Arthritis is one of the most common conditions in adults and tends to increase in prevalence and severity with age. Pain medications are often prescribed, as well as anti-inflammatories, but natural treatments like turmeric and ginger may also have a place for treating the condition.
In the United States, over 54 million people have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other forms of the condition. Not only does this cause pain for people who suffer from it, but it can also result in other comorbidities.
People who develop osteoarthritis may have reduced mobility, which may increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Whereas rheumatoid arthritis – a painful autoimmune disease – is also known to increase the risk of developing other diseases due to excessive inflammation.
Plants and herbs have been studied for their health benefits, but turmeric and ginger stand out as two promising natural remedies in treating arthritis according to recent research.
Many people take curcumin with ginger supplements and have had a lot of great success in treating their arthritis symptoms (read the reviews). Curcumin is the bioactive compound responsible for most of the beneficial effects you get from turmeric.
If you decide not to take curcumin, you can try adding turmeric liberally to your meals and tea. Curcumin accounts for about 2-9% of the turmeric. The advantage of taking supplements is they are convenient and also formulated to significantly enhance the absorption of curcumin.
Read more here about the benefits of turmeric and ginger tea and three high-quality ginger and turmeric supplements for general health and arthritis.
How can ginger and turmeric help people with arthritis?
Both of these herbs are commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for treating many types of inflammatory diseases and work in similar ways.
They mainly help you by inhibiting inflammatory mediators on a cellular level which causes joint destruction, inflammation, and pain.
Ginger and Turmeric contain potent anti-inflammatory compounds like gingerols and other related compounds. Whereas the main benefits of turmeric are from a compound called curcumin.
Ginger and curcumin appear to be an effective COX inhibitor, which is how some NSAID medications work. They also inhibit other inflammatory mediators like NF-Kappa B, TNF-alpha, and various cytokines and enzymes related to the destruction of cartilage.
Turmeric (curcumin) is also able to modulate the immune system by inhibiting immune responses that cause the body to attack itself.
Taken together, these compounds can act synergistically to have a more robust anti-inflammatory effect and may even be useful in reducing the dose of medications or stopping them entirely. But of course, if you’re planning on stopping your medication, please talk to your doctor first.
Studies in the laboratory have shown how these compounds work in animals and in test tubes, but do these benefits translate into humans taking them in their diet or as a supplement?
Fortunately, there have been several studies conducted and so we have an answer! 🙂
What is the evidence?
The evidence that we’ll take a look at will be in patients who suffer from either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and have tried using either ginger or turmeric and its bioactive components like curcumin for managing their condition.
Ginger and Turmeric for Osteoarthritis
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted in 2002, researchers compared the effects of ginger extract, ibuprofen, and a placebo to see which was better at managing symptoms of osteoarthritis.
They were split up into three groups of 40 and then monitored between April and October 2002 by looking at pain score, swelling, and other joint mobility scores.
The study found that ginger and ibuprofen were equal in their ability to reduce symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. 
In 2014, a meta-analysis of studies looking at ginger and osteoarthritis was published, with the authors concluding that patients who were given ginger were more than twice as likely to discontinue treatment compared to placebo because the supplement was effective at managing symptoms.
Ginger taken as a supplement seems to be beneficial for people who have osteoarthritis, but more recent research also suggests that simply applying a ginger extract with nanoparticles can also improve joint pain and other symptoms.  Although ginger is well-tolerated for most people, this is a good finding because some people may prefer to apply directly to the joint.
People who are poor responders to NSAID medications may also benefit from using ginger in combination with echinacea for decreasing joint inflammation in OA patients. One study showed a significant improvement of 12.27 points for the group who took the ginger supplement. 
Now taking a look at turmeric in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial! Turmeric was found to benefit patients with osteoarthritis by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress markers in patients who were taking the supplement for four months.
Not only did they see improvements by measuring these markers, but there was a significant clinical improvement in patients and their quality of life for patients taking the turmeric supplement .
Other studies have shown that turmeric is able to block the degenerative processes associated with the condition. It does this by downregulating COX2, TNF-alpha, interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-6, and IL-8, as well as reducing the production of reactive oxygen species. 
Both ginger and turmeric appear to be effective natural treatments for these two forms of arthritis with efficacy matching that of traditional pain medications. Great news for people who hate taking medications which can cause side effects.
Ginger and Turmeric for Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis can be a condition which is difficult to treat and manage. When it’s severe it can cause significant disability and comorbidities. And so finding treatments to enhance or replace medications can really improve quality of life and reduce side effects associated with painkillers and other medications.
For active rheumatoid arthritis, there is more evidence that turmeric or curcumin supplements are more effective at managing the disease than ginger.
In 2012, a randomized pilot trial looked at the safety and effectiveness of using curcumin (derived from turmeric) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis compared to standard treatment. The study found that not only was curcumin safe and well tolerated, but curcumin was superior compared with diclofenac sodium group in treating patients. 
Other more recent studies have confirmed these findings with both low dose and high dose curcumin formulations designed for maximum bioavailability. They saw significant clinical improvements over the placebo group, with improvements in ESR, CRP, and RF values. There were also no side effects in the group taking the curcumin supplements. 
And finally, although there isn’t much evidence that ginger is effective for rheumatoid arthritis, it has been used in animal models and shown to inhibit joint inflammation and destruction.  Therefore combining ginger with turmeric or curcumin may have a synergistic effect.
The evidence for using natural herbs like turmeric and ginger seem to be strong in the case of treating degenerative conditions such as arthritis. Many people have benefited from using these herbs, and so it might be worth a try!
Of course, if you’re thinking about taking supplements, speak with your doctor and discuss whether or not there will be any interactions with other medications you’re currently taking.
That being said, turmeric and ginger have been widely used for centuries and provide many other health benefits aside from their ability to treat arthritis! 🙂