Both CBD and turmeric are thought to have great benefits for inflammation and ridding the body of toxins. But how does it work? Curcumin, a substance in turmeric, may reduce swelling and help ease symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, like pain and inflammation. Learn more from experts at WebMD. Find out more about complementary medicines and the top five that people contact us about.
Whats the deal with….CBD and turmeric?
If CBD and turmeric offer potential benefits for inflammation, could it make sense to combine both?
15th August 2021
Both CBD and turmeric are thought to have great benefits for inflammation and ridding the body of toxins. They are now being combined as food, capsules, oil and coffees. But how does it work?
Turmeric is the spice that gives curries a vibrant yellow colour. It comes from the root of a plant called Curcuma longa. For centuries the compound curcumin contained in turmeric has been used in Indian medicine as an anti-oxidant. It also may have potential anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it perfect for helping to boost the similar properties that are associated with CBD.
There have been a few recent reviews and trials on turmeric for knee pain and arthritis.
A review from this year on turmeric for anti-inflammatory has revealed it may help with osteoarthritis (OA). The researchers concluded that over the ten studies examined when compared with a placebo, there appears to be a benefit of turmeric on knee OA pain and function.
In a small study from 2020 on 70 patients diagnosed with knee arthritis, it was discovered that those taking turmeric reported less knee pain.
CBD has also shown potential for soothing arthritic pain. In one study, researchers treated arthritic rats with a topical form of CBD. The rats showed a difference in inflammation levels and their condition was less developed.
It is unknown how CBD and turmeric combine. As they have main similar properties, it could be beneficial to combine both for certain conditions such as osteoarthritis.
One difficulty with taking turmeric is that it is incredibly hard to absorb due to its hydrophobic nature. This causes the molecules to stick together when they come into contact with water in the body. It is thought that adding pepper to turmeric will increase the absorption rate by 2000 percent.
Both CBD and turmeric have low bioavailability making it difficult to absorb them easily. However, they are both lipophilic which means adding fat can help them absorb better.
How to take CBD and turmeric
This is why CBD and turmeric as supplements come with an oil base. Different companies use different bases including rapeseed, hemp or flaxseed oil. Taking these compounds suspended in an oil automatically makes them more easily absorbed. The oil can be popped under the tongue for a few minutes before being swallowed.
Food and drink
Taking CBD and turmeric in food may be less effective than oil. Turmeric is often added to coffee as a latte which CBD can be dropped into. The lower level of fat in the drink, or in certain foods can make it unreliable for absorption but very tasty. Another problem is that the food has to travel through the digestive system first before any of the CBD or turmeric can be absorbed. Digestive acids and enzymes destroy some of the CBD before it can be absorbed. The small amount that gets through the intestinal wall will then be metabolised by the liver before it reaches the rest of the body.
Unfortunately, capsules are also subject to being passed through the digestive system. This could give a slower effect in comparison to the oil which is absorbed through the oral mucous membranes much faster.
In the U.S., turmeric is best known as a spice. It’s one of the main components of curry powder. In India and other parts of Asia, turmeric is used to treat many health conditions. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and perhaps even anticancer properties.
Why do people take turmeric?
Curcumin, a substance in turmeric, may help to reduce inflammation. Several studies suggest that it might ease symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, like pain and inflammation. Other compounds in turmeric might also be medicinal.
In lab tests, curcumin seems to block the growth of certain kinds of tumors. One study showed that turmeric extract containing curcumin could — in some cases — stabilize colorectal cancer that wasn’t helped by other treatments. But more research is needed.
Other preliminary lab studies suggest that curcumin or turmeric might protect against types of colitis, stomach ulcers, and high cholesterol. Based on studies, turmeric and curcumin might also help treat upset stomach, diabetes, depression, HIV, uveitis, and viral infections.
But it’s important to keep in mind that most of these studies have been done in the laboratory. Researchers haven’t yet conducted significant studies on the benefits of turmeric and curcumin. So it’s too early to say what health benefits turmeric might have.
How much turmeric should you take?
Turmeric is an unproven treatment, though it has years of traditional use and some preliminary convincing research. There is no standard dosage. Ask your health care provider for advice.
Can you get turmeric naturally from foods?
Turmeric, as a spice, is a common ingredient in Indian cooking. The spice (and supplement) comes from the underground stems (rhizomes) of the turmeric plant.
What are the risks of taking turmeric?
- Side effects. Turmeric is generally safe. It can cause nausea and diarrhea, especially in high doses or after long-term use. It might also pose a risk of ulcers in high doses. As a topical treatment, it can cause skin irritation. Caution is advised when turmeric is taken by people known to have gallstones; consult your health care provider first.
- Risks.Pregnant women should not use turmeric supplements. Talk to a doctor before using turmeric supplements regularly if you have any medical conditions, including gallbladder or kidney disease, bleeding disorders, diabetes, or immunity problems. Since turmeric can potentially increase bleeding, stop taking it at least two weeks before any surgery.
