July 31, 2018 by Lindsay Sheehan
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Arthritis is a rheumatic disorder that causes chronic, intermittent pain which affects the joints and connective tissues. Where bones connect within the body, it expresses itself with swelling, redness, stiffness, and decreased range of motion.
Though there are more than 100 types of arthritis, the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that is caused by repeated wear and tear damage to the joint cartilage. It usually occurs with age, in the hips, knees, and fingers. Over time, osteoarthritis can culminate in bone grinding directly on bone.
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused when the body’s immune system attacks the synovial membrane that encloses the joints. It tends to crop up in middle age in the feet and hands. Eventually, this autoimmune disorder can progress to the point where cartilage and bone are destroyed within the joint.
Arthritis, as a whole, affects more than 54 million people in the US alone and is the leading cause of work-related disability. Typical treatments for pain and swollen joints include analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as well as medications to suppress the immune system. Each of these treatments can cause some worrisome side effects and may not be very effective.
Natural therapies offer an alternative way to get relief from the pain and inflammation of arthritic conditions. Read on to discover the herbs, botanical oils, supplements, foods, and lifestyle tweaks that will aid you in your fight against all types of arthritis.
14 Potent Natural Remedies For Arthritis
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being just 10 pounds overweight adds 30 to 60 pounds of force on the knee and other joints with every step. This increased pressure not only makes walking and other activities more painful, it can hasten the breakdown of cartilage as well.
Maintaining a healthy body mass index significantly reduces the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the first place. Overweight women are nearly four times as likely to develop osteoarthritis while obese men have a fivefold greater risk. Studies have shown that losing even small amounts of weight can help reverse the effects of osteoarthritis; for example, for every 11 pounds of weight loss, the risk of knee osteoarthritis dropped by over 50%.
For rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, weight loss can lead to sustained remission. In a large study, researchers followed the progress of 982 rheumatoid arthritis patients for three years. Of these, 32% had a healthy BMI, 35% were overweight, and 33% were obese. While all patients received similar treatments and therapies, those who experienced sustained remission had a healthy BMI. Patients who were in the overweight category were 25% less likely, and those in the obese category were 47% less likely, to have the same results.
2. Regular Exercise
While it might be the last thing you want to do when your joints ache, keeping things moving with a regular exercise program will help ease pain and stiffness. Physical activity provides a multi-faceted range of benefits for arthritis sufferers, including strengthening the muscles around the joints, improved bone strength, maintaining a healthy body weight, more restful sleep, more energy throughout the day, and better balance.
Exercise won’t worsen your joint health – in fact, lack of movement is what may be making your joints stiffer. Just a few minutes of physical activity each day – such as walking, swimming, or using a stationary bicycle – can have a huge impact on quality of life. It doesn’t need to be rigorous – go slow, move gently, and if it’s too painful, take a break. Here are a few low-impact workouts that are arthritis-friendly.
3. Manage Your Stress
It’s not too surprising that those living with chronic pain struggle with depression and anxiety at a rate of two to ten times greater than the general population.
While all types of arthritis can have a negative impact on your mental health, people with rheumatoid arthritis are at an especially heightened risk of major depressive disorder. It appears that these two conditions co-occur and feed off of each other – feelings of depression and anxiety can lower your pain threshold, while constant pain can worsen your anxiety and depression. The prevalence of depression in arthritis patients may be related to elevated inflammation levels in the body, since pro-inflammatory enzymes are implicated in both rheumatoid arthritis and depressive symptoms.
If you’re struggling with low mood, it’s time to talk with your doctor. In the meantime, there are plenty of things you can do to help manage anxiety and depression. Simply tending a garden or taking a walk are powerful ways to boost mood that will keep you active. Supplementing with St. John’s wort or herbal tinctures may offer some relief, as well as using aromatherapy with essential oils for anxiety.
4. Avoid These Pro-Inflammatory Foods
Limit or avoid these foods that are known to trigger inflammation in the body:
Sugar – Consuming processed sugar releases inflammatory cytokines that can make your pain worse. Here are some tips on how to quit sugar and several natural sweetener alternatives.
Refined Carbohydrates – White bread, white rice, and other kinds of refined grains are high glycemic index foods that can fuel inflammation. No carb diets like Paleo and Keto have healthy meal plan ideas that can help limit your carbohydrate intake.
