Arthritis is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint.
It usually develops in adults who are in their late forties or older, and can be common in women and people with a family history of the condition. It can also occur at any age due to an injury, or be associated with other joint-related conditions (such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis).
The most commonly affected joints are those in the:
The symptoms experienced may be:
- joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
- inflammation in and around the joints
- restricted movement of the joints
- warm, red skin over the affected joint
Natural treatment options
Diet for Arthritis
AVOID : Simple and Refined Carbs – such as sugary foods, white-flour products, white rice, bread, biscuits, cakes and other refined carbohydrates. These set up a state of inflammation in the body, causing increases in pro-inflammatory compounds. Limit these foods if you want the best chance of reducing arthritis pain and limiting its progression.
AVOID : Fried food, fizzy drinks, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and other stimulants – may also cause an inflammatory response in the body.
EAT : Omega-3 Fatty Acids – this is the healthiest fat for people with arthritis or other inflammatory disorders. Some of the best foods for omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, herring, mackerel (not king), sardines, anchovies, rainbow trout, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds and nuts. A supplement with omega 3 can also be taken (eg. fish oil, krill oil, flaxseed oil).
EAT : Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – as well as healthy monounsaturated fats, olive oil contains a natural compound called oleocanthal which may help prevent arthritis-related inflammation. These compounds block the same inflammatory pathways as ibuprofen and aspirin (medications that are commonly used to fight arthritis pain). Use olive oil daily in cooking, salad dressings and drizzling over food, as studies show that the extra-virgin olive oil diet and mild physical activity prevent cartilage degeneration in osteoarthritis.
EAT : Antioxidant rich foods – these help to protect the body from the effects of cell-damaging free radicals and are a critical part of an anti-inflammation diet. Include vegetables and fruits, such as peppers (capsicums), oranges, grapefruits, pineapples, kohlrabi, guava, papayas, strawberries, lemons, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, pumpkins, butternut squash, turnip greens, mustard greens, cantaloupes, apricots, and spinach.
A study found that beta-cryptoxanthin helped to reduce the risk of developing inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Beta-cryptoxanthin is found in pumpkins, persimmons, papayas, oranges, apricots, tangerines, peppers (red chili and red capsicum), corn, carrots, nectarines and watermelon.
Also helpful is quercetin — found in onions, kale, leeks, tomatoes, broccoli, blueberries, apricots, red apples with skin, and red/purple/black grapes.
As well as anthocyanins — found in blackberries, black currents, blueberries, eggplant (aubergine), elderberries, raspberries, cherries, red/black/purple grapes, strawberries, plums, cranberries, rhubarb, red onions, and apples. Tart cherries may also be good for pain relief.
EAT : Ginger and turmeric -certain spices seem to have anti-inflammatory effects, and the most promising are ginger and turmeric. Ginger has been shown to lessen the pain of knee osteoarthritis when taken in highly purified, supplement form. Curcumin, which is the principal curcuminoid of turmeric, is a great naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent, and has shown good results for osteoarthritis management.
EAT : Mucopolysaccharides – (also known as proteoglycans and glucosamines) increase the elasticity and bounce in cartilage. Foods containing mucopolysaccharides include tripe, oysters, mussels, oats, aloe and okra.
DRINK : Apple Cider Vinegar – is rich in enzymes and acids that promote proper digestion and the absorption of the nutrients essential to healthy joints. Mix 1-3 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar into a small glass of water, and drink 3 times daily before meals.
Supplements for Arthritis
Vitamin D – studies have shown that getting adequate amounts of vitamin D reduces the risk of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Among the people who already have osteoarthritis, those who have a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to develop worsening disability over time. Getting the basic daily requirement of vitamin D leads to greater muscle strength, improvement in physical functioning, and preservation of cartilage. Remember to take vitamin K2, magnesium and a source of calcium with it too.
Omega-3 fatty acids – containing primarily EPA and DHA, which have been shown in studies to help maintain bone health and flexibility. See above for more info
Glucosamine sulfate – this provides the joints with the building blocks they need to help repair the natural wear on cartilage caused by everyday activities. Specifically, it provides the raw material needed by the body to manufacture a mucopolysaccharide (called glycosaminoglycan) found in cartilage.
Chondroitin – this protects the cartilage, and also attracts fluid that helps to give the tissue its shock absorbing quality.
Bromealin – which is derived from the stem and juice of the pineapple, contains a mixture of enzymes that digest protein (proteolytic) and is particularly effective in reducing inflammation. This study indicates the potential of bromelain in treating osteoarthritis.
Serrapeptase – this is an enzyme that is produced in the intestines of silk worms (to break down cocoon walls). It helps to reduce inflammation, and aids in the reduction of pain (through its ability to block the release of pain-inducing amines from inflamed tissues).
