Psoriatic arthritis is characterized by joint pain, swelling, and stiffness — all of which are caused by the underlying inflammation that is a hallmark of the condition. “Psoriatic arthritis involves a hyperactive immune system that creates inflammation in the body,” explains Waseem Mir, MD, a rheumatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
While your doctor may prescribe medication to control the inflammation, there are additional steps you can take to soothe inflamed joints. One smart step: Adjust your diet to include anti-inflammatory spices with your meals. Just be sure to talk to your doctor first — not all herbs and spices are safe for everyone, and some may interact with your medications.
With your doctor’s go-ahead, here are some of the best spices to incorporate into your diet:
Turmeric gets its bright yellow color from the phytochemical curcumin, which is what researchers believe is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties, says Ashley Harris, RD, LD, outpatient clinical dietitian at Ohio State University in Columbus. This spice, traditionally used in curries, works by lowering levels of certain enzymes in the body that cause inflammation.
You can buy fresh turmeric root, but it’s most commonly used dried and ground, Harris says.
“I recommend you consume a moderate amount — up to 1 to 2 tablespoons a day — combined with a small amount of black pepper to increase absorption fairly consistently,” Harris says. She recommends adding it to bean dips, dressings, marinades, sauces, soups, smoothies, and juices. Or try a sprinkle on scrambled eggs, sautéed greens, or rice.
2. Chili Pepper
Peppers get their heat from a compound called capsaicin, which “works to ease pain by encouraging the body to release feel-good endorphins when it hits the tongue,” says Alison Massey, RD, LDN, CDE, a registered dietitian and director of diabetes education at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Chili pepper is a spicy addition for meat and seafood dishes, she says. It’s also great for firing up stews, soups, dressings, and marinades.
There’s no specific dose of chili pepper recommended for fighting inflammation, but the hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. However, go easy on it: “Consuming too much capsaicin can be harmful, so listen to your body and try to include a little spice in your dishes each day, as tolerated,” Harris says. You can also try topical capsaicin for pain relief: When applied to the skin, capsaicin can temporarily reduce substance P, a chemical that plays a role in arthritis pain and inflammation.
“Cloves are among the most potent of common herbs and spices in your spice rack,” says René Ficek, RD, LDN, CDE, a dietitian with Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating in Chicago. According to the National Institutes of Health, cloves contain chemicals that may help ease inflammation and pain. To incorporate cloves into your diet, Ficek suggests the following strategies:
- Add two to four whole cloves to a pot of hearty soup or stew for both health and good flavor.
- Use several whole cloves to infuse both flavor and nutrition into hot drinks. Be sure to take out before consuming.
- When making a smoothie, blend in two whole cloves to boost anti-inflammatory effects.
A root with an energizing scent, ginger has been used throughout history to treat a variety of ailments, including nausea, asthma, diabetes, and pain. “Recently, scientists have begun to look at its specific benefits for relieving joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis,” Harris says. Like psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by painful inflammation.
“Studies have shown there are a number of phytochemicals in ginger that seem to suppress the formation of inflammatory compounds in the body,” Harris adds. A combination of ginger and turmeric has the potential to reduce inflammation, according to a lab study published in April 2013 in International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases.
You can incorporate ginger into a psoriatic arthritis diet in a number of tasty ways: “Use it in a marinade for meats, poultry, or fish or add it to soup, stir-fry, or baked goods,” Harris says.
The exact amount needed to ease psoriatic arthritis isn’t known. “As a spice, about 2 teaspoons per day in powder form or in knobs of the fresh root should be safe and offer health benefits,” Harris says.
5. Celery Seed
An ancient Hindu Ayurvedic remedy for arthritis, fragrant celery seeds come from the flowers of the celery plant. “I give my patients celery seed, which has anti-inflammatory effects,” Dr. Mir says. Use it in recipes for pickles, soups, salads, and meat dishes. It also adds great flavor to eggplant, stuffing, fish, and potatoes. He recommends consuming 250 to 500 milligrams of celery seed two to three times per day.