Turmeric Supports A Healthy Inflammatory Response To Promote Joint Health*
If you've enjoyed a golden milk latte or Thai yellow curry, then you're no stranger to the delicious (and colorful!) nature of turmeric. Known for its characteristic golden-orange hue, turmeric is an ancient spice that comes from the Curcuma longa plant, which belongs to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae).
While this delightfully grounding spice is a wonderful addition to any home-cooked dish or beverage, turmeric's flavor profile and sunny disposition aren't all it has going for it. This ancient herb boasts a number of impressive health benefits and has been used in Ayurveda to both add flavor to South Asian dishes and promote antioxidant properties and a healthy inflammatory response in the body for thousands of years1. (Yes, we said thousands).
Turmeric is especially beneficial for musculoskeletal health–particularly providing our joints with the support they need to move with comfort and ease.* In fact, if we played a word association game, and I asked for "an herb or spice that helps your joints," many people would say "turmeric" or "curcumin" (the famous curcuminoid in turmeric). That's just how enduring and well known this relationship is.
How turmeric supports joint health.
Our joints are vital to daily movement and quality of life across the life span. Keeping them strong and mobile is critical for overall musculoskeletal health. (If you've ever practiced a sport that puts extra strain on your joints before like running or skiing, you understand firsthand how important joint comfort and resilience truly are.)
But before we explain exactly how turmeric helps promote joint health, let's have a quick anatomy refresher. Joints are complex structures that are located where one or more bones meet. They are made up of bones, muscles, connective tissue (specifically, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and the synovium), and a joint capsule, which is a bubble-like structure that surrounds the joints.
Here's how these parts work together to aid movement:
- Bones make up a support structure for the body.
- Muscles contract to allow us to move.
- Tendons attach muscle to bone to aid their movement.
- Ligaments attach bone to bone to keep joints stable.
- Cartilage covers bones and acts as a shock absorber to protect the joint and allow for smooth, fluid movement.
- The synovium lines the joint capsule to help protect our cartilage.
Whether you're hiking a steep mountain trail or simply running up the stairs to grab something from your bedroom, simply using your joints during physical activity increases oxidative stress and triggers a normal inflammatory response. Fluid joint mobility is key to a thriving and enduring musculoskeletal system, and turmeric promotes joint health by helping regulate inflammatory pathways to ensure your joints can move with comfort and ease for the long haul.*
How does turmeric do this, exactly? Answer: curcuminoids, especially the widely researched one, curcumin.
Curcumin is a bioactive phytonutrient compound found in turmeric that's responsible for both its vibrant color and its ability to modulate a healthy inflammatory response.* While the curcumin polyphenol is certainly the most studied of turmeric's curcuminoids, nutritional physician specialist, author of Spice Up, Live Long, and host of the Practically Healthy by Dr. Melina podcast Melina Jampolis, M.D., shares that the exact mechanisms of how curcumin regulates healthy inflammatory actions are complex, multidimensional, and still being uncovered via exciting research.
How curcumin bolsters healthy inflammatory actions in the body.
Evidence indicates that curcumin works in numerous ways to modulate inflammatory activities both directly and indirectly.*
It helps inhibit cellular pro-inflammatory pathways.
We won't dive too deeply into the science here, but the body has a number of pro-inflammatory mediators—i.e., cytokines, enzymes, and other messenger molecules—that modulate pro- vs. anti-inflammatory responses. Curcumin interacts with these key mediators to help regulate the body's natural inflammatory response2.
For example, curcumin has been found to directly bind to pro-inflammatory cytokines3, such as TNF alpha, IL-1 beta, and IL-6, and inhibit their expression.* Additionally, "curcumin reduces the activity of enzymes involved in inflammatory pathways—including COX-2, lipoxygenase, and inducible iNOS," Jampolis explains.
It modulates pro-inflammatory gene expression.
Curcumin also promotes a healthy inflammatory response by interacting with our genes.*
"Curcumin blocks the activation of compounds called transcription factors that normally turn on genes and pathways associated with the production of pro-inflammatory substances," essentially "turning off" these genes, Jampolis shares. Additionally, curcumin "'turns on' genes and pathways associated with the production of anti-inflammatory proteins," she explains. It's a delicate balancing act, and curcuminoids are in the middle so to speak.
This is yet another fantastic example of how our diet and supplementation choices affect our overall health, even at the level of DNA. (Go epigenetics!)
It combats oxidative stress.
Remember when we mentioned that curcuminoids also have antioxidant properties? It turns out their ability to help fight oxidative stress plays a part in its healthy inflammatory actions as well.
"Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant, so it can neutralize free radicals produced during normal metabolism, or from the environment," Jampolis explains, which helps protect cells and limits the pro-inflammatory response.*
What to look for in a turmeric supplement for joint support.
According to clinical dietitian Huma Chaudhry, R.D., LDN, 1 teaspoon of turmeric provides approximately 200 milligrams of curcumin. And while dietary consumption of turmeric (think curry dishes) can certainly be helpful and healthful, a turmeric root extract with proven bioavailability and joint-relevant benefits is the most targeted way to deliver curcuminoids to your body daily.
mbg's daily turmeric supplement, turmeric potency+, delivers 500 milligrams of full-spectrum turmeric root extract (i.e., featuring the full array of curcuminoids, including curcumin) as Acumin™, a unique form of the powerhouse herb clinically shown to have superior bioavailability, promote a healthy inflammatory response (4improving biomarker levels like CRP and ESR), and improve joint health5 parameters.*
Additionally, our innovative ancient spice trio features full-spectrum ginger root (for additional antioxidant joint health support) and piperine from black pepper fruit extract (for incremental bioavailability benefits).*
Whether you're adding turmeric to your weekly meals or have yet to incorporate it into your daily routine, a high-potency turmeric supplement with enhanced bioavailability and thus, more optimal delivery of curcuminoids, like mbg's turmeric potency+, is a great option for promoting your overall musculoskeletal health, including those precious joints.*
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.