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Well Being: September 2018

Now that we know that curcumin is the hottest thing since the latest firefighter calendar, it’s time to educate firefighters as to how to use it as a natural supplement to help with health.

September 5, 2018 
By Dr. Elias Markou

Firefighters are always looking for ways to maintain a healthy body free from inflammation, injury and disease. Turmeric has been used in the Ayurvedic medical system for 4,000 years. In Sanskrit, the turmeric root was often called the “killer of poison,” in reference to the many health benefits it possesses.

Many firefighters with arthritic joints such as knees, hands, hips and backs are familiar with the drug diclofenac sodium or its common name, Voltaren. This is often used to relieve pain and inflammation in joints.

A 2016 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food looked at the effect of diclofenac and curcumin and determined that a high dose of curcumin alone is just as effective in pain reduction as diclofenac with fewer side effects.

A 2014 study in the Journal of Phytomedicine looked at the synergistic effects of using diclofenac and curcumin and found amazing results in pain and inflammation reduction when they were taken together. Another option for firefighters seeking pain reduction would be to take curcumin and diclofenac together. The study proved this can be done safely. And one last aside, when you take the curcumin it can prevent liver damage that can be a result of the diclofenac.

■ What is Curcumin?
Turmeric root or curcuma longa is a root that belongs to the ginger family. This golden root has a long medicinal history going back as far as 250 BC.

■ Curcumin as Medicine
The active ingredient found in turmeric root is curcumin. Curcumin is that bright yellow extract found in turmeric root. We call these bright pigments curcuminoids. The long list where curcumin has been used for treatments include pain management, inflammation, arthritis, skin issues like acne, eczema and psoriasis. It has been used for issues of colic, digestive imbalance, liver and gallbladder issues. Curcumin has been used in more serious conditions like many cancers. In practice, I use curcumin with cancer patients and I have seen great benefits.

■ Inflammation
Curcumin has been demonstrated to be safe in six human trials and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity. It may exert its anti-inflammatory activity by inhibition of a number of different molecules that play a role in inflammation.

A March 2012 study in India used 45 people with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and separated them into three groups. One group was given a daily dose of 500 milligrams (mg) of curcumin only, the second group was given a daily dose of diclofenac only, and the third group was given a combined dose of 500 mg of both diclofenac and curcumin. The curcumin-only group testing amassed the highest improvement score and concluded the safety and positive results from curcumin to treat RA was superior from any of the common drugs for treating RA.

■ Curcumin Found in Food
Curcumin can be purchased as a powder from herbal and health food stores.

The strength of this powder is much weaker than curcumin prepared as a supplement in a standardized extract form. I still encourage my patients to take the powder and I often recommend it in yogurt, warm milk and even in their favourite recipe.

■ Supplementing Curcumin
I recommend you consult with a naturopathic doctor or even your medical doctor to see the one that is best for you. In studies, I have seen safe dosages range from 3,000 to 6,000 mg of curcumin. I have also used these ranges and seen success in pain reduction and inflammation in my patients.

I encourage firefighters to seek other ways to manage pain and inflammation. Trying curcumin as a natural supplement might be worth a shot.

Dr. Elias Markou is one very busy naturopathic doctor. He is in private practice in Mississauga, Ont., and is the chief medical officer for the Halton Hills Fire Department. Dr. Markou was a firefighter for six years. He is a firefighter health expert and blogger who is regularly featured on television and radio and in print. Contact him at

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