This meta-analysis aimed to confirm the efficacy and safety (side effect) of curcumin for osteoarthritis (OA). Two researchers independently searched the database of Pub Med, EMBASE and Cochrane Library updated to November 2015 to find randomized controlled trials that reported the effect of curcumin on OA. The outcomes of this meta-analysis were Visual analogue scale (VAS), Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index scale (WOMAC) and side effect. Furthermore, the quality assessment was performed with Cochrane Collaboration's tool. In addition, standardized mean difference (SMD) and 95% confidence interval (CI) were used for the analysis of continuous data, and the risk ratio (RR) and 95% CI were used to analyze dichotomous data. Sensitivity analysis was performed by using Stata 12.0. A total of 5 studies with 599 patients were included in this study. The results showed that curcumin could significantly improve the WOMAC score (SMD=-0.96; 95% CI:-1.81, -0.10; P=0.03) and VAS score of OA patients (SMD=-1.65; 95% CI:-2.11, -1.19). Furthermore, the side effect rate of curcumin treatment was 0.81times higher than that of ibuprofen treatment. Curcumin can treat OA patients effectively, improving WOMAC score and VAS score, and the side effect of curcumin was not higher than that of ibuprofen.