Best "Natural Rheumatologist" Pain Recipe

November 18, 2018

Best "Natural Rheumatologist" Pain Recipe

 Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD

Holistic Pain Specialist

I have many pet peeves as both a Naturopathic Doctor and Holistic Pain Specialist. I could probably go on and on for hours and hours but in honor of "Useless Stuff Day," I will dial it down to my #1 Pet Peeve about treating chronic pain with herbal medicine. The real reason it bothers me is of no fault to the patient. However, when patients follow Dr. Google and not an actual expert they end up not getting a good result.

Sometimes they do not use the correct part of the plant and oftentimes they do not use enough of the herbal medicine, and then Natural Medicine is deemed "Worthless." This happens often in poorly conducted research studies on herbal medicine that I read. I look at the doses of herbal medicines the scientists use in the study and think "Well yeah that is not going to help ANYONE." So it is extremely important to me as a Female Hormone Naturopathic Doctor that my female pain patients get results with their herbs AND get their hormones tested and vitamins to feel optimal.

What is my #1 Pain Pet Peeve on Useless Stuff?

#1 Pet Peeve= Patients telling me they are taking Turmeric or drinking their "Golden Milk Latte" to treat their pain. Rarely does this ever even fix their pain, and they are still in pain, it does not work and when I tell them to stop and use curcumin they simply cannot break up with their useless Golden Milk. Personally, as a pain patient and herbalist myself, I find turmeric totally worthless compared to curcumin and truly believe in my Naturopathic heart of hearts that the patient in pain needs to use the more potent and effective active component of turmeric, curcumin. The pharmaceutical equivalent is a Golden Milk Latte is like taking 1 baby aspirin, while my "Sunshine Milk" recipe is "Nature's Percocet" so if you have no pain and simply like Golden Milk, that is totally fine but if you are using it to treat chronic pain, please just throw it in the garbage immediately and use curcumin instead!

Yet time and time again my chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune patients refuse to believe me and want to continue drinking their useless "Golden Milk Lattes." While this is totally "On Trend" and there is nothing wrong with this and it is not harmful, it just is not very effective, in my humble herbal opinion.

Basically, if you are in a baby aspirin level of pain then I suppose that turmeric is fine, but if your pain is severe like mine, which is very painful Neuropathy due to my Autoimmune condition. Then we need to use effective herbal medicine recipes to achieve proper results! It is time to become BFF's with what works, and that is the yellow flavone in turmeric, also known as curcumin. Curcumin is what makes it yellow, and curcumin is what makes turmeric work.

Curcumin creates the most anti-inflammatory pain-relieving benefits which is why I have 17 research studies listed below that you can read if you don't want to believe your favorite Naturopathic Doctor!

In the spirit of celebrating "Useless Stuff Day" I will state my FIRM scientific opinion that Golden Milk Latte's are utter useless for pain relief, and that women everywhere should simply start pouring their Golden Milk Lattes straight down the drain.

I have posted my "Sunshine Milk" recipe on Instagram and then duck and run for cover as I will likely infuriate nearly every Naturopathic Doctor and Herbalist in my Herbal Queendom on Instagram. But as a chronic pain patient myself, I know how important it is that patients with chronic pain avoid pain medications that can damage their kidneys and liver over time. The research studies I list below show that it actually HELPS patients with liver conditions such as Fatty Liver. Furthermore, there is excellent research that demonstrates curcumin boosts mood and works also as an anti-depressant.

This is AWESOME because nothing puts you in a worse depressed mood than being in constant pain. When you are a pain patient, you are highly prone to depression. Especially when you cannot exercise when exercise is the #1 best natural anti-depressant!

So instead of taking a pain med that is bad for your liver, you can rest assured that Dr. Sundene's "Sunshine Milk" is not only good for your pain but also good for your liver! Curcumin is anti-aging, anti-cancer works as an anti-depressant, helps muscles heal, and repair faster lowers PGE-2 aka inflammation, and prevents Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, dementia, and even helps schizophrenia!

Curcumin is generally safe to combine with most OTC and prescription pain meds, but you should always book your Naturopathic consult with me on my SCHEDULE page to confirm the safety of any new herbs you will be using or combining with medications. Doing the wrong thing with herbs and drugs can be utterly dangerous!

