Ayurveda is an ancient form of medicine that started in India. It uses nutrients, exercise, and meditation together to encourage good health. Combining certain nutrients and other supplements with modern medicine may be beneficial if you have arthritis.

These natural treatments may help to ease some of your arthritis symptoms and help prevent progression.

curcumin

You may consider taking supplements and herbs in addition to your doctor-approved arthritis treatment plan. Before using a supplement or herbal product, talk with your doctor about the potential benefits and risks. Check with your doctor if you:

  • are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have a scheduled surgery
  • have diabetes

SAMe

S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is a naturally occurring molecule found in the body. It acts as a pain reliever, has anti-inflammatory properties, and may stimulate cartilage growth.

A meta-analysis from 2002 found that SAMe lowered pain levels and improved mobility in people with osteoarthritis as effectively as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. SAMe has fewer negative side effects than these drugs and may have other health benefits.

A typical dosage is 200-400 milligrams (mg) three times a day. You shouldn’t take more than 1,200 mg per day.

You shouldn’t take SAMe if you have:

You shouldn’t take SAMe if you’re taking:

Capsaicin

Capsaicin is the heat-producing active ingredient in chili peppers. It is thought to ease arthritis-related pain. Capsaicin causes a pain transmitter called substance P to be released and depleted. Regular use prevents substance P from building up again.

A 2014 study found that capsaicin is moderately effective in easing osteoarthritis pain when used topically four times per day. It’s considered safe to use for up to 20 weeks on various parts of the body.

Look for a topical cream, gel, or patch that contains up to a 0.075 percent concentration of capsaicin.

Always do a small skin patch test before use to check for possible allergies. Mild burning and irritation may occur. If you don’t have more severe irritation within 24 hours, it should be safe to apply elsewhere. Avoid eyes and sensitive skin.

You shouldn’t use capsaicin if you take any medications containing zucapsaicin or if you take any antiarrhythmic drugs, such as lidocaine.

Keep reading: A guide to the best pain relief creams for arthritis »

Curcumin

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. It works by blocking the substances that cause inflammation and helps reduce cartilage damage. It may offer relief by reducing pain signals in the body.

According to a 2016 animal study, curcumin may slow the progression of osteoarthritis and reduce related pain. In the study, researchers gave oral or topical curcumin for eight weeks. Topical application had the greatest effect on pain and helped to improve cartilage function.

A typical dosage is 200 to 500 mg four times per day for up to eight months at a time. You can use a topical cream or gel up to four times per day.

You shouldn’t take curcumin if you’re taking any medications that slow blood clotting, such as heparin or warfarin (Coumadin).

You also shouldn’t take curcumin if you have:

Learn more: Turmeric and curcumin »

Fish oil

The omega-3s in fish oil may improve symptoms of arthritis by blocking substances that cause inflammation and converting them into anti-inflammatory chemicals. Fish oil is also said to reduce pain and joint tenderness.

A 2017 meta-analysis found that marine oil supplements reduced pain and inflammation in people with arthritis. Fish oil had a higher success rate for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Fish oil is thought to be more effective because it contains high levels of EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory effects.

Take fish oil capsules with EPA or DHA concentrations of at least 30 percent. Choose a reliable brand that contains no additives or toxins. Supplements are not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.

A typical dosage is up to 500 mg per day. You shouldn’t exceed this dose.

You shouldn’t take fish oil if you have:

You shouldn’t take fish oil if you’re taking:

  • birth control pills
  • blood pressure medication, such as spironolactone (Aldactone)
  • orlistat (Xenical)
  • medications that slow blood clotting, such as heparin or warfarin (Coumadin)

vitamins and minerals

Eating a healthy diet is essential for good health and may help with arthritis symptoms. In addition to the supplements above, you may wish to add certain vitamins and minerals to ensure that you are getting the proper amounts. Be sure to check with your doctor. Depending on your nutritional needs, certain vitamins or minerals may be harmful when taken in large amounts.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is thought to prevent inflammation and maintain healthy joints. It also helps to form and maintain connective tissue.

A 2011 study found vitamin C intake to have positive results for people with osteoarthritis. It may even have a role in preventing osteoarthritis. It’s thought to lessen cartilage loss and reduce deterioration of the joint tissue.

The recommended dose is 75 mg per day for women and 90 mg per day for men. If you smoke, you may need a higher dose.

You shouldn’t take vitamin C if you have:

You also shouldn’t take vitamin C if you take:

  • estrogen
  • fluphenazine
  • antacids, such as cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • medications for cancer, such as chemotherapy
  • medications for HIV or AIDS, such as antiviral therapy
  • medications for lowering cholesterol, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and niacin (Niacor)
  • medications that slow blood clotting, such as heparin or warfarin (Coumadin)

Learn more: Your guide to vitamin C »

Vitamin D

Researchers in a 2017 study found that vitamin D deficiency is common in people with rheumatoid arthritis. The study involved people from 13 different countries. People with low levels of vitamin D had more disease activity and lower quality of life.

