Arthritis is a common condition that occurs when there’s inflammation in the joints. This can result in pain and swelling, making it difficult to move or stay active. While there’s no cure for arthritis, various treatments have been used to reduce inflammation, limit pain, and preserve joint function. These may include both conventional and natural methods. In today’s article, we’ll focus more on the natural remedies for arthritis as a way of restoring joint health without the side effects of pharmaceuticals.
Besides, natural remedies are pocket friendly and often offer additional benefits that can boost your health and well-being.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints. Joints are places where two bones meet, such as the knee and elbow.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100 types of arthritis exist, each with different causes and treatment approaches.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type, followed by rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
The average age for developing arthritis is 30-50 years, but it can also occur in children, teens, and young adults. Rheumatoid arthritis is, however, more associated with old age, often developing in those within 50-60 years. Some women in their 40s and overweight individuals may also be at risk.
Types of arthritis
Common types of arthritis include:
1. Osteoarthritis (OA)
Osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of cartilage, the tissue that cushions and lubricates the joints. Cartilage is a tough, rubbery substance that enables bones to glide over each other. In osteoarthritis, this cartilage breaks down and wears away. As it does, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.
2. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that typically affects the small joints in your hands and feet. Unlike osteoarthritis, which is caused by the wear and tear of joint cartilage, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in your joints, causing inflammation. With time, it can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.
3. Psoriatic arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that often occurs in people with psoriasis, an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in the skin.
The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can range from mild to severe and can vary from person to person. They may include joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and deformity.
Psoriatic arthritis can also cause fatigue and flu-like symptoms.
Research shows that 20-30 percent of patients with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis.
4. Ankylosing spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine. The term “ankylosing” means stiff or rigid, and “spondylitis” refers to the inflammation of the vertebrae, which are the bones of the spine.
It most commonly affects young adults between the ages of 17 and 35. However, it can also affect children and adults over the age of 40.
The hallmark symptom of ankylosing spondylitis is pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips, which is often worse at night, when waking up in the morning, or after periods of inactivity.
In severe cases, ankylosing spondylitis can lead to fusion of the spine, resulting in a rigid deformity.
5. Juvenile arthritis
Juvenile arthritis (JA) is the term used to describe the various types of arthritis that can develop in children 16 and younger.
The most common type includes juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), also known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
While symptoms and treatment options for various forms may vary, all forms of JA involve inflammation of the joints. This can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling around the affected area.
In some cases, JA can also damage the surrounding tissues, including the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, resulting in permanent physical damage.
Gout is a form of arthritis that can occur in any joint in the body but most commonly affects the big toe.
It is caused by the buildup of uric acid in the body, which then crystallizes into sharp deposits in the joints. This can cause swelling, redness, and intense pain.
If left untreated, gout can lead to joint damage and disability.
Causes and predisposing factors
Arthritis can be caused by several different things, including:
- wear and tear on the joints from overuse or injury
- age-related changes in the joints
- autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis
- infections in the joints
- Muscle weakness
- Positive family history
Let’s Talk about natural remedies for arthritis.
Natural Remedies for Arthritis
1. Cat’s claw
Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is a thorny, woody, climbing vine native to the Amazon rainforest and other tropical regions of South and Central America.
The bark and root of this plant have been used as traditional medicine for centuries to treat inflammation, infections, and cancer in South America.
Today, cat’s claw is promoted as a dietary supplement for viral infections, Alzheimer’s disease, peptic ulcers, diverticulitis, leaky bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, colitis, and arthritis.
In fact, it has been shown to offer relief in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Research shows that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in cat’s claw can help reduce inflammation which can help relieve the pain in osteoarthritis.
In one study, a daily intake of 100 mg of cat’s claw extract for 4 weeks reduced pain in 45 participants with osteoarthritis of the knee during physical activity. However, these benefits were not sustained at rest.
Another study found that a supplement containing maca (Lepidium meyenii) and cat’s claw taken twice daily reduced stiffness and pain in people with osteoarthritis after 8 weeks of use.
Researchers also realized that the participants needed pain medications less frequently.
Additionally, cat’s claw can be effective in relieving rheumatoid arthritis. A randomized, double-blind trial found that taking 60 mg of cat’s claw per day alongside regular medication reduced painful joints by 29% compared to the control group.
Generally, the oral use of cat’s claw is considered safe when used for a short period. However, sensitive individuals may experience side effects such as dizziness, vomiting, and headaches.
Also, this supplement has been shown to activate the immune system, which may worsen any existing autoimmune disease. So, it should be avoided by those that have an autoimmune condition.
Like any natural supplement, cat’s claw may interact with certain medications, including some HIV medications. Additionally, it has been shown to lower blood pressure and slow blood clotting, so if you already have low blood pressure issues or are on blood thinning medication, talk to your healthcare provider to ensure it’s good for you.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
There’s minimal research on the safety of cat’s claw in pregnant and breastfeeding women. So, it’s best. avoided. While a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding, not risking harming your young child should take priority over considering any of the natural remedies for arthritis.
