And now, on with "Well."
Physician: Dr. Minerva Santos, director of integrative medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York.
Recommended Remedy: Turmeric for joint pain.
What the Doctor Says:
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.”
What the Science Shows: A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2009 compared the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, with ibuprofen for pain relief in 107 people with knee osteoarthritis. The curcumin eased pain and improved function about as well as the ibuprofen. Another study, by researchers at Baylor University Medical Center in 2008, reported that taking curcumin daily in moderate doses for up to three months was safe.