, NSAIDS and steroids are associated with side effects, such as stomach ulcers, nausea, vomiting, and other problems affecting the digestive system, as well as headaches, drowsiness, and fatigue.