Most of the curcumin research I summarize below uses around 500mg to 1500mg of curcumin daily for pain relief and it is found to be just as effective as Naproxen and Diclofenac for pain with zero adverse events. It does not work instantly but works overtime per the research studies. Yet, I do find my Sunshine Milk working relatively immediately on my pain and neuropathy, and tend to alternate every morning between this, My "Gingerberry Blaster" recipe for pain, my "Invincible Mommy Tea" when I feel tired, sick, and run down, and my "Anti-Rage Latte" recipe especially when I have to go to work because Pandemic doctoring is not for the faint of heart.

So please take my word for it or read my research below on WHY you should want to take a better pain reliever than crappy turmeric when curcumin is also studied to be good for your liver, good for your mood, good for weight loss, glycemic control, and anti-aging. Do not use ginger if you are on a blood-thinner, or licorice for high blood pressure, and PLEASE be sure to brush your teeth after drinking this or they will turn yellow. I cannot have any of my pain patients going around with yellow teeth. Life is simply hard enough for us pain patients and I always expect my patients to be "The Beautiful People" Inside and out!

Dr. Sundene's Sunshine Milk

1 cup warm Coconut milk (Nutmilk must have fat in it or curcumin will not be absorbed)

1 tsp Curcumin Powder (Can use up to 9g of curcumin daily if god forbid you are in that much pain)

1/2 tsp Ginger Powder (Can use more. Avoid if taking blood-thinners)

1/2 tsp Licorice Powder (Can use more as an anti-inflammatory but avoid if high blood pressure)

1/8 tsp Cloves (Optional or can use cinnamon)

1 packet of stevia (Optional)

Sprinkle of black pepper as Bioperine helps to activate the curcumin.

Drink 2-3 times daily for pain relief

Naturopathic Curcumin Research for The Turmeric Latte Naysayers:


500mg twice daily of curcumin improved depression symptoms better than placebo [1] Nanocurcumin (encapsulated in liposomal suspension) 80mg improved depression symptoms after eight weeks [2] A twelve-week study of patients with major depression found significant improvement at weeks 12 to 16 with 500-1000mg of curcumin daily. Curcumin was, more importantly, safe and well-tolerated with no adverse effects and appears to work very well as an adjunctive treatment without side effects to antidepressants. [3]

Curcumin was further demonstrated as very safe for the liver when studied in patients with cirrhosis, was well tolerated and improved quality of life measures such as Fatigue, emotional worry, and abdominal symptoms. [4] Curcumin shows promising benefit as an adjunctive treatment for patients with schizophrenia as an anti-psychotic in a 24 week trial at 3000mg daily. [5] 160mg of curcumin improved mental well-being and vigor in middle-aged people ages 50-80 in a 16-week double-blind randomized control trial. [6]

Weight Loss

Curcumin decreased weight, improved glycemic control, and lipids in women with PCOS given 500mg of curcumin daily vs placebo. [8]  In a small trial of adolescent girls curcumin at 500mg daily improved cardiovascular markers in obese girls at 500mg daily after 10 weeks and was demonstrated as completely safe. [9]

Inflammation and Liver

Curcumin had zero adverse events and was tolerated well for pain patients at 500mg three times daily vs 50mg of diclofenac twice daily. [7] 500mg of curcumin and 5mg of piperine (black pepper) decreased inflammatory cytokines in liver disease (NAFLD) Demonstrating its anti-inflammatory benefits and liver safety as many medications used to treat pain are bad for the patient's liver. This is why I recommend my patients on pain meds at least use curcumin as an adjunctive pain reliever that is protecting their liver! [10]

500mg of curcumin and 30mg of zinc decreased BMI compared to placebo, therefore, supplements patients are already taking for immune boosting antiviral purposes aid weight loss.  [11] Curcumin at 1500mg daily improved muscle soreness and muscle damage [12] 190 patients with knee arthritis were studied for 90 days and given bio-optimized curcumin at high or low doses or a placebo. Curcumin at both high and low doses improved knee osteoarthritis. [13]

