Knee osteoarthritis: turmeric drastically reduces pain

Taking turmeric extracts causes a significant reduction in the intensity of pain experienced by people with knee osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is characterized by a progressive degradation of the articular cartilage which protects the bone. These bone lesions are often very painful and incapacitating. They can therefore cause a very significant deterioration in the quality of life. The knee is the main joint affected by osteoarthritis (80% of cases).

Physical inactivity and poor diet have doubled the number of cases in 50 years

The number of people affected by this form of osteoarthritis has more than doubled over the past 50 years, due to physical inactivity and poor diet. Inflammation plays a central role in the development of osteoarthritis. On the one hand, studies show that proinflammatory cytokines such as interlukines-1ß and -6 and tumor necrosis factor actively contribute to cartilage loss. On the other hand, excess synovial fluid and inflammation of the joint capsule (synovial membrane) also create localized inflammation in the knee joint. Reducing these inflammatory processes can therefore lead to considerable clinical benefits for people with osteoarthritis.

Curcumin: the formidable anti-inflammatory molecule of turmeric

An interesting candidate in this sense is the Indian spice turmeric. It is obtained by grinding the roots of Curcuma longa, a plant of the ginger family. Several studies over the past few years have shown that this spice contains some 235 distinct phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

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For example, one of these molecules, curcumin, has the property of specifically blocking the NFkB protein. it is a key regulator of the inflammatory response. Curcumin is also considered one of the molecules with the strongest anti-inflammatory action in the plant kingdom. The therapeutic potential of turmeric against osteoarthritis has just been evaluated by Australian researchers as part of a randomized double-blind clinical study.

This type of trial is considered the gold standard in clinical research. Because neither the patients nor the researchers are informed of the treatment received by the participants. In this study, 70 osteoarthritis patients were randomly separated into 2 distinct groups. One group received treatment for a period of 12 weeks with 2 capsules per day of a turmeric extract containing 20% ​​curcuminoids (curcumin and related molecules) and 80% turmerosaccharides (glucose polymers present in the root). The other group received a treatment of the same duration, but with 2 capsules of a placebo, containing no active ingredient.

A very distinct diminutive of pain in the knee

During the course of the treatment, the researchers met with the participants at regular intervals and asked them to self-rate the intensity of their knee pain using a visual analog scale. In this method, the pain experienced is assessed by moving a cursor on a graduated ruler from 0 to 100 mm (0 being the absence of pain and 100 being unbearable pain). The results obtained are promising. On average, patients who received the turmeric extracts reported a decrease in pain of -23.8 mm on the visual scale. Compared to -14.6 mm for the placebo group. The difference of -9.1 mm between the two groups is statistically significant and much greater than that observed in other studies for acetaminophen (-3.7 mm). It is the standard treatment to treat these pains.

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These results are in agreement with a meta-analysis of 7 randomized clinical studies carried out in Asia showing that turmeric extracts lead to a substantial reduction in pain and an improvement in the quality of life in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

A Very Credible Lead to the Future of Knee Osteoarthritis Care

These results are interesting in more ways than one. Because the current treatments for osteoarthritis (acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen) are not very effective. They are also associated with potentially serious side effects when consumed over a long period of time. The reduction in pain by turmeric observed in the study, combined with the absence of side effects resulting from the consumption of these extracts, could therefore represent a new avenue for the treatment of osteoarthritis pain.


Wallace IJ et al. Knee osteoarthritis has doubled in prevalence since the mid-20th century. proc. Natl Acad. Science. USA 2017; 114:9332-9336.

Wang Z et al. Effectiveness of Curcuma longa extract for the treatment of symptoms and effusion-synovitis of knee osteoarthritis: A randomized trial. Ann. Intern. Med., published September 15, 2015.

Onakpoya IJ et al. Effectiveness of curcuminoids in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Int. J.Rheum. Say. 2017; 20: 420-433.


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