Turmeric For Knee Osteoarthritis: How Turmeric (Curcumin) Can Help With Pain And Inflammation14 March 2023
- Turmeric is a spice that’s been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. It comes from the root of a plant called Curcuma longa, which is part of the ginger family.
- Turmeric’s active ingredient is curcumin, which may help with pain and inflammation in osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Studies have shown that curcumin can help with pain and inflammation, but it’s unclear how much to take or for how long.
- You may also want to talk with your doctor about whether taking curcumin is safe for you. If you’re interested in using turmeric for pain and inflammation, there are many ways to get it into your diet.
- Turmeric can be safely incorporated into your pain management routine. For medicinal or therapeutic purposes, it’s best to stick to turmeric supplements (capsules) to increase the bioavailability of the herb’s active ingredient.
- Aside from turmeric, medical cannabis has been shown to be a viable natural analgesic for osteoarthritis symptoms. Cannabinoids like CBD and THC possess anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce pain associated with the condition.
Arthritis is a common inflammatory condition that affects the joints of one in 10 adults in the UK. It can make basic movement difficult. The conditions can be painful and cause swelling and stiffness in your joints.
When you have arthritis, your body’s inflammatory response is triggered by an overactive immune system. The most common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
While the condition can’t be fully treated, interventions such as medications and surgery can slow the condition’s progress. However, these treatments have many side effects, which can ultimately reduce the patient’s quality of life. There’s been an increased interest in the use of alternative treatments for arthritis. One of the most well-documented ones is turmeric.
Turmeric is a spice that has been used for thousands of years as food and medicine. It’s a member of the ginger family and has a long history of use in traditional medicine. It’s found throughout India, Southeast Asia, Africa and some parts of Europe.
In this article, we’ll look at the evidence for using turmeric for arthritis. We’ll also discuss how you can use it safely and effectively, as well as how to find the best curcumin supplements.
Before we dive into turmeric’s potential as an analgesic, let’s introduce you to Lyphe Clinic. We are the leading medical cannabis clinics in the United Kingdom.
We have a team of highly-trained doctors who are experienced in prescribing medical cannabis. If you’re suffering from arthritis or any other debilitating medical condition and want to try out cannabis as a treatment, contact us today to discuss your eligibility.
Arthritis: what you need to know
Arthritis is a disease that causes joint pain, stiffness and swelling. It can affect anyone at any age but most often occurs in older adults. There are many different types of arthritis, including:
- Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It causes pain, stiffness and loss of movement in your joints.
- Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 1% of the world’s population and usually starts before the age of 45. It causes inflammation of your joints and other organs, such as your eyes, skin, lungs and blood vessels.
- Psoriatic arthritis affects people with psoriasis. It causes inflammation and pain in your joints, tendons and ligaments.
- Reactive arthritis. People with RA can experience painful swelling of the joints, sore eyes and extreme fatigue. The symptoms usually develop soon after an infection in your gut or mouth.
Arthritis is often associated with other inflammatory conditions, including:
The symptoms of arthritis can vary depending on the type of arthritis you have. Joint pain, stiffness and swelling are common symptoms that occur in most types of arthritis. Other symptoms include:
- Fever or feeling cold all the time
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme joint tenderness or pain when moving
- Redness over the affected areas
- Muscle wasting.
The cause of arthritis is not always known. Some types of arthritis are caused by an infection or joint injury. Other types may run in families or be related to certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
However, most forms of arthritis are thought to be caused by a malfunctioning immune system. The body attacks its body tissue, causing inflammation and pain.
Other factors that may contribute to the development of arthritis include:
- Poor nutrition
- Overuse of a joint.
A licenced physician will diagnose arthritis by performing a physical examination, reviewing your medical history and ordering blood tests and X-rays. A physical exam includes tests for joint swelling, tenderness, pain with movement and range of motion.
Since arthritis is commonly associated with other conditions, you may also have blood tests to rule out other conditions that cause joint inflammation and pain. If you have certain types of arthritis, your doctor may order X-rays to confirm the diagnosis.
Currently, there is no cure for arthritis. Treatment focuses on relieving pain and preventing further joint damage.
The goal of treatment will depend on the type of arthritis you have but may include the following:
- Medications. Pain relief medications can help reduce inflammation and ease discomfort associated with arthritis.
