Today, we’ll pit two common joint supplements against each other – glucosamine chondroitin or turmeric (curcumin), for knee pain. Which is better?
Well, the truth is that taking turmeric can be as effective as using glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin. At least, to treat arthritis symptoms.
But each one has its own set of pros and cons as well. So, below you’ll learn the latest evidence regarding each supplement to help you decide which one is best for you.
These are the topics we’ll cover, click on any of them to go to its section:
- Effects on joint pain
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Effects on cartilage breakdown
- Risk of side effects
- Final verdict
- Other treatments for knee pain
Glucosamine chondroitin vs turmeric for knee pain
Let’s clarify something first.
Curcumin is a major component in turmeric, responsible for its health properties. We’ll use both terms interchangeably throughout this article.
With that out of the way, let’s see which supplement is better for:
Reduce joint pain in the knee
Both supplements can reduce joint pain. However, studies show that curcumin supplements tend to act faster than glucosamine, at least for relieving pain. (1)
However, a study found that combining them can ease joint pain better and for longer. At least compared to taking them separately. (1)
Verdict: Both can relieve joint pain. Combine them for better results.
Both glucosamine chondroitin and curcumin can reduce inflammation, but they do so in different ways.
For starters, curcumin acts as both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent.
By doing so, it can help the knee pain from osteoarthritis and other joint disorders in the following ways (3):
- Reduce the negative effects of toxins accumulated by an unhealthy lifestyle.
- Decrease chronic inflammation.
- Prevent any present inflammation from getting worse.
Another benefit of curcumin is that it has been studied for a long time. So, there are tons of studies detailing how it functions as an anti-inflammatory agent. (3)
This is not the same for glucosamine. Yes, it has anti-inflammatory effects, but the explanation behind how it works isn’t well understood.
To date, this is what’s known about the effects of glucosamine chondroitin on inflammation:
During any inflammatory process, numerous chemicals act as “signals.” They trigger several processes that end up causing pain and inflammation.
Researchers believe that glucosamine chondroitin work by inhibiting the reaction of those signaling chemicals. They believe this supplement can reduce pain and swelling by disrupting the inflammatory process itself. (4)
Verdict: Both have anti-inflammatory effects. But curcumin may be a safer choice because scientists clearly understand how it works, unlike glucosamine chondroitin.
Glucosamine chondroitin and curcumin both have a protective role on the knee joint cartilage.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are the main constituents of knee joint cartilage.
Thus, taking them as a joint supplement may help counteract the effects of wear and tear. They may also help regenerate damaged cartilage in diseases like knee osteoarthritis. (4)
Turmeric protects the joints via its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
See, inflammation can produce free radicals – molecules that, if accumulated, can cause diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. But, the antioxidant properties of turmeric can counteract their effects. (3)
Verdict: Both are effective for cartilage protection, but for completely different reasons. They can complement each other, so consider taking both for minimizing wear and tear.
Comparison of the risk of side effects
Glucosamine and curcumin are safe supplements when used alone or in combination. Their side effects are minimum.
But some people may be prone to suffering from side effects – regardless of which supplement they’re using. Please review them carefully before trying any of them.
Common side effects of glucosamine:
- Minor stomach upset.
- Mild to severe allergic reactions in people with shellfish allergies.
- Higher levels of blood glucose in people with diabetes.
- Increased risk of bleeding in people taking anticoagulants, especially warfarin.
But, with appropriate precautions, you can safely take glucosamine chondroitin with little to no side effects for up to three months, at least. (4)
Learn more: Side effects of glucosamine for knee pain
Common side effects of turmeric:
In high doses, it can cause a yellow discoloration of the skin and stomach ulcers. The latter can also provoke severe abdominal pain.
For people prone to stomach ulcers, the risk of having one won’t increase if you stick to the recommended dose of turmeric, mentioned further down. (5)
Contraindications of each supplement
There are some conditions in which intake of glucosamine and curcumin are contraindicated. For them, the risk of side effects can outweigh the benefits.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t take the supplement. Just be extra-cautious and consult your doctor beforehand.
Glucosamine is relatively contraindicated in people who are diabetic. For these patients, taking this supplement may:
- Alter insulin’s action.
- Further increase blood glucose levels.
Glucosamine chondroitin may interact with certain anticoagulants, like warfarin. They could enhance the drug’s action, increasing the risk of bleeding.
Most supplements of glucosamine chondroitin are derived from shellfish. However, people with shellfish allergies could consume vegan versions of these supplements instead.
Some studies suggest curcumin may prevent the formation of gallstones. But if you already have them, this supplement may worsen the pain from this condition because it can stimulate gallbladder contraction. (6, 7)
Curcumin in itself possesses some anticoagulant action. For those who are already taking anticoagulant medications, it’s best to avoid taking curcumin without consulting a physician. (8)
Several studies have found that curcumin can act as an iron chelator, which means it binds to iron and increases its excretion. (9) In other words, this supplement could lower your iron levels, which in turn may cause iron-deficiency anemia.
