Turmeric and 9 Other Anti-Inflammatory Spices for Arthritis

One of the main characteristics of arthritis is inflammation; therefore, including anti-inflammatory spices in the diet of patients with this disease can contribute to the management of symptoms. However, it's important to only consume these spices for arthritis within the framework of the treatment suggested by your doctor.
Turmeric and 9 Other Anti-Inflammatory Spices for Arthritis
Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor

Reviewed and approved by the nutritionist Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor.

Last update: 18 March, 2023

First of all, it’s important to be aware that you must only consume anti-inflammatory spices for arthritis within the framework of the treatment suggested by your doctor. Also, take into account that, by itself, food doesn’t have miraculous effects against a given disease or condition. In spite of this, nutrition can have a positive or negative effect on its evolution and clinical manifestations.

Is there any evidence of this? Of course! In the following article, we’ll share all the details with you.

Anti-inflammatory spices that help relieve arthritis

In patients with arthritis, one or more joints become swollen, tender, and stiff. As the disease progresses, the inflammation becomes chronic and makes movement and daily activities impossible. Consequently, their quality of life also reduces.

Fortunately, several therapeutic options are now available to improve joint function and reduce the risk of complications. Among these, those associated with diet play a relevant role. And although an individualized approach is best, there are some general recommendations that everyone can apply.

The regular consumption of anti-inflammatory spices, for example, gives added value to dishes. Not only does it improve their taste, but it provides an additional effect on the regulation of inflammation. A study shared in the Journal of Translational Medicine supports their properties.

According to this publication, spices such as turmeric, cloves, coriander, garlic, ginger, and pepper, among others, have the potential to influence inflammatory pathways. So, how do they help with arthritis? Let’s take a closer look.

1. Turmeric

The main active compound in turmeric, curcumin, is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. The spice is part of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as an adjuvant to relieve pain and swelling associated with various musculoskeletal disorders, including arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Research in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests the use of this ingredient as a dietary supplement for inflammatory disorders. In turn, a review in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine details that turmeric has positive effects in decreasing pain and improving physical function in people with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Although its mechanism of action is still under investigation, scientists observed that curcumin blocks cytokines and inflammatory enzymes. Thus, it inhibits the production of inflammatory mediators.

You can add turmeric (which is featured in the cover photo) to a variety of dishes, such as soups, stews, and meats. However, in its natural form, the bioavailability of curcumin is low. The Arthritis Foundation recommends 500 mg of curcumin extract in capsules, twice a day.

Researchers also recommend combining it with black pepper to promote its absorption in the body. In any case, avoid its simultaneous consumption with anticoagulants, lipid-lowering agents, and herbal supplements of ginkgo biloba, garlic, or saw palmetto.

2. Anti-inflammatory spices for arthritis: Cinnamon

Beyond being ideal for enhancing the flavor and aroma of a wide variety of dishes, cinnamon has medicinal applications. Two of its active compounds, cinnamaldehyde, and cinnamic acid, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

A study shared by Biochemical Pharmacology reports that cinnamaldehyde, in particular, has good potential as a therapeutic agent against inflammatory diseases. Furthermore, through the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, there seem to be benefits for diseases such as arthritis.

The study concludes that cinnamon supplementation serves as a safe therapeutic adjunct to reduce inflammation and clinical symptoms in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. This is because it decreases levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, one of the markers of inflammation.

The spice is available in supplement form, such as capsules. You can also add it as a powder to smoothies, oatmeal, casseroles and various desserts. Don’t exceed its consumption and avoid its simultaneous intake with anticoagulants.

Canela en rama.
Cinnamon is one of the many spices for arthritis.

4. Garlic

One of the most used anti-inflammatory spices in any kitchen is garlic. It contains diallyl disulfide, a substance that inhibits the effects of proinflammatory cytokines. Its consumption either naturally or in supplement form can reduce swelling and stiffness caused by arthritis.

In this regard, a study in rats in the Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology, and Oncology found that garlic-derived diallyl disulfide has anti-arthritic activity. Specifically, it decreases inflammation and prevents cartilage deterioration.

Meanwhile, research in Phytotherapy Research concludes that garlic supplementation can improve inflammatory mediators by reducing levels of C-reactive protein and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). This is reflected in a decrease in clinical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as painful and swollen joints.

We still need larger and more conclusive studies to evaluate the effects of garlic on arthritis. In any case, it’s a good idea to add it to soups, pastas, vegetable dishes, among other recipes. You can also take it as a supplement, but only do this under medical supervision.

Garlic is one of the ten anti-inflammatory spices for arthritis.
Garlic bulbs.

4. Anti-inflammatory spices for arthritis: Cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper – like other hot peppers – concentrates active compounds known as capsaicinoids. For years, these have been the focus of study, as they have been found to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activity.

Research reported in the journal Molecules details that capsaicin is often used in low doses in topical formulations for the treatment of arthritis. Its application is associated with decreased joint pain and tenderness.

Meanwhile, a review in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage concludes that the use of topical capsaicin cream can decrease osteoarthritis pain as effectively as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. And while more studies are still needed, these products can be purchased at pharmacies and herbalists.

Although studies focus on the effects of topical capsaicin, anecdotal evidence suggests that cayenne pepper intake also has positive effects in relieving pain and stiffness. It’s recommended to add the spice in small amounts to soups, stews, sauces, or marinades.

Jugo de pimienta de cayena.
Cayenne pepper juice.

5. Black pepper

Because of its particular spicy flavor, black pepper is often used to season a wide variety of dishes. What many people don’t know is that it contains active compounds such as piperine, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the body. In traditional medicine, it’s considered a complementary treatment for joint disorders.

