UA researchers look to turmeric to help RA sufferers

Published: Aug. 11, 2016 at 8:43 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 12, 2016 at 8:21 PM MST
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(Source: Tucson News Now)
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Turmeric is a spice that has been used for centuries to heal all sorts of ailments, and now University of Arizona researchers want to know if it might be the key to help rheumatoid arthritis patients.
The spice might help control joint swelling that comes with this very painful disease that has no prevention and no cure.

Laura Hopkins is an RA patient. She's also a member of a research team, headed by UA Professor of Medicine Janet Funk, that is studying turmeric's possible value for RA patients.

Hopkins is not a study participant.

RA patients take powerful drugs to help control the inflammation, but those drugs also can have serious side-effects.
Dr. Funk and her team are hoping turmeric might allow patients to use less of those medications.

"If it really works then maybe you can decrease some of those doses of your other medications that might be having other side effects. Sometimes people periodically need to take steroid injections. Maybe you could avoid needing to have to do things like that if you had some additional tool to consider using to help," said Dr. Funk.

But there still are a lot of questions that need answers.

"The question is, does it work? And then how much should you take?  Should you gnaw on the root? Should you isolate a single chemical and take it in pill form? And then, is it safe?  because there's a common perception that anything that's natural is safe, but that's not necessarily true. So we need to look at that, particularly in people with rheumatoid arthritis who take lots of other medications. There could be interactions," said Dr. Funk.

Hopkins has hope that turmeric could help her and other RA patients.

"You take so many medications on a day to day basis just to manage your disease, but they come with a  lot of really serious side effects, including cancer, weight gain. So the idea of having something that is more natural, you could take to help lower your symptoms and not have those side effects was really exciting," said Hopkins.

The turmeric study is enrolling rheumatoid arthritis patients right now.

If you'd like more information, or to see if you qualify, call 520-626-4744 or click HERE.

The phone number and an email address at that link.

Dr. Funk calls this a community study.

Her team also wants to know what Tucsonans with rheumatoid arthritis are taking and eating to make themselves feel better.

If you are an RA patient and would like to contribute to that effort, please click HERE.

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