A pair of studies in the same journal (Arthritis and Rheumatism) suggest that acupuncture and an extract of turmeric (a spice found in curry) may both offer significant pain relief to arthritis patients.
A German research team found that a combination of acupuncture and conventional medicine can increase the quality of life of osteoarthritis patients.
Meanwhile, American researchers found that a special turmeric extract, composed largely of chemicals called curcuminoids, can prevent both acute and chronic rheumatoid arthritis.
In experiments on rats, the turmeric extract appeared to block inflammatory pathways associated with rheumatoid arthritis. As for acupuncture, the study of some 3,500 subjects showed that chronic osteoarthritis patients who received it in addition to their more traditional care showed marked improvement, with only 5 percent experiencing minor side effects.
Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis in the United States, is a progressive degeneration of bone cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis is an immunological disorder leading to painful inflammation of the lining of the joints.
Nearly one in five Americans, a total of 46 million, suffers from some form of arthritis. Another 23 million have undiagnosed chronic joint pain. Some 40 percent of arthritis patients in the United States have turned to alternative medicine to help them with their pain.
This pair of studies underscores the growing interest conventional medicine has in complementary alternative medicine. It's great to see more proof of the seemingly inevitable shift the U.S. health care system is taking from a model based on treating symptoms with expensive drug solutions to one that focuses on the foundational cause of disease.
Many systems utilizing these newly applied natural healing tools, such as acupuncture, naturopathic and chiropractic medicine, focus on health rather than disease. They understand that the absence of disease does not equate to health.
If you've been reading my newsletter for a while, you already know how acupuncture eases the pain associated with tension headaches and curcumin, the yellow compound in turmeric, blocks the development of cancer.
In India, where turmeric is widely used, the prevalence of the top four U.S. cancers -- colon, breast, prostate and lung -- is 10 times lower.
And there's no doubt acupuncture is effective for many health problems; for example, in a recent study electrically stimulated acupuncture lowered blood pressure levels by 50 percent. If you aren't crazy about needles, however, you do have other alternatives that can be just as helpful.
I have found that Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a needle-free acupressure energy psychology tool that uses the same energy meridians as acupuncture, is a very effective method. I use it in my practice daily, and it can be a powerful means of headache relief.