Initial Posting: 5/4/2016    Last Update: 5/19/2020
Answer: There are a number of supplements that may modestly reduce pain or improve other symptoms of osteoarthritis (inflammation caused by damage or "wearing away" of cartilage in joints) or rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease causing joint pain, stiffness and inflammation). Use the links below for more information, including dosage, about supplements for each type of arthritis:
SAMe has been shown to be effective as a treatment for osteoarthritis and associated joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation.
Ginger may modestly reduce pain and disability from osteoarthritis.
Several small studies suggest collagen hydrolysate may reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis. A branded form of undenatured type II collagen, UC-II, has been found to improve knee stiffness and/or pain.
Boswellia has been associated with significant pain reduction and improved physical function in people with osteoarthritis.
There is also evidence that ashwagandha extract can reduce pain, stiffness and disability in people with knee osteoarthritis.
A branded enzyme supplement containing bromelain, trypsin and other ingredients, Wobenzym, was found in one clinical study to reduce pain from knee osteoarthritis.
Research suggests that vitamin D supplementation does not benefit osteoarthritis of the knee in people not deficient in vitamin D, but may help those who are deficient in vitamin D, particularly when taken for more than one year.
Tart cherry juice has been found to reduce markers of inflammation, but not pain, in people with osteoarthritis.
There is mixed evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA + DHA from green-lipped mussel (such as in Omega XL) may be helpful. Similarly, there is mixed evidence for white willow.
Although glucosamine and chondroitin are popular supplements for joint health and some early clinical research suggested a benefit, more recent and larger clinical studies have tended to show little or no benefit for osteoarthritis of the knee.
The evidence is mixed for MSM, another compound commonly found in supplements for joint health.
Higher fiber intake from the diet is related to a lower risk of suffering symptoms (i.e., pain, aching, stiffness) from knee osteoarthritis, although not with improvements evident on radiographs. Risk of symptoms was 30% to 61% lower among people consuming about 22 to 27 grams of fiber daily compared to those consuming about 9 to 14 grams (Dai, BMJ 2017).
See the Encyclopedia article about Osteoarthritis for more information.
For rheumatoid arthritis:
Omega-3 fatty acids EPA + DHA from fish oil may help reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, or treat symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease, but do not appear to slow the progression of the disease.
A branded liquid form of undenatured type II collagen, Vital 3, may modestly improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis when taken along with standard treatments.
Cinnamon may help reduce pain and the number of swollen and tender joints in people with rheumatoid arthritis who are taking disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.
There is limited evidence vitamin E may reduce discomfort caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
In women, low levels of vitamin Dare associated with a higher risk developing rheumatoid arthritis, although it's not clear if supplementing with vitamin D in people who are not deficient has any benefit.
Similarly, low selenium levels have been associated with the development of rheumatoid arthritis — although selenium supplements don't seem to help rheumatoid arthritis once it has developed.