- Physical therapy may help improve joint flexibility and reduce pain. If you have osteoarthritis, exercise can also help prevent further damage to your joints.
- Surgery. In some cases, surgery may be an option if other treatments aren’t effective or you have severe pain that interferes with daily activities. Surgery may include joint replacement or a procedure called arthroscopy.
Turmeric as potential pain relief for OA
Turmeric is a plant that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Some believe it’s a miracle cure for everything from heart disease to cancer. While the jury is still out on its long-term benefits, turmeric has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and possible anti-cancer agent.
Curcumin and its anti-inflammatory properties
Curcumin is the key ingredient in turmeric. It gives turmeric its bright yellow colour, which is why it’s often used as a colouring agent for things like mustard and curry powders.
A 2013 review published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research suggests that curcumin possesses numerous biological activities, including anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antidiabetic. The same review noted that turmeric also contains other medicinally viable components, namely: turmerin, turmerone, elemene, furanodiene, curdione, bisacurone, cyclocurcumin, calebin A and germacrone.
In a 2014 study, researchers found that turmeric extract significantly decreased inflammation in an animal model. The researchers concluded that the extract could effectively treat acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) inflammation.
Turmeric for knee osteoarthritis (OA)
A 2020 randomised trial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that curcumin medication led to better pain outcomes than a placebo for knee OA. At the end of the 12-week study, the researchers noted improved outcomes in the group that took curcumin supplements.
In a 2021 review, researchers suggest that supplementation with turmeric improves joint pain and function. However, they also noted that variables such as how much to take and when were still unclear.
Curcumin versus other anti-inflammatory drugs
A 2019 randomised control study published in Trials found that curcumin was as effective as diclofenac in reducing pain severity caused by knee OA. Patients in one group received 500mg of curcumin supplements thrice a day, while the other received diclofenac 50mg tablet twice daily for 28 days.
Those who took curcumin tablets reported a similar decrease in the severity of pain as those who took diclofenac. Additionally, the researchers noted that curcumin was better tolerated among patients with knee OA.
Patients who took curcumin experienced a greater reduction in the number of episodes of flatulence than those on diclofenac. The researchers of the clinical trial concluded:
“Curcumin can be an alternative treatment option in the patients with knee OA who are intolerant to the side effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.”
Another study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging found that curcumin extract was just as effective as ibuprofen (Nurofen) for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. The researchers noted that though curcumin caused similar side effects as the prescription drug, the frequency and severity were lower.
The randomised trial involved 367 primary knee OA patients. 185 patients took curcumin extracts, while 182 took ibuprofen for knee OA pain. After a four-week treatment period, both curcumin and ibuprofen showed similar improvements in pain. However, the researchers found that a higher percentage of patients experienced abdominal pain/discomfort from ibuprofen than from curcumin extract.
Curcumin as an antioxidant
Oxidative damage is a process by which free radicals or reactive oxygen species cause damage to cells. This damage can lead to the development of many diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Antioxidants are compounds that help prevent this oxidative damage from occurring.
While curcumin does not block free radicals, it’s been shown to stimulate the natural production of antioxidants in the body. A 2018 review suggests that curcumin scavenges free radicals while maintaining the activities of antioxidant enzymes.
Turmeric contains curcuminoids and turmerones, compounds that have been found to have antioxidant properties. It also contains zinc, which may help promote healing in wounds and sore muscles.
Other health benefits of curcumin
Aside from the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, studies also show that it can help treat indigestion, protect against heart disease and even improve skin health.
It’s also been linked to a lower risk of cancer in some studies. Curcumin’s wide spectrum of biological activities makes it a promising agent for treating various diseases.
How to take turmeric for arthritis
Based on several clinical trials showing the benefits of turmeric for arthritis, it’s likely safe to take 500 milligrams of curcumin at least twice daily. Those who took turmeric supplements in the trials generally noted significant improvements within two weeks of taking them.
Still, turmeric can be easily incorporated into your diet in the form of Indian curries, stews and soups. The spice is also a common ingredient in many dishes from Southeast Asia. However, do note that consuming turmeric through this route is still not as effective as through a supplement or tablet.
