Turmeric — the main spice in curry — may help ease the pain and stiffness of knee osteoarthritis.
Turmeric comes from the root of a plant in the ginger family, Curcuma longa, and contains a chemical compound, curcumin, that has long been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine.
In a 12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, researchers assigned 70 people with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis to take either two capsules a day of a Curcuma longa extract or two capsules of an identical-looking placebo.
The study, in the Annals of Internal Medicine, measured knee pain and function with periodic clinic visits and self-administered questionnaires. Using M.R.I. scans, the researchers examined the knees for the presence of excess fluid in the synovial cavity, which is associated with joint swelling, stiffness and pain.
They found that pain, stiffness and physical function all improved significantly more in those who took the curcumin extract than in those who used the placebo. But there was no difference between the groups in the M.R.I. assessment of excess fluid in the synovial cavity, and no difference in knee cartilage structure.
The lead author, Benny Antony, a senior researcher at the University of Tasmania, acknowledged that this is a small study of short duration, and that the effect on pain was only moderate.
Still, he said, “Considering the limited effectiveness of current pharmacological treatments for osteoarthritis, a modest effect may be helpful, and turmeric appears to be without side effects.”