5 Herbs for Arthritis Relief

May 19, 2016 at 7:09 am


It’s more common than many might think… about three out of five people with arthritis are of working age (under 65). For some, it’s a nagging nuisance, however, for others it’s quite debilitating and often requires extensive treatment and monitoring. The most common type of arthritis is called osteoarthritis which involves the slow degradation of the joint space including cartilage. Other types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, gout and fibromyalgia.

The most common symptoms that make you want relief are joint pain and joint stiffness which can reduce your mobility. Other bothersome symptoms include joint swelling and redness. In the remainder of this article, I will describe some of the herbs that may be of significant benefit in those with joint problems.

Herbs That Can Help Your Joints

Turmeric – this is the yellowish-orange East/South Asian spice that has a pungent and slightly bitter taste. A 2014 study published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging compared the effectiveness of turmeric extract with the popular anti-inflammatory medication, ibuprofen, in knee osteoarthritis and concluded that the effectiveness was similar to each other and there were fewer side effects in the turmeric group. A specific extract was used in the study but you can try integrating more of the spice in your daily diet – try one-quarter to half a teaspoon mixed with your meals; for better absorption, mix black pepper and coconut oil with it. Seek extra help from a herbalist or naturopathic doctor for more effective turmeric extracts.

Ginger – this is another dietary spice that has a good reputation for helping against the inflammation of joint pain. A 2015 published study appeared in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand which evaluated the effectiveness of a specialized nanoparticle-based topical ginger extract. It was studied in people with knee osteoarthritis and concluded that this formulation significantly improved joint pain and allowed the participants more ability to do their regular activities and sporting exercises with more ease. It may also be of benefit for those with other forms of arthritis to decrease pain and swelling. A simple way to try ginger is to make a tea with minced ginger: boil one teaspoon of minced ginger in a covered pot for 5-10 minutes, drink once cooled, 2-3 times daily.

Frankincense – this is a herb that has been referenced in the Bible and has thousands of years of use in several parts of Africa and Asia and is referred to as ‘olibanum’ in Europe. Several preliminary studies have verified it’s role as an anti-inflammatory. You can try applying 1-2 drops of frankincense essential oil diluted in a base vegetable oil on your affected joints or aching muscles.

Flax seed oil – this is a potent source of omega-3 fats which are required for normal immune function. Since inflammation is part of immune function, flax seed omega-3 oils can help regulate inflammation in the body. Several studies have validated the important role of dietary flax seed in improving inflammation and overall health. I generally recommend starting with ground flax seed – simply sprinkle it on your meals; you can start with half a teaspoon and gradually increase it. It also has a fiber effect and it’s important to drink sufficient fluids when using flax seed. Taking flax seed oil may be more effective for your joints than the whole seed.

White willow bark – this has been used for thousands of years, even Hippocrates was known to recommend it, by chewing it to help relieve fevers and inflammation. Human studies have verified its usefulness as an anti-inflammatory. A recent review study published in 2015 in Phytotherapy Research summarized it’s potential usefulness in joint pain, osteoarthritis and low back pain, among other benefits. It’s bark contains salicylates which are known to relieve pain, similar to what is found in acetylsalicylic acid containing drugs. Although it can be very useful for pain and inflammation, be sure to check with your primary care practitioner if you are on existing medications or if you have any health conditions.

About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.