Keeping vitamin D levels normal might help prevent inflammation and arthritis disease progression.

If you’re 70 years old or younger, the recommended dosage is 600 international units (IU) per day. If you’re over 70 years old, the recommended dosage is 800 IU per day. You should get plenty of sunlight, too.

You shouldn’t take vitamin D if you have:

You shouldn’t take vitamin D if you take:

  • calcipotriene (Dovonex)
  • digoxin (Digox)
  • diltiazem (Cardizem)
  • verapamil (Verelan)
  • antacids, such as cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • diuretics, such as furosemide (Lasix)
  • medications that slow blood clotting, such as heparin or warfarin (Coumadin)

Learn more: The benefits of vitamin D »

Vitamin E

Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant. It’s thought to reduce pain and inflammation, making it useful in the treatment of arthritis.

A 2013 animal study showed the ability of vitamin E to decrease inflammation and pain in dogs with induced osteoarthritis. Dogs who took vitamin E also had fewer cartilage lesions.

A typical dosage is 15 mg per day.

You shouldn’t take vitamin E if you have:

  • had angioplasty
  • a history of heart attack
  • low levels of vitamin K
  • retinitis pigmentosa
  • bleeding disorders
  • head and neck cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • a history of stroke

You shouldn’t take vitamin E if you take:

  • cyclosporine (Neoral)
  • medications for cancer, such as chemotherapy
  • medications for lowering cholesterol, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and niacin (Niacor)
  • medications that slow blood clotting, such as heparin or warfarin (Coumadin)

Learn more: The benefits of vitamin E »

Calcium

Calcium is thought to help prevent osteoporosis, because it helps maintain healthy joints and bones. This is important for people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, because they have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

Researchers in a 2017 study found that both calcium and vitamin D supplementation are beneficial for healthy musculoskeletal aging. Taking these two supplements together can reduce your risk of fracture.

A typical dosage is 1,500 mg of calcium per day. If you can, take calcium supplements alongside vitamin D supplements. This can help boost calcium absorption and increase your overall health benefits.

You shouldn’t take calcium if you have:

  • high or low levels of phosphate in the blood
  • hyperthyroidism
  • parathyroid gland disorders
  • sarcoidosis
  • poor kidney function

You shouldn’t take calcium if you take:

  • antibiotics, such as ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
  • bisphosphonates, such as alendronate (Fosamax)
  • cyclosporine (Neoral)
  • digoxin (Digox)
  • diltiazem (Cardizem)
  • levothyroxine (Synthroid)
  • sotalol (Betapace)
  • verapamil (Verelan)
  • diuretics, such as furosemide (Lasix)

These natural treatments can help to quickly relieve pain and ease discomfort related to arthritis. They can also be used for relaxation.

Hot and cold therapy

Heat improves circulation and flexibility and allows for more ease of movement.

Heat treatments:

  • warm showers or baths
  • heating pad or hot water bottle applied for up to 20 minutes
  • disposable heat patches or belts
  • whirlpool or hot tub
  • sauna
  • hot paraffin wax treatment

You shouldn’t use hot tubs or saunas if you have high blood pressure or heart disease.

Cold slows circulation, decreases swelling, and dulls pain by numbing nerve endings. You can wrap ice, a store-bought cold gel pack, or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and apply for up to 20 minutes. Another option is a full or partial ice bath.

Use cold and heat applications with care. Both can cause skin damage.

Massage

A moderate-pressure massage can help:

  • improve joint function
  • relieve both short- and long-term pain and tension
  • reduce anxiety
  • improve sleep

Check with your doctor to make sure that massage is safe for you. You shouldn’t get a massage when you’re having a flare-up, when your joints are especially sensitive, or if you have a history of blood clots in the legs.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses essential oils to create positive mental and physical changes. You can use essential oils with your bath, diluted in massage oil, or inhaled through a diffuser.

The scent of the oils can help:

  • reduce pain and anxiety
  • boost energy levels
  • aid in relaxation

Essential oils often used for arthritis relief are:

  • ginger
  • clove
  • camphor
  • bergamot
  • lavender
  • clary sage marjoram
  • frankincense
  • eucalyptus
  • geranium

If applying diluted essential oil to the skin, you should first do a skin patch test. Rub a dime-sized amount of diluted essential oil on the inside of your forearm. If you don’t experience any inflammation or irritation within 24-48 hours, it should be safe to apply elsewhere.

Learn more: Essential oils for pain relief »

Be sure to get the go-ahead from your doctor before introducing anything new to your treatment plan. Always discontinue use or consult your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms, or if any of your symptoms start to worsen.

Remember that these are complementary treatments. They shouldn’t be used in place of your doctor-approved arthritis treatment plan.

Keep reading: Natural home remedies for osteoarthritis »