Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that is typically ground from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. Related to ginger root, turmeric is a main ingredient in curry. An antioxidant compound in turmeric known as curcumin is said to fight inflammation, and some research suggests it may be helpful in treating osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The Research on Turmeric and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory type of arthritis that primarily affects the lining of your joints. An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis causes the body to mistakenly attack the joints, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. The condition can also affect other parts of the body.

 

In a small study published in 2012, people with rheumatoid arthritis took either curcumin, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug known as diclofenac sodium, or a combination of the two. At the study's end, the group taking curcumin had the greatest improvement in symptoms.

Despite these findings, the NIH cautions that there isn't yet enough scientific evidence to rate turmeric's effectiveness against rheumatoid arthritis.

The Research on Turmeric and Osteoarthritis

The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis is a condition that leads to the breakdown of joint cartilage and bone. In a study published in Phytotherapy Research, people with mild-to-moderate knee osteoarthritis took either a curcumin supplement with piperine (a compound in black pepper known to increase curcumin's absorption) or a placebo for six weeks. At the study's end, there were significant improvements in pain and physical function, however, there was no reduction in stiffness.

 

In another study, people with knee osteoarthritis received either a turmeric extract or ibuprofen (a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) daily for four weeks. The turmeric extract was found to be as effective as ibuprofen. Although the number of people who developed adverse effects wasn't different between the two groups, the number of events of abdominal pain or discomfort was higher in those taking ibuprofen compared to those taking the turmeric extract.

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