Fried Foods – Reducing the amount of fried foods – like french fries and doughnuts – can lower inflammation levels and help restore the body’s natural defenses.
Red Meat and Processed Meat – Eating a high protein diet of steaks and hot dogs can induce inflammation and accelerate the process behind inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
Trans Fats – A type of unsaturated fat that is widely used in the food industry, trans fats can cause systemic inflammation. Avoid margarine, shortening, lard, and processed foods.
5. Eat More Foods that Fight Inflammation
Ensuring your diet includes plenty of anti-inflammatory foods is a natural way to combat arthritic pain. According to Harvard Health, the top foods that fight inflammation include:
Fruits such as tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, apples, cherries, oranges, and pineapples are rich in antioxidants that help ward off inflammation.
Leafy Greens like spinach, kale, and collards.
Nuts like almonds and walnuts.
Fatty Fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines.
Olive Oil is a healthy substitute for trans fats.
To fight inflammation with food, try the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers throughout the body.
6. Fermented Cod Liver Oil
An excellent source of vitamin A and D, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, fermented cod liver oil offers a natural way to fight pain and inflammation.
In a study published in 2008, taking 10 grams of cod liver oil each day to treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis helped the patients reduce their intake of NSAIDs by more than 30%. Additionally, if your arthritis is complicated by depression, the omega-3s in cod liver oil have been shown to lessen anxiety and boost mood.
Further Reading: 8 Reasons To Have A Spoonful Of Fermented Cod Liver Oil
The gnarly tuber that is aromatic and spicy, Zingiber officinale – or ginger – contains powerful compounds that combat both pain and inflammation.
Long used medicinally, ginger possesses broad anti-inflammatory action that shares many of the pharmacological properties of NSAIDs, but with better results and fewer side effects. Ginger also interacts with specific genes responsible for encoding enzymes involved in inflammatory responses, which is especially beneficial for those who suffer from chronic inflammation.
Include fresh ginger in your foods, whip up some thirst quenching switchel, or take a daily ginger supplement like this one.
Turmeric root (Curcuma longa) has wonderful applications for the skin as well as overall physical health. For arthritis sufferers, turmeric can also provide relief from the swelling and pain of inflamed joints.
Numerous studies involving curcumin – turmeric’s medicinal component – and inflammation have found it is capable of inhibiting several pro-inflammatory enzymes, including lipooxygenase, COX-2, leukotriene, interleukin-12, tumor necrosis factor, and even NF-κB – considered to be the “holy grail” of inflammation.
In a meta-analysis of curcumin’s effect on arthritis, researchers found that turmeric supplements helped reduce reliance on typical pain killers, improved pain levels when walking, less morning stiffness, and better range of movement.
To get your daily dose of turmeric, try mixing fresh rhizomes or dried spices into a tasty beverage. Another option is to make turmeric paste and apply it directly to achy joints for quick pain relief. Or take a daily curcumin supplement, like this one formulated with bioperine for increased bioavailability.
The most abundant protein in our bodies, collagen is found in our skin, bones, tendons, organs, and cartilage. With degenerative diseases like arthritis, collagen supplements may help rebuild joint cartilage, strengthen bones, and relieve pain.
According to a review of the available scientific literature ranging from 1947 to 2017, oral collagen supplements significantly reduced pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis patients and improved their ability to carry out physical activities. When compared with the immunosuppressant medication methotrexate, collagen had a similar impact on swelling and joint tenderness in rheumatoid arthritis, but without any adverse effects.
Collagen can only be sourced from the skins, tendons, marrow, and ligaments of animals. You can replenish your collagen stores by making healthful bone broth or by purchasing powdered collagen that you can add to an array of yummy recipes.
10. Eggshell Membrane
The egg membrane is the thin, transparent layer that clings to the inside of an eggshell after you’ve broken an egg. It is composed off all sorts of good stuff for joint and tissue support: collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acids.
Eggshell membrane was effective for people with joint and connective tissue disorders, according to a study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging. Taking 500 mg of eggshell membrane daily resulting in a 28% increase in flexibility after just 7 days, and a 72% reduction in general pain, 44% increase in flexibility, and 76% decrease in pain associated with range of movement after 30 days of treatment.
