Author: Gerald Quigley – Community Pharmacist and Master Herbalist
Did you know that paracetamol is the number one pharmaceutical that Australian Poisons Centres receive calls on?
Now that the prescribing of codeine-containing pain relievers (analgesics) and opioids in general, has been curtailed, what can we do about settling pain? In many cases, the common ‘go to’ solution to manage pain, such as muscular pain, headaches, post-operative pain, intermittent or chronic pain, is paracetamol.
Paracetamol has an interesting history, but despite its popular use, the current 2019 Australian Medicines Handbook states that its mode of action is “not fully determined”.
What an admission in a medical world that demands modes of action and scientific justification from every drug and every herb!
It is thought that paracetamol blocks an array of chemicals, called neurotransmitters that initiate pain sensations through pain pathways to our brain. These pathways are how and why we perceive the actual ‘hurt’.
The dark side of paracetamol, however, is the very real risk of liver toxicity. In September 2019, the University Of Sydney School Of Pharmacy called for tighter restrictions on paracetamol; packaging size, dosage schedules and clearer warnings outlining liver toxicity.
The modified release paracetamol version (660mg per tablet) is now banned in Europe, due to documented harms, including increased risk of liver failure and death. Many countries have reduced the pack sizes and actual tablet strength in an attempt to reduce consumer risk.
This is a very serious issue – will we follow the same pathway here?
Paracetamol itself is not toxic, but in large doses, it overwhelms our body’s ability to process it efficiently. In simply terms - our liver cannot cope.
The ‘gold-standard’ evidence of effectiveness in any drug is the Cochrane Review. The review found that in lower back pain, paracetamol does not work – not immediately, not at all. A pain trial using the maximum dose of 4000mg a day for twelve weeks found that it is no better than placebo. In osteoarthritis, it is of very little benefit. For nerve or neuropathic pain, useless. So, what options do we have?
Help has been here for centuries!
Turmeric is supported by many studies showing that it blocks the neurotransmitter pathways involved in our perception of pain and it has actions similar to the popularly prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs.
But there’s one big difference. Turmeric has none of the common adverse effects that accompany NSAIDs. NSAIDs interfere with kidney function, cause gastrointestinal ulceration and might even accelerate the deterioration of painful joints, such as knees, when used for long periods.
Even sufferers of diabetes, high blood pressure and sensitive tummies, can use turmeric to relieve pain!
Experts now believe that turmeric is one of the most promising natural ingredients in the treatment of arthritis. Turmeric can be safely used in combination with most medications prescribed for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The only issue with turmeric is associated with our ability to absorb it efficiently. Using it in a form such as the patented extract, BetaSorb, Turmeric allows smooth passage across the gastrointestinal barrier, thereby delivering therapeutically active levels of this analgesic herb. The extract is tummy-friendly, and that is helpful in those who generally do not tolerate spices.
We might never be able to be entirely free from pain, but in manageable levels, life can go on.
BetaSorb Turmeric can be used each day without interruption to reduce pain levels, thereby enabling quality-of-life to be restored to a stage where daily activities can be enjoyed. Isn’t that what life is all about?