Can Turmeric Help Arthritis Pain?

Turmeric powder is the ground root of the turmeric plant and gives curry the yellow colour. It has been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Indian medicine for pain, inflammation and digestive complaints (1).

Curcumin is the main active ingredient and has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. However the amount of curcumin in turmeric is low, so you need to take a large amount to get the desired effect. Therefore, a turmeric extract with at least 95% curcuminoids is recommended. Turmeric and curcumin are not well absorbed when taken orally and it is recommended you either eat it with black pepper or piperine. Some supplements may contain one of these to help the absorption (2).

How Does it Work?

Curcumin acts in a similar way to the popular anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex. It blocks the communication between inflammatory molecules. This inhibits the movement of cells towards sites of inflammation and trauma (1).


A 2006 study showed that turmeric was better at preventing inflammation rather than reducing joint inflammation (1).

A 2009 clinical trial compared the benefits of turmeric to ibuprofen ( a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) in a group of 107 patients suffering from knee Osteoarthritis. The group was randomly assorted into receiving either 2 grams of turmeric per day or 800mg of Ibuprofen per day for 6 weeks.

  • Pain levels and knee function improved in both groups when walking or climbing stairs.
  • The turmeric group reported improved pain levels when climbing stairs compared to the ibuprofen group.
  • There were no difference in side effects reported in the 2 groups with heart burn and dizziness being the most common problems.
  • The ibuprofen group were more compliant with taking their medication (3).


It is safe to take 400 to 600 mg of turmeric extract 3 times a day. You should allow at least 8 weeks of daily use to get the full benefit (2).

Side Effects

High doses of curcumin thin the blood. Therefore if you are already on blood thinners, it is recommended that you don’t take turmeric supplements. You should also avoid it if you have gallstones, a bile duct dysfunction, are pregnant or in the week before a surgical procedure (4).

Is it Worth Taking?

There is limited evidence to support that Turmeric does help arthritis pain. However as with other natural remedies, it is worth trying it for a few months to see if it works for you.