Taking too much curcumin may also cause adverse reactions. A study published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies found that taking over 4,000mg of turmeric daily can cause headaches, diarrhoea and skin rashes. Nonetheless, turmeric remains relatively safe even at higher doses.
If you don’t notice any improvement after taking curcumin consistently, talk with your doctor about other options.
Alternative ways to alleviate arthritis pain
Aside from turmeric, there are many other ways to alleviate arthritis pain. These include the following:
- Exercise. Regular physical activity can help decrease joint pain, improve flexibility and strength, and reduce stress and anxiety. If you’re not used to exercising, start slowly and gradually increase the frequency and intensity. Talk with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.
- Weight management. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing arthritis. Losing weight may help reduce joint pain and improve function.
- Smoking cessation. Smoking increases inflammation throughout the body, including in joints. Quitting smoking can help alleviate arthritis symptoms and improve overall health.
- Meditation. As a relaxation technique, meditation can help those with knee OA cope with pain. Meditation can also help reduce stress and anxiety, which may contribute to joint pain.
- Herbal supplements. Some herbal supplements (e.g., Boswellia, ginkgo, devil’s claw) are thought to reduce pain and inflammation. However, they may not be effective in all cases and should be used only under the supervision of your doctor.
- Medical cannabis. Although cannabis cannot treat knee OA, it’s been shown to help with pain symptoms. Cannabis has also been shown to reduce inflammation and may be considered as part of an arthritis treatment plan. If you’re interested in learning more about using prescription medical cannabis to treat arthritis, schedule an appointment with a Lyphe doctor today.
As with all kinds of pain management, it’s important to approach the condition with a holistic plan. This means addressing all of the ways that you can reduce your pain.
Conclusion – turmeric for pain management
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years as a food and medicine. It is safe at average doses and may also have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric can be a safe and effective way to treat pain. The best way to use it for knee OA is by taking supplements.
Curcumin not only reduces pain but also helps reduce osteoarthritis’s inflammatory effects. In fact, it’s been shown to be as effective as prescription medications in some cases.
However, it’s always best to consult your doctor before taking any supplements. They may be able to help you find the right combination of treatments that will reduce your pain without side effects. With an exercise program and healthy diet, curcumin may be a natural, safe and effective way of managing your knee osteoarthritis.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much turmeric should I take for pain relief?
For the best results, it is recommended to take between 500mg of turmeric in supplement form twice daily. You can add it to food or juices containing fat for better absorption. Always consult with your doctor before making dietary changes with turmeric.
How quickly does turmeric work for pain?
You may start to feel relief within two weeks of taking turmeric supplements. The full benefits might take longer, about six weeks.
Which turmeric is best for pain?
Turmeric supplements are the most effective way to take the spice. You can also use turmeric powder for cooking, but it’s not as potent.
Can you take curcumin every day?
Yes. Turmeric is generally considered safe for long-term use, and the side effects of taking it regularly are generally mild, such as nausea or bloating.
Is curcumin good for nerve pain?
Curcumin may help relieve nerve pain. Researchers are currently studying how curcumin affects the brain and nervous system to see if it can be used to treat conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis.
Aggarwal, B.B., Yuan, W., Li, S. and Gupta, S.C. (2013), Curcumin-free turmeric exhibits anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities: Identification of novel components of turmeric. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 57: 1529-1542. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201200838
Anandakumar, S., Joseph, J. A., Bethapudi, B., Agarwal, A., & Jung, E.-B. (2014, April 30). Anti-inflammatory Effects of Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) Extract on Acute and Chronic Inflammation Models. Journal of the Korean Society of Food Science and Nutrition. The Korean Society of Food Science and Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.3746/jkfn.2014.43.4.612
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NHS. (n.d.). Arthritis (Overview). Retrieved January 16, 2023, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/arthritis/
Paultre, K., Cade, W., Hernandez, D., Reynolds, J., Greif, D., & Best, T. M. (2021). Therapeutic effects of turmeric or curcumin extract on pain and function for individuals with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 7(1), e000935. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000935
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Zhiqiang Wang, Graeme Jones, Tania Winzenberg, et al. Effectiveness of Curcuma longa Extract for the Treatment of Symptoms and Effusion–Synovitis of Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med.2020;173:861-869. [Epub 15 September 2020]. doi:10.7326/M20-0990
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