Curry spice turmeric 'boosts pain relief'

Wonder curry spice turmeric is more effective than drugs at treating injured sportsmen, according to new research.

A study of rugby players found it relieved their pain just as well as conventional analgesics such as paracetamol or ibuprofen - while causing fewer side effects.

It is the latest in a string of discoveries about the 'miracle' curry ingredient - which has even been said to 'cure' cancer.

In the trial involving 50 Italian rugby players, participants struck down by bone or muscle problems were given either curcumin, one of the main compounds in turmeric, or a popular painkiller.

Over three weeks the men from the Italian premier Piacenza rugby club south of Milan improved but those who received the former suffered four times as little tummy upsets.

Dr Francesco Di Pierro said: "This study suggests the naturally-derived, curcumin-based product could represent a promising safe, analgesic remedy in painful osteo-muscular conditions associated with intense, high impact, physical activities.

"Our work shows this [form of] turmeric can be used to relieve pain and improve function, as well as in the management of arthritis.

'It also causes fewer gastric problems than other painkillers.'

Cancer shock

Last month it was revealed a pensioner had stunned doctors by halting an incurable blood cancer in its tracks - by taking turmeric as a "last resort".

Since the turn of the century more than 50 clinical trials have tested curcumin - the pigment in turmeric that gives it that bright yellow colour.

These suggest the spice, which is packed with antioxidants, can protect against lung disease, myeloma, cancers of the pancreas, bowel and breast as well as Alzheimer's, heart disease and depression.

It has also been shown to help speed recovery after surgery and effectively treat arthritis.

The pilot study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences recruited 50 male rugby players with osteo-muscular discomfort due to traumatic injuries, repeated tackling or an acute episode of chronic pain.

Half were given a one gram tablet of curcumin extract Algocur, manufactured by Italian firm Indena SpA, twice a day for up to 10 days and the others a painkiller.

Their physical condition was regularly evaluated for 20 days which showed similar improvements in all the participants, whatever the therapy. But adherence to treatment, and tolerability, was superior in those taking Algocur.

Dr Di Pierro, of Milan based pharmaceutical company Velleja Research, said: "Only one (4%) subject treated with Algocur experienced adverse events whereas four (16%) subjects treated with conventional analgesic drugs reported gastric pain as an adverse event."

Injury relief

It also decreased pain and improved the impaired physical functions in rugby players with a range of injuries - even with short-term treatment.

Dr Di Pierro said: "It is worthy of note subjects treated with Algocur experiencedless gastrointestinal adverse events than the other treated group."

It might prevent the common gastric side effects associated with the use of many anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs, even though the dose was higher than that recommended for chronic treatment of osteoarthritis."

He called for larger trials after the encouraging preliminary results.

Turmeric pills are available in the UK as Turmeric+ and former player and director of of the London Scottish Rugby Club, Angus Stewart says the spice works for him.

Angus, 65, said he started taking two tablets a day, adding: "I was much more comfortable whilst exercising and recovered more quickly.

"After a day in the gym I found the feeling in my joints felt the same as when I was younger.

"Now I feel I can train comfortably"

Joint issues

Adam Cleevely a spokesman for the manufacturers of Turmeric+, said that the results of the study were very exciting.

He said: "This study adds to the growing body of published studies showing a variety of positive effects of Turmeric+.

"We continually get reports from customers on the anti-inflammatory benefits it delivers and the widest use of Turmeric+ is for ordinary people suffering from the most common joint issue: arthritis."

In January it was reported Dieneke Ferguson, 67, is now leading a normal life more than a decade after being diagnosed with deadly myeloma.

The Londoner turned to curcumin in desperation when chemotherapy and stem cell treatments failed.

Her cancer cell count is now negligible after she began taking 8 grams, about two teaspoons, each day in tablet form.

Her illness has an average survival of just over five years - making it one of the most fatal forms of the disease.