Managing Arthritis with Turmeric Supplements

You’re living with arthritis and you’ve been sharing with a friend the daily challenges of dealing with joint pain and inflammation and how you find the conventional approaches to be ineffective. They suggest trying turmeric; someone they know, who was in the same boat as you, started taking turmeric supplements and it changed their life. This sounds amazing - but is it too good to be true? 

This article will consider the use of turmeric supplements in managing arthritis, what you should know before taking them, and if they are likely to help you manage the difficult symptoms of arthritis. The accessibility of supplements without a prescription doesn’t diminish the importance of understanding their usage and how they work. We aim to empower you with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision about whether to take turmeric supplements to manage your arthritis. 


Arthritis affects over 10 million people in the UK, causing significant disability and detrimentally affecting quality of life. This painful condition requires effective pain reduction strategies. Turmeric supplements have been proposed as a natural remedy for arthritis management, with the potential to alleviate both pain and inflammation.

Understanding arthritis

Arthritis is a condition of chronic joint inflammation that comes with pain and structural damage to joints. Although commonly observed in the knees, hips, and hands, arthritis can impact every joint in the body.

A common misconception of arthritis is that it only affects the elderly; however, it can affect people of any age.1 The term ‘arthritis’ is an umbrella term encompassing over 100 types of arthritis.2 The two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness and is often linked to factors such as age, previous joint injury, or excess weight. It is characterised by a loss of articular cartilage - the soft, spongy tissue that lines the end of bones and allows for smooth movement of joints. In the advanced stages of the disease, this cartilage is completely worn away, leading to the discomfort of bones rubbing against each other during joint movement. Presently, there are no disease-modifying drugs for osteoarthritis, and symptoms must be managed through lifestyle changes, medication to relieve pain, and, in some cases, surgery to repair or replace damaged joints.                  
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes widespread inflammation throughout the body, manifesting as joint pain. Symptoms can be controlled with pharmacological treatment, surgery, and rehabilitation.

Other types of arthritis include psoriatic arthritis, cervical spondylosis, reactive arthritis, and secondary arthritis.

Arthritis symptoms 

The symptoms you experience depend on the type of arthritis that you have. However, typical symptoms include:

  • Joint pain and tenderness
  • Joint stiffness and restricted movement
  • Weakness and muscle wasting

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to visit a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis. Earlier diagnosis and adherence to treatments increase the likelihood that your quality of life can be maintained for longer.


Treatment of arthritis will vary depending on the type of arthritis you have but typically involves a combination of anti-inflammatory medications (like ibuprofen or diclofenac), along with physical therapy and lifestyle adjustments. Additionally, alternative therapies such as acupuncture or herbal supplementation, like turmeric, are options that some individuals consider to alleviate symptoms, extending beyond conventional medical interventions.

Turmeric and curcumin: management of arthritis 

Turmeric, originating from southern Asia, is a yellow spice widely used in cooking and traditional herbal medicine. It possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been used by non-medical healers for a long time to treat pain and swelling. The credit for this anti-inflammatory effect goes to curcumin (a curcuminoid), which is the active ingredient (essentially the component that ‘does the work’) in turmeric. It is important to note that while turmeric and curcumin supplements may show promise, they are not officially recommended as a primary treatment for arthritis. However, some individuals and studies suggest it has the potential to offer pain relief to arthritis patients. 

Studies of the active ingredient, curcumin, have shown that turmeric might offer some benefits in improving the symptoms of osteoarthritis. For example, one study of patients with mild-to-moderate knee osteoarthritis found that patients who received curcuminoids experienced significant improvements in pain and physical function.3 Reviews of studies involving patients with moderate-to-severe arthritis symptoms found that turmeric therapy provided improvements in pain and function that were similar to those provided by ibuprofen and diclofenac.4,5 Other studies observed enhanced movement and reduced stiffness among individuals with arthritis taking turmeric supplements.6 Similarly, research has found curcumin supplementation to be beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis patients in terms of improving inflammation levels and symptoms.7 

The antioxidant properties of curcuminoids are highlighted - potentially benefiting arthritis patients by counteracting inflammation caused by free radicals.7 Free radicals can be thought of as a ‘troublemaker’ molecule that is missing an arm and, in this panic, takes an arm from a stable, ‘complete’ molecule. This starts a chain reaction as the molecule that has had its arm taken is now panicking and wants to be whole again, causing the cycle to continue. Antioxidants can interrupt this cycle by donating part of themselves and stopping this chain reaction, potentially reducing inflammation. 

While these studies appear promising with regard to the effects of turmeric supplements, many use curcumin supplementation, and simply consuming turmeric has a low bioavailability. Bioavailability is the ability of the nutrient, in this case, curcumin, to enter the bloodstream and be used by the body. This could diminish its effects. Furthermore, studies of the effect of turmeric in alleviating symptoms of arthritis are limited by their small sample size and short duration, and researchers acknowledge the need for more rigorous and larger studies to confirm the therapeutic benefits of turmeric on arthritis.5

The effects of turmeric supplements may vary depending on the type of arthritis, the stage of disease when you started taking it, and how well your body absorbs the supplement. If you are considering turmeric supplements, you should consult a healthcare professional for personalised guidance. 

