As living beings age, people and animals alike, their bodies eventually begin to break down. Years upon years of movement, physical stress put on joints by exercise, and just the in and outs of everyday life tend to take its toll on a body that relies on effective cellular reproduction to continue functioning properly.
The sad truth is that eventually the body’s cells age, become less efficient at dividing with ever cellular split, and ultimately hit what is referred to as the Hayflick limit, the absolute limit to a cell’s ability to divide.
Among the multitude of troubles that arise with aging is joint pain. Some joint pain as we age is not uncommon, but serious illness and internal complications can cause some to experience very serious joint issue, including osteoarthritis, one of the most painful joint issues to deal with.
Fortunately, there is quite an extensive list of treatments available for joint pain, some better than others.
The most common options for joint pain are prescription medications like Celebrex, Relafen, Anaprox, and Feldene, as well as non-prescription options like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. Neither types are without side effects.
Some of the side effects reported by Celebrex users are diarrhea, hypertension, and abnormal hepatic function tests, and more serious side effects like chest pain, weakness, shortness of breath, slurred speech, problems with vision or balance, bloody stools, coughing up blood or vomit, and more.
Even the more widely used painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen are not without their side effects. Ibuprofen is notoriously bad for the liver and digestive tract, with complications from overuse ranging from upset stomach and nausea to liver damage and tinnitus, a ringing in the ears.
The threat of serious side effects has pushed many consumers away from prescription medications all together, forcing them to look for other, less invasive remedies. Fortunately for them, many holistic and natural remedies exist for joint pain, one of which, pomegranate, is gaining scientific evidence to confirm its efficacy.
A very recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition titled “Pomegranate extract alleviates disease activity and some blood biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients” confirms the anti-inflammatory benefits of pomegranate, specifically testing its efficacy for rheumatoid arthritis.
Because the main characteristics of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) are inflammation, serious pain, and flexibility problems affecting the joints specifically, researchers are actively seeking powerful anti-inflammatory compounds to fight the disease, moving further and further away from side effect-laden prescription medications and studying the benefits of natural anti-inflammatory compounds.
For this study, researchers enrolled 55 participants, each with RA, into two separate groups, one to receive medication and the other as a control. The participants receiving medication were given 250 mg of pomegranate extract for a period of 8 weeks, after which progress was monitored with methods such as a Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) and Disease Activity Score (DAS), serum concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), matrix metalloproteinases 3 (MMP3), malondialdehyde (MDA), glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) were analyzed.
Compared to the control group, the group receiving 250 mg of pomegranate extract experienced significant improvement in their DAS score, which researchers believe is the result of reduced inflammation in joints. Recipients also reported reduced pain intensity, morning stiffness, and increased levels of GPx concentration, an enzyme whose role is to protect the organism from oxidative damage.
Additional research on the ability of pomegranate to help treat knee osteoarthritis indicates similar results.
Among the most common musculoskeletal disorders, osteoarthritis leads to joint degeneration and severe pain as it affects more than 27 million people in the US alone. Initial studies purport that pomegranate extract can also have an impact on osteoarthritis due to its antioxidant properties, helping to mitigate cartilage inflammation.
Tested on 38 patients over a span of 6 weeks, researchers found that there was significant decrease in pain, stiffness, and physical functioning of the joint. Like the previous study mentioned, this study also found increased levels of GPx which further substantiates the ability antioxidant capabilities of pomegranate, helping to protect the knee from further damage, concluding that “According to the findings of this clinical trial, PJ consumption can improve physical function and stiffness, decrease breakdown cartilage enzymes and increase antioxidant status in patients with knee OA.”
It’s no secret that pomegranate is high in antioxidants. Touted for its high concentration of polyphenols, pomegranate juice is considered among the healthiest fruits on the planet, specifically for its heart health benefits, but with new research being conducted frequently, the benefits of this odd fruit continue to be exposed.
Pomegranate is part of a healthy diet, due to its high concentrations of beneficial ellagitannin compounds like punicalagins and punicalins, which account for about half of the pomegranate’s antioxidant ability. Pomegranate packs more antioxidant punch per pound than other, widely touted foods like acai berries, blueberries, concord grapes, cranberry juice, apple juice, black cherry juice, orange juice, and red wine.
In fact, pomegranate juice was found to be more than 20 percent more powerful than its nearest competitor.
As the west begins to look to the east more and more for traditional medicinal remedies, we look to foods as our primary source of health, as opposed to the common western sentiment that has, in a way, plagued western society, the idea that we can live an unbalanced life, eat foods that provide little to no nutritional benefits, and generally remain unhealthy because relief can be found in a bottle.
Eastern medicine relies on proper diet and supplementation with natural remedies that are much freer from side effects, and can provide equal if not greater relief from damaging and painful degenerative diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.