Arthritis refers to a group of degenerative conditions that target the joints and the tissues that surround the joints. Common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Although each type is influenced by unique factors, arthritis is generally characterized by pain, stiffness and inflammation in the hands, hips and knees.
Medicinal herbs, vitamins and supplements for arthritis
Fortunately, there are several herbs, vitamins and supplements that work to control inflammation and reduce joint pain. Here are 12 natural remedies that you can use to treat arthritis:
- Glucosamine – Glucosamine is a natural chemical compound found inside the body that provides structural support to cartilage, the rubbery tissue that cushions bones at the joint to prevent friction. As a supplement, it helps fortify worn cartilage in older adults with arthritis. Additionally, glucosamine supplements help curb inflammation.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 fatty acids can inhibit the production of molecules linked to inflammation, like eicosanoids and cytokines. Most fatty fishes like salmon and tuna are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, so be sure to add them to a balanced diet.
- Green tea – This popular herbal drink contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a unique plant compound with anti-inflammatory properties. It is also rich in polyphenols that can minimize swollen joints and reduce the likelihood of arthritis flare-ups.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D, an essential micronutrient, is also known to play an important role in the prevention of inflammatory conditions like arthritis. In particular, low vitamin D levels are closely associated with joint pain. Take vitamin D supplements to prevent severe arthritis flare-ups and ease inflammation.
- S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) – SAM-e is a compound in the body that supports hormone production and regulation, but it also acts as a natural painkiller. When taken as a supplement, SAM-e also stimulates the growth of cartilage and increases levels of serotonin, an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits pain perception.
- Capsaicin – Capsaicin is the main active compound in chili peppers. Besides the spiciness, capsaicin is also known for its antioxidant compounds that act as natural painkillers. It is available as supplements or as topical creams and gels. For arthritis, it’s best to use topical capsaicin to minimize pain quickly.
- Turmeric – This popular Indian spice is commonly used to treat various inflammatory conditions thanks to curcumin, its main active compound. Curcumin also helps reduce pain, especially in individuals with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. (Related: Curcumin enhances bioavailability of green tea flavonoids.)
- Avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) – ASU is a vegetable extract that works to block inflammatory chemicals and prevent the deterioration of cartilage. ASU also helps repair damaged connective tissues around joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
- Cat’s claw – Cat’s claw, a tropical vine native to Central and South America, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects against rheumatoid arthritis. It also helps fight joint pain and ward off potential flare-ups.
- Fish oil – Fish oil is harvested from the tissues of fatty fishes. If you don’t like to eat fish, then you can take fish oil supplements to avoid a deficiency in essential omega-3 fatty acids that help ease inflammation.
- Gamma-linolenic acid – Classified as an omega-6 fatty acid, GLA is a fatty substance found in various plant-based foods and healthy oils. It is believed to fight inflammation, relieve stiff joints and reduce pain linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
- Ginger – Like turmeric, ginger is a popular go-to remedy for various inflammatory ailments. Its strong antioxidant compounds are especially potent against stiffness and joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Ginger can also keep an arthritis flare-up at bay and minimize pain when it does occur.
Painful arthritis flare-ups can hinder daily activities. Although there is currently no cure for arthritis, the various natural medicines above can help ease swollen joints and minimize pain.