Turmeric and its most active ingredient curcumin have gotten plenty of attention for their anti-inflammatory properties. We have heard from readers that this yellow spice used in curry powder and mustard can help alleviate arthritis pain. Research confirms this benefit. You may enjoy these testimonials.
Turmeric Eased Knee Pain due to Arthritis:
Q. I tried gin and raisins for a while and did not see much improvement in my arthritic knee. I had been getting cortisone shots about twice a year.
Then I tried turmeric and was impressed with the difference! I’ve had no shots for over two years now, and no knee pain.
I submit that this effect is life saving, in some sense, since it allows good exercise like walking that has many health benefits.
A. People with arthritis respond in very different ways to medications as well as home remedies or herbs. Some get impressive relief from NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen or naproxen. Others complain of serious side effects.
Many people report that gin-soaked raisins help their joint pain, while others, like you, get no benefit.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory activity. A systematic review of 10 randomized controlled trials found that turmeric can help relieve knee pain due to osteoarthritis (BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, Jan. 13, 2021). It also improved function. As you point out, that is critically important for maintaining good health.
There were no important side effects reported from these studies. We should note, however, that some people develop allergic reactions to either turmeric or curcumin. Those taking anticoagulants such as warfarin should probably avoid this spice, as some individuals have reported elevated INR. The International Normalized Ratio helps evaluate the risk of bleeding, and a higher number indicates a greater risk.
Another reader offered the following experience.
“After reading about turmeric in your column, I started using one teaspoon in my scrambled eggs each morning. My arthritis has greatly improved, and I have far less pain when I walk. I work in my yard every few weeks, weeding, hoeing, mowing and pruning. Usually I am sore for days rtfter this work. But this last time, since I started taking turmeric, I had no soreness the next day.”
Investigators are also studying the potential role of curcumin against cancer, Alzheimer disease, psoriasis and cystic fibrosis. Putting turmeric powder on cereal (as one reader did) or in scrambled eggs might taste a tad strange to some folks. One woman told us that she takes turmeric pills instead and they relieved her arthritis pain. When she stopped temporarily, the pain returned. She resumed taking turmeric pills and the pain disappeared.
You can learn more about turmeric (including the potential for side effects) in our book, Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life.