Choosing the right turmeric supplement

If you choose to take a turmeric supplement to try and manage your arthritis symptoms, it is important to know the best ways to take it, how much to take, and what to look out for when deciding how to take it. Being well-informed about these aspects will help you include turmeric in your arthritis management safely and effectively. 

You can increase your turmeric consumption in three main ways:

  • As a spice – using turmeric spice in your cooking is a gradual way to boost your consumption over time. However, this method is unlikely to have significant anti-inflammatory effects as the small amount of turmeric used for cooking may not provide sufficient amounts of curcumin, the active component responsible for turmeric’s possible health benefits.
  • As tea – turmeric can be consumed as a tea, which can be made yourself using recipes that include ground turmeric. Alternatively, ready-made turmeric tea can be found in supermarkets and health food shops. The advantage of this is that it may contain more curcumin (the active ingredient). When choosing a pre-made tea, it is advisable to check the label for the curcumin content to ensure you are maximising the anti-inflammatory potential. 
  • As a supplement – the most efficient way you can take turmeric is as a capsule supplement as this is likely to contain a high level of curcumin. When choosing a supplement, discuss this with a medical professional, as supplements are not as tightly regulated as prescription medicine, and it is important to choose a safe option. Some supplements will contain black pepper, which enhances the body’s absorption of curcumin, meaning the supplement may be more effective. It is recommended to take curcumin supplements alongside a meal containing fat to enhance absorption.

The optimum amount of turmeric to take for the management of arthritis symptoms has not yet been established. However, studies have found turmeric doses of up to 1,200mg per day are generally considered to be safe.5

Precautions and potential side effects of turmeric

Before considering natural remedies such as turmeric, it is important to consult a medical professional, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions or are taking medication. This is because natural remedies have the potential to interact with certain medications and cause negative effects. For instance, turmeric may interact with blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin, increasing the effect of the drug and, therefore, raising the risk of excessive bleeding. Due to possible interactions such as this, it is important to disclose to a medical professional any supplements that you are taking to receive the best treatment.

A healthcare professional will provide you with personal advice about how to manage your arthritis symptoms based on your health status and medical history. Additionally, it is advisable to source turmeric supplements from a reputable agency, as guided by a healthcare professional. 

Possible side effects of turmeric include upset stomach, acid reflux, diarrhoea, dizziness, and headaches, particularly when taken at higher doses. The limited absorption and rapid metabolism by the body also could reduce its potential benefits. 


Research studies provide some evidence to suggest that turmeric may be beneficial in helping you manage your arthritis symptoms. The potential anti-inflammatory properties may help to alleviate your symptoms, particularly in reducing pain and inflammation.  It is essential to recognise that turmeric supplements should not replace your current treatment plan, as discussed with a medical professional. If you choose to take turmeric, it is also important to be mindful of the possible side effects and potential drug interactions and incorporate taking it along with physiotherapy, over-the-counter pain relief, and other pain management options discussed with a healthcare professional.

Whilst there is a question mark over the effectiveness of turmeric supplements in managing arthritis symptoms, it is about what works for you. If you discover that taking turmeric supplements improves your symptoms, enhances your daily life, and has been approved by a medical professional, then it holds value as a beneficial option for you. 


  1. Fallon EA. Prevalence of diagnosed arthritis — United States, 2019–2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2024 Apr 29];72. Available from:
  2. Senthelal S, Li J, Ardeshirzadeh S, Thomas MA. Arthritis. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 [cited 2024 Apr 29]. Available from:
  3. Panahi Y, Rahimnia AR, Sharafi M, Alishiri G, Saburi A, Sahebkar A. Curcuminoid Treatment for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial. Phytotherapy Research [Internet]. 2014 Nov 1 [cited 2024 Feb 2];28(11):1625–31. Available from:
  4. Paultre K, Cade W, Hernandez D, Reynolds J, Greif D, Best TM. Therapeutic effects of turmeric or curcumin extract on pain and function for individuals with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2024 Feb 2];7(1). Available from: 
  5. Daily JW, Yang M, Park S. 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 [Internet]. 2016 Aug 1 [cited 2024 Apr 29];19(8):717–29. Available from:
  6. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: a review of its’ effects on human health. Foods [Internet]. 2017 Oct 22 [cited 2024 Apr 29];6(10):92. Available from:
  7. Kou H, Huang L, Jin M, He Q, Zhang R, Ma J. Effect of curcumin on rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Front Immunol [Internet]. 2023 May 31 [cited 2024 Apr 29];14:1121655. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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