Both curcumin and ginger were demonstrated to be just as efficacious in lowering PGE-2 aka pain and inflammation in osteoarthritis of the knee as patients taking naproxen. [14]  Nano curcumin improved diabetic hemoglobin A1c and diabetic neuropathy in type 2 diabetics after 2 months. [15]  Curcumin synergistically improved the joint pain benefits of both chondroitin and glucosamine [16] 400mg of curcumin was also found superior as natural pain relief to glucosamine/chondroitin combinations. [17]

Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD

(480) 837-0900

Dr. Sundene is a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is considered a Female Hormone Expert  in Women's Health and Bioidentical Hormones. She specializes in Holistic Women's Health for MenopauseThyroidHashimotosPMS, PerimenopauseAutoimmune, Postpartum, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Anxiety, Food Allergies, Digestion, Dermatology , Acne, Psoriasis, Eczema and Adrenal Hormonal Conditions. In 1999 she began working for a Hormone Doctor prior to starting Naturopathic Medical School. With over 22 years of experience in both Prescription and Natural women's health and hormones she presents to women the best integrated health solutions for their Chronic Disease. She has been an Herbalist for over 27 years and enjoys teaching women how to use herbs to balance their hormones, nutrition and optimize their health. Dr. Sundene relies on blood testing for her hormone metrics. The hormone testing is covered per the patient's insurance plan and conducted at certain points in the woman's menstrual cycle. To learn more about Hormone Testing for Women Visit: Bioidentical Hormones. Follow Dr. Sundene on InstagramTwitter and Facebook for more tips on Women's Health, Female Hormones and Naturopathy!


1. Lopresti AL, Drummond PD. Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Affect Disord. 2017 Jan 1;207:188-196. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.09.047. Epub 2016 Oct 1. PMID: 27723543.

2. Lopresti AL, Drummond PD. Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Affect Disord. 2017 Jan 1;207:188-196. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.09.047. Epub 2016 Oct 1. PMID: 27723543.

3. Kanchanatawan B, Tangwongchai S, Sughondhabhirom A, Suppapitiporn S, Hemrunrojn S, Carvalho AF, Maes M. Add-on Treatment with Curcumin Has Antidepressive Effects in Thai Patients with Major Depression: Results of a Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study. Neurotox Res. 2018 Apr;33(3):621-633. doi: 10.1007/s12640-017-9860-4. Epub 2018 Jan 11. PMID: 29327213.

4. Nouri-Vaskeh M, Afshan H, Malek Mahdavi A, Alizadeh L, Fan X, Zarei M. Curcumin ameliorates health-related quality of life in patients with liver cirrhosis: A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2020 Mar;49:102351. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102351. Epub 2020 Feb 19. PMID: 32147077.

5. Miodownik C, Lerner V, Kudkaeva N, Lerner PP, Pashinian A, Bersudsky Y, Eliyahu R, Kreinin A, Bergman J. Curcumin as Add-On to Antipsychotic Treatment in Patients With Chronic Schizophrenia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Clin Neuropharmacol. 2019 Jul/Aug;42(4):117-122. doi: 10.1097/WNF.0000000000000344. PMID: 31045590.

6. Kuszewski JC, Howe PRC, Wong RHX. An Exploratory Analysis of Changes in Mental Wellbeing Following Curcumin and Fish Oil Supplementation in Middle-Aged and Older Adults. Nutrients. 2020 Sep 23;12(10):2902. doi: 10.3390/nu12102902. PMID: 32977404; PMCID: PMC7598152.

7. Shep D, Khanwelkar C, Gade P, Karad S. Safety and efficacy of curcumin versus diclofenac in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized open-label parallel-arm study. Trials. 2019 Apr 11;20(1):214. doi: 10.1186/s13063-019-3327-2. PMID: 30975196; PMCID: PMC6460672.

8. Jamilian M, Foroozanfard F, Kavossian E, Aghadavod E, Shafabakhsh R, Hoseini A, Asemi Z. Effects of curcumin on body weight, glycemic control and serum lipids in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2020 Apr;36:128-133. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2020.01.005. Epub 2020 Jan 30. PMID: 32220355.

