Curcumin is the active ingredient in the bright yellow spice turmeric. Turmeric is a common ingredient in Asian cuisines (you may have had it in yellow curry), as well as being a staple of Ayurvedic medicine. (Turmeric is also used as a natural yellow dye, so be careful with any curcumin supplements. They can definitely stain.) Thousands of studies have shown curcumin’s ability to fight bacteria, viruses, depression, inflammation, and chronic diseases;including arthritis.
Curcumin’s greatest benefit is its inflammation-fighting properties. The importance of this cannot be understated because inflammation is the root of nearly all diseases. By reducing and reversing inflammation, your body is healthier and less disease prone.
Curcumin Reduces Pain and Inflammation.
When it comes to arthritis, curcumin has been shown to decrease pain and inflammation associated with the disease. The research is strong and convincing.
One study looked at how patients with osteoarthritis of the knee fared after eight weeks of curcumin treatment. Fifty participants with moderate to severe arthritis took either placebo or a special curcumin formulation called Theracurmin (containing 180 mg of curcumin) every day for eight weeks.
Their symptoms were evaluated every two weeks. After eight weeks, knee pain scores were significantly lower for most in the curcumin group vs. the placebo. The curcumin group also had lower dependence on pain medication than those in the placebo group. Even better—no side effects were noted, a rarity for conventional pain meds.
Another published paper—a systematic review and meta-analysis of eight clinical trials—looked at curcumin/turmeric treatment for osteoarthritis. Overall, the pain scores in the curcumin groups were much lower than those in the placebos. There was also little difference in pain relief between commercially available pain medicines and curcumin. This suggests that curcumin may have similar benefits as drugs, but without the short- and long-term side effects.
Another review that looked at curcumin’s anti-arthritic properties found that, “Patients with osteoarthritis showed improvement in pain, physical function, and quality of life after taking curcumin. They also reported reduced concomitant usage of analgesics [such as Tylenol] and side effects during treatment.”
This same paper also concluded that curcumin could prevent the loss of chondrocytes—cells found in healthy cartilage. In addition, curcumin suppresses the release of inflammatory compounds that cause the chondrocytes to die off in the first place.
Earlier research, this time on rheumatoid arthritis, discovered that turmeric “profoundly inhibited joint inflammation and periarticular joint destruction.” It also prevented the activation of genes associated with joint inflammation and damage.
Curcumin Dosage for Arthritis
Research shows that 500 mg, twice a day (and up to four times a day) is the dosage most helpful for treating osteoarthritis, as well as many other conditions associated with inflammation, such as cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Unfortunately, curcumin is difficult for the human body to absorb and maintain. Look for curcumin formulations with enhanced absorption properties like Cavamax® V8. Some common methods to enhance curcumin absorption are with the addition of piperine, a derivative of black pepper, or through combining the curcumin with a fat preparation which helps your body hold on to the curcumin longer.
Nakagawa Y, et al. Short-term effects of highly-bioavailable curcumin for treating knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled prospective study. J Orthop Sci. 2014 Nov;19(6):933-9. Accessed 25 September 2017.
Daily JW, et al. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. J Med Food. 2016 Aug;19(8):717-29. Accessed 25 September 2017.
Chin KY. The spice for joint inflammation: anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in treating osteoarthritis. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2016 Sep 20;10:3029-42. Accessed 25 September 2017.
Funk JL, et al. Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Nov;54(11):3452-64