Unfortunately, managing a complicated condition like arthritis will never be as easy as taking a pill. However, research has shown that certain supplements can be helpful—within a larger treatment plan—to ease joint pain and inflammation.
This guide to the 4 supplements with the most evidence supporting their benefits can help you decide which one(s) may be right for you.
However, you should ask your doctor before starting a new supplement to make sure it’s appropriate for your condition and won’t interact with any of your other medications. Supplements can cause serious health problems if taken inappropriately. In fact, a large new study from Department of Health and Human Services found that dietary supplements are responsible for 23,000 emergency room visits a year in the U.S.1
The turmeric root has been shown to have great anti-inflammatory properties and many people add turmeric powder to sauces, smoothies, or tea. But curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, only makes up about 3% of it, so experts often suggest that people take curcumin supplements in order to get an effective amount. Look for curcumin supplements of 200 to 1,000 mg.
Another root with anti-inflammatory properties, ginger is popular both as a supplement (look for 100 to 225 mg capsules) and in fresh grated form. But those who take blood-thinning medications should avoid ginger, because they interact with each other.
3. Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids)
Food that contains omega-3 fatty acids, particularly fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, have fantastic anti-inflammatory properties. If you don’t like fish, the good news is that you can get the benefits of omega-3s by taking a fish oil supplement.
4. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate
The previous 3 entries on this list all help those with arthritis by fighting inflammation, but glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements promote cartilage formation and repair. The research confirming the beneficial effects of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate is very mixed, so experts recommend that people stop taking them after 6 months if there’s been no sign of improvement in their symptoms.
Supplements can be a great tool in managing your arthritis, but they’re only a part of the complete picture. Your treatment plan should also include exercise, other medications, physical therapy, stretching, a healthy diet, and possibly injections and/or surgery.
If your arthritis is causing frequent pain or interfering with your daily life, talk with your doctor about adjusting or adding to your treatment plan.
- Andrew I. Geller, M.D., Nadine Shehab, Pharm.D., M.P.H., Nina J. Weidle, Pharm.D. et al. “Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Events Related to Dietary Supplements.” N Engl J Med 2015; 373:1531-1540. October 15, 2015. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1504267