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There are different types of arthritis, but they can all cause pain. Some natural remedies may help you manage mild symptoms, particularly if you use them alongside other treatment options.
Certain herbs may have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or osteoarthritis (OA).
Still, there’s a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of many of these options, and some may have negative effects.
Before opting for “natural” remedies for arthritis, be sure to talk to a doctor first, as some options may interact with existing medications.
Aloe vera is one of the most commonly used herbs in alternative medicine. It’s available in many forms, such as pills, powder, gels, and as a leaf.
Known for its healing properties, it’s popular for treating small skin abrasions, such as sunburn, but it may also help with joint pain.
- It has anti-inflammatory properties.
- It doesn’t have the negative gastrointestinal effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), commonly used for arthritis pain.
Topical application: You can apply a gel directly to the skin.
Oral medication: Some
More studies are needed to confirm that these treatments are beneficial.
It may lower glucose levels and interact with some diabetes medications.
You can purchase topical aloe vera online.
Practitioners of traditional and alternative medicine 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 human trials 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 a day of boswellia appear to be safe, but high doses can affect the liver. It’s available in tablet form and topical creams.
Boswellia can be purchased online.
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, like many conventional drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, cat’s claw suppresses tumor necrosis factor (TNF).
They cite a small 2002 study in which cat’s claw was shown effective in reducing joint swelling by over 50 percent in 40 people with RA.
However, possible side effects include:
- nausea and dizziness
- low blood pressure
You shouldn’t use this herb if you:
- use blood thinners
- take medications that suppress the immune system
- have tuberculosis
According to the NCCIH, some small studies have looked at cat’s claw for rheumatoid arthritis, but more research is needed.
You can find cat’s claw online.
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 aromatherapy 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. If there’s no reaction in 24 to 48 hours, it should be safe to use.
You can purchase topical forms of eucalyptus online.
People have long used ginger in traditional medicine to treat nausea, but you can also use it for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and pain in the joints and muscles.
The authors of one 2016 review article 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.
Here are some ways of consuming ginger:
- Make tea by infusing tea bags or fresh ginger in boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Add powdered ginger to baked goods.
- Add powdered ginger or fresh ginger root to savory dishes.
- Grate fresh ginger onto a salad or stir fry.
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 purchase various ginger products online.
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 have an effect on arthritis, it’s unclear whether the concentration of active ingredients in a cup of tea will help relieve symptoms.
That said, it’s likely to be safe for most people. As a beverage, it is 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 to find out which form and dose would be most effective.
You can find a selection of green tea options online.
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 rheumatoid arthritis 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 very 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, there may be 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.
The NCCIH says there’s not enough evidence to prove that thunder god vine is safe or effective for treating arthritis.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about this herb. There are other treatment options available that have been shown to be effective with less risk.
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 NCCIH notes that it’s likely safe for most adults, although high doses or long-term use may result in gastrointestinal upset.
Purchase turmeric supplements online.
Willow bark is an ancient treatment for pain and inflammation. You can use it either as a tea or in tablet form.
Common side effects 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.
You can purchase willow bark products online.
Herbal supplements are not the only complementary approaches to arthritis pain relief.
Experts from the American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation recommend the following:
- 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.
Discuss all arthritis treatment options with your doctor and don’t stop taking prescribed medications unless they recommend it.