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Turmeric for Arthritis

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Updated May 29, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Turmeric is an ayurvedic herb sometimes used in the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. A key ingredient in curry, turmeric contains an inflammation-fighting, antioxidant compound called curcumin. Although a limited number of studies have tested turmeric's effects on human health, some research suggests that turmeric shows promise in the treatment of arthritis.

Research on Turmeric and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Turmeric might help reduce some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). What's more, a 2006 study from the Journal of Natural Products suggests that turmeric may help prevent rheumatoid arthritis. In tests on animals, the study's authors showed that a turmeric extract prevented rheumatoid arthritis-like joint inflammation.

Despite these findings, the NIH cautions that there isn't yet enough scientific evidence to rate turmeric's effectiveness against rheumatoid arthritis.

Research on Turmeric and Osteoarthritis

There's also not enough reliable scientific evidence to support the use of turmeric in the treatment of osteoarthritis, according to a 2008 report from the journal American Family Physician. Sizing up the available research on dietary supplements and osteoarthritis, the report's authors note that turmeric's long-term effectiveness as an osteoarthritis treatment remains unknown.

A few studies have tested the use of turmeric-containing herbal formulas in treatment of osteoarthritis. For instance, a 2004 study published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology found that a supplement containing turmeric, ashwagandha, boswellia, and ginger may help relieve symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. The study involved 90 patients, each of whom was assigned to receive the turmeric-containing supplement or a placebo for 32 weeks. By the study's end, those in the supplement group showed greater improvement in pain and osteoarthritis symptoms (compared to those in the placebo group).

Using Turmeric for Arthritis

Due to the lack of supporting research, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine advises against using turmeric supplements to prevent or treat any health condition (including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis). In addition, there's some evidence that turmeric supplements may aggravate gallbladder disease and/or cause mild side effects (such as indigestion).

To boost your turmeric intake without using supplements, try cooking with curry powder. If you're considering the use of turmeric supplements in treatment of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or any other health problem, talk to your doctor before starting your supplement regimen.

Sources

National Institutes of Health. "Turmeric: MedlinePlus Supplements". November 2010.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Turmeric [NCCAM Health Information]". January 2011.

Jurenka JS. "Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research." Altern Med Rev. 2009 Jun;14(2):141-53.

Funk JL, Oyarzo JN, Frye JB, Chen G, Lantz RC, Jolad SD, Sólyom AM, Timmermann BN. "Turmeric extracts containing curcuminoids prevent experimental rheumatoid arthritis." J Nat Prod. 2006 Mar;69(3):351-5.

Gregory PJ, Sperry M, Wilson AF. "Dietary supplements for osteoarthritis." Am Fam Physician. 2008 Jan 15;77(2):177-84.

Chopra A, Lavin P, Patwardhan B, Chitre D. "A 32-week randomized, placebo-controlled clinical evaluation of RA-11, an Ayurvedic drug, on osteoarthritis of the knees." J Clin Rheumatol. 2004 Oct;10(5):236-45.

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