DISCLAIMER: This information provided by FSR is NOT intended to serve as medical advice, a substitute for consulting with a doctor, or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease. Users of this website are advised to consult with their physician before making any decisions concerning their health.
Many sarcoidosis patients struggle with treatment options. With so few available options—many with negative side effects—it’s easy to see why some patients seek out alternative options or supplements to help with their symptoms. One trend we’ve noticed frequently on Inspire is patients discussing supplements and home remedies that are said to relieve inflammation or pain. One patient referred to this as an attempt to correct their dysfunctional immune system rather than suppress it the way some sarc drugs do.
Most of these home remedies are plant-based supplements. These are derived from plants or plant compounds, and often have multiple reported benefits that treat a wide variety of symptoms. One example is quercetin, a plant flavanol with purported anti-inflammatory properties. Another is capsaicin, found in hot peppers, that is said to have pain-relieving and immune-boosting properties. Perhaps the most popular remedy that we saw, however, was turmeric.
Turmeric is well known as a spice traditionally used in Indian dishes, though it has spread to other Asian, Middle-Eastern and African cuisines as well. It is also known for its bright yellow color that is used in dyes and to color products like mustard. Turmeric has been a staple in many traditional Eastern medicines for centuries.
At FSR we feel it’s our responsibility to balance accurate science along with patient experience to help evaluate these forums about alternative treatment. We wanted to see how effective—if at all—this supplement is at treating symptoms like pain or inflammation. We decided to do some digging to learn more about turmeric as a natural treatment option.
To explore the potential health benefits of turmeric, you need to know the chemistry behind the plant. Rather than rely on Google, we discussed the properties and possible benefits with Dr. Muraleedharan Nair, a professor in the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University and the Senior Associate to the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Dr. Nair has a PhD in Organic Chemistry and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK. Professor Nair has done research on hundreds if not thousands of plant compounds, including curcumins, the active compound in Curcuma longa, the turmeric plant.
When asked about using turmeric for inflammation or pain, Dr. Nair had some cautions. Most patients who try plant-based remedies take them in the form of oral supplements. This, Dr. Nair said, would not be very effective at treating symptoms. This is because the curcumin compound is not readily bioavailable—it won’t be absorbed into the bloodstream and have an effect. This is just due to the chemical makeup of the curcumin compound. However, Dr. Nair does believe turmeric may be effective at relieving pain when used topically in a paste. This is the only way he recommended using it, if at all, to treat sarcoidosis symptoms of pain and inflammation.
“The active compounds in curcuma, the curcuminoids, are not water-soluble. They are lipid soluble and hence can be extracted from curcuma rhizome powder by cooking oil or warming the powder with cooking oil. The deep yellow oil will contain active curcumins and (can) be used topically a few times daily. It may alleviate the pain. Of course, consumption and topical application should not have any side effects since it [has been] consumed over many centuries.”
If you do try this method, just know that the turmeric paste will temporarily color your skin and it should be kept away from any clothing or items you don’t want dyed yellow!
Dr. Nair also recommended buying turmeric rhizome powder from an Indian or Asian grocery store rather than a supplement store, since it will be less expensive and likely more effective.
Again, FSR is not recommending or endorsing any alternative supplements, especially in the place of prescribed medication. The only goal of this article is to get our patients the most accurate information on these topics. All decisions regarding treatment should be made with a licensed physician- no exceptions!