Turmeric Offers New Hope for Lupus Sufferers

Did you know…

…the spice turmeric shows promise as a treatment for lupus and its associated symptoms?

If you or anyone you know suffers from lupus, you know how incredibly miserable this autoimmune disease can be. Lupus causes the immune system to attack the body’s tissues and organs. This chronic inflammatory disorder impacts the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs, seeking destruction at the heart of the cells’ nucleus and damaging DNA and organs in the process.

That’s why it’s so exciting that turmeric—already so valued for its role in natural medicine—may offer hope to lupus sufferers, most of whom are women.

turmeric powder in spoon and roots on wooden plate

A Painful Disease with Risky Treatments

Ninety percent of lupus sufferers are women, diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 45. Diagnosis remains tricky, because lupus mimics the signs and symptoms of other, more recognizable diseases. The most common symptoms of lupus are:

  • A butterfly facial rash along the cheeks
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain
  • Skin lesions
  • Dry eyes
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion

Unfortunately, conventional treatment of lupus typically incorporates the use of immunosuppressive medications, such as cyclophosphamide(Cytoxan®) and methotrexate (Rheumatrex™). These medications certainly help to tame inflammation, but they also come with some very serious side effects, such as an increased risk for cancer, infections, viruses, kidney and bladder problems, hair loss, irregular periods, lung damage, and pancreatitis.

Lupus patients are already at high risk for kidney disease, and these medications greatly increase that risk. Alternative remedies are sorely needed, and the potent herb turmeric may provide a safe solution.

Life-Threatening “Lupus Nephritis”

An estimated 50 to 60% of all lupus patients suffer from kidney inflammation. This condition, called lupus nephritis, occurs when the kidneys stop functioning properly and start leaking protein. If not managed, the complication can lead to kidney failure, one of the leading causes of death among lupus patients.

There are three primary markers of lupus nephritis: high blood pressure, hematuria, and proteinuria. Hematuria is the presence of blood in the urine, and proteinuria is an excessive amount of protein in the urine, which can manifest as foamy urine or swelling of the hands, feet, abdomen, or face. Turmeric has been shown to help decrease all three of these symptoms.

How Turmeric Might Help

Preliminary animal studies point to the potential benefit of turmeric on kidney inflammation, namely due to the herb’s main constituent curcumin. Curcumin is proven to help keep pro-inflammatory agents in check, such as adhesion molecules, transcription factors, enzymes, protein kinases, and redox status. Studies show that curcumin can help alleviate arthritic pain by blocking the action of pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines. These same inflammatory modulators are thought to have an effect on the inflammation-driven processes of lupus.

Researchers set out to determine turmeric’s effects on patients with untreatable lupus nephritis. Twenty-four patients were separated into two groups: 12 patients took a 300-mg capsule of turmeric, made up of 22.1 mg of curcumin, with each meal for 3 months (for a total of 3 capsules a day), and 12 patients took a placebo pill. Turmeric decreased blood pressure, hematuria, and proteinuria markers, while the placebo showed no significant effects.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, published in the Journal of Renal Nutrition, offers hope to those currently suffering from lupus nephritis, with turmeric holding the promise of possible prevention protection for all lupus patients.