If you have psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and are considering adding a natural dietary supplement to your treatment regimen, you may want to consider turmeric, a golden-yellow powder that’s ground from the root of the turmeric plant.
Practitioners of Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine have used turmeric to treat arthritis for thousands of years — and now more and more research is emerging that finds turmeric can help allay pain caused by all kinds of arthritis.
Turmeric may help with PsA because of the powerful anti-inflammatory effects of its main active ingredient, curcumin. “Joint inflammation can be a painful symptom associated with psoriatic arthritis,” says Nicole Avena, PhD, an assistant professor of neuroscience at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University in New Jersey. “Turmeric may block NF-kB, a molecule in our bodies that travels into the nuclei of cells to activate genes that increase inflammation.”
Emily Tills, RDN, who works with patients in Syracuse, New York, adds, “Turmeric contains antioxidants, which are derivatives of vitamins and minerals. They can aid in fighting off free radicals in the body that can cause disease, pain, and deterioration of joints and bones.”
Dr. Avena also points to a potential side benefit of turmeric: “It may help improve memory by boosting BDNF [brain-derived neurotropic factor] levels.”
Turmeric comes in many forms, including capsules. “But you can also make a salve and apply it topically to the area that’s bothering you,” Avena says. “Mix turmeric with ingredients like warm water, warm milk, or sesame oil to create a paste that can help reduce inflammation and swelling.”
Avena recommends adding turmeric directly to your favorite dishes. Or try making a tonic by blending turmeric with complementary ingredients such as cinnamon, clove, and ginger.
It’s important to understand natural therapies before you put a new herb or supplement into your body. Although some can relieve pain and otherwise enhance your health, others may be harmful.
While turmeric supplements seem safe in general, keep in mind that federal law does not require that dietary supplements be tested for safety and effectiveness, and supplements are not standardized by the Food and Drug Administration to ensure consistency between batches.
In fact, according to research published in January 2018 in the International Journal of Inflammation, this lack of standardization may cause clinical trials involving curcumin and turmeric to yield unreliable data.
Avena recommends taking turmeric supplements only in consultation with a doctor. Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid these supplements, as no research studies have been done to determine safety in these cases.