Can turmeric benefit people with arthritis?

Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that is often found in curry powder and is used in many traditional cuisines. It may be a part of your existing diet, or you may be aware of turmeric supplements. Scientific research indicates that turmeric may offer several health benefits. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit people with RA.

Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family, and its stems and roots are usually ground into a powder often used in cooking as a seasoning spice. Curcumin has been researched for its health properties.  If using turmeric supplements, look for ones that contain piperine, which helps with the absorption of curcumin, or use alongside with black pepper.  Be aware that high doses or long-term use of turmeric may cause gastrointestinal problems.

A 2016 systematic review examined data from eight randomized clinical trials that investigated the effectiveness of turmeric and curcumin extracts for treating symptoms osteoarthritis. The authors concluded that there is some evidence to suggest that taking curcumin each day for 8-12 weeks can help reduce joint pain and inflammation due to arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis. The results also indicated that curcumin extracts might be as effective as taking NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and diclofenac. 

A more recent study investigated the effects of curcumin in rats with RA, finding that curcumin reduced joint inflammation and redness by blocking an intracellular signaling process called the “mTOR pathway.”  Further studies of its safety and effectiveness in humans are needed to confirm these findings. 

You can learn more about turmeric and this research at these links: 

This information was reviewed in August 2020 with expert advice from:

Kim Arrey, BSc, RD
President, Kim Arrey Nutrition