2. Aloe vera
Aloe vera is a succulent plant that has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments.
The gel from the aloe vera plant is often used topically to treat skin conditions such as burns, wounds, and rashes.
Aloe vera gel can also be consumed orally to help with digestive issues such as heartburn and constipation.
Additionally, it can help relieve arthritis symptoms. These benefits are due to acemannan, a polysaccharide compound with anti-inflammatory properties. Acemannan is thought to work by inhibiting the production of inflammatory cytokines and acting as an analgesic that effectively reduces pain and inflammation in people with arthritis.
As a result, aloe vera can help improve joint function and range of motion.
Also, Acemannan has been shown to contain antibacterial immunostimulant, antiviral, and anticancer properties making it an overall heath-boosting remedy.
There’re various forms of aloe vera that you can take, including pills, powder, juice, and gel. The gel can be taken orally or applied to the affected joints. To do this, apply on a small part of the skin and leave it for 24 hours to check for any sensitivity.
If there is no reaction, apply twice daily to the affected area whenever there’s pain or swelling.
Aloe vera is generally safe when taken by mouth for a short period of time.
To take your aloe vera, experts recommend 50-200 mg of leaf gel cap per day or 30 ml of aloe liquid 3 times a day, or 15-60 drops as needed for those using a tincture.
For topical application, use it 3-5 times a day.
Aloe vera is safe when taken in moderate amounts. Too much of it can cause side effects in sensitive individuals. Common ones may include:
- Burning and burning sensation of the skin
- Very low blood sugar
- Abdominal pain and cramps (in high doses)
- Liver issues (rare)
- Kidney issues
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Low potassium levels
- Blood in urine
- Heart disturbances (long-term use at high doses)
Also, aloe vera is a powerful laxative often used to relieve constipation and other digestive issues. If taken for a long period, the laxative effects can interfere with the absorption of certain medications and nutrients. In some cases, it can lead to diarrhea.
Aloe vera can interact with anticoagulants o blood-thinning medications. So if you are on any of these types
of drugs, it’s good to avoid aloe.
It also has glucose-lowering properties and may put those on blood sugar-lowering medications at risk of very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
Additionally, its effects on potassium make it unsuitable for people on heart medications like digoxin.
The bottom line is, always consult your doctor before taking aloe vera alongside other prescription medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
According to the FDA, a moderate intake of aloe vera is considered safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Besides, a topical application of aloe vera gel has been shown to relieve nipple soreness associated with breastfeeding.
Ginger is a common traditional remedy for arthritis. It is thought to work by reducing inflammation. Some studies have found that it can be as effective as ibuprofen for treating pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
To use ginger for arthritis, you can take it in capsules, drink ginger tea, or apply a topical cream or ointment to the affected area.
Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense, is a resin herbal extract from the bark of the Boswellia serrata, a tree native to India, Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula.
It has been used for centuries in Indian and Chinese medicine to treat a variety of health conditions, including arthritis. Boswellia extract is thought to work by inhibiting the production of inflammatory compounds in the body.
A few small studies have found that Boswellia may help reduce pain and stiffness in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.
In terms of dosage, a 1-gram tablet per day is effective and safe. Too much intake, however, may result in liver damage. Topical creams are also available.
Eucalyptus leaf extract is a common ingredient in most topical remedies used in various forms of arthritis.
Also, eucalyptus oil has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial properties, making it an effective natural remedy for arthritis.
To use eucalyptus oil for arthritis, mix 15 drops with 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut oil. Do a patch test by applying it to a small area on the skin and leave it for 24 hours. If there is no reaction, you’re good to go! Massage it to the affected joints twice daily for as long as you need to.
You can also add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a warm bath to help soothe pain and inflammation.
Eucalyptus oil is a topical agent and one of the best Natural Remedies for Arthritis.
Turmeric is an Indian spice that has been used as a natural remedy for centuries. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is a powerful anti-inflammatory and has been shown to be effective in treating arthritis.
Turmeric can be taken in capsules or powder form, or you can add it to your food.
If you take turmeric supplements, be sure to take them with black pepper, which increases absorption. Start with a small dose and increase gradually as tolerated.
Turmeric is generally safe but can cause stomach upsets when taken in high amounts.
Along with taking natural remedies for arthritis, there are additional tips to follow that will help relieve arthritis pain.
Additional tips to relieve arthritis pain
- Apply heat or cold
- Get regular exercise
- Lose weight
- Try acupuncture
- Warm baths or showers
- Manage stress levels
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Arthritis is a common chronic inflammatory condition that affects the joints. It often presents with pain, swelling, stiffness, and sometimes deformity and inability to use the affected joint.
While conventional treatments can help, natural remedies have also been shown to relieve the symptoms and prevent further damage.
Some of the best ones include aloe vera, ginger, turmeric, cat’s claw, Boswellia, and eucalyptus.
However, if you take any other medication, consult your doctor to ensure a particular remedy is safe and won’t interact with your medicine.