Here’s something a little more recent than the study in my last post, same message – extracts of turmeric (e.g. curcumin) and ginger relieve pain:
Zingiberaceae Extracts For Pain: A Systematic Review And Meta-analysis, Nutrition Journal, May 2015
But they don’t relieve pain without a cost. I learned this while reading it…
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. It is extracted using chemical solvents. One way it works to relieve pain is through a “potent and selective inhibition of cyclooxygenase 2 (Cox-2).”1,2 NSAIDS also work, in part, by inhibiting Cox-2 and, as we know:3
Patients who have cardiovascular disease and are taking NSAIDs, especially cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) selective agents, are at a much higher risk of having an MI [heart attack] than patients not taking these drugs.
A nationwide cohort study of patients with a first-time MI demonstrated that short-term and long-term use of NSAIDs and COX-2 inhibitors increased the risk of death or recurrent MI.
Overall, the evidence suggests advising caution against both short-term and long-term use of NSAIDs and selective COX-2 inhibitors in patients with high risk of cardiovascular disease.
Vioxx (rofecoxib) was removed from the market for this reason:
Rofecoxib, a COX-2 inhibitor, has been associated with coronary and cardiovascular death, even in small doses.
Cox-2 inhibitors also increase risk for stroke, and…
During treatment with NSAIDs, patients should be closely monitored for increases in blood pressure, signs of edema, decreasing renal function, and GI bleeding. … It should be noted that all NSAIDs, including COX-2 inhibitors, can raise blood pressure.
Even over-the-counter NSAIDS such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve come with these risks, which, by FDA requirements, are labeled on the package.
When people suffer GI distress while taking an NSAID, a proton-pump inhibitor, like Nexium, can be prescribed. When their blood pressure goes up, ACE inhibitors and diuretics can be prescribed. The diuretics might also handle the NSAID-induced edema. This is how polypharmacy happens. It began with pain, pain that has been shown to be relieved with non-drug therapies like a change in diet, range-of-motion exercises, topical capsaicin (hot pepper), and relaxation techniques.
If curcumin does indeed relieve pain by inhibiting Cox-2, then, it seems to me, people who take curcumin supplements would also be at higher risk for heart attack and stroke, as well as bleeding and blood pressure problems, especially if they are older and have comorbidities.
1 Suppressive effect of natural sesquiterpenoids on inducible cyclooxygenase (COX-2) and nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) activity in mouse macrophage cells, Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology, and Oncology, 2002
2 Specific inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression by dietary curcumin in HT-29 human colon cancer cells, Cancer Letters, 2001.
3 Cardiovascular Risk Associated With NSAIDs and COX-2 Inhibitors, Medscape, 2014