What does the science say about turmeric and arthritis?
A number of studies agree that turmeric can be effective in reducing symptoms of arthritis. Well known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, curcumin is the active ingredient getting all the attention. It is just one of three of health-giving compounds found in turmeric called curcuminoids.
To find out if turmeric can be beneficial for arthritis, we reviewed some of the leading research.
First, let’s review the types and causes of arthritis.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. It affects more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children. It is more commonly found in women and affects many people as they get older.1
While there are over 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions, most have the same key symptoms in common. Swelling, pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion are all potential signs of the disease. Symptoms of arthritis can be mild to severe and the causes depend on the type of arthritis the person is dealing with.1
Types of arthritis
The Arthritis Foundation lists four main types of arthritis and examples of each:1
- Degenerative arthritis – osteoarthritis
- Inflammatory arthritis – rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis
- Infectious arthritis – caused by chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C
- Metabolic arthritis – caused by gout
Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid arthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and affects moving joints. It is caused by the loss of cushioning and lubrication in and around the joint, resulting in bone rubbing against bone. The research we summarize below is focused on turmeric and OA.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the second most common type of arthritis. It is an autoimmune disease caused by an unhealthy inflammatory response that results in joint erosion. RA can also spread to other parts of the body like your internal organs and eyes, causing irreparable damage.
Research on curcumin and arthritis symptoms
One randomized, placebo controlled study tested a curcumin complex containing three curcuminoids in the treatment of mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis. Participants were either given a curcumin supplement or a placebo, which is a harmless pill identical to the curcumin supplement but designed to have no real effect. Those in the curumin group took 1500 mg of this curcumin complex in combination with pain medication over a six week period.2
Compared to the placebo group, the curcumin complex subjects reported a significantly greater reduction in OA symptoms by the end of the study.
In a three-month study of 50 people, OA symptoms were reduced by 58% in the group taking 1000 mg a day of a curcumin complex (equivlent to 200 mg of curucmin). Participants also increased their walking distance on a treadmill by over four times by end of the study.3 By comparison, the group that was not taking curcumin (the control group) only had a small improvement in symptoms and walking distance.
Following the positive results of this research, a longer study was performed on 100 patients with OA for a period of 8 months, using the same 1000 mg daily dose of a curcumin complex.
Those who were given the curucmin complex showed significant improvements in symptoms. The researchers concluded that a curcumin supplement could be beneficial in the long-term management of osteoarthritis, along with traditional treatment.4
Less pain medication use
Participants in all of the studies were on pain medication from OA and the researchers wanted to see if taking curcumin would lower the need for medication.
The test subjects in the 1000 mg curucmin complex study experienced a reduction in the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, hospitalization, and other treatments.3 Similarly, the OA patients in the 1500 mg curcumin complex study required their pain medication far less often.2 This is an important outcome because it shows that taking curucmin may lower healthacre costs.
After reviewing the research, it is clear to see that curcumin may help ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis. The studies above show that curcumin can improve pain, stiffness, mobility, and quality of life. Curcumin is worth considering as a beneficial supplement to help complement osteoarthritis treatment.
- Blog Contributor