Can Turmeric Help Back Pain?

turmeric root and powder

With the rise in product accessibility and information today, we’re steadily moving into a new era of recognizing the potential benefits of a slew of natural remedies.

Among this ever-growing list of natural options is turmeric, a plant (a root, in fact) that has been studied over the past few decades and appears to offer a number of highly sought-after benefits.

Pain is a symptom many consumers look to treat naturally, and while CBD is heavily utilized for this purpose, where does turmeric come into play? Back pain is a widely reported issue for many, as Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute found nearly 65 million Americans report a recent episode of back pain, with around 16 million adults experiencing persistent or chronic back pain.

Could turmeric be an answer for these folks? We’re taking a closer look at turmeric and back pain today, so keep on reading to find out!

Key Takeaways

  • Turmeric has been utilized throughout history as a culinary ingredient alongside myriad medical uses in different cultures.
  • Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions are two of the main mechanisms associated with turmeric and its compound curcumin, though it may offer a number of other benefits.
  • There is limited, but growing research on how curcumin and turmeric affect back pain, but research exploring their anti-inflammatory effects provides some clues.

    What is Turmeric?

    Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family native to Southeast Asia and grown commercially in the region. Turmeric has been used as a culinary spice, known as the main ingredient in curry powder, though it also has a longstanding history of use in Ayurveda and other traditional medical systems, often used to treat skin disorders, the upper respiratory tract, joints, and digestive issues.

    Curcumin is a major component of turmeric, and many of the actions associated with turmeric can be traced to curcumin and its related substances, or curcuminoids. Curcumin is also what gives turmeric its signature golden-orange color.

    Today, turmeric is widely used as a dietary supplement with the potential to aid in a number of conditions and related symptoms. So, what exactly does regular turmeric consumption do for the body?

    What is Turmeric Good For?

    Similar to hemp-derived cannabinoids and a number of other emerging natural remedies, we’re still learning exactly how turmeric interacts with our bodies and may benefit us. Still, due to myriad scientific studies on the plant, we can narrow down a number of potential benefits.

    Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Benefits

    The anti-inflammatory benefits connected to curcumin are some of its most well known and broadly studied. Among a slew of studies examining these properties, one study notes the “good” anti-inflammatory elements of curcumin, namely its inhibition of production of inflammatory mediators.

    “Curcumin in the treatment of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), arthritis, psoriasis, depression and atherosclerosis and other diseases, can reduce inflammatory response, effectively improve symptoms, play a role in the treatment of diseases,” authors note.

    Curcumin has also been noted for its high antioxidant activity, specifically its shown ability to improve system markers of oxidative stress. One literature review noted that antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are the “two primary mechanisms that explain the majority of the effects of curcumin on the various conditions discussed” throughout the study.

    The review notes that turmeric’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties could help in muscle recovery associated with exercise and strength training.

    Other Potential Benefits

    The anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin may extend to aid in a symptom management for a number of other conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral injury, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, allergy, asthma, bronchitis, colitis, renal ischemia, psoriasis, diabetes, fatigue, and AIDS.

    Turmeric and curcumin have also been studied for their anti-cancer, namely curcumin’s ability to target pathways involved in the initiation, development, and growth of tumors.

    Curcumin may also offer mood-enhancing effects, including antidepressant and anxiolytic benefits as evidenced by a number of clinical animal and human trials.

    Turmeric and Back Pain

    Given the prominent anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric and curcumin, one may assume that the plant and its compounds indeed help to curb back pain. However, the answer is not so clear cut.

    One study notes the “fair amount of evidence” supporting curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects, citing previous research illustrating the ability of high absorption curcumin to target pain associated with information and offering “experimental evidence performed in humans that suggests there may be a role for administration of curcumin as a supplement in cases of chronic back pain of discogenic origin.”

    A number of other studies similarly look at chronic pain as a whole, with one specifically noting curcumin’s ability to suppress spinal neuroinflammation.

    Research found that curcumin can potentially reduce pain among those with joint arthritis, while others focus primarily on osteoarthritis, finding curcumin offers promising benefits and may even be as effective as ibuprofen in those cases.

    More Research Needed

    Candidly, there is a lack of available research looking specifically at turmeric, curcumin, and back pain treatment. Many studies suggest that, given the anti-inflammatory mechanisms and available research showing curcumin’s actions on other parts of the body, it’s likely that turmeric and curcumin can indeed help to ease symptoms related to back pain.

    Anecdotal evidence suggests as much, though more research is needed in this specific area before we can say with certainty that there is a correlation. As one should when adding any supplement to their routine, it’s best to consult a primary care physician before taking turmeric and/or curcumin for back pain.

    Adding Turmeric to Your Wellness Routine

    For those looking to embrace the benefits of this plant, there are a number of different ways people can add turmeric to their wellness routines. While results may vary depending on the method, and folks may find that specific methods work better for them over others, these are all great ways to make turmeric a regular part of your life.

    Using Turmeric in Food

    One fairly simple way to introduce turmeric into your routine is by using it to cook. With a taste balancing a somewhat sweet flavor with notes of ginger and pepper, turmeric is already used to flavor plentiful dishes like curry, soups, or roasted meats. Many also find that turmeric goes well as a seasoning with bean and rice dishes, whole grains, soups, stews, sauces, marinades — the list goes on.

    Consumers can still reap the many benefits of turmeric by adding it to their diets, though bear in mind that you have to eat a lot of it to get the same amount of curcumin as you would through a supplement.

    Topical Application

    Turmeric can also be applied directly to the skin, and there are a number of turmeric topicals already on the market. It’s important to note that turmeric topicals will not absorb into the body and only affect the skin itself.

    Still, it’s possible that turmeric could offer benefits for a number of skin disorders, namely inflammatory, proliferative, and infectious skin disorders. Though turmeric topicals could also help with a variety of issues including eczema, psoriasis, vitiligo, wound healing, and skin aging. Be aware that homemade turmeric pastes can alter the color of your skin, so consumers may opt for cosmetic products with turmeric to avoid this.

    Turmeric Supplements

    To consume turmeric on a regular basis, many find that snagging a turmeric supplement is the most efficient and consistent route to take. There are many turmeric supplements available over the counter, most of which are made with turmeric extract which is rich in curcumin. Supplements may also use a process called nanoformulation to help with absorption, which makes it easier for the body to break down and use the supplement.

    The standard recommended daily dose for curcumin is up to 3 mg per kg of body weight. Be aware that many products will list turmeric content specifically, so you will want to be sure you can also find the amounts of curcumin as well.

    Keep in mind that turmeric supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so it’s important to buy from reputable brands to ensure that what is advertised on product labels is actually in the supplement you’re consuming. One option is ensuring that products are U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) verified, and you can also find USP-verified products on the website. Ensuring products undergo third-party testing is also a good practice.

    Final Thoughts

    It’s clear that turmeric and its associated compounds are powerful. Turmeric has been used medicinally throughout history, and plenty of consumers are reaping the benefits today. And while available research suggests that turmeric and its primary compound curcumin can work to ease inflammation among a broad range of conditions, there is still limited information surrounding turmeric, curcumin, and back pain specifically.

    Still, the available research is promising and suggests that turmeric indeed offers a number of specific benefits to aid in wellness. Whether you add turmeric to your kitchen cabinet or introduce a supplement to your routine, there’s definitely a reason why this unique plant is so widely used!

    Disclaimer: none of what is published on is intended to be medical advice. Please consult your medical practitioner with any medical or disease-related questions.


    Chronic Back Pain. Health Policy Institute.

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