Can Turmeric Help Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Lene Andersen | Nov 4th 2016 Apr 10th 2017

1 of 11
1 of 11

Turmeric is a popular spice at the moment, both in recipes and as an alternative treatment for a number of conditions. You may have heard that it can be helpful for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and may even work better than medication. In this slideshow, we look more closely at the background, the claims, and the facts.

2 of 11

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a golden colored and strongly flavored spice that has been used in cooking for several thousand years. Originating in Asia, turmeric is extracted from the root of the plant Curcuma longa, which grows in India and Indonesia. It has been used medicinally for almost 5,000 years in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat arthritis.

3 of 11


Curcumin is the part of turmeric that creates its golden color and has been reported to have healing qualities. Curcumin has shown promise when used in pro-inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, cancer, irritable bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and more. In-depth studies have looked into the safety and efficacy of curcumin.

4 of 11

What does curcumin do?

The medicinal ingredients of curcumin modulate signalling pathways in numerous cells. It has specific properties that block inflammatory enzymes and cytokines. These include cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which also is targeted by the NSAID celecoxib.

5 of 11

Turmeric and arthritis in animal studies

Animal studies utilizing turmeric extract have demonstrated an anti-inflammatory effects on joints. A 2010 study built on previous research and investigated whether turmeric essential oils protected the joints in the rats. The results were positive, indicating a potential for a positive effect in humans, as well, but more research is needed.

6 of 11

Turmeric and arthritis in human studies

Curcumin has been shown to have a beneficial effect for both RA and osteoarthritis (OA). Two small studies of people with RA showed that curcumin was as effective as NSAIDs or more so, showed no adverse effects, and reduced C-reactive protein levels. It’s important to note that larger studies with a double-blind design are needed.

7 of 11

Using turmeric for RA, part 1

Studies indicate that turmeric can be effective in treating RA inflammation and pain. It is important to note the effects of turmeric are similar to NSAIDs. That is, it can treat the symptoms of RA, but not the cause.

8 of 11

Using turmeric for RA, part 2

In addition, research has studied turmeric’s effect on joints, but not on the systemic impact of RA. In order to suppress RA or to go into remission, DMARDs and Biologics are still needed.

9 of 11

Let’s talk about adverse effects

Turmeric is lauded as safe, and studies do seem to indicate that it is safer than NSAIDs. However, turmeric does have a blood thinning effect and could have an interaction with other blood thinning medication, such as aspirin and warfarin. Avoid turmeric if you’re having surgery or are pregnant and if you have gallbladder disease.

10 of 11

How to use turmeric

Turmeric can be used in three different ways. You can use it in spice form by adding it to salads and curries. Turmeric is fat-soluble, so mix it with a healthy fat. If you’re taking it as a supplement, using capsules or extract may reduce the risk of contaminants. The dosage for those with RA is 500 mg daily.

11 of 11

Making good choices with alternative treatment

It can be exciting to hear of a natural substance working well and safely for RA, but it’s important to research these statements. With turmeric, research shows that it may be effective for symptoms, but not for RA itself. It also is shown to have side effects and possible interactions. Ask your doctor or a licensed naturopath before using it.

NEXT: 10 Things that Make Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis Easier
More on this topic

10 Reasons to be Grateful for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Lene Andersen

Managing Finances with RA

Lene Andersen

Best Ways to Manage RA Treatment Side Effects

Lene Andersen

Tips for RA Hospital Stays

Marianna Paulson

10 Things that Make Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis Easier

Lene Andersen

Top 10 Challenges of Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis as an Invisible Illness


Self-Care for the Holidays with Chronic Illness

Lene Andersen

How Effective Is Your RA Treatment?

Lene Andersen

Hot Weather and RA Pain

Anna Legassie

6 Facts on RA and Your Relationship

The HealthCentral Editorial Team

10 Easy RA Cleaning Tips

Marianna Paulson

Health Resources To Cope With RA

Leslie Rott

7 Exercises for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Seth Ginsberg

11 Frequently Asked Questions about RA

Lene Andersen

10 Tips for Building and Maintaining Energy with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Lene Andersen

10 Ways to Make Daily Life Easier with Arthritis

Allison Tsai

Maintaining a Healthy Diet and Exercise Plan with RA

Britt J Johnson

How to Make Cooking Easy with RA

Britt J Johnson

How I Stay Positive with RA: The Habit of Happiness

Lene Andersen

Protecting Your Kidneys with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Lene Andersen

Tired of Being Tired: Living with Chronic Fatigue

Lene Andersen

Green Light Questions To Move You into Better Health

Marianna Paulson

Adapting to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Lene Andersen

Can You Work With RA?

Leslie Rott

Making Plans for the Future with RA

Lene Andersen

What are Early Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Lisa Emrich

Health Habits and RA

Marianna Paulson

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Eye Health: Complications to Watch Out For

Lisa Emrich

Giving & Receiving Care: The Challenges

Lene Andersen

Tips for Getting Through Your Work Day When You Have RA

Marianna Paulson

5 Smoothies for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

How to Make Your Office RA-Friendly

Anna Legassie

Britt Johnson: Motion is Lotion

Britt J Johnson

What People with Rheumatoid Arthritis Wished You Knew

Lene Andersen

Self-Care Tips to Make a Bad Rheumatoid Arthritis Day Better

Lene Andersen

Living Well with RA: Turning Points

What People with Rheumatoid Arthritis Should and Shouldn't Eat

Lene Andersen