Does Turmeric Help Treat Arthritis?


Arthritis is the inflammation or degeneration of one or more joints.

Although there are treatments to reduce the pain it causes, many consumers and health professionals have focused on a natural option to relieve it: turmeric. Here we go over why this herb can help and what precautions you should take when using its supplements.

Joints are the point of contact where two or more bones meet, such as the knee, hip, elbow, or shoulder. They allow the skeleton to be flexible, without them movement would be impossible.

Certain injuries or conditions, such as arthritis, can cause joint pain, usually because the regeneration capacity of cartilage (spongy tissue that protects the joints) is impaired.

This leaves the bones unprotected, which rub against each other and cause inflammation, pain and bony protrusions in the joint, thus causing stiffness and difficulty in movement.

To prevent this damage, experts recommend maintaining a good diet, avoiding overloads, losing excess weight, avoiding or limiting tobacco or caffeine consumption, and staying active.

Another option that has gained popularity in recent years to relieve joint pain is the use of turmeric.

Turmeric Benefits

Turmeric or turmeric (curcuma longa) is a plant belonging to the family Zingiberaceae. This means that it is related to other beneficial herbs, such as ginger or cardamom.

Turmeric is native to India and was first used as a flavoring and coloring agent for rice and meat, a use that was later extended to dye wool, cotton, silk, leather and paper. It is also one of the essential seasonings in curry, and its main component is curcumin, which gives it its color and most of its properties.

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  • How to use turmeric to take advantage of all its properties

In addition to its gastronomic use, turmeric occupies a very important place in traditional and alternative medicine originating in India, better known as Ayurveda. According to these practices, this root can be used to treat many health problems:

  • skin diseases: Its antibacterial properties help reduce pimples and acne, fight dry skin, lighten it and slow down the aging process.
  • infections: stimulates the production of a protein known as CAMP, which helps the immune system fight dangerous bacteria, viruses and fungi.
  • elevated cholesterol levels: reduces the risk of arteriosclerosis and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Stomach problems: stimulates the flow of bile in the gallbladder which helps improve digestion. In addition, it helps control diarrhea.
  • liver problems: favors the elimination of toxins efficiently.
  • blood disorders: prevents the formation of blood clots.

Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it has become the focus of much research, mainly because it is considered that it can benefit people with different types of arthritis.

Does turmeric help relieve arthritis?

In principle, it is important to note that most of the research that analyzed the effects of turmeric on inflammatory conditions focused and attributed its benefits to its main component: curcumin.

There are many studies in vitro or in animals that yielded positive results, so in recent years clinical trials or large reviews of studies have begun to be carried out.

For example, in 2016 a work published in Journal of Medicinal Food found after analyzing data from eight randomized clinical trials, there was enough evidence to suggest that taking 1,000 mg of curcumin every day for 8 to 12 weeks can help reduce pain and inflammation due to arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis.

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Even the authors pointed out that curcumin extracts may be just as effective as taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or diclofenac.

Other work published in Journal of Medicinal Food tested a bioavailable formulation of curcumin in 12 participants with rheumatoid arthritis and found significant improvements in pain and inflammation compared to the placebo group.

While research published in foodssuggested that curcumin may be helpful in managing oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia.

The authors concluded that it may also aid in the management of exercise-induced muscle soreness and inflammation, thereby improving recovery and subsequent performance in active individuals.

Usage and precautions

The most common way to find turmeric is in powder form, although it is also easy to find the whole root. Both options are ideal for enhancing the flavors of your favorite dishes. To do this, you can:

  • Add it to scrambled eggs, roasted vegetables, rice or meats. Just sprinkle it during the cooking process
  • Prepare smoothies or soups. Add one or two teaspoons in the blender to enhance the flavor and color of these dishes.
  • Make infusions. Only turmeric should be diluted in water, milk or coconut milk and hot honey.

However, keep in mind that adding turmeric to food in this way is not a guarantee of its benefits, since, as we reviewed, most of its properties are attributed to curcumin.

There are many curcumin supplements in capsule or tablet form that are marketed to treat a variety of ailments, including arthritis.

And although there is no recommended dose, different studies highlight that the benefits on the joints can be seen with a daily intake of up to 1,000 mg.

The problem is that supplements do not respond to the same regulations as drugs, that is, they do not have to prove their effectiveness or prove their quality.

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In order not to be in danger when you use supplements, you must take into account different security measures. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shares these tips so that the user knows the supplements and does not fall into their inappropriate use:

  • If you search for supplements on the Internet, use non-commercial sites, such as the National Institutes of Health, the FDA, or the Federal Department of Agriculture. In this way, you will not depend on the information offered by sellers.
  • Allow yourself to hesitate when statements are too good to be true, such as “works better than a prescription drug,” “totally safe,” or “no side effects.”
  • Remember, natural does not always mean safe.

It is important to know that both turmeric and curcumin can cause mild side effects, such as an upset stomach or headaches. Therefore, it is advised that those who are sensitive to these substances avoid or limit their use.

It is also not recommended for pregnant or lactating women, or those taking blood thinners.

To remind:

Until there is meaningful scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should be very careful.

Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, but first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.

Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.

Sources consulted: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

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