Research in the European Journal of Pharmacology determined that piperic acid, a molecule derived from piperine, has antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activity. Thus, not only does it favor the control of inflammation, but it also decreases pain intensity.

Another study in an animal model, shared by Arthritis Research & Therapy, made similar findings. The researchers concluded that piperine has anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, and anti-arthritic effects. Therefore, it’s recommended that its potential as a dietary supplement against arthritis be investigated.

Pimienta negra es una de las especias antiinflamatorias.
Black peppercorns.

6. Cloves

Research on the effects of cloves against arthritis has yielded mixed results. Still, there’s evidence to suggest that eugenol, one of its active compounds, has anti-inflammatory properties that contribute to the reduction of symptoms of this disorder.

A review shared by Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity discusses the clinical potential of eugenol for the treatment of diseases associated with oxidative stress and inflammation. Its uptake has health benefits and for improving your overall quality of life.

In an experimental model, reported in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, the findings were similar. Eugenol was found to improve experimental arthritis and could be useful as an adjunct in the treatment of human arthritis.

In the case of arthritis, eugenol can be harnessed by topical application of clove essential oil. This should be combined with a carrier oil (almond, coconut, olive, etc.), since it’s irritating on its own. 5 to 10 drops of essential oil per 15 milliliters of carrier oil is recommended.

Other forms of consumption are as follows:

  • Powdered and added in soups, stews, and baked goods.
  • Whole, added in tea or hot beverages.
Clove is one of the ten anti-inflammatory spices for arthritis.
Clove essential oil.

7. Anti-inflammatory spices for arthritis: Ginger

Ginger contains two active compounds: gingerol and shogaol, which apparently have anti-inflammatory potential. A review shared by the Journal of Medicinal Food details that this spice shares pharmacological properties with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but with fewer side effects.

Research in the journal Gene found that ginger supplementation may help treat rheumatoid arthritis by increasing the expression of certain genes involved in immune function.

The spice can be added to meat dishes, soups, vegetables, stews, and sauces. It can also be eaten fresh through smoothies or infusions. Meanwhile, its essential oil can be combined with a carrier oil for massage application.


8. Thyme

A study shared through the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine revealed that thyme is one of the most commonly used anti-inflammatory spices among patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s valuable for its antioxidant, anti-arthritic, and mildly analgesic effects.

Although there’s not enough evidence, its effects might be due to its thymol content, a monoterpene phenol that has the ability to promote free radical scavenging, reduce inflammation and soothe pain.

You can add fresh or dry thyme to meat, legumes, and vegetable dishes. You can also prepare it as an infusion. Also, you can use the essential oil (mixed with a carrier oil) in massage.

Rama de tomillo es una especia antiinflamatoria.
Thyme branch.

9. Oregano

The essential oils of oregano, as well as components such as thymol and rosmarinic acid are natural anti-inflammatories. The journal Molecules reports that the spice helps reduce inflammation and combat the negative effects of free radicals.

Although we need specific studies, its extracts seem to reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders. In particular, it may be useful in decreasing swelling and pain.

The anti-inflammatory activity seems to decrease with the use of extracts of the spice. HOwever, researchers don’t know whether it has the same effects as part of a regular diet. Even so, add it to meats, soups, and stews, among others.

Orégano es una de las especias antiinflamatorias contra la artritis.

10. Cilantro is one of the anti-inflammatory spices

Finishing this list of anti-inflammatory spices we find cilantro. In an animal study shared in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, it was determined that the ingredient helps modulate proinflammatory cytokines in the synovium, which confers anti-arthritic activity.

For now, we need larger and more conclusive studies to corroborate these effects in humans. In any case, the findings are a starting point for the study of coriander (Coriandrum sativum) as a therapeutic agent for rheumatoid arthritis.

You can add fresh coriander or seeds to soups, stews, meats, and salads, among other recipes. Only take supplements under professional supervision.

Coriander is one of the anti-inflammatory spices for arthritis.

Recommendations for the safe use of anti-inflammatory spices

In general, adding anti-inflammatory spices to the regular diet is safe. People usually tolerate small amounts. However, there’s a risk of bloating and abdominal pain, gas, acid reflux, gastric irritation, and diarrhea if you consume too much of it. Other symptoms may include the following:

  • Heart rhythm disturbance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

It should not be overlooked that, in some people, spices can lead to allergic reactions. If so, symptoms may include hives, abdominal discomfort, and inflammation of the respiratory tract. If this is your case, discontinue use and consult a physician.

It’s possible to find spice-derived supplements that promise to help relieve arthritis. If you chose this option, consult a physician or a herbalist. Dosages may vary in each presentation, but it is essential to respect the amount suggested by the manufacturer.

Whether you take the spice in its natural form or as a supplement, be sure not to take it if you’re taking other medications. In some cases, it enhances its action, while in others, it reduces it.

It’s advisable to wait at least two hours between the intake of any medication and the supplement.

Some frequent interactions are the following:

  • Lipid-lowering drugs
  • Anticoagulants
  • Antidepressants
  • Antidiabetics

Anti-inflammatory spices complement an arthritis diet

Finally, certain spices have active compounds with anti-inflammatory properties and there have been positive effects in the management of arthritis. Most studies took place on laboratory animals, using extracts from these ingredients.

It’s still unknown whether regular intake of spices in their natural form has the same effects. In any case, they’re healthy and anecdotal evidence attributes benefits to them when included in the framework of a healthy and balanced diet.

They are also ideal to enhance the flavor and aroma of pasta dishes, rice, potatoes, vegetables, and meats, among other foods. So, would you like to try them?

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.