- Interactions. If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using turmeric supplements. They could interact with medicines like aspirin, NSAID painkillers, statins, diabetes drugs, blood pressure medicines, and blood thinners. They might also interact with supplements that decrease clotting, like ginkgo, ginseng, and garlic.
Given the lack of evidence about its safety, children and women who are breastfeeding should only use turmeric supplements if a doctor recommends it.
Fundukian, L., ed. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, third edition, 2009.
Mills, S. and Bone, K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, 2000.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: “About Herbs: Turmeric.”
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Herbs at a Glance: Turmeric.”
Complementary treatments and arthritis – from turmeric to cannabis oil
People use complementary medicine for many different reasons, including:
- wanting to use more natural treatments
- their symptoms aren’t fully controlled by conventional medicine.
Read more about complementary therapies which can help to ease the symptoms of arthritis, from yoga to meditation.
Are they right for me?
As with all complementary treatments, different things work for different people and it isn’t possible to predict which might be the most useful or effective.
There are some key points to consider if you’re thinking about using any complementary treatments.
- What are you hoping to achieve? Pain relief? More energy? Better sleep? Reduction in medication?
- What are the financial costs?
- Is there any evidence for their effectiveness?
Are complementary medicines safe?
Complementary medicines are relatively safe, although you should always talk to your doctor before you start any new treatment.
In specific cases they may not be recommended, for example, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or they may interact with certain medication.
A starter for five
Here we share a spotlight on the most popular complementary medicines that people call our helpline about.
It’s thought that turmeric can possibly reduce inflammation, which could help people with arthritis.
People with knee osteoarthritis who took part in a research trial reported improvements to their pain levels after taking turmeric. The evidence is limited however, as it is from just one trial. What evidence there is suggested that people only had minor side-effects after taking turmeric.
Turmeric can be bought from health food shops, pharmacies and supermarkets in the form of powder.
Glucosamine sulphate and glucosamine hydrochloride are nutritional supplements. Animal studies have found that glucosamine can both delay the breakdown of and repair damaged cartilage.
The results for the use of glucosamine for osteoarthritis are mixed and the size of the effect is modest. There’s some evidence that more recent trials and those using higher-quality methods are less likely to show a benefit.
Capsaicin is taken from chilli peppers. It works mainly by reducing Substance P, a pain transmitter in your nerves. Results from randomised controlled trials assessing its role in treating osteoarthritis suggest that it can be effective in reducing pain and tenderness in affected joints, and it has no major safety problems. Evidence for its effectiveness for fibromyalgia is related to a single trial.
Other names: Axsain®, Zacin®, chilli, pepper gel, cayenne
Capsaicin is licensed in the UK for osteoarthritis and you can get it on prescription in the form of gels, creams and plasters.
There are no major safety concerns in applying capsaicin gel/cream. A review of capsaicin applied to the skin to treat chronic pain (not specifically related to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia) concluded that around one third of people experience a reaction around the area where the treatment is applied. It’s important to keep capsaicin away from your eyes, mouth and open wounds because it will cause irritation. There have been no reported drug interactions.
Fish oils are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Fish liver oil is also a rich source of vitamin A (a strong antioxidant) and vitamin D (which is important for maintaining healthy joints).
Evidence suggests that fish body oil can improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Unconfirmed evidence also suggests a combination of fish body and liver oils might also be useful in the long term, particularly in reducing the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). There isn’t enough evidence for the use of fish liver oil for osteoarthritis.
Omega-3 fatty acids also play a role in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your blood, so they can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in people with inflammatory arthritis.
In the UK, dietary guidelines recommend eating two portions of fish a week, including one oily. Fish oil is considered to be well tolerated at this dose.
At the correct doses, side-effects are usually minor and uncommon.
Cannabis oil (CBD)
CBD is type of cannabinoid – a natural substance extracted from the cannabis plant and often mixed with an oil (such as coconut or hemp) to create CBD oil. It does not contain the psychoactive compound called tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) which is associated with the feeling of being ‘high’.
Research in cannabinoids over the years suggests that they can be effective in treating certain types of chronic pain such as pain from nerve injury, but there is currently not enough evidence to support using cannabinoids in reducing musculoskeletal pain. We welcome further research to better understand its impact and are intently following developments internationally.
CBD oil can be legally bought as a food supplement in the UK from heath food shops and some pharmacies. However, CBD products are not licensed as a medicine for use in arthritis by MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority) or approved by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) or the SMC (Scottish Medicines consortium).
We know anecdotally from some people with arthritis, that CBD has reduced their symptoms. If you’re considering using CBD to manage the pain of your arthritis, it’s important to remember it cannot replace your current medicines, and it may interact with them, so please do not stop/start taking anything without speaking to a healthcare professional.
We’re here whenever you need us.
If you’re feeling isolated from family and friends during these uncertain times, we’re here for you.