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Will Boswellia with Turmeric Ease Your Joint Pain?

Boswellia with turmeric, both powerful anti-inflammatory plant-based supplements, helped a reader's hip pain. Might it help you too?
Will Boswellia with Turmeric Ease Your Joint Pain?
Person taking Boswellia capsules out of a bottle. Close up.

Millions of us suffer with joint pain, and the older we get, the more likely we are to have achy knees or sore hips. It is little wonder, then, that there are many home remedies or dietary supplements that are purported to ease the pain of arthritis. Which ones work? Some readers have tried a number of natural treatments, including boswellia with turmeric.

Boswellia with Turmeric or Ashwagandha:

Q. Many years ago, in 1997, I fell to the floor with arthritic pain in my hips and back upon getting out of bed. A few days later, I heard “The People’s Pharmacy” on the radio. I think Dr. Tieraona Low Dog was discussing boswellia for pain relief. That very day I bought some boswellia.

After taking it for two weeks, I had notable relief. Over a four-week period, my pain lessened remarkably. Actually, for about five years I felt no arthritis pain.

Today, almost twenty-five years later, my pain has increased but I continue to take boswellia. In the past several years, I’ve added turmeric and ashwagandha. Is there any research on these herbs for arthritis?

Herbs for Arthritis:

A. All three of these botanical medicines have a long history of use for joint pain. They each have proven anti-inflammatory activity. Ashwagandha, for example, affects some of the same compounds in the body as powerful arthritis medications. Specifically, a compound in Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) inhibits COX-2 just as celecoxib does (Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, April 19, 2014). 

In addition, a systematic review of the active ingredient in turmeric (curcumin) concluded that this spice is safe and effective for osteoarthritis (Bioscience Reports, June 25, 2021).  Needless to say, other readers have also tried this anti-inflammatory approach as part of the diet or as a supplement.

To learn more about these natural products and other nondrug approaches to managing joint pain, you may wish to consult our 104-page booklet, The Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. It can be found in the Books section of the store at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

However, we offer an important caveat: people on anticoagulant medicines should not take turmeric or curcumin, as they could increase the risk for bleeding.

Boswellia with Turmeric Helps Hip Pain:

Another reader is enthusiastic about the benefits of boswellia with turmeric, two supplements from traditional Indian medicine.

Q. I took glucosamine and chondroitin for years. After reading about boswellia, though, I switched to a supplement of boswellia with turmeric. I also use organic tart cherry concentrate daily. That has made a big difference! I have very little chronic pain now, and before, my hips hurt every day.

Movement is also key, I believe, and I walk, lift weights, take yoga classes and do tai chi. That did not change, so I’ve concluded it’s the change in supplements that has led to my greater level of comfort. I’ve had no surgeries and take no prescription drugs.

A. Turmeric and boswellia (Indian frankincense) are potent anti-inflammatory herbs. Both have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. A recent meta-analysis found that both have clinically important effects on short-term pain relief (Liu et al, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Oct. 10, 2017). One study that compared a combination supplement (500 mg twice a day) to celecoxib (100 mg twice a day) found the boswellia with turmeric was better (Molecular Medicine Reports, Nov. 2013).

Tart Cherries:

Tart cherries also inhibit the same enzyme as drugs like celecoxib (Celebrex). Moreover, tart cherry extracts reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in many parts of the body, including the brain ( Antioxidants, Sep. 22, 2016). More recently, researchers have confirmed that tart cherry extract can reduce levels of pro-inflammatory markers (Nutrients, Oct. 30, 2020). 

Other Ways to Ease Joint Pain:

We are delighted you have benefitted from these natural healing approaches. Anyone who would like to learn more about these and dozens of other approaches for easing joint pain may be interested in our handy new book, The Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis..

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Kim J-H & Kim S-J, "Overexpression of microRNA-25 by withaferin A induces cyclooxygenase-2 expression in rabbit articular chondrocytes." Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, April 19, 2014. DOI: 10.1254/jphs.13232fp
  • Zeng L et al, " The efficacy and safety of Curcuma longa extract and curcumin supplements on osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis." Bioscience Reports, June 25, 2021. DOI: 10.1042/BSR20210817
  • Liu X et al, "Dietary supplements for treating osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis." British Journal of Sports Medicine, Oct. 10, 2017. DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-097333
  • Kizhakkedath R, "Clinical evaluation of a formulation containing Curcuma longa and Boswellia serrata extracts in the management of knee osteoarthritis." Molecular Medicine Reports, Nov. 2013. DOI: 10.3892/mmr.2013.1661
  • Shukitt-Hale B et al, "Tart cherry extracts reduce inflammatory and oxidative stress signaling in microglial cells." Antioxidants, Sep. 22, 2016. DOI: 10.3390/antiox5040033
  • Harlan L et al, "Mechanisms mediating anti-inflammatory effects of delta-tocotrienol and tart cherry anthocyanins in 3T3-L1 adipocytes." Nutrients, Oct. 30, 2020. DOI: 10.3390/nu12113356
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