Arthritis is a rheumatic condition that can cause pain, aching, stiffness and swelling in the joints, and can range from uncomfortable to debilitating. The condition is more common in adults over 65, but it can affect people of all ages. It’s also the most common extraintestinal complication of IBD, affecting roughly 30% of patients.
Many with arthritis seek natural alternatives to over-the-counter and prescription painkillers, as they help manage the pain, but don’t actually target the inflammation at the root of the condition. And while nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help, overuse can lead to gastrointestinal issues. Researchers have therefore explored a range of natural alternatives for arthritis, with Boswellia serrata and curcumin at the forefront.
Can Turmeric Relieve Joint Inflammation?
Turmeric is an ancient remedy used for thousands of years in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has recently undergone scrutinous clinical investigation as it was believed to have similar anti-inflammatory activities to its cousin, ginger. However, the research revealed that the bioactive compound extracted from turmeric, curcumin, has its own unique set of mechanisms that are surprisingly effective against inflammatory disease.
Curcumin has been found to be:
In 2016, researchers conducted a systematic review of randomized trials testing curcumin (turmeric extract) as a therapy for “joint arthritis”. The results provided clear evidence that curcumin can treat arthritis. However, there are subsets of arthritis that have varying root causes.
Here’s the research so far on the two main subsets of arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Osteoarthritis (OA).
Turmeric for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Unlike Osteoarthritis, which involves the natural wear and tear of joint tissue with age, Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune inflammatory disease. This happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells with antibodies that cause inflammation in the tissue lining the joints, leading to the release of damaging chemicals in the bones.
Curcumin is a promising therapy for this condition as it has the natural ability to modulate immune system activity. It does this by inhibiting certain cytokines, which regulate inflammation and autoimmunity and can lead to the destruction of joints in AR. Studies have already shown curcumin to be a safe and effective therapy for RA, especially beneficial for morning stiffness and joint swelling.
How does Turmeric work?
Two of the main pro-inflammatory drivers are interleukin-1 (IL-1) and TNFα (tumor-necrosis factor). Researchers have also uncovered certain cytokines involved in the development of arthritis, such as IL-17, IL-18, and RANK ligand (RANKL). RANKL is the receptor activator of the NF-κB pathway, which is meant to regulate cellular behavior and the inflammatory response.
Curcumin has been found in numerous clinical trials to suppress or inhibit IL-1, IL-17, and IL-18, mediate TNFα expression and inhibit dysregulated NF-kB signaling.
Turmeric for Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis and is more common in those over 50. The condition develops slowly but can come on more rapidly after an injury or with increasing age. The condition causes cartilage degradation that can change the bone shape and trigger inflammation, leading to pain, loss of mobility, and stiffness.
Curcumin has tested well for osteoarthritis in randomized trials and showed even more efficacy when combined with Boswellia extract due to a synergistic effect. According to the research, curcuminoids had “similar pain relief effects and were associated with better pain relief than non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs”.
Can Turmeric heal cartilage?
Curcumin targets and relieves inflammation by inhibiting and mediating pro-inflammatory mediators and enzymes associated with arthritis (largely IL-6, IL-8, PGE2, NO, COX-2 and iNOS). But it also exerts certain effects that are especially beneficial for osteoarthritis.
In a 2017 animal study, researchers reported that curcumin resulted in “a balance between the breakdown and building up of joint cartilage.” The same study revealed that curcumin restores type II collagen, a protein within cartilage, bone, and connective tissue. Type II collagen is already used for osteoarthritis treatment as well as other forms of joint pain.
Curcumin has also been found to boost collagen production, helping the body quickly form new tissue, build worn cartilage and promote healthy cartilage growth.
The Best Turmeric for Joint Pain
The first thing you need to know about taking curcumin for any condition is that curcumin, although an ingredient in turmeric, is not the same as turmeric. Turmeric alone will not provide the same curative effects as curcumin. Curcumin is the active compound extracted from turmeric, generally boosted up to 95%.
And because curcumin gets metabolized before it can be fully absorbed, you will need a form that is high in bioavailability (unless it’s specifically for a digestive condition). Choose a brand that uses piperine, phospholipids, antioxidants, or nanoparticles for better absorption. Curcumin also works best when taken close to a meal.
Curcumin supplements and capsules have the most efficacy for medical conditions.
How much Turmeric should I take for Arthritis?
For arthritis support, the Arthritis Foundation recommends 500 milligrams of curcumin, twice a day.
How long does it take for Turmeric to work?
Response time to curcumin differs from person to person, though many feel the effects within 4-8 weeks and it can take up to 12 weeks to feel the full benefits for arthritis.
When Not to Take Turmeric
Experts advise avoiding curcumin, or using it with caution if you have:
- Any blood disorder requiring blood-thinning medication, or if you experience nose bleeds.
- Gallbladder problems
- Gastroesophageal reflux disorder
- Liver disease
- A hormone-sensitive condition like breast cancer
- Heart arrhythmia
What drugs does Turmeric interact with?
Curcumin can slow blood clotting, so it’s best to avoid it when taking medications that also slow blood clotting as this may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising. It’s also best to avoid curcumin if you take any drugs that reduce stomach acid.
Can you take Ibrupfofen and Turmeric at the same time?
No interactions have been found between curcumin and aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin ), or Acetaminophen (Tylenol ).