If you want an alternative to painkillers, you are not alone. Many people are now gravitating towards natural supplements for knee pain to help ease their symptoms. The only problem? The thousands of options available.
We know it’s overwhelming. But to make things easier (and safer) for you, we made this list with joint supplements that are backed up by evidence – 9 to be exact. From the classic glucosamine and chondroitin to certain spices and vitamins.
You’ll learn about each one of them below to finally choose the most effective supplement for your knee pain. Here are the topics we’ll cover, tap on any of them to navigate through the content:
9 Natural supplements for knee joint pain
Turmeric, a plant root of Curcuma longa, contains curcumin.
This is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse, as research shows it can decrease existing inflammation and dampen future inflammatory pathways. (1)
But, how does it compare to painkillers?
Well, for knee pain, some studies show curcumin’s effects are comparable to NSAIDs like ibuprofen or diclofenac. (2)
For example, one study compared the efficacy and safety of diclofenac with curcumin. Patients with knee osteoarthritis received either 500 mg of the turmeric compound three times a day or diclofenac 50 mg twice daily for 28 days.
The result? Those that received curcumin showed similar improvement in the severity of pain as compared to diclofenac. But with a better tolerance than the NSAID. (1)
A similar effect happens in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Another study showed that using curcumin in patients with RA can provide similar effects to another NSAID, phenylbutazone. (1)
Learn more: How does curcumin help knee pain?
2) Glucosamine and chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are two popular natural supplements for knee pain. Combined, they can help with cartilage repair and stall its breakdown.
But they can also help knee pain when taken alone.
For example, glucosamine sulfate may reduce the dependence on NSAIDs in patients with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis, a 2012 study showed. Results also suggest they can reduce the side effects of the drugs, enhancing the quality of life. (3)
Chondroitin can also improve joint function in patients with knee osteoarthritis symptoms. Taking 800 mg of it daily can provide similar effects to celecoxib. (4)
Further reading: Glucosamine chondroitin for knee pain.
Gingerol, an active constituent of ginger, can inhibit several chemicals involved in joint inflammation and pain. Its pain-relieving effects can be compared to ibuprofen. (5, 6, 7)
Just eating the spice can be enough to provide pain reduction and improve joint function in patients with osteoarthritis. It can also help reduce the need for NSAIDs. (5, 7)
This could help: The one supplement with ginger (and turmeric) we recommend.
Cannabidiol (CBD) has little research investigating its use in joint disease. But so far, the studies done on animals are extremely promising, showing it can help with arthritis. (8)
Still, its use is prevalent in patients with osteoarthritis. A study found that 24% of the patients with this condition used CBD products. (9)
Check this: CBD for knee pain – full guide.
Boswellia, also called Indian frankincense, is one of the natural supplements for knee pain and inflammation. (10)
Extracts from Boswellia serrata may relieve pain, without causing serious adverse effects. It can also enhance physical function. (11, 12)
6) Avocado-soybean unsaponifiable (ASU)
Avocado-soybean unsaponifiable is a nutraceutical that works by inhibiting inflammatory chemicals and stimulating the synthesis of collagen. (13)
It’s particularly helpful for knee osteoarthritis. Apart from reducing symptoms, it can also reduce the intake of NSAIDs. (14)
Several vitamins help with knee pain, each in its unique way. The most common are:
Vitamin D (calciferol)
Also called calciferol, this vitamin is essential for bone health. It can help manage symptoms of inflammatory arthritis. (15)
Its deficiency is also linked to a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. So much so, that some studies suggest taking it may be needed to relieve pain in this condition. (16)
Vitamin E (tocopherol) and K (Phytonadione)
These two are considered antioxidants that have been found to help with arthritis symptoms.
Vitamin E may protect against the progression of knee osteoarthritis, while vitamin K may reduce the risk of developing the disease in older people. (17, 18)
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
Vitamin C can also help with symptoms of degenerative joint disease. There are clinical studies suggesting that people who took it as a supplement were 11% less likely to develop OA than those who did not. (19)
Vitamin B12 deficiency can raise the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid. This in turn may result in arthritis.
But taking it as a supplement can reduce the levels of that chemical, easing arthritis. (20)
Know more: Vitamins and how they affect knee pain.
8) Fish oils
DHA-rich fish oil may help reduce the chronic pain present in knee osteoarthritis. It can also improve general well-being, according to a 2020 study. (21)
Another study reported that 1 gram of fish oil can be enough to provide improvements in pain and joint function. Taking higher doses may not deliver further effects. (22)
Learn more: Fish oils – can they help knee pain?
9) Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
Methylsulfonylmethane has anti-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial for knee pain relief.
For example, a study with knee OA patients treated with MSM showed a reduction in pain by 33%. There were also improvements in physical function when it was taken for 12 weeks. (23)
Related: Glucosamine MSM and knee pain.
How to take natural supplements for knee pain?
Some dietary supplements are best taken with food, while others need an empty stomach. With that said, they should be used in addition to your prescription medication and not as a replacement.
Always check with your doctor for dosing and directions before starting any new supplement. Go through your entire medicine list with your healthcare provider to check for possible interactions.
And of course, follow the instructions given on the label of the products. Taking more than the recommended serving may not provide further benefit. It can also increase your risk of side effects.
This will help: Our selection of the best supplements for knee pain.
Other natural remedies for knee pain relief
Supplements are just one of many ways to manage knee pain naturally. Other options include:
- Doing home treatments for knee OA.
- Applying hot/cold compresses to your knee.
- Doing strengthening exercises.
- Weight management strategies.
