The effects of curcumin on osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis among older people, and it is one of the most frequent causes of physical disability among older adults.

Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage, the tissue that cushions the ends of the bones within the joints, breaks down and wears away. In some cases, all of the cartilage may wear away, leaving bones that rub up against each other. Osteoarthritis leads to increased healthcare costs, impairment in activities of daily living, and ultimately decreased quality of life. Osteoarthritis is associated with inflammation, both chronic and acute. Although Osteoarthritis was once considered primarily a degenerative and non-inflammatory condition, it is now recognised as having inflammatory aspects, including elevated pro-inflammatory cytokine levels, as well as potentially being connected with chronic inflammation.

Several studies found that turmeric may reduce knee pain and improve function in people with osteoarthritis — one even suggests it may work as well as ibuprofen for reducing pain (Kuptniratsaikul et al. 2014).

Curcumin’s efficacy in reducing pain, physical function, and quality of life among osteoarthritic patients has been demonstrated in many clinical trials. The effects of curcumin on osteoarthritis can be attributed to its ability to prevent apoptosis of chondrocytes due to inflammation predominantly, and oxidative stress to a lesser extent.

Patients with osteoarthritis were treated with 1,000 mg turmeric extract, 1,500 mg glucosamine, the combination of both, and placebo for 42 days. Tumeric extract alone was the most effective at improving all parameters, including WOMAC scores, joint tenderness and limitation to movement. The number of patients needing paracetamol and cases of adverse reaction was also the lowest in the group taking turmeric extract alone (Madhu, K., et al., 2013).

In addition, curcumin has been found to be “chondroprotective”, meaning, curcumin protects the articular cartilage during OA. Curcumin acts as a chondroprotective agent by inhibiting apoptosis (cell death) of chondrocytes (the cells that synthesise type II collagen and the collagen matrix in cartilage) and production of inflammatory markers, in the cartilage (Vaishya, R., et al. 2018).


Kuptniratsaikul, V., et al. (2014). Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study. Clinical Interventions in Aging, vol. 9, 451–458.

Madhu, K., et al., (2013). Safety and efficacy of Curcuma longa extract in the treatment of painful knee osteoarthritis: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Inflammopharmacology, vol. 21(2):129-36.

Vaishya, R., et al. (2018). Current status of top 10 nutraceuticals used for Knee Osteoarthritis in India. Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma, vol. 9, 338–348.