There are many medications for knee pain relief on the market. But, what about natural options? Which are the best supplements for knee osteoarthritis?
Well, the best supplement will have some research backing it up, minimal side effects, and will also fit your needs. Whether they are preventing further cartilage degeneration, pain management, or improving function.
Now, we included 9 of them in this list – glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM… You’ll have an overview of each to help you decide which one to try. Here’s what we’ll cover, tap on any of the topics to easily navigate throughout the article:
Top 9 supplements for knee osteoarthritis
1) Glucosamine and chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are the most widely taken supplements for knee osteoarthritis. Their ability to help knee pain, swelling, and stiffness is well-established by multiple studies. (1, 2)
They help treat osteoarthritis pain in two ways:
Provide the raw materials for forming healthy joints
Glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally found in cartilage. That’s the connective tissue that cushions our joints.
We normally get these from our diet. But in degenerative joint diseases, the demand for substances that regenerate broken down joint cartilage increases.
So, supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin may help fulfill this increased demand. Doing so can keep the process of joint healing moving at a healthy rate.
Further reading: Complete guide on glucosamine chondroitin for knee pain.
Minimize inflammation responsible for joint degeneration
Inflammation is a major mechanism of joint degradation in knee osteoarthritis. As such, most medications prescribed for knee pain target this.
Now, studies show that supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can reduce inflammation. (3)
And, these supplements have minimal risk of side effects and toxicity. Unlike other medications for knee pain, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
This can help: What to take for knee pain?
Our recommendation: ProJoint Plus
ProJoint Plus’ main ingredients include glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate. Both are dosed appropriately which makes them effective. But this supplement takes it to the next level by combining several other ingredients (also found on this list) to more potently relieve knee pain from osteoarthritis.
For further reading: Our comprehensive review of ProJoint Plus
2) Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
Methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is a popular dietary supplement with anti-inflammatory properties. This in turn minimizes cartilage breakdown.
As a result, It can improve all symptoms of osteoarthritis, including knee pain, swelling, and stiffness. (4)
MSM can be used in combination with glucosamine sulfate to relieve pain. This combination may add to each other’s effects in treating arthritis pain. (5)
Learn more: Benefits of glucosamine MSM for knee pain.
Curcumin is a compound present in turmeric, a spice found in most Asian households. It can help arthritic knee pain in 3 main ways (6, 7):
- By reducing swelling, due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- By preventing cartilage degeneration, thanks to its anti-oxidative effects.
- By improving joint function.
Turmeric can be combined with other supplements, such as glucosamine sulfate, to further relieve joint pain as well. (8)
Related: All about turmeric for knee pain.
Our recommendation: VitaPosts’s Turmeric Curcumin Plus
With the right dosage of organic turmeric, curcuminoids, and BioPerine, VitaPosts’s Turmeric Curcumin Plus has just the right combinations for safe yet potent pain relief from knee osteoarthritis.
4) Omega 3 fatty acids
Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can benefit people with knee OA pain. This may be because they can control inflammation and promote blood flow to the joints. (9, 10)
These two factors can help prevent this degenerative joint disease from getting worse. They can also help reduce osteoarthritis pain and improve knee function.
Now, omega-3 supplements are usually derived from our diet or fish oil supplements.
And consuming fish such as salmon and sardine can help you get omega 3.
But, you may need to eat several servings to hit the recommended dose for knee pain. A big risk of doing this is that it increases your risk of mercury poisoning.
So, at least for knee pain, taking omega-3 supplements can be a safer option than getting it from the diet only.
Further reading: Omega-3 supplements for knee problems.
5) Boswellia serrata
Extracts from a tree named Boswellia Serrata have long been used to treat inflammatory disorders in alternative medicine.
As such, it may be a supplement for treating osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory joint diseases. (11)
6) Vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial for maintaining bone health, but its role in joints is less clearly understood. So far, studies show no added benefit of taking it, at least for joint pain.
Yet, its role in bone health is extremely important. Getting the required vitamin D can sustain normal calcium levels, thus promoting bone health and preventing osteoporosis.
So, at least in theory, improvement in bone health should reduce the risk of knee joint pain.
This is because the two are closely related. For example, a thigh bone fracture due to osteoporosis will make you prone to knee pain.
So, we could say that vitamin D may indirectly help improve knee osteoarthritis pain via bone health.
Further reading: 6 vitamins for managing knee pain
Collagen is a natural substance widely taken for its advocated benefits in joint and skin health. All connective tissue, including the joint cartilage, contains large amounts of collagen.
And in knee osteoarthritis, collagen supplementation may help promote healthy cartilage growth. Some forms of collagen may also protect the joints from inflammation-induced breakdown. (12)
Know more: The 4 benefits of collagen for knee health.