- Using a knee brace to relieve symptoms.
- Getting massage therapy.
- Optimizing your lifestyle by sleeping enough, managing stress, and eating healthily.
This can help: 9 non-surgical remedies for knee pain.
What are the best natural supplements for knee pain?
Several. Some backed up by evidence include glucosamine chondroitin, turmeric, ginger, CBD, Boswellia, ASU supplements, certain vitamins, MSM, and fish oil.
What is the most effective supplement for knee pain?
This will depend on your needs. But glucosamine chondroitin, turmeric, and CBD are effective for most knee problems.
Conclusion: Natural anti-inflammatory supplements for knee pain
Many people deal with knee pain, especially due to arthritis. Pain relievers like NSAIDs may be your first choice. But, they are also associated with many side effects in the long run.
Natural supplements may help ease your symptoms without all those drawbacks, such as:
- Glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM.
- Spices like ginger and turmeric.
- Plant-derived supplements like Boswellia, ASU, or CBD.
These are some with benefits backed by science. But, speak with a healthcare provider to get the right one for your condition.
- Shep, Dhaneshwar et al. “Safety and efficacy of curcumin versus diclofenac in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized open-label parallel-arm study.” Trials vol. 20,1 214. 11 Apr. 2019.
- Kuptniratsaikul, Vilai et al. “Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 15,8 (2009): 891-7.
- Selvan, Tamil et al. “A clinical study on glucosamine sulfate versus combination of glucosamine sulfate and NSAIDs in mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis.” The Scientific World Journal vol. 2012 (2012): 902676.
- Reginster, Jean-Yves et al. “Pharmaceutical-grade Chondroitin sulfate is as effective as celecoxib and superior to placebo in symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: the ChONdroitin versus CElecoxib versus Placebo Trial (CONCEPT).” Annals of the rheumatic diseases vol. 76,9 (2017): 1537-1543.
- Bartels, E M et al. “Efficacy and safety of ginger in osteoarthritis patients: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials.” Osteoarthritis and cartilage vol. 23,1 (2015): 13-21.
- Bliddal, H et al. “A randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study of ginger extracts and ibuprofen in osteoarthritis.” Osteoarthritis and cartilage vol. 8,1 (2000): 9-12.
- Haghighi, Masoud. “Comparing the Effects of Ginger (Zingiber Officinale) Extract and Ibuprofen On Patients with Osteoarthritis.” Archives of Iranian Medicine, vol. 8, no. 4, 2005, pp. 267–71.
- Gusho, Charles A, and Tannor Court. “Cannabidiol: A Brief Review of Its Therapeutic and Pharmacologic Efficacy in the Management of Joint Disease.” Cureus vol. 12,3 e7375. 23 Mar. 2020.
- Deckey, David G et al. “Prevalence of Cannabinoid Use in Patients With Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis.” Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Global research & reviews vol. 5,2 e20.00172. 2 Feb. 2021.
- Cameron, Melainie, and Sigrun Chrubasik. “Oral herbal therapies for treating osteoarthritis.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews vol. 2014,5 CD002947. 22 May. 2014.
- Kimmatkar, N et al. “Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee–a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial.” Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology vol. 10,1 (2003): 3-7.
- Bannuru, Raveendhara R et al. “Efficacy of curcumin and Boswellia for knee osteoarthritis: Systematic review and meta-analysis.” Seminars in arthritis and rheumatism vol. 48,3 (2018): 416-429.
- Christensen, R., et al. “Symptomatic Efficacy of Avocado–Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU) in Osteoarthritis (OA) Patients: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, vol. 16, no. 4, 2008, pp. 399–408.
- Głuszko, Piotr, and Małgorzata Stasiek. “Symptom-modifying effects of oral avocado/soybean unsaponifiables in routine treatment of knee osteoarthritis in Poland. An open, prospective observational study of patients adherent to a 6-month treatment.” Reumatologia vol. 54,5 (2016): 217-226.
- “Vitamin D and Arthritis: Arthritis Foundation.” Vitamin D and Arthritis | Arthritis Foundation.
- Kostoglou-Athanassiou, Ifigenia et al. “Vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis.” Therapeutic advances in endocrinology and metabolism vol. 3,6 (2012): 181-7.
- Bhattacharya, Ijen et al. “Efficacy of vitamin E in knee osteoarthritis management of North Indian geriatric population.” Therapeutic advances in musculoskeletal disease vol. 4,1 (2012): 11-9.
- Chin, Kok-Yong. “The Relationship between Vitamin K and Osteoarthritis: A Review of Current Evidence.” Nutrients vol. 12,5 1208. 25 Apr. 2020.
- Dunlap, Burton et al. “Vitamin C supplementation for the treatment of osteoarthritis: perspectives on the past, present, and future.” Therapeutic advances in chronic disease vol. 12 20406223211047026. 20 Oct. 2021.
- Yxfeldt, A et al. “Homocysteine in patients with rheumatoid arthritis in relation to inflammation and B-vitamin treatment.” Scandinavian journal of rheumatology vol. 32,4 (2003): 205-10.
- Kuszewski, Julia C et al. “Fish oil supplementation reduces osteoarthritis-specific pain in older adults with overweight/obesity.” Rheumatology advances in practice vol. 4,2 rkaa036. 23 Jul. 2020.
- Hill, Catherine L et al. “Fish oil in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized clinical trial of low dose versus high dose.” Annals of the rheumatic diseases vol. 75,1 (2016): 23-9.
- Debbi, Eytan M et al. “Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized controlled study.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine vol. 11 50. 27 Jun. 2011.