Arthritis symptoms can keep you from going about your everyday activities. The pain and inflammation may still persist despite medical intervention. Herbs and other natural remedies may help relieve joint pain.
Medical treatments, regular exercise, and proper nutrition can also help a person manage their arthritis symptoms.
1. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is one of the most commonly used herbs in alternative medicine. Known for its healing properties, it’s popular for treating small skin abrasions. You may already have a bottle of aloe vera gel in the medicine cabinet from a past sunburn. This same type of product may be applied topically to soothe aching joints.
Boswellia, also called frankincense, is praised by alternative medicine practitioners for its anti-inflammatory capabilities. It’s derived from the gum of boswellia trees indigenous to India.
This herb is thought to work by blocking substances (leukotrienes) that attack healthy joints in autoimmune diseases such as RA.
3. Cat’s Claw
Cat’s claw is another anti-inflammatory herb that may reduce swelling in arthritis. This herb is from a tropical vine, and its usage dates back to Incan civilizations. Traditionally, cat’s claw is used to boost the immune system.
Also, a 2015 study found that cat’s claw influences enzyme activity associated with arthritis. A more recent 2019 study found that although U. tomentosa is probably safe, it did not have anti-inflammatory activity.
In recent years, the immunity powers of the herb have been tried in arthritis. The downside is that cat’s claw may overstimulate the immune system and make arthritis pain worse.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, a study showed cat’s claw can help with RA swelling. But there’s no proof that this herb can prevent further joint damage.
Like aloe vera, eucalyptus is widely available in Western markets. It’s used in oral medications, and topical oil extracts are used for a variety of conditions. Topical forms of eucalyptus leaves are used to treat arthritis pain.
You may have ginger in your spice cabinet for cooking, but this herb is also a staple in many alternative medicine cabinets. The same compounds that give ginger its strong flavor also have anti-inflammatory properties.
The NCCIH says that early studies in reducing joint swelling with ginger in RA are promising. But more human trials are needed to better understand its action. In folk medicine and Chinese medicine ginger is used to increase blood circulation, which brings heat and healing properties to the affected area. Research shows promise for the use of ginger in all types of arthritis.
6. Willow Park
Using willow bark is one of the oldest treatments for inflammation. In fact, people during Hippocrates’ time (fifth century B.C.) chewed on willow bark to help treat inflammatory conditions.
One study reported that the herb shows promise in relieving OA-related joint pain, particularly in the knees, back, hips, and neck. This treatment is taken orally, either by tea or tablet.
Getting the right dose is crucial. An overdose can cause rashes and other forms of inflammation. Do not use willow bark if you take blood thinners or are allergic to aspirin.
Boswellia serrata, or frankincense, is the resin from the bark of the Boswellia tree. This resin has a strong aromatic quality, making it a popular ingredient in perfumes, incense, and essential oils.
Frankincense may also offer benefits for people with chronic inflammation. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the active compounds in frankincense possess anti-inflammatory properties that could help relieve arthritis symptoms.
A 2016 review article of several small scale clinical trials found evidence to support the use of frankincense and other Boswellian resin products for managing arthritis symptoms.
The authors state that although frankincense is not a cure for arthritis, 60–70% of people saw significant improvements in their symptoms when using it.
8. Borage Seed Oil
The oil comes from the seeds of the borage plant, native to certain parts of Europe and North Africa, and it’s a rich source of gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a type of omega-6 fatty acid. Research published in the journal Rheumatology suggested that when people with RA take daily oral supplements of borage seed oil, they experience significant improvements in joint tenderness, swelling, and pain after six months.
9. Devil’s Claw
A plant used for centuries in Africa to treat pain and many other medical conditions, devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) has considerable anti-inflammatory effects. One study found that when 259 people with rheumatic disorders took daily tablets of devil’s claw for eight weeks, they experienced significant improvements in pain, stiffness, and function, especially in the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, and back.
10. CBD Cream
A 2016 study found that the topical application of CBD had the potential to relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. A 2017 study found that CBD might be a safe and useful treatment for OA joint pain.
What is CBD? CBD, short for cannabidiol, is an active compound found in the cannabis plant. CBD is not intoxicating but may cause some drowsiness. The CBD in most products is extracted from hemp, a variety of cannabis that has only traces (up to 0.3%) of THC, the active compound that gets people high.
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Does CBD work for arthritis? Animal studies have suggested that CBD has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, but these effects have not been validated in quality studies in humans. Anecdotally, some people with arthritis who have tried CBD, but not all, report noticeable pain relief, sleep improvement and/or anxiety reduction.