Although supplementing the diet can be effective in treating arthritis, it's possible to add herbal remedies that stop pain as well.
Some garden herbs act as analgesics, relieving pain. But do not try to eliminate all pain entirely, as it's a reminder to rest joints that are experiencing stress. Other herbs help to reduce inflammation, protect and support joint cartilage, and remove toxins that may accumulate in joints.
Pain-relieving herbs include cayenne pepper. Although it's in the nightshade family, arthritis sufferers are typically not bothered by it. A cream made from peppers is most effective, and multiple clinical studies show it works for people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arnica, which is used externally only, is a moderately strong pain reliever. Mint, wild yam, and yarrow are mild analgesics. Make a tea out of one or more of the latter three. Use arnica in a massage oil or ointment to rub into sore spots. Do the same with cayenne, juniper, rosemary, chamomile, or thyme.
There is a bountiful supply of anti-inflammatories in the garden that can help RA. Foods such as apples, parsley, and hot peppers help decrease inflammation. There are many herbs that also reduce inflammation of tissues and joints. Chamomile, elderberry, feverfew, goldenseal, licorice, marshmallow, nettle, skullcap, wild yam, wormwood, and yarrow all have compounds that fight inflammation. Pick a few of these herbs that are suited to your climate and will fit into your herb garden. Make an infusion of several and sip as tea. Combine with other pleasant-tasting herbs if you prefer. Refer to the individual herb profiles for guidance on which plant parts to use and how to prepare them.
Some physicians speculate that toxins in the system may irritate joints and prevent cartilage from forming normally. In this case, diuretics may help by flushing out toxins. Herbal diuretics include parsley, hydrangea, burdock, dandelion, horsetail, and goldenrod. Brew a tea of one or several of these. When using diuretic herbs, be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium--just in case your body gets rid of too much potassium as it eliminates excess water. The best source is dandelion leaves. Running low on potassium can precipitate a heart attack and even death. Your heart needs this mineral to keep beating regularly and to normalize blood pressure.
- Do not use juniper if you have kidney disease. Wormwood should be used only in small amounts for short periods of time.
Horseradish poultice: Use fresh horseradish root. Process with enough hot water in a blender to make a thick paste. Soak a piece of thin cotton fabric in hot water, then spread the horseradish root mixture onto the cloth. Cover with a second layer of dry cotton fabric. Place the moist side of the poultice over a sore joint. Leave on for 15-30 minutes. Use a hot water bottle on top of the poultice to keep it hot. If it becomes uncomfortable, remove the poultice. It is normal for the skin to redden, as the heat increases circulation in the affected area.
Juniper compress: Make a strong infusion with juniper berries or their tincture. Soak a cloth in the warm liquid. Apply to aching joints.
Arthritis can be debilitating, but these herbal remedies can significantly reduce pain sensations and make life more enjoyable for people who live with painful joints.
For more information about the subjects covered in this article, try the following links:
- To see all of our herbal remedies, visit our main Herbal Remedies page.
- To learn more about treating common medical conditions yourself, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- To learn more about conditions that can be treated with chamomile, read Chamomile Herbal Remedies.
- To find out more about how to prevent painful joints, read How to Prevent Arthritis Pain.
- Get more tips on how to get relief from arthritis when you read How to Relieve Arthritis Pain.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gayle Povis Alleman, M.S., R.D. hold degrees in both alternative and conventional nutrition. She manages nutrition education programs and teaches nutrition in the community. She is also a freelance writer and speaker in the area of food, nutrition and health, specializing in holistic nutrition to promote optimum health.
ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS
Silena Heron was a naturopathic physician with a family health-care practice. She was a nationally recognized specialist in botanical medicine who had taught throughout the West and Canada since 1973. She was founding chair of botanical medicine at Bastyr University and on the faculty for six years. Additionally, Dr. Heron was an adjunct faculty member at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. She was the founding vice president of the Botanical Medicine Academy, an accrediting organization for the clinical use of herbal medicines.
Eric Yarnell, N.D., R.H. (A.H.G.) is a naturopathic physician and registered herbalist in private practice specializing in men's health and urology. He is an assistant professor in the botanical medicine department at Bastyr University in Seattle and is president or the Botanical Medicine Academy. He is the author of several textbooks including Naturopathic Gastroenterology, Naturopathic Urology and Men's Health, and Clinical Botanical Medicine; He writes a regular column on herbal medicine for Alternative and Complementary Therapies.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.