Different types of arthritis can cause pain that may persist despite conventional therapies. Natural remedies may help you manage mild symptoms, particularly if you use them with other treatment options.
Certain herbs have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or osteoarthritis (OA) pain.
Still, researchers need more scientific evidence to support their use and to understand their potential negative effects.
Before opting for herbal remedies for arthritis, talk with a doctor first. Some options may interact with existing medications.
While many people use aloe vera for treating small skin abrasions, such as sunburn, it may also help with joint pain.
Possible benefits may include:
- contains anti-inflammatory properties
- is generally well tolerated
- doesn’t cause negative gastrointestinal effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), commonly used for arthritis pain
You can apply a gel directly to the skin. In 2014, some
More studies are needed to confirm that these treatments are beneficial.
It may lower glucose levels and interact with some diabetes medications.
Practitioners of traditional and alternative medicine may use Boswellia serrata, also called frankincense, for its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s derived from the gum of Boswellia trees, which are indigenous to India.
According to a
Results from trials involving humans have suggested that frankincense capsules may help improve pain, function, and stiffness due to OA. However, these were small studies. More research is needed.
Doses of up to 1 gram per day of Boswellia appear safe, but high doses can affect the liver. It’s available in tablet form and topical creams.
Cat’s claw is another anti-inflammatory herb that may reduce swelling in arthritis. It comes from the bark and root of a tropical vine that grows in South and Central America.
People have traditionally used it as an anti-inflammatory and to boost the immune system.
The Arthritis Foundation notes that cat’s claw suppresses tumor necrosis factor, like many conventional drugs for RA.
They cite a small, older study from 2002 in which cat’s claw was shown to be effective in reducing joint swelling by over 50 percent in 40 people with RA.
However, possible side effects may include:
- nausea and dizziness
- low blood pressure
You should not use this herb if you:
- use blood thinners
- take medications that suppress the immune system
- have tuberculosis
According to the
Eucalyptus is a readily available remedy that people use for a wide range of conditions. Extracts of eucalyptus leaves feature in topical remedies to treat arthritis pain.
The plant leaves contain tannins, which may help reduce swelling and pain related to arthritis. Some people follow up with heat pads to maximize the effect.
Eucalyptus essential oils may help ease the symptoms of RA.
Be sure to test yourself for allergies before using topical eucalyptus, which is referred to as a patch test. Put a small amount of the product on your forearm. It should be safe if there’s no reaction in 24 to 48 hours.
People have long used ginger in traditional medicine to treat nausea, but you can also use it for RA, OA, and joint and muscle pain.
The authors of one older review of research from 2014 believe that, in the future, ingredients in ginger could form the basis of a pharmaceutical treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. It could not only help manage symptoms but also help prevent bone destruction.
You can consume ginger in various ways. These may include:
- making tea by infusing tea bags or fresh ginger in boiling water for 5 minutes
- adding powdered ginger to baked goods
- adding powdered ginger or fresh ginger root to savory dishes
- grating fresh ginger onto a salad or stir fry
It is unclear whether the concentration of active ingredients in a cup of ginger tea will help relieve symptoms. The amount of ginger consumed in food or drink can be significantly less than in an oral supplement.
You can talk with a doctor about ginger supplementation and the dosage needed to feel a therapeutic effect.
Check with a doctor before increasing your intake of ginger, as it can interfere with some medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin), a blood thinner.
You can take green tea as:
- a beverage
- powder (matcha) for sprinkling on food or adding to smoothies
While scientists have found evidence that extracts or specific components of green tea may affect arthritis, it’s unclear whether the concentration of active ingredients in a cup of green tea will help relieve symptoms.
That said, it’s likely to be safe for most people. As a beverage, it may be a healthier option than some coffees, soda, and other sweetened drinks, as long as you don’t add sugar.
More research is needed to confirm that green tea can help reduce inflammation and determine the most effective form and dose.
Thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii) is an herb. It has long been used in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean medicine to manage inflammation and excessive immune activity.
This could make it a suitable treatment for RA and other autoimmune diseases.
You can use it:
- by mouth, as a dietary supplement
- as a topical treatment applied directly to the skin
However, it can have serious negative effects, such as:
- gastrointestinal problems
- respiratory infections
- hair loss
- a skin rash
- menstrual changes
- changes in sperm that could reduce fertility in males
- after 5 years or more of use, it may cause a reduction in bone density
Many medications can interact with thunder god vine, especially those commonly used for RA and other autoimmune diseases.
Extracts from the wrong part of the vine can be toxic. With this in mind, it’s also important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the production or sale of natural remedies.
You can’t always be sure exactly what a product contains, and if thunder god vine herb is prepared incorrectly, it can be deadly.
If used during pregnancy, it may lead to birth defects.
It’s important to talk with a doctor about this herb. Other treatment options available may be effective with less risk.
Thunder god vine should not be taken over the counter. A licensed prescriber of herbal medicine may be able to prescribe a dose or formula containing this herb.
Turmeric is a yellow powder made from a flowering plant. It adds flavor and color to sweet and savory dishes and teas.
Its main ingredient, curcumin, has anti-inflammatory properties. It has long played a role in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It may help with OA, RA, and other arthritic conditions.
Turmeric is available:
- as a powdered spice to add to dishes
- in tea bags
- as supplements that are taken by mouth
More studies into the safety and effectiveness of turmeric are needed. The
Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine practitioners may prescribe turmeric as part of a formula with other ingredients. A qualified and licensed herbal medicine practitioner may be able to prescribe a formula containing turmeric.
According to a 2015
You can use willow bark either as tea or in tablet form.
Common side effects may include:
- stomach upset
- high blood pressure
- an allergic reaction, especially if you have an allergy to aspirin
- stomach ulcers and bleeding in the case of an overdose
You should ask your doctor before using willow bark, especially if you’re using blood thinners or have a stomach ulcer. Do not take it if you’re allergic to aspirin.
White willow bark contains salicin, which is the chemical that
Herbal supplements are not the only complementary approaches to arthritis pain relief.
Experts from the
- weight management
- exercise, including tai chi and yoga
- cold and heat treatment
- stress management
- a healthy diet
As interest in herbal medicine grows, conventional doctors have become more willing to assess the benefits of alternative remedies.
When treating arthritis, some herbs may complement your current medications. But it’s important to understand that herbs can cause serious side effects.
Buying herbal treatments from a reputable source is also essential.
The FDA doesn’t monitor herbs for quality, purity, packaging, or dosage, so there’s no way of knowing if a product is contaminated or contains inactive ingredients.
Some companies that sell supplements may pay for third-party testing.
Discuss all arthritis treatment options with a doctor, and do not stop taking prescribed medications unless recommended. You should never stop taking a prescribed medication without a doctor’s authorization. Some medications need to be tapered to avoid serious side effects.
You may be able to find a licensed healthcare professional who can prescribe herbal medicine through the American Association of Neuropathic Physicians.
Herbal remedies may help relieve pain and inflammation associated with RA, particularly if used alongside conventional therapies.
Some licensed healthcare providers may prescribe complementary options to help relieve RA symptoms, including supplements, exercise, and acupuncture.