Dosage of each supplement
Glucosamine chondroitin sulfate
The standard daily dose is (5):
- 1500 mg of glucosamine and
- 1200 mg of chondroitin.
These quantities can be taken in a single or divided dose.
Studies show that you can take them for up to 12 weeks without significant side effects. (4) Provided you don’t have other health conditions that predispose you to the risks or contraindications mentioned earlier, of course.
The recommended dosage of curcumin varies widely depending upon which condition the curcumin is being used for.
For knee pain, multiple studies show that taking 1000 mg daily in a single or divided dose for 6 to 12 weeks. This dose can provide benefits without experiencing side effects. (10)
The final verdict: Glucosamine chondroitin vs turmeric
While both glucosamine chondroitin and turmeric are beneficial for knee problems, specific groups of people may benefit more from one or another.
Curcumin supplements have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes them a better option for people with metabolic disorders and/or with an unhealthy lifestyle.
But, glucosamine chondroitin sulfate is the best supplement if you only want knee pain relief.
What about taking both?
Both glucosamine chondroitin and turmeric have remarkable safety profiles. So, taking both at the same time it’s a viable option, too.
However, please be careful if you are already on multiple medications or have other health issues. In that case, always consult your physician first before taking any dietary supplement.
Other ways to treat knee pain
In addition to glucosamine chondroitin and turmeric, other joint health supplements may help treat knee pain.
The most popular supplements for knee pain include:
- Fish oil supplements. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which may improve knee joint function and help ease the pain.
- Vitamin D and calcium. This vitamin increases the amount of calcium in our bodies. And we need this mineral to repair the damage in our joints.
- MSM. An acronym for methylsulfonylmethane, it can reduce knee joint swelling and delay cartilage breakdown.
- Strengthening. The most cost-effective way of reducing and preventing knee pain.
If you’re not sure what treatment options you have available, it’s best to go to physical therapy. Your therapist will check what’s going on with your knee to recommend the best course of treatment for you.
However, if your knee pain wakes you up at night or is severe, please visit a doctor.
Can I take turmeric with glucosamine and chondroitin?
Yes, it’s safe and very effective to do so.
Which is better for joint health: turmeric or glucosamine?
Both are great for knee joint problems, whether that’s pain or inflammation. Both are also safe supplements to take for the long term.
Can you take turmeric and glucosamine together?
Yes, you can do this unless your physician tells you otherwise.
What is the best natural supplement for joint pain?
Both glucosamine chondroitin and curcumin are good for joint pain. But the benefits of turmeric have tons of studies backing them up, making this a slightly better option.
Conclusion: Glucosamine chondroitin vs turmeric for knee pain
Glucosamine chondroitin and turmeric are both beneficial for treating arthritis pain. However, they do so in different ways.
Glucosamine chondroitin provides the building blocks of cartilage. Whereas turmeric works by reducing toxic chemicals.
Whichever you choose, stick to the recommended dose to prevent unpleasant side effects.
Finally, if you’re not sure what option will be best and/or safest for you, please consult with your doctor.
- 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 52.3 (2016): 321-330.
- Boarescu, Ioana, et al. “Curcumin Nanoparticles Enhance Antioxidant Efficacy of Diclofenac Sodium in Experimental Acute Inflammation.” Biomedicines 10.1 (2022): 61.
- Fadus, Matthew C., et al. “Curcumin: An age-old anti-inflammatory and anti-neoplastic agent.” Journal of traditional and complementary medicine 7.3 (2017): 339-346.
- Kantor, Elizabeth D et al. “Associations between glucosamine and chondroitin supplement use and biomarkers of systemic inflammation.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 20,6 (2014): 479-85.
- Reginster, J., et al. “Current concepts in the therapeutic management of osteoarthritis with glucosamine.” BULLETIN-HOSPITAL FOR JOINT DISEASES NEW YORK 63.1/2 (2005): 31.
- Li, Yongnan et al. “Combination of curcumin and piperine prevents formation of gallstones in C57BL6 mice fed on lithogenic diet: whether NPC1L1/SREBP2 participates in this process?.” Lipids in health and disease vol. 14 100. 3 Sep. 2015.
- Rasyid, Abdul et al. “Effect of different curcumin dosages on human gall bladder.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition vol. 11,4 (2002): 314-8.
- Kim, Dong-Chan, et al. “Anticoagulant Activities of Curcumin and Its Derivative.” BMB Reports, vol. 45, no. 4, Korean Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – BMB Reports, 30 Apr. 2012, pp. 221–226. Crossref.
- Jiao, Yan, et al. “Curcumin, a cancer chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agent, is a biologically active iron chelator.” Blood, The Journal of the American Society of Hematology 113.2 (2009): 462-469.
- Hsiao, An-Fang, et al. “The efficacy of high-and low-dose curcumin in knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Complementary therapies in medicine 63 (2021): 102775.
- “Supplement and Herb Guide for Arthritis Symptoms.” Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/complementary-therapies/supplements-and-vitamins/supplement-and-herb-guide-for-arthritis-symptoms