Curcumin Extract Matches Ibuprofen for Osteoarthritis Pain Without Lethal Toxicity

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Seeking a gentler aid for aching joints than NSAID pills that can provoke bleeds or cardiac events? This clinical trial shows curcumin extracts from turmeric merit consideration among proven natural pain relief options, with secondary perks like reduced cancer and Alzheimer’s risk.

A randomized trial in 367 knee osteoarthritis patients reveals 1,500mg/day curcuminoid extract equals ibuprofen’s effectiveness, while avoiding its gastrointestinal bleeding and cardiovascular risks. Curcumin likely conferred additional anti-inflammatory, anticancer and neuroprotective side benefits.


In the 4-week active comparator study, 367 patients with moderate knee osteoarthritis pain were randomized to receive either 1,500mg daily oral curcuminoid extract or 1,200mg ibuprofen. Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs are associated with thousands of serious gastrointestinal bleeds annually, hospitalizing over 100,000 and killing at least 15,000 in the US alone. [1] NSAIDS like ibuprofen also double average users’ cardiovascular risks, causing thousands of heart attacks yearly from provoking hypertension, arrhythmias and thrombosis. [2,3]


In contrast, the bioavailable curcumin formula holds an impeccable safety record. Human trials found high-dose curcumin intake up to 8,000mg daily for months causes only minor flatulence or diarrhea comparable to placebo. [4]



After 4 weeks, the curcuminoid group demonstrated non-inferiority to ibuprofen in reducing scores on the WOMAC osteoarthritis index and walking assessments [5]. Curcumin also caused less than one-third as many total gastrointestinal side effects as ibuprofen, and only half as many digestive discomfort events.


In addition, curcumin likely provides cancer-protective, neuroprotective and cardioprotective side benefits absent from pharmaceutical options. Preclinical studies show curcumin acts through pleiotropic epigenetic and signaling effects to reduce proliferation, metastasis and angiogenesis in diverse cancer cell lines, earning investigation for adjunct oncologic treatment. [6–8] Rodent AD models also exhibit curcumin preventing neuron inflammation and death to significantly mitigate tau tangles and amyloid deposition pathognomonic of dementia progression. [9,10] Curcumin further works on endothelial targets to improve blood pressure, clotting and cholesterol profiles according to preliminary clinical data. [11] Learn more about curcumin's remarkably wide ranging potential health applications on our database on the subject here, covering over 850 different conditions.


Altogether, for osteoarthritic knees specifically and chronic inflammation generally, this randomized trial significantly boosts curcumin’s first-line potential as a safe, multi-targeted prevention and therapy lacking worrisome contraindications that limit long-term NSAID reliance. Perhaps such evidence renders curcumin less an “alternative” consideration, but more the rational first choice for soothing suffering when safety is paramount.  


For additional resources on natural approaches to osteoarthritis, visit our extensive database on the subject here.



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1. Lanza FL. Am J Med. 1998.    

2. Bavry AA. Am J Med. 2011.

3. Singh G. Arthritis Res Ther. 2005.  

4. Chainani-Wu N. J Altern Complem Med. 2003.

5. Kuptniratsaikul et al. Clin Interv Aging. 2014. 

6. Bar-Sela G et al. Curr Med Chem. 2010.   

7. Johnson JJ et al. Cancer Lett. 2007.   

8. Karunagaran D et al. Curr Cancer Drug Targets. 2005.  

9. Mishra S, Palanivelu K. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2008.

10. Yang F et al. J Alzheimers Dis. 2005.   

11. Akazawa N et al. Atherosclerosis. 2012.

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