8) Devil’s Claw
Devil’s claw is an herb used in traditional medicine to manage diseases caused by inflammation and oxidative stress. And, multiple studies show that it can improve knee osteoarthritis symptoms. (13)
Both pain and functionality improved with daily use of 960 mg per day of devil’s claw for 8 to 12 weeks. (13)
You can take it in the form of powders, extracts, infusions, and tinctures.
9) Tamarind seeds
Tamarind is a tropical tree used in herbal medicine for its analgesic effects. It has received much attention for its potential in relieving knee osteoarthritis pain.
These seeds may help because they can promote cartilage regrowth. They are potent anti-inflammatory agents with antioxidant properties as well. (14)
Also, studies show that tamarind seeds can improve joint function and alleviate osteoarthritis pain. (15)
Are supplements beneficial or just a marketing ploy?
With so many supplements and products claiming to be the answer to knee osteoarthritis, it is only natural to be skeptical.
Even the scientific community remains divided on whether any supplement can help osteoarthritis.
To this end, many researchers have examined the role of several natural herbs and supplements for this condition, having mixed results. But, more and more studies report positive findings.
So, there is definitely more to supplements than just marketing.
Plus, most of them are very safe with minimal side effects, so they may be well worth a try.
However, if you need something stronger for your symptoms, here’s our full guide on medications for knee osteoarthritis.
What is the best supplement for knee pain?
Do supplements work for knee pain?
Yes, some of them do – glucosamine, chondroitin, turmeric, and many more can help relieve knee pain.
Is it safe to take supplements for knee pain daily?
Yes, just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on dosage. Also, discuss with your doctor before taking supplements if you are taking other medications.
Conclusion: The best supplements for osteoarthritis of the knee
Knee osteoarthritis is a very common condition. And while several treatment options are available, they may not work the same way for everyone.
Current evidence suggests supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, MSM, turmeric, omega 3 fatty acids, and a few more may help manage knee osteoarthritis.
As they are relatively safe, it may be well worth a shot to see if they help you.
- Zhu, Xiaoyue et al. “Effectiveness and safety of glucosamine and chondroitin for the treatment of osteoarthritis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Journal of orthopaedic surgery and research vol. 13,1 170. 6 Jul. 2018
- McAlindon, Timothy E., et al. “Glucosamine and chondroitin for treatment of osteoarthritis: a systematic quality assessment and meta-analysis.” Jama 283.11 (2000): 1469-1475
- Anderson, J. W., R. J. Nicolosi, and J. F. Borzelleca. “Glucosamine effects in humans: a review of effects on glucose metabolism, side effects, safety considerations and efficacy.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 43.2 (2005): 187-201
- Ezaki, Junko, et al. “Assessment of safety and efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane on bone and knee joints in osteoarthritis animal model.” Journal of bone and mineral metabolism 31.1 (2013): 16-25.
- Lubis, Andri M T et al. “Comparison of Glucosamine-Chondroitin Sulfate with and without Methylsulfonylmethane in Grade I-II Knee Osteoarthritis: A Double Blind Randomized Controlled Trial.” Acta medica Indonesiana vol. 49,2 (2017): 105-111.
- Paultre, Kristopher et al. “Therapeutic effects of turmeric or curcumin extract on pain and function for individuals with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review.” BMJ open sport & exercise medicine vol. 7,1 e000935. 13 Jan. 2021.
- Daily, James W et al. “Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials.”Journal of medicinal food vol. 19,8 (2016): 717-29.
- Sterzi, Silvia et al. “The efficacy and safety of a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate and bio-curcumin with exercise in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” European journal of physical and rehabilitation medicine vol. 52,3 (2016): 321-30.
- Calder, Philip C. “Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes.” Nutrients 2.3 (2010): 355-374.
- Zanetti, Michela, et al. “Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: structural and functional effects on the vascular wall.” BioMed research international 2015 (2015).
- Kulkarni, R. R., et al. “Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 33.1-2 (1991): 91-95.
- García-Coronado, Juan Mario et al. “Effect of collagen supplementation on osteoarthritis symptoms: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials.” International orthopaedics vol. 43,3 (2019): 531-538.
- Sundaram, Mahalingam S et al. “Tamarind Seed (Tamarindus indica) Extract Ameliorates Adjuvant-Induced Arthritis via Regulating the Mediators of Cartilage/Bone Degeneration, Inflammation and Oxidative Stress.” Scientific reports vol. 5 11117. 10 Jun. 2015.
- Kare, Sanjeev Kumar, et al. “Tamarindus indica Seed Extract-Based Botanical Compositions Alleviate Knee Pain and Improve Joint Function in Mild-to-Moderate Osteoarthritis: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Study.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2022 (2022).
- Menghini, Luigi et al. “Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) and chronic inflammatory diseases: A concise overview on preclinical and clinical data.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 33,9 (2019): 2152-2162.