There is no cure for this inflammatory joint-based condition, but research shows curcumin among the best supplements for osteoarthritis
More than 32.5 million Americans deal with osteoarthritis according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the most common form of arthritis today, and putting patients on the hunt for the best supplements for osteoarthritis pain.
Often referred to as “normal wear and tear,” the breakdown of joint cartilage that occurs with osteoarthritis generally leads to increased pain and stiffness. And is felt most often in the hands, hips, and knees.
While there is currently no cure for this inflammatory joint-based condition, research reveals that curcumin is among the best supplements for osteoarthritis pain.
Curcumin for knee osteoarthritis: a randomized trial
On Sept. 15, 2020, the Annals of Internal Medicine published the results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 70 Australians with knee osteoarthritis. Approximately one-half of the participants took two Curcuma longa extract capsules daily for a period of 12 weeks. The remaining half received a placebo.
At the end of the study, those taking the curcumin extract reported lower levels of pain using a visual analogue scale or VAS. They also showed greater improvements on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), a tool used to measure pain, stiffness, and function.
Research reveals that curcumin is able to provide this effect because it acts as both an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. In addition to being helpful in the treatment of osteoarthritis, it has also been found beneficial to a number of different health conditions.
Studies show curcumin among the best supplements for osteoarthritis
For example, one randomized pilot study noted that curcumin can be helpful with other types of arthritis. Specifically, it involved 45 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. The group taking curcumin had the greatest improvements in their Disease Activity Score. They also showed the most changes in American College of Rheumatology criteria related to swelling and tenderness of the joints.
Curcumin, among the best supplements for osteoarthritis pain, has also been linked to cancer treatment and prevention in the way it is able to suppress the initiation and growth of tumors. Through its ability to reduce glycemia and hyperlipidemia, curcumin is thought to be helpful with diabetes. Still more studies link this bioactive turmeric substance with relief from depression, anxiety, and the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Yet, obtaining these benefits isn’t as simple as taking just any curcumin extract. Why? Because the bioavailability of this substance on its own is fairly low.
With curcumin, bioavailability is key
Information published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reveals that people taking up to 8,000 mg of curcumin per day had “very low” or “undetectable” amounts of this substance in their plasma and tissues. Only one subject taking between 10,000-12,000 mgs had a detectable amount.
A review published in the journal Foods in October 2017 supports this assertion and goes on to explain that the body isn’t able to adequately use curcumin when ingested on its own. This is due in part to poor absorption. However, rapid metabolism and rapid elimination of this substance contributes to this issue as well.
Finding a way to combat these issues is the key to creating a curcumin supplement that offers users the maximum amount of curcumin possible. One option that has been found highly effective is combining curcumin with piperine. Piperine is an active component of black pepper and increases curcumin’s bioavailability by 2,000%. Choosing a supplement that includes both of these substances offers patients greater access to curcumin’s healthful effects.
The Joint FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) and WHO (World Health Organization) Expert Committee on Food Additives shares that the allowable daily intake for a curcumin supplement is up to three milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Yet, many studies involve much higher amounts.
For example, one 2018 study required participants to take either 333 mg or 350 mg curcuminoids daily, citing that the “treatments were well tolerated.” A 2019 study involved participants with knee osteoarthritis taking 500 mg of curcumin three times a day, or 1,500 mg daily in total. When compared to individuals taking diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, those taking curcumin had “significantly” fewer adverse effects (13% versus 38%). The curcumin was also better tolerated.
That said, some people do experience negative side effects when taking curcumin. Research indicates that two of the most commonly reported are diarrhea and nausea, though diarrhea seems to be independent of dosing and typically resolves within three days.
Additionally, curcumin may potentially interact with some drugs, such as those used in chemotherapy treatments, so patients should consult with their doctor before starting a curcumin regimen.