I’m going to go over the three best supplements that can reduce pain, improve function, and decrease stiffness related to arthritis. These natural remedies have the potential to transform your quality of life. I’m also going to give you one essential tip to look out for when selecting a supplement brand.
Many people seek out supplements because they tend to offer a more natural approach to treatment. The top three supplements that I recommend for treating symptoms related to osteoarthritis are Boswellia serrata, Turmeric and curcumin, and glucosamine chondroitin.
Let’s first start with Boswellia serrata. This is an herb extracted from the Frankincense tree. It has a rich history dating back to ancient civilizations and plays a significant role in both Ayurvedic traditional Indian medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.
One of the most notable properties of Boswellia serrata is its powerful pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. It actually works through a similar molecular pathway that aspirin and ibuprofen use.
This systematic review and meta-analysis examined the effectiveness of Boswellia serrata for the treatment of osteoarthritis. The researchers found that Boswellia and its extract can reduce pain, reduce stiffness, and improve joint function when compared to controls. The results of this study were consistent with a prior 2018 study that looked at over 20 supplements commonly used to treat symptomatic osteoarthritis. Boswellia extract was among the standouts with large effect sizes on pain reduction.
Dosing varies if you are using the resin itself or if you are using a concentrated extract. Most supplements that you can buy online utilize Boswellia serrata extract which is a concentrated form of the resin. The recommended dose for these extracts to treat symptomatic arthritis is between 100 to 250 mg once a day, taken with the first meal of the day.
It is important to note that Boswellia products are generally considered safe. In the studies conducted, there were no significant differences in adverse events and side effects between Boswellia and control groups. However, it is worth mentioning that herbal products and supplements can interact with prescription medications. Therefore, it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider to address any questions or concerns you may have, particularly regarding potential interactions.
The second supplement that I highly recommend for arthritis is turmeric and curcumin. Curcumin is a natural polyphenol and is the active ingredient in turmeric which is a spice heavily used in Asian cuisine. Specifically when looking at pain and inflammation, in vivo and in vitro studies have shown that curcumin has both anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant effects.
This systematic review and meta-analysis found that curcumin was significantly more effective than placebo in the improvements for pain, function, and stiffness. In addition, they found that the effects of curcumin were just as strong as taking non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen in the improvements of pain and function without any of the side effects.
NSAIDs are known to cause serious side effects especially when taken long term. Complications include gastrointestinal bleeding, renal failure, worsening hypertension, and cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks and strokes. Turmeric and curcumin are an excellent and safe alternative. The typical recommended dose is 1000 mg daily.
The third supplement that I recommend for arthritis is glucosamine chondroitin. Now I want to point out that clinical studies consistently show that both boswellia serrata and turmeric curcumin have greater benefits than glucosamine chondroitin. So if you’re looking for somewhere to start, I would start with the first two.
But for those who want to try everything, let’s talk about glucosamine chondroitin. Both of these are naturally occurring compounds found in joints and cartilage. Their use has actually been quite controversial over the last few years. A number of clinical studies have shown that glucosamine and chondroitin can reduce joint pain and improve function in people with osteoarthritis of the knees, hips, and spine.
But the evidence for their effectiveness is not consistent across all studies, and some studies have found that they are no more effective than taking placebo. And one of the reasons for this may be that many clinical trials only study glucosamine versus placebo or chondroitin versus placebo. They don’t actually study the two compounds together. And because of this, these studies ignore the synergistic effects that the two supplements have when taken together.
This systematic review and meta-analysis looked specifically to determine if glucosamine and chondroitin taken together was effective for the treatment of osteoarthritis. They found that the combination of the two supplements significantly decreased pain, function, and stiffness when compared to placebo.
The typical recommended dose of glucosamine is around 1500 mg and chondroitin is between 800 and 1200 mg daily. Again, just remember that glucosamine and chondroitin should be taken together to achieve the best effects.
So to summarize, the best available clinical trial evidence suggests that Boswellia serrata and turmeric curcumin both have large effect sizes in reducing symptoms related to symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. Glucosamine chondroitin when taken together seems to have low to moderate effect size in reducing symptoms.
But what about all the other common supplements advertised for osteoarthritis? Both vitamin D and omega 3 may have benefits but the effect size seems to be low. Type 2 collagen also seems promising as an option but in my opinion, there is currently insufficient evidence in clinical trials, especially when compared to boswellia serrata and turmeric curcumin. Please let me know in the comments which supplements you are taking that are working for you or ones that you want to learn more about.
The last very important thing that I want to say is that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA and the industry is known for false advertising and inaccurate ingredients. There are countless studies that warn people that supplement manufacturers often fail to comply with basic manufacturing standards. This is despite putting on their labels that their supplements are quote and quote professional grade and third party tested.
For example, this recent study found that almost 90% of dietary supplement labels did not accurately declare the ingredients found in their products. Worse yet, 12% of products contained at least 1 FDA prohibited ingredient. So it’s very important that you do your own research when it comes to purchasing dietary supplements.
I typically recommend my patients look for NSF or USP certified supplements. Both of these are third party certifications which mean they independently assess products without being affiliated with the companies that produce them. Not only do they certify that what’s on the label is in the bottle, they also do toxicology review to certify product formulation and contaminant review to ensure the product contains no undeclared ingredients or unacceptable levels of contaminants.
For those who are interested, I’ve put links to some NSF and USP certified supplements below. Hopefully this means they are more reliable, but just keep in mind that these links are not endorsements and I can’t guarantee their effectiveness.
Boswellia Extract: https://amzn.to/3L00rYn
Turmeric & Curcumin: https://amzn.to/47NacD9
Glucosamine & Chondroitin: https://amzn.to/44AVoow
Creatine Monohydrate: https://amzn.to/45JW9wq
Omega 3 and 6: https://amzn.to/45LTBh7
Vitamin D 5000: https://amzn.to/47T8MHs
Vitamin B complex: https://amzn.to/3L0Bdcm