Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on April 18, 2022
If you’re looking for a spice that has been the staple of Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, look no further than turmeric curcumin. It’s no secret that turmeric possesses a slew of therapeutic and medicinal properties when paired with piperine (also known as BioPerine) for increased absorption.
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant capable of boosting nearly every facet of mental and physical health. But, is turmeric good for muscle pain, inflammation, and swelling?
Turmeric for Muscle Recovery
Research has shown that turmeric can assist with several health conditions. We’ve seen evidence to suggest that curcumin may improve diabetes, weight loss, and blood pressure. Turmeric may even be able to support liver detox and reduce allergy symptoms.
In recent years, several studies have emerged, putting curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties on display. There appears to be a precise mechanism of action at work that helps turmeric combat irritation at the source. To better understand how turmeric helps muscle recovery, we need to examine why inflammation occurs. (1)
First, we’ll discuss inflammation as it relates to diseases, then we’ll tie it together with muscle pain and soreness.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is your immune system’s response to a perceived threat or an irritant within the body. When you see a wound swell up, turn red, and become painful (such as muscle pain following a workout), that’s often a sign of inflammation.
There is an increasing body of evidence suggesting that chronic inflammation is a significant cause of disease advancement and the worsening of pre-existing medical conditions. Thus, it’s possible that blocking the inflammatory processes may serve as a natural treatment or therapy for these illnesses. (2)
Inflammation can arise from several external factors, including:
- Germs (pathogens) such as viruses, fungi and yeast infections, or bacteria
- External wounds or injuries (scrapes, cuts, splinters, etc.)
- Chemicals or radiation causing adverse reactions in the body
- Chronic inflammatory diseases such as IBD (Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease), psoriasis, or arthritis
- Damaged muscle fibers from strenuous and prolonged physical activities (workouts, running, bodybuilding, etc.)
When inflammation goes unchecked, it can cause several negative side effects. These potential reactions include, but are not limited to, feeling ill, exhaustion, fever, and chronic pain.
Many different immune system cells get involved in the healing process during bouts of inflammation. The increased blood flow directs more immune cells to the damaged tissue where they are needed. More fluid may also enter the infected area, which is what leads to swelling.
Once the threat is eradicated, the swelling subsides, the uncomfortable side effects dissipate, and your immune system returns to normal function. For the purposes of the physically active, the reduction in swelling and pain means your muscles have recovered. (3)
Why Turmeric Curcumin?
For decades, we’ve seen substantial progress in the number of studies about turmeric. In general, curcumin seems to be a highly effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. (4)
Whether you’re dealing with muscle pain after a workout or trying to reduce back pain or arthritis, turmeric may be the natural spice to get the job done. If it can help with chronic inflammatory diseases, then helping with something as simple as muscle soreness should be a breeze.
In this post, we will examine the research and science behind curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammation and swelling in the body.
Does Turmeric Help With Muscle Soreness & Inflammation?
Many ancient treatments get ignored due to the lack of understanding behind their specific mechanisms of action. Researchers have highlighted the link between inflammation and protein kinases, cytokines, redox status, adhesion molecules, and pro-inflammatory enzymes. Studies show that curcuminoids exhibit anti-inflammatory activity through their ability to modulate these transcription factors.
The process of inflammation plays a major role in neurodegenerative, pulmonary, autoimmune, cardiovascular, neoplastic, and most other chronic illnesses. By inhibiting several inflammatory markers, curcumin has shown a high potential to benefit these problematic diseases. (5, 6, 7)
Another research paper has confirmed the same, linking low-grade inflammation fueled by oxidative stress to aging. As our body ages naturally, we face an increasing probability of acquiring age-related diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s.
While aging isn’t a disease in itself, the process of aging and cell death can lead to morbidity. Accordingly, slowing the aging process may postpone the onset of age-related illness. Slowing cell aging is where curcumin comes into play.
Curcumin has an unparalleled quantity of molecular targets demonstrating its chemopreventive, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities. The strongest action turmeric brings to the table is the inhibition of NF-κB.
The NF-κB transcription factor is the principal regulator of the inflammatory process. NF-κB can activate the expression of numerous inflammatory cytokines. Curcumin appears to help prevent this. (8, 9)
Research suggests turmeric is also a powerful TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor) inhibitor or TNF blocker. TNFs are potent mediators of inflammation. If we can control TNFs, then we can control inflammation.
