Lupus and Turmeric
The spice that gives the most flavorful curry dishes their distinctive taste and color also contains healing properties that may help treat and manage lupus!
- Introduction to Lupus and Turmeric
- How might turmeric help with lupus?
- What are the risks?
- In Conclusion
Introduction to Lupus and Turmeric
Turmeric is an Indian culinary spice that comes from the root of a plant in the ginger family called, Curcuma longa. When the root is ground into a powder, it is a deep yellow/orange color with a flavor that is slightly bitter and slighting sweet. Turmeric contains curcumins – active chemical compounds that gives the spice its unique taste, hue, and even medicinal properties. For thousands of years, turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine – valued for its ability to heal wounds naturally and even treat food poisoning – all thanks to curcumin.
Medical research has been less conclusive, but in some studies, turmeric has been shown to have anti-oxidative, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-diabetic, and anti-cancer properties. In recent years, research has found evidence that turmeric may also be an effective alternative therapy for some rheumatic and autoimmune diseases due to anti-inflammatory qualities.
What does this mean for lupus? There have been many studies focused on rheumatoid arthritis – fewer on lupus. The evidence shows some reduction in the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and lupus nephritis – some reduction in pain and inflammation and some reduction in the amount of protein and blood in urine. Again, the evidence is uncertain, but turmeric may safely treat the symptoms of some autoimmune disease symptoms, potentially improving the quality of life of those with lupus.
How might turmeric help with lupus?
Though many of the studies of turmeric and curcumin have only been conducted in mice with lupus, the results for humans are promising. Through research, scientists have found that turmeric may have some therapeutic effects, including the ability to
- Reduce inflammatory markers, especially C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). One study showed a decrease in American College of Rheumatology RA scores and disease activity scores. Turmeric also protected mice with lupus from developing RA!
- Decrease the production of autoantibodies, including anti-nuclear antibodies.
- Ease the pain of arthritis instead of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. Turmeric has significantly fewer side effects than NSAIDs, which can be hard on the stomach.
Turmeric has shown some promise with lupus nephritis (LN) in mice with decreases proteinuria, systolic blood pressure, and hematuria (blood in the urine). Turmeric use also resulted in the following:
- lowered blood urea nitrogen levels,
- improved glomerulonephritis,
- crescent formation prevention;
- tubule-interstitial disease prevention, and
- lymphocyte reduction in renal tubules.
However, many more studies are needed to understand how turmeric works to produce these results and possibly help people with lupus and LN.
The good news is there do not appear to be any safety risks from turmeric, and there are few reported drug interactions. Studies have shown that even at relatively high concentrations, turmeric is not toxic. Side effects are usually minimal – gastrointestinal upset is the most common. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded through trials that turmeric is safe.
As always, a healthcare practitioner should be consulted before beginning any complementary therapies or treatments with turmeric.
While turmeric is definitely not a substitute for the medications prescribed to treat lupus, and its effects have yet to be widely accepted by the medical community, it may have some therapeutic effects and provide another tool in your lupus management toolkit!
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Prashad, S. & Aggarwal, B. (2011). Herbal medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects (2nd ed.). CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.
Wu, T., Marakkath, B., Ye, Y., Khobahy, E., Yan, M., Hutcheson, J., Zhu, J., Shou, X., & Mohan, C. (2020). Curcumin attenuates both acute and chronic immune nephritis. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(1745). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21051745
Yang, M., Akbar, U., & Mohan, C. (2019). Curcumin in autoimmune and rheumatic diseases. Nutrients, 11(5).https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051004
White, C.M., Pasupuleti, V., Roman, Y.M., Li, Y., & Hernandez, A. (2019). Oral turmeric/curcumin effects on inflammatory markers in chronic inflammatory diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pharmacological Research, 146, 104280. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2019.104280
Author: Liz Heintz
Liz Heintz is a technical and creative writer who received her BA in Communications, Advocacy, and Relational Communications from Marylhurst University in Lake Oswego, Oregon. She most recently worked for several years in the healthcare industry. A native of San Francisco, California, Liz now calls the beautiful Pacific Northwest home.
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