To mark Arthritis Care Week a new study on over 2,000 UK adults reveals that a staggering 45% suffer with joint pain. Musculoskeletal conditions like osteoarthritis are on the rise, affecting 8.75 million people in the UK, caused by an aging population, rising obesity and increasing social deprivation (1).
To help manage joint pain, the report by organic wellbeing company, Pukka Herbs, found that many are still looking for pharmaceutical answers to pain, with over three quarters (79%) either having been prescribed pain killers or taken pain killers from over the counter, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Almost one quarter of those surveyed said they take pain killers every day and over 2 in 5 (42%) take them at least once a week.
Health reports continue to show that the side effects from long-term use of pain killers like NSAIDs can include gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers affecting many thousands of users (2). An alternative solution to NSAIDs could help people, especially if taking them for long periods.
Over three quarters (85%) of those surveyed were open to exploring natural remedies for pain, but only 9% currently make changes to their diet to help remedy pain, proving that food is commonly overlooked as an effective or powerful solution.
Euan MacLennan, Clinical Medicine lecturer, practising Medical Herbalist and Herbal Director at Pukka Herbs, says:
“We can learn from traditional diets from around the globe where a higher intake of plant-based materials and increased phytonutrients are accompanied by a healthier aging and fewer chronic age-associated diseases.”
“If the aim is to reduce and support pain management by supporting natural processes, then food is one obvious starting point,” adds Euan, “foods that tend to reduce inflammation are fruits, vegetables and fish oils. Too much fat and starch probably make these problems worse.”
“Turmeric, the common curry ingredient, shows particular promise.”
In one systematic review of a number of clinical trials, the authors observed that turmeric reduced the severity of joint arthritis overall. Turmeric also relieved pain, suggesting it could be a substitute alongside harsher pain killers or to help reduce their dose.
Pain is often linked with depression, with one making the other worse. There is promising research that links turmeric to reducing inflammatory markers that are common to both conditions.
“A good healthcare professional won’t just give you a bandage to treat a symptom, they’ll look at why you are experiencing pain in the first place. For some, pain is not brought on by physical activity and may be the result of emotional distress or stress itself. That is why it is important to understand the mind and body in the whole.”
Euan works in an integrated NHS practice in London, where GPs refer patients to him.
“Herbalism looks at a holistic approach to health. When a patient visits me, I want to understand what might be causing a pain or health concern so that we can begin to address the root cause and therefore alleviate the symptoms.”
There is appetite from consumers for doctors and healthcare professionals to recommend natural products. Pukka’s research found that 68% of respondents are happy to receive these recommendations, which is up from 41% in 2016 when participants were asked the same question in a similar survey.
Euan, and his team of herbal experts at Pukka, blend teas and supplements specifically for wellbeing purposes, aiming to alleviate as much as possible the symptoms and cause at the root of an ailment.
“In particular, Pukka’s Turmeric Active tea and supplements focus on supporting joint and muscle health. They also include a number of ingredients traditionally used to ease joint pains, including boswellia, ginger, the Ayurvedic remedy triphala, and nettle.” says Euan.
- Arthritis Research UK (2018). “State of Musculoskeletal Health 2018 report”. https://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/data-and-statistics/state-of-musculoskeletal-health/key-factors-affecting-musculoskeletal-health.aspx
- Bhala, N., Emberson, J., Merhi, et al. (2013). Vascular and upper gastrointestinal effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: meta-analyses of individual participant data from randomised trials. The Lancet, 769-779. (An NHS audit concludes that 15 persons per 1,000 taking NSAIDs could suffer significant gastroenteric problems)
- Willcox, D. C., Scapagnini, G., & Willcox, B. J. (2014). Healthy aging diets other than the Mediterranean: a focus on the Okinawan diet. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 136, 148-162.
- Daily, J. W., Yang, M., & Park, S. (2016). Efficacy of turmeric extracts and curcumin for alleviating the symptoms of joint arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Medicinal Food, 19(8), 717-729.
- Hatami M, Abdolahi M, Soveyd N, et al. Molecular Mechanisms of Curcumin in Neuroinflammatory Disorders: A Mini Review of Current Evidences. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2019;19(3):247-258.
- Onakpoya, I. J., Spencer, E. A., Perera, R., & Heneghan, C. J. (2017). Effectiveness of curcuminoids in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized clinical trials. International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, 20(4), 420-433.