It’s super easy to harvest eggshell membranes yourself, but to get a larger dose you can pick up eggshell membrane capsules here.
11. CBD Oil
A relatively new entrant to modern medicine, cannabidol oil has shown promising results in treating a range of ailments. Distinct from THC, the component of Cannabis sativa that produces a “high” when consumed, CBD is non mind-altering and possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties.
CBD interacts brain receptors within the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in regulating pain sensation, the immune system, and mood. Preliminary findings on CBD suggest it may be of therapeutic value for arthritic conditions.
In a 2006 study published in Rheumatology, rheumatoid arthritis patients used Sativex – an oral spray composed of CBD and THC in equal parts – daily for five weeks. Compared with the placebo group, there were significant improvements in pain on movement, pain at rest, sleep quality, and self-reported pain.
Using pure CBD oil alone had clinical improvements in arthritis-induced mice, according to a 2000 study. Effective when administered orally, CBD oil helped protect the joints against damage and decreased pro-inflammatory enzymes such as tumor necrosis factor. The researchers concluded that CBD oil has a potent anti-arthritic effect due to its immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory action.
When rendered into a topical gel, CBD applied to inflamed joints reduced swelling and spontaneous pain in an animal study published in the European Journal of Pain. In addition to its effectiveness, CBD gel’s therapeutic effects were long lasting and without any adverse side effects.
CBD oil and other derivatives are available in some US states with, or without, a prescription. Check out this page to see whether CBD is legal where you live.
If CBD is legal where you live and you’d like to experience it for arthritis relief, browse the selection of products on this page which includes CBD liquids, tinctures, sprays, balms, creams and roll-ons.
Capsaicin is the element of chili peppers that gives them their fiery heat. When consumed as food or used topically, capsaicin selectively interacts with nociceptive neurons in the brain which are responsible for how we perceive pain.
A 1991 study in Clinical Therapeutics investigated how a 0.025% capsaicin cream applied to knee joints four times per day impacted pain in both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients. After two weeks, 80% of patients experienced a reduction in pain. After four weeks, the rheumatoid arthritis group had a mean pain reduction of 57% while the osteoarthritis group had a 33% reduction.
Capsaicin is easily sourced from chili peppers like jalapeno, cayenne, and habanero, which you can grow yourself and use to make some homemade capsaicin cream. Another option is to purchase a topical cream with capsaicin standardized at 0.1%, like this one.
13. Gamma-Linolenic Acid
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid found in botanical oils like evening primrose, black currant, and borage. Taken as a dietary supplement, GLA appears to be an effective treatment for joint pain, stiffness, and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Although several in vitro and animal studies have been performed on GLA, a human trial published in Arthritis and Rheumatism found that it is capable of suppressing inflammation at a daily dose of 2.8 grams. Involving 56 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain, stiffness, and grip strength was significantly improved after taking GLA supplements, such as this one, for six months. After one year of GLA treatment, 76% of participants experienced a meaningful reduction in overall disease activity.
14. Healing Herbs
The earth is abundant in herbaceous plants that possess the ability to soothe and heal – and new cultivars (and uses for them) are being discovered all the time. Here are a few healing herbs that hold great promise as treatments for rheumatic conditions:
Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa) – The bark and roots of this woody vine have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that reduced pain and swelling in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Cat’s claw can be taken as a dietary supplement.
Frankincense (Boswellia spp.) – Native to India, frankincense has been shown to help curtail pro-inflammatory enzymes, improve joint health, and reduce the deterioration of cartilage. Frankincense is available as an essential oil and daily supplement.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) – Stinging nettle is a weed that grows in the wilds throughout North America. In addition to its many uses around the home, stinging nettle may help improve inflammation and pain.
Rosehips (Rosa canina) – One of the richest sources of vitamin C, rosehips have natural pain-relieving properties that had a benefit for people with osteoarthritis.
Pineapple (Ananas comosus) – Pineapple stems and juice contain bromelain, an enzyme which has exhibited potent pain and swelling relief in knee osteoarthritis and may be a good alternative to NSAIDs. Increase bromelain intake by eating more pineapples or by taking a dietary supplement.