Effect of supplements
Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is a common condition that involves:
- mild inflammation
Various medical treatments and natural remedies are available, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and topical NSAIDS. These can help relieve pain, but they can have negative effects on some people.
This is one reason why you might consider supplements, especially those that might boost the body’s anti-inflammatory response.
Supplement options may include:
- curcumin, found in turmeric
- Boswellia serrata (frankincense)
However, it’s important to note that that there’s very little research to show that supplements help manage the symptoms of OA of the knee.
In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate supplements, so there’s no way to precisely know what a product contains.
For these reasons, the American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation (ACR/AF) do not recommend using glucosamine and various other supplements.
Read on to learn about some supplements that may help you manage OA of the knee.
Curcumin is an antioxidant that may offer a variety of anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s present in turmeric, a mild spice that can add color and flavor to sweet and savory dishes, as well as teas.
It’s also available as a supplement.
Curcumin, present in turmeric, has long played a role in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
In 2019, some researchers found that curcumin capsules had a similar effect on the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis as diclofenac, an NSAID.
In the study, 139 people with OA of the knee took either a 50-milligram tablet of diclofenac twice a day for 28 days or a 500-milligram curcumin capsule three times a day.
Both groups said their pain levels improved, but those who took curcumin had fewer negative effects. The research suggested that people who can’t take NSAIDs may be able to use curcumin instead.
Can turmeric help you lose weight?
In a 2018 study, scientists gave 110 people with mild to moderate OA of the knee a 500-milligram dose of resveratrol or a placebo.
They took this combination alongside a 15-gram dose of the NSAID meloxicam every day for 90 days.
People who took resveratrol found that their pain levels dropped significantly, compared with those who took the placebo.
More research is needed to confirm that resveratrol can benefit people with OA.
However, if you’re already taking another NSAID and it doesn’t reduce your pain as much as you’d like, the research suggests resveratrol may be a useful add-on.
Boswellia serrata comes from the resin of the frankincense tree. Herbalists use it to treat arthritis. Boswellic acids, present in Boswellia, may decrease inflammation and promote joint health.
A 2019 study looked at the different ways boswellic acid might help manage chronic diseases, including OA. Depending on how they’re used, animal tests have shown that boswellic acids might help with OA by:
- restoring the biochemical balance in the joint
- reducing cartilage loss
They added that other, larger studies did not confirm these findings.
There’s currently no evidence that Boswellia serrata supplements can improve symptoms in people with OA of the knee.
Learn some facts and myths about the benefits of frankincense.
Type 2 collagen is a type of protein and the main component in cartilage. For this reason, some people take collagen supplements to support knee health and treat OA.
In a small study, 39 people with OA of the knee took 1,500 milligrams of acetaminophen a day, either alone or with 10 milligrams of type 2 collagen.
After 3 months, those who took collagen said their ability to walk, overall function, and quality of life had improved. However, tests did not show that cartilage destruction had reduced.
However, more studies are needed, as research has not concluded that collagen will help relieve OA of the knee.
Despite this, the Arthritis Foundation says that taking it is likely to be safe, as long as you follow the instructions.
- as tablets, in a concentrated form
- as gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen, in powder form
You can mix the powder into a smoothie.
The AF advises people to:
- take no more than 40 milligrams a day in supplement form
- if you take it as gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen, take 10 grams a day
- use a “plant-based collagen builder” if you’re vegan or vegetarian
Which foods boost your body’s collagen production?
Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil
Omega 3 fatty acids are a healthy type of oil. They’re present in fish oil.
Natural sources of these fatty acids include:
- cold water and oily fish, such as sardines
- flax seeds
- chia seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- soybeans and tofu
- canola and olive oil
Many people also take omega-3 or fish oil supplements.
In one study, people said their pain levels decreased after taking fish oil supplements.
Those who reported the improvement had taken a low dose rather than a high dose. They saw the improvement after 2 years. After 1 year, there was no significant improvement.
Commenting on this study, other scientists expressed further concerns. They noted that consuming more than 3 grams of fish oil a day could be hazardous.
Potential hazards include increased mercury consumption and bruising and bleeding. Researchers concluded that there’s not enough evidence to justify using fish oil for OA.
The ACR/AF doesn’t recommend using fish oil for OA. They also say there’s not enough evidence to prove that it works.
Which foods are high in omega 3 fatty acids?
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate
Some people use glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, or a combination of the two for OA of the knee.
There have been large randomized controlled trials on glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, but they haven’t provided consistent results.
Anecdotal evidence shows some people report benefits and others do not, but there’s also no consistent way to specifically identify who benefits and who doesn’t.
Scientifically and anecdotally, both glucosamine and chondroitin are generally safe for most people to use.
There’s simply not enough available research to determine their efficacy.
For this reason, the ACR/AF strongly recommend not using these supplements.
Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), also known as grapple plant, may help decrease OA-related pain. Various studies have suggested that it has anti- inflammatory properties.
Though research shows Devil’s claw may help ease OA pain, there are side effects.
It can increase stomach acid levels and may lead to gastrointestinal problems. It’s also not recommended for people with ulcers, gallstones, and diabetes.
Your doctor will likely recommend non-drug treatments if you have OA of the knee, and these recommendations may include supplements.
However, not all supplements are effective, and it’s essential to learn how to safely use them.
Before taking any supplements:
- check first with your doctor that they are safe for you to use
- get your supplements from a reputable source
- follow the instructions provided
Other non-drug treatments can include:
- trying to follow a healthy, balanced, and nutrient-dense diet
- striving to maintain your healthy weight
Though there’s currently no cure for OA, working with your doctor and making certain lifestyle changes can help you manage arthritis and other conditions.