Numerous inhibitors have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) exclusively for use in various autoimmune disorders. Curcumin appears to have a strong TNF blocking effect, helping to prevent and reduce inflammation in the body. (10)
It’s not merely turmeric’s ability to modulate NF-κB and TNFs that makes it an effective weapon against diseases. Research has verified that prolonged oxidative stress and oxidative damage can increase chronic inflammation in the body. Curcumin’s antioxidant properties play a key role in the treatment and prevention of these diseases by fighting free radicals and reducing oxidative stress. (11)
In natural medicine, turmeric and ginger go hand in hand in terms of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. One study sought to test the anti-arthritic potential of each plant against adjuvant-induced arthritis in rats. While both turmeric and ginger performed well in the tests, turmeric yielded slightly better performance with a 10.2% higher disease recovery rate.
Turmeric performs its function by decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and initiating the antioxidant defense system. This benefit proves that curcumin may have beneficial effects on several different forms of arthritis and joint pain. (12)
As far as natural anti-inflammatory agents go, turmeric is among the most potent in the world. When compared to other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or aspirin, curcumin consistently outperforms them for inflammation and muscle pain relief. (13, 14)
How to Use Turmeric for Inflammation & Swelling
Bodybuilders and active individuals alike are always looking for methods to reduce muscle inflammation and expedite recovery. Fortunately, an encapsulated turmeric supplement with a higher ratio of curcumin is the easiest way to do this.
If you have sore muscles, consuming turmeric powder as an additive to your meals just won’t cut it. This is due to turmeric’s low curcumin content, approximately 3.14% on average. Supplements contain much larger amounts of curcumin which is needed to relax sore muscles and recover faster after a workout.
Look for turmeric curcumin with BioPerine together, since BioPerine improves the absorption of turmeric 20-fold. The body can’t efficiently absorb turmeric on its own, so this is a necessary combination for best results.
AstraGin is another powerful ingredient to look out for. Your product needs about 20-25 mg of AstraGin to see another 92% jump in curcumin absorption. If it contains BioPerine and AstraGin, this is the perfect combination to speed up muscle recovery and reduce inflammation in the body.
How much turmeric should I take for sore muscles? Knowing how much turmeric per day you should take for inflammation is vital for reducing muscle pain. The answer to this question largely depends on the level of muscle soreness, and how your body reacts to a specific dosage.
We recommend starting your regimen with a small dose, around 150-250 mg of curcumin per day, assess the effects, and titrate upwards depending on your needs. To reduce muscle pain and enhance recovery, taking turmeric after exercise (post-workout) or before bed is preferred.
Potential Side Effects
What are the negative effects of turmeric? Adverse curcumin side effects are mild and rare. When using the recommended dosage, you’re unlikely to experience anything negative, but you should still understand the following:
- Turmeric is a natural anticoagulant that may thin the blood too much if taken with other blood thinners simultaneously.
- Curcumin can lower glucose in healthy individuals and diabetics alike. If you’re monitoring your blood sugar for health reasons, use extra caution.
- Too much curcumin may cause mild stomach discomfort, nausea, or possible headaches.
Who should not take turmeric? While pregnant or nursing, don’t use turmeric supplements containing medicinal amounts of curcumin. Don’t use turmeric at least two weeks before scheduled surgeries to avoid potential recovery problems due to thinned blood or clotting issues.
Final Thoughts on Turmeric and Muscle Inflammation
Does turmeric help with muscle pain and inflammation? The answer appears to be, yes. Curcumin has a definitive track record of serving as an active anti-inflammatory agent. The best part is that there are minimal side effects. With multiple human trials demonstrating both the efficacy and safety of turmeric, we may finally have an excellent natural therapy to complement traditionally prescribed anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).
At the very least, it seems we have a reliable natural method to speed up post-workout muscle recovery.
The curcuminoids within turmeric have shown an ability to inhibit several key inflammatory processes. Also, its antioxidant capacity may help patients further deal with diseases caused by chronic inflammation. If you’re looking to take turmeric for muscle recovery, always consult with a medical professional to make sure it works well with any pre-existing medications that you may be taking.