The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that nearly one in two people will develop symptomatic knee osteoarthritis by the age of 85 years. While total knee replacement surgery is an option, implants are expected to last only 15 years or so, prompting many sufferers to wait as long as possible before swapping out their own knees for new ones made of metal and plastic.
During the painful years, though exercise and glucosamine supplements may help to some extent, most people turn to over the counter pain relievers for daily relief. These often include Tylenol (acetaminophen) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen. These medications come with side effects, however. Already the makers of Tylenol face a number of lawsuits across the nation because of acetaminophen overdose, which is linked with severe liver damage. NSAIDs also come with potential side effects over the long-term, including edema, gastrointestinal upset, and ulcers.
Considering the situation, researchers have been on the lookout for alternatives for years. A recent study indicates they may have found at least one that may already be sitting in your pantry.
Study Results Show Pain Relief
The details of the study are very encouraging. Researchers from Iran recruited 50 participants with osteoarthritis of the knee. They divided them into two groups, giving 25 standard drug therapy, which included two 500 mg doses of Tylenol twice a day along with 500 mg of glucosamine once daily. The other group of 25 received 40 grams a day of powdered sesame seeds—equal to about an ounce and a half.
The researchers then observed the groups for two months. A total of 23 patients in the control (Tylenol) group completed the study, and 22 patients in the sesame group finished. The results showed the following:
- Drop in pain: The sesame group experienced the largest drop in pain intensity from 9.5 before treatment to 3.5 after treatment. The control group experienced a drop from 9 before treatment to 7 after.
- Confirmed improvement: Participants completed two other tests—the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) Questionnaire and the Timed Up and Go (TUG) Test. Both revealed similar results—improvement in both groups, when compared to baseline.
- Three times the relief: In terms of pain relief, the sesame seed group experienced three times the pain relief as the Tylenol group.
According to this small study, sesame seeds were much more effective at easing the symptoms of knee arthritis than Tylenol. Meanwhile, participants did not experience the typical side effects of Tylenol when taking sesame seeds, but instead, were exposed to numerous other health benefits.
Health Benefits of Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are a good source of copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus. Just a quarter cup supplies nearly three-quarters of your daily supply of copper, and a third of your daily requirements for magnesium and calcium. They also contain vitamin B1, zinc, selenium, and fiber, and are known for adding a delicate crunch to many Asian dishes.
Some of the health benefits attributed to sesame seeds include:
- Potential to lower cholesterol: Sesame seeds include sesamin and sesamolin, which are types of lignans, or plant chemicals, linked with lowering cholesterol. In a 2005 study, participants eating 1.5 ounces of ground, toasted sesame seeds along with a low-cholesterol diet reduced total cholesterol by six percent and LDL “bad” cholesterol by nearly 10 percent.
- Supply of protein: Sesame seeds are a good source of protein—100 grams of seeds provides about 18 grams of protein.
- Antioxidant protection: These seeds have a number of protective antioxidants thought to help protect the body from disease-causing free radicals.
- Control diabetes: Indian researchers discovered that an herbal blend based on sesame seed extracts helped to reduce blood sugar levels among participants classified as “pre-diabetic.”
- Lower high blood pressure: A 2003 report to the American Heart Association’s annual meeting of the Inter-American Society of Hypertension revealed that study participants with high blood pressure who were taking a common blood pressure-lowering drug and still had moderate high blood pressure, experienced a drop in pressure to the normal range 60 days after switching to sesame seed oil for cooking. The lead author of the study attributed the results to the essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and lignans in the sesame seed oil.
- Halt the growth of breast cancer: Laboratory studies have found that sesamin from sesame seeds can suppress the formation of new blood vessels and the pro-invasion molecules in breast cancer cells.
- Suppress other cancers: Other studies have found that the same lignan may inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells from leukemia, multiple myeloma, colon, prostate, pancreas, and lung cancers.
Meanwhile, in 2009, the FDA issued a report urging stronger warnings and stricter dose limits for over-the-counter drugs containing acetaminophen (like Tylenol), because of the link between the drug and liver damage and failure. The CDC states that acetaminophen overdoses send 55,000 to 80,000 people in the U.S. to the emergency room each year, and kill at least 500. The recommendations called for reducing the maximum daily dose recommendation from 4,000 milligrams to 3,250 milligrams per day. Most bottles of the medications now contain warnings alerting users to the potentially fatal risks of taking too much.
Put It To Use
This is another case of modern science catching up with traditional medicine. Sesame seeds have actually been used for hundreds of years to help ease joint pain. If you’re suffering knee pain and want to this natural remedy, try boiling one cup of water and pouring it over about one-and-a-half ounces of black sesame seeds. Let it soak overnight, then drink the water along with the seeds. You can also eat the seeds first, then drink another type of juice, like orange juice.
Have you tried sesame seeds for arthritis? Did you experience reduced pain? Please share your story.
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Bina Eftekhar Sadat, et al., “Sesame seed supplementation compares favorably to drug therapy on clinical signs and symptoms in patients with knee osteoarthritis,” International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, 2013 Oct;16(5):578-82, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24164846.
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Daniel J. DeNoon, “Sesame Oil Benefits Blood Pressure,” WebMD, April 28, 2003, http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/news/20030428/sesame-oil-benefits-blood-pressure.
Lee CC, Liu KJ, Wu YC, Lin SJ, et al. Sesamin Inhibits Macrophage-Induced Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor and Matrix Metalloproteinase-9 Expression and Proangiogenic Activity in Breast Cancer Cells. Inflammation. 2010 Jul 9. [Epub ahead of print].
Harikumar KB, Sung B, Tharakan ST, et al. Sesamin manifests chemopreventive effects through the suppression of NF-kappaB-regulated cell survival, proliferation, invasion, and angiogenic gene products. Mol Cancer Res. 2010 May;8(5):751-61. Epub 2010 May 11.
Matthew Perrone, “New warnings to alert Tylenol users of dangers,” Salem News, August 30, 2013, http://www.salemnews.com/nationworld/x312417906/New-warnings-to-alert-Tylenol-users-of-dangers.