Arthritis is a joint disorder in which one or more joints become inflamed. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions, though the most common ones are osteoarthritis, gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis causes cartilage that covers the ends of bones to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the lining of the joints (synovium).
The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis are pain, stiffness, inflammation, swelling and redness on the affected joints. Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the type of arthritis.
There can also be reduced range of motion, fatigue, muscle weakness, and difficulty doing daily chores. All these symptoms can have a huge impact on quality of life.
In the U.S., nearly 53 million adults and 300,000 children suffer from some type of arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Backention, it is more common in women than men and in obese people. Other risk factors include genetics, old age and any previous history of joint injury.
The main goals of arthritis treatment is to reduce the amount of pain and prevent any further damage to the joints. Many herbs can help manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life.
However, do consult your doctor before taking any of these herbs as some of these may not be suitable for certain health conditions such as arthritis and high blood pressure and may even interfere with certain medications.
Here are the top 10 herbs and spices for arthritis.
Ginger is a popular herb that can ease the agony that comes with arthritis. It helps reduce pain, inflammation and swelling.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that ginger affects certain inflammatory processes at a cellular level. This makes it an effective treatment for arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
- Massage the affected area with some ginger oil and then expose the area to the sun for 5 to 10 minutes to generate warmth.
- Also, chew some fresh ginger slices or drink a few cups of ginger tea daily.
Note: Avoid excess intake of ginger if you take blood thinners.
Turmeric is a good herbal remedy for arthritis. Curcumin, the active ingredient in this spice, is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties.
In a 2003 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that curcumin inhibits a number of different molecules that play a role in inflammation.
- Drink a glass of hot turmeric milk 1 or 2 times daily.
- Alternatively, you can opt to take 400 to 600 mg turmeric capsules 3 times per day. Consult your doctor first.
Garlic has strong anti-inflammatory properties and is very helpful for fighting arthritis pain and swelling.
According to a 2013 study published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal, fresh garlic inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory substances known as cytokines. Researchers also shed light on the fact that heating garlic reduces its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Eat 2 to 3 raw garlic cloves daily on an empty stomach to prevent inflammation.
- To relieve pain and inflammation, you can massage the affected area with garlic oil.
- You can even take garlic capsules after consulting your doctor.
4. Green Tea
There are several substances in green tea that may be useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis. Its polyphenols, which are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may suppress the immune response. This may prevent the body’s immune system from attacking the body tissues.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Nutrition also supports this fact. You can take green tea in the form of tablets or tinctures.
- Put 1 to 2 teaspoons of green tea in a cup of hot water.
- Cover and allow it to steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain, then add some honey and lemon for taste.
- Drink 2 to 3 cups of green tea daily.
According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, the anti-inflammatory effects of licorice and roasted licorice extracts may be beneficial in preventing and treating both acute and chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis.
In fact, this herb acts like your body’s own natural corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. It also reduces free-radical damage to the body, which causes inflammation and pain.
- Put 1 teaspoon of dried licorice root powder in a cup of hot water. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and drink it 1 or 2 times daily.
- You can opt to take this herb in supplement form, after consulting a doctor.
Note: If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or kidney disease, or low potassium levels, avoid this herb altogether.
Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help reduce swelling, redness and stiffness in the affected joints.
In a 2012 study published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal, researchers found that cinnamon extract could significantly reduce substances that cause inflammation and tissue damage in mice. However, more research needs to be done with humans.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of honey and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder in a cup of warm water.
- Drink it every morning on an empty stomach.
Note: Avoid larger doses of cinnamon as it could interfere with blood-clotting and blood-thinning medications.
7. Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle is another effective herbal treatment for arthritis. Its anti-inflammatory property combined with its minerals (potassium, calcium and magnesium) help ease pain as well as strengthen bones.
According to a 2000 study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, topical application of nettle leaf onto the painful area can help reduce the intensity of pain. This herb has fine hairs that release chemicals when exposed to the skin, which in turn help reduce pain.
- Drink stinging nettle tea 1 or 2 times daily. To make the tea, add 1 tablespoon of dried stinging nettle root or leaves to a cup of hot water. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain, add honey for taste and drink it.
- You can also take supplements, after consulting your doctor.
Note: This herb may not be suitable for pregnant women and may interfere with blood thinners, diabetes and heart medications, and lower blood pressure.
Herbalists often recommend boswellia for treating inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis. This herb is an effective anti-inflammatory and painkiller and may even prevent the loss of cartilage. It improves circulation to the joints and relieves pain, inflammation and stiffness.
In a 2003 study published in the International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology, this herb was found to be effective in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. It can also have possible therapeutic use in other types of arthritis.
You can take typically 300 mg to 400 mg of boswellia 3 times per day. As it may interact with certain medications, always consult your doctor first.
Note: Pregnant women must not take this herb.
9. Willow Bark
White willow bark contains the chemical salicin, which works as an analgesic. The action of the herb is very similar to that of modern medications, such as aspirin. It helps relieve osteoarthritis-related joint pain, especially in the knees, back, hips and neck.
According to a 2001 study published in the Phytotherapy Research journal, willow bark extract showed a moderate analgesic effect in patients with osteoarthritis.
- Add 1 teaspoon of dried white willow bark to a cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and drink this tea 1 or 2 times daily.
- You can opt to take a white willow bark supplement daily, but consult your doctor first.
Note: This herb is not suitable for pregnant women, nursing mothers, children and those who are taking diabetes or high blood pressure medications.
10. Cat’s Claw
Cat’s claw, also known as uncaria tomentosa, is another herb that may reduce the discomforts associated with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
It contains anti-inflammatory, anti arthritic and antioxidant compounds that help reduce inflammation, swelling and pain, while boosting the immune system.
According to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Rheumatology, people with rheumatoid arthritis who took cat’s claw supplements had reduced joint swelling and pain.
You can take a 250 mg to 350 mg capsule of cat’s claw daily. As it may interact with anti-hypertensive medication or blood thinners, always consult a doctor first.
Note: Avoid using cat’s claw if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.