I’ve had osteoarthritis in my hands for almost fifteen years. I blame all that weed-whipping, pick-axing clay soil, and carrying all the plastic grocery bags in all at once because, by God, I’m not going to make two trips! It has migrated to my back, feet, ankles, and by the way I’m feeling these days my hip. I’m 51 years old. I’m also going through those lovely years of change that women get to experience, which makes my memory more dicey than I’m comfortable with, and some of that is due to my bad back (which I’ve had since a fall on a tennis court when I was 10 snaked my back) and the way I hold all my tension in my shoulders and neck. I’m sure that the tension and slowing of blood circulation that happens between trips to the chiropractor makes me a little ditzier than usual, too.
I’ve been taking glucosamine and chondroiten since my hands first gave me trouble. It worked wonderfully for years, and I’m sure it still does. When I moved to this house – I did all the packing and moving for me and my children – I found that my hands hurt so badly from carrying boxes that I didn’t know how I was going to use unpack or go back to work after my week’s vacation was up. By taking glucosa mine and chondroiten my hands felt better within a couple of days and I was able to continue.
Move through time with me to 2011 when my permaculture garden was installed. I had to drag multiple lengths of water-filled hoses around, haul heavy pots of plants and trees, dig through heavy soil and pull weeds. After it was installed, the next year, I had to dig out the huge rootballs of invasive bamboo that had been planted and replant trees, all of which had been planted deeply in clay inside gopher cages. Oh, and pull weeds. Lots of weeds. Glucosamine and chondroiten weren’t helping with the inflammation, just the lubrication of the joints. My hands hurt so badly that I was in crisis mode, wondering how I was ever going to keep the garden going when I couldn’t even use my hands for a day after pulling weeds. I’d wake up and my hands would be locked partially closed. I’d have to force them open, the fingers clicking as they ratcheted up, and then work them until the joints lubricated. My back hurt a lot. My mind was often in a fog and taking ginko biloba helped only a little. I became very depressed, wondering how life was going to be for me when at fifty I was in that bad a shape, and longevity (but not mental clarity!) was on my mother’s side.
I’d been taking a healing yoga class, and added that when I could two fitness classes a week at the marvelous Wade Into Fitness classes at the local community center. The gentle yoga practice kept me limber and steady, and helped me keep working, yet the artritis pain was still there.
As usual, I already knew the answer but didn’t realize it. I had heard that the curcumin in turmeric, a spice used in curries, was an anti-inflammatory, so I’d been sprinkling it on my food. Using a lot tastes very bitter and the spice doesn’t go with everything. I’d read that black pepper helps to increase the absorption so I paired them together. No breakfast egg went eaten without being turned yellow and black. Then one day I researched turmeric thoroughly. Turmeric is prescribed by doctors in India like a drug, yet it is completely natural. The warnings for using it include that it may thin blood, may interfere with gall bladder (I had mine out a few years ago), and it hasn’t been tested (in the US) enough to be sure that it is safe for pregnant and lactating women. I read that all illness involves inflammation. Taking an anti-inflammatory can help with all illnesses. Wow. Sprinkling turmeric on my food was fine, but it wasn’t a large enough dosage to help with the inflammation I already had; I’d have to take capsules.
I was skeptical but I was ready to try anything rather than get shots from the doctor, or give up my activities. I’d just invested in this wonderful garden and I could hardly work in it. I bought turmeric capsules at a local herb store. It included phosphatidylcholine, which is a vital component of the human cell membrane and has been proven to play a vital role in our health, including maintaining cell structure, fat metabolism, memory, nerve signalling and liver health. the curcumin in turmeric is difficult for the body to absorb on its own, so the phosphatidylcholine helps increase the absorption by 70%. No, I didn’t know any of this before, I looked it up.
Last September I included the capsules with my daily vitamins and didn’t really think about them anymore. Within a few weeks I realized that when I awoke my hands weren’t stiff and stuck into position anymore. In fact, they didn’t even ache much after a day of weeding. The arthritis would cause shots of pain radiating from a knuckle down a finger like a lightening bolt, coming on without warning and making me gasp, something not fun when out in public. I realized I hadn’t had any of those surprise episodes for awhile. I also realized that when I went to my memory banks to search for a name, often I’d come up with it right away. My memory has never been perfect, but it was functioning better than it had and I felt less stupid and old. The reason for these miracles had to be the turmeric, because nothing else in my diet had changed. I continued taking it, and tested myself. I’d pull weeds, carry groceries and wake up the next morning with only the usual middle-aged aches and pains.
It has been nine months that I’ve been taking turmeric with phosphatidylcholine and every morning I wake up wondering if the spell has been broken. But it hasn’t. I even weed whip for hours and although I’m sore the next day, my hands aren’t locked and they are fully usable. Turmeric isn’t a miracle herb as such; there is no such thing. I still take a minute to loosen up my ankles and back when I get up in the morning, and heaven knows my memory makes conversations with other middle-aged people an exchange of “Um… you know… that thing…”; often more like charades than a dialogue. I still have to be careful and pace myself because the arthritis is still there. However I’m functioning far better than I was a year ago. My hands work!
I’ve recommended turmeric to lots of people, and I’ve had a couple of them tell me that they’ve found improvement since taking it. As I said, I was skeptical when I started and the relief I’ve had is frankly wondrous to me. It is not a cure-all, but as an anti-inflammatory it really worked for me.
I do not have anything to do with the company whose brand I buy; I simply bought what was available locally and it worked so I haven’t tried others. I’ve since begun buying it on the Internet because the local store stopped carrying that brand due to a contract dispute or something (of course!), and I get it for much less cost that way. Again, I receive nothing for recommending the brand, but what I’ve been taking is Source Naturals Meriva Turmeric Complex. Meriva is their trademark name for the phosphatidylcholine. I buy it from AmazonSmile.com (where you can designate a charity to receive a very small donation with every purchase), and found a deal for two bottles for a great price.
Anyway, since this really worked for me, I’m passing on my experiences in hope that maybe it can help you, too. Be sure to research turmeric for yourself to make sure that it doesn’t have any interference with problems you may have, and see what the health practitioners in India have to say about it.
And may all your weeds jump out of the ground at your feet!
UPDATE: It is March, 2017, and I’m still taking this turmeric with excellent results. If I over use my hands I’ll take two capsules in the morning. I switched to another brand that didn’t have the gel caps (I’m vegetarian), and it had a different mixture of turmeric, and within a week I was getting shooting pains in my fingers. I quickly switched back to this brand and the pains stopped. I don’t get anything from this company, I just know that this brand works for me. I use a gas weedwhip for hours, pull weeds, and recently bought a battery pole chainsaw which really taxed my hands and arms, and I’m not suffering from it, all due to the turmeric.