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) – an organic sulfur-containing compound that can be used to lower inflammation and restore healthy body tissue by providing biologically active sulfur. Can be used topically on the skin and also be taken by mouth. It main action is to decrease joint inflammation, improve flexibility and restore collagen production. It may also aid in the formation of connective tissue, repair joints, tendons and ligaments.
S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) – is a chemical compound found naturally in the body (made from methionine (an amino acid) and adenosine triphosphate). It stimulates the production of cartilage, and may aid in reducing pain and inflammation. Do not use if taking prescription anti-depressants, or if you have bipolar mood disorder.
Herbs for Arthritis
These are generally available as standardized dried extracts (pills/capsules/tablets), teas, or tinctures.
Boswellia – comes from the gum of boswellia trees (also called frankincense). The active components have good anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. They may also help to prevent cartilage loss and inhibit the autoimmune process. Studies show that it is quite effective for osteoarthritis of the knee.
Cat’s claw – may be helpful for relieving arthritis pain. Small studies in humans have shown a possible benefit of cat’s claw in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but no large trials have been done.
Cayenne – the hot and spicy taste of cayenne pepper is mostly due to a substance known as capsaicin, which helps reduce pain. It reduces the amount of substance P (a chemical that carries pain messages to the brain) in the body. As a spice, cayenne may be eaten raw or cooked. Dried cayenne pepper is available in powdered form, and can be added to food or stirred it into juice/water. It is also available in capsule form or in creams for external use. Creams should contain at least 0.075% capsaicin. Do not apply capsaicin/cayenne cream to cracked skin or open wounds. Capsaicin cream may cause an itching, burning sensation on the skin – but these symptoms tend to go away quickly. Test capsaicin cream on a small area of your skin before extended use.
Capsaicin/Cayenne Balm Recipe
3 tablespoons of cayenne powder
1 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of grated beeswax
A glass jar with lid
Directions: Mix together cayenne powder and oil, and heat in a saucepan for 5-10 minutes over medium heat. Stir in the grated beeswax until it has melted completely and everything is mixed together. Pour mixture into glass jar and store in the refrigerator. Should keep for 3-4 weeks. Apply daily as needed for pain.
Nettle – the leaves and stems of nettle can be used to treat arthritis and relieve sore muscles. Some studies have shown that taking an oral extract of stinging nettle, along with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), allowed people to reduce their NSAID dose.
Devil’s Claw – this can be used to fight inflammation, headaches and low back ache. With arthritis, it helps pain and stiffness, particularly symptoms affecting the knee or hip. Taking devil’s claw for 8 to 12 weeks may reduce pain and improve physical functioning in some people.
Black Cohosh – some studies suggest that black cohosh may help reduce inflammation associated osteoarthritis (and rheumatoid arthritis). Researchers concluded that a combination of black cohosh, willow bark, sarsaparilla, guaiacum resin, and poplar bark may help to relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis.
These may help to provide pain relief, and sooth the affected area. The best ones to use are:
Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Peppermint, Lavender, Frankincense and Myrrh.
These oils can be diffused, or used topically (when blended with a carrier oil), directly onto the area where the pain is felt, but be careful to avoid the eyes. Put a few drops of essential oil in a hot bath (you can also add 2-3 cups of Epsom salt to enhance the effect).
It is important to make sure that any essential oils chosen are 100% pure. Use them sparingly, and do a skin patch test test before using on a regular basis.
Other ideas for easing Arthritis pain
Ginger compress – Grate around a cupful of ginger in the center of a kitchen towel or muslin cloth, and fold to form a parcel. Place in a shallow bowl and pour over half a cup of boiling water. Leave until bearably hot. Gently squeeze and place on the painful area, then wrap the body part and ginger parcel with some plastic wrap/cling film. Wrap again in a towel, then relax and keep warm for twenty minutes before removing.
Castor oil pack – heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of castor oil and saturate a small cloth with it. Place cloth on the affected area and cover with plastic wrap/cling film, and then a towel on top. Rest for 30 minutes with a hot water bottle or heating pad over the towel.
Gin-soaked raisins – this was once a popular folk remedy for arthritis. The basic recipe is:
- Take a box of golden raisins. (It must be the golden variety, sometimes called white raisins, not ordinary black raisins)
- Place the raisins in a shallow container
- Cover the raisins with gin (pour enough gin into it to just cover the raisins)
- Cover the container with cheesecloth and allow to stand until the raisins absorb the gin and the remaining liquid evaporates (about 1-3 weeks)
- Then, eat 9 of these drunken raisins a day to help your arthritis
- May take up to 6 weeks or more to work