Arthritis is a condition which causes inflamed, stiff joints which can be painful.
If you have arthritis, you’re not alone. Around 1 million people in the UK experience arthritis or some form of joint condition. 1
In the UK, there’s an increasing interest in preventative health care for common, chronic conditions such as arthritis.
You may have heard about certain spices, such as turmeric, which might be able to help, but what’s the evidence behind these claims?
Can turmeric help arthritis?
Turmeric is a bright orange-yellow spice from the root of the turmeric plant, in increasing demand for its purported anti-inflammatory benefits.
Native to South-East Asia, turmeric is from the Zingiberaceae family, the same as ginger – another spice believed to have anti-inflammatory effects. 2
It might seem odd that an exotic spice is the new buzzword in joint health. However, turmeric has been used for thousands of years in Eastern medicines such as Ayurvedic and Unami medicine, to treat various conditions, including inflammation. 3
How does turmeric help inflammation?
Turmeric itself contains small amounts of an active compound called curcumin, which is believed by scientists to have potent anti-inflammatory properties. 4
This is believed to be down to its antioxidant properties and ability to scavenge potentially harmful free radicals in the body. Further, curcumin has a role in blocking enzymes and other proteins that create an inflammatory response in the body. 5
Curcumin has been shown to help relieve the symptoms of inflammation-based conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. 6
The effects of turmeric in relation to both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis have been proven in various scientific studies:
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It’s usually caused by wear and tear on the joints, which causes the protective cartilage on the ends of bones to break down over time. 7
In one study performed in 2014 by researchers in Thailand, turmeric appeared to help improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis in patients.
The 107 participants with osteoarthritis of the knee were randomised to receive either 2g turmeric (around 2000mg) or 800mg ibuprofen per day for six weeks.
The study found that those who took turmeric found that their pain when climbing stairs was improved to a greater extent than in those who received ibuprofen. 8
According to a 2018 study conducted in China, curcumin has been shown to be effective at reducing tenderness and swelling of joints associated with rheumatoid arthritis. 9
A large meta-analysis of the efficacy of turmeric extracts and curcumin for alleviating the symptoms of arthritis was published in 2016 in the Journal of Medicinal Food. In it, the researchers concluded that there is a justification for the use of turmeric as an addition to conventional treatment. 10
How do you use turmeric for arthritis?
A standout ingredient in curries, this warming spice can also be added to soups, stews, casseroles, dips, rice, vegetables, tofu, cheese sauce, hummus, pancakes and even smoothies.
It’s important to know that consuming black pepper alongside your turmeric drastically increases your body’s ability to absorb turmeric’s benefits. 11 Make sure you keep the two spices together to remind yourself to add a pinch of black pepper – or you could make your own spice blend of the two.
For turmeric recipes for arthritis, check out:
How much turmeric should I take for arthritis?
Always speak to your GP first and mention that you are going to begin using turmeric as a natural remedy. You may also require prescription medication and/or exercises to help manage your arthritis symptoms.
Any turmeric supplement which contains at least 800mg of turmeric is recommended. Most studies use around 1500mg – 2000mg per day as the tested dose.
Last updated: 19th November 2020
Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Regulatory Affairs
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.