9. Saraf-Bank S, Ahmadi A, Paknahad Z, Maracy M, Nourian M. Effects of curcumin on cardiovascular risk factors in obese and overweight adolescent girls: a randomized clinical trial. Sao Paulo Med J. 2019 Sep-Oct;137(5):414-422. doi: 10.1590/1516-3180.2018.0454120419. PMID: 31691723.

10. Saberi-Karimian M, Keshvari M, Ghayour-Mobarhan M, Salehizadeh L, Rahmani S, Behnam B, Jamialahmadi T, Asgary S, Sahebkar A. Effects of curcuminoids on inflammatory status in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A randomized controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2020 Mar;49:102322. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102322. Epub 2020 Jan 21. PMID: 32147075.

11. Karandish M, Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Mohammadi SM, Cheraghian B, Azhdari M. The effect of curcumin and zinc co-supplementation on glycemic parameters in overweight or obese prediabetic subjects: A phase 2 randomized, placebo-controlled trial with a multi-arm, parallel-group design. Phytother Res. 2021 Aug;35(8):4377-4387. doi: 10.1002/ptr.7136. Epub 2021 Apr 23. PMID: 33893671.

12. Ms SAB, Waldman PhD HS, Krings PhD BM, Lamberth PhD J, Smith PhD JW, McAllister PhD MJ. Effect of Curcumin Supplementation on Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, Muscle Damage, and Muscle Soreness. J Diet Suppl. 2020;17(4):401-414. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2019.1604604. Epub 2019 Apr 26. PMID: 31025894.13. Heidari-Beni M, Moravejolahkami AR, Gorgian P, Askari G, Tarrahi MJ, Bahreini-Esfahani N. Herbal formulation "turmeric extract, black pepper, and ginger" versus Naproxen for chronic knee osteoarthritis: A randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2020 Aug;34(8):2067-2073. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6671. Epub 2020 Mar 16. PMID: 32180294.

13. Asadi S, Gholami MS, Siassi F, Qorbani M, Khamoshian K, Sotoudeh G. Nano curcumin supplementation reduced the severity of diabetic sensorimotor polyneuropathy in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Apr;43:253-260. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.02.014. Epub 2019 Feb 28. PMID: 30935539.

14. Abdolahi M, Jafarieh A, Sarraf P, Sedighiyan M, Yousefi A, Tafakhori A, Abdollahi H, Salehinia F, Djalali M. The Neuromodulatory Effects of ω-3 Fatty Acids and Nano-Curcumin on the COX-2/ iNOS Network in Migraines: A Clinical Trial Study from Gene Expression to Clinical Symptoms. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2019;19(6):874-884. doi: 10.2174/1871530319666190212170140. PMID: 30760195.

15. Khanna A, Das SS, Smina TP, Thomas JV, Kunnumakkara AB, Maliakel B, Krishnakumar IM, Mohanan R. Curcumagalactomannoside/Glucosamine Combination Improved Joint Health Among Osteoarthritic Subjects as Compared to Chondroitin Sulfate/Glucosamine: Double-Blinded, Randomized Controlled Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2020 Oct;26(10):945-955. doi: 10.1089/acm.2020.0128. Epub 2020 Jul 14. PMID: 32678677.

16. Thomas JV, Smina TP, Khanna A, Kunnumakkara AB, Maliakel B, Mohanan R, Krishnakumar IM. Influence of a low-dose supplementation of curcumagalactomannoside complex (CurQfen) in knee osteoarthritis: A randomized, open-labeled, active-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2021 Mar;35(3):1443-1455. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6907. Epub 2020 Nov 18. PMID: 33210408.

17. Haroyan A, Mukuchyan V, Mkrtchyan N, Minasyan N, Gasparyan S, Sargsyan A, Narimanyan M, Hovhannisyan A. Efficacy and safety of curcumin and its combination with boswellic acid in osteoarthritis: a comparative, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018 Jan 9;18(1):7. DOI: 10.1186/s12906-017-2062-z. PMID: 29316908; PMCID: PMC5761198.

I look forward to helping you get back on track and feeling awesome again!

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