10 Natural Remedies For Arthritis Pain
Dr. Hamza A. Khan – MBBS
Arthritis remains one of the most common causes of disability and activity limitation in old age. It is a term for a group of conditions that cause pain and inflammation of joints in the body. Doctors believe there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, with osteoarthritis being the most common (1).
As the older demographics of the developed world continue to rise, so do various health conditions of old age. The same is the case with arthritis. While it affects nearly 24 percent of the 45-year-olds, its prevalence reaches a whopping 47. 4 percent by age 65 and above (2).
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. As a result, arthritis becomes a chronic condition, and the medical bills begin to stack up. However, while scientists search for a permanent cure, various natural remedies may offer relief in the meantime.
This article discusses seven evidence-based herbs, spices, and other natural remedies for arthritis that are certainly worth the shot.
1. Add Boswellia Supplement To Your Routine
The herbal extracts of boswellia are commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine — an ancient system of Indian medicine. Research suggests that the active ingredients in boswellia — boswellic acids — have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which among other benefits, also relieve arthritis pain (3).
According to a review published in the Journal of BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, boswellia extracts significantly reduce pain and stiffness caused by arthritis and improve joint function. However, to see the effects, a person must take between 300 to 500 mg of boswellia extract two to three times daily for at least four weeks (4).
In a 2019 randomized control trial — considered the gold standard in medical research — 24 participants with knee osteoarthritis received boswellia extracts while another 24 received a placebo. After three months of taking boswellia, the study group showed a marked reduction in joint pain, stiffness, and important inflammatory markers and an improvement in joint function (1). Similarly, a randomized control trial from 2003 also had similar findings in 30 participants, with 15 taking boswellia extracts and the other 25 taking the placebo (5).
While the evidence continues to grow, there is no harm in adding a boswellia supplement to your daily routine.
2. Take Chondroitin, And Glucosamine Supplements
Chondroitin and glucosamine are naturally occurring substances that help maintain the health of cartilage and other connective tissue. A 2015 review of the literature suggested that chondroitin supplements achieved a statistically significant (more than 20 percent) pain relief in the study groups with osteoarthritis compared to the control groups (10).
Similarly, authors of the 2018 review of 20 clinical trials suggested that when used independently, glucosamine reduces stiffness while chondroitin relieves pain and improves physical function in people with knee or hip osteoarthritis. However, the authors saw no difference for groups of participants using a combination of the two compared with the control groups (11).
Unfortunately, not many foods increase your chondroitin and glucosamine intake, and you must take supplements to reap the benefits.
3. Increase Your Fish Oil Intake
Among the many health benefits of fish oil (omega-three fatty acids), reducing inflammation and pain are the important ones. A 2015 study compared the effects of omega-3 supplements with placebo in 60 females taking painkiller medications. After 12 weeks, the researchers noted that omega-3 supplementation significantly reduced the need to take painkillers in the study group compared to the control group (7).
Furthermore, a 2020 research also showed that omega-three fats modulate the immune system and reduce inflammation and pain, as well as the number of swollen and tender joints (8). To add more, a review of clinical trials published between 1985 and 2013 also suggested that omega-three fats may have a potential role in decreasing pain associated with arthritis (9).
You can increase your fish oil intake by eating foods like nuts and seeds, cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines, or plant oils like flaxseed and soybean oil. You can also take omega-three supplements to get the benefits.
4. Take Avocado/Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASUs)
These are vegetable extracts made from fruits and seeds of avocado and soybean and are widely used for osteoarthritis and other arthritis pain. Research suggests ASUs promote cartilage repair by stimulating collagen — the most abundant structural protein found in connective tissue — and reduce pain and inflammation by inhibiting many inflammatory mediators (1).
According to a 2008 analysis of clinical trials, ASUs offer relief from arthritis pain and other symptoms and can be recommended to people with osteoarthritis. However, the authors say people with knee osteoarthritis may benefit more from ASUs than people with hip osteoarthritis (1). Similarly, the authors of a 2020 review of published studies concluded that ASUs have solid anti-inflammatory and cartilage-protective properties, making them a promising drug for osteoarthritis (1).
5. Add Ginger To Your Diet
Ginger is a spice most commonly used in cooking. While it has long been used in folk medicine since antiquity, modern research suggests there might be some truth to its use. A 2016 research suggests gingerol — the active compound in ginger essential oils — has anti-inflammatory effects in people with rheumatoid arthritis (12).
Some researchers from the University of Miami even went to the extent of saying ginger may one day replace NSAIDs. According to their research involving 247 participants, ginger reduced pain and stiffness in people with osteoarthritis by more than 40 percent compared to the placebo (13).
Similarly, in a 2014 literature review, authors concluded that ginger might not only provide symptomatic relief against arthritis but may also prevent disease progression by stopping bone destruction (14).
6. Give S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) A Shot
SAMe is the synthetic form of a naturally occurring chemical in the body. It is extensively used as a supplement and an adjunct therapy to reduce depression and treat osteoarthritis. According to a 2004 study involving 56 participants, while SAMe has a slower onset of action, its benefits, i.e., reducing knee pain and improving function, are comparable to those of celecoxib — a commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) (1).
Similarly, a 2008 analysis of eleven studies showed that SAMe was as effective in reducing pain and improving functional wellbeing in people with osteoarthritis as NSAIDs. Furthermore, the analysis suggests that SAMe is superior to NSAIDs regarding side effects, as people taking SAMe did not experience as many adverse effects as people taking NSAIDs (1).
Researchers believe the beneficial effects of SAMe are due to its ability to reduce inflammatory mediators, increase glutathione (the primary antioxidant), promote cartilage synthesis, and maintain healthy DNA (1).
7. Take A Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) Supplement
MSM is another man-made form of a compound that naturally occurs in humans as well as some plants and animals. While it has become a popular dietary supplement for various health conditions, it is widely used to manage arthritis pain. Plenty of research backs up the claims that MSM is a potent pain, stiffness, and inflammation relieving chemical in people with knee arthritis (1).
A 2005 randomized clinical trial involving fifty males and females with knee osteoarthritis showed that taking 3g of MSM twice daily significantly reduced knee pain and improved function compared with the placebo (1). In addition, a 2015 study compared the efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and boswellic acids (boswellia extracts) with glucosamine sulfate. The researchers found that this new combination showed better results than glucosamine alone (1).
8. Drink More Green Tea
The higher antioxidant content in green tea makes it an excellent choice for reducing chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis. In fact, in a randomized clinical trial, nearly fifty people with knee osteoarthritis either received green tea extract or a placebo in the form of a tablet.
After four weeks, the group receiving green tea showed a significant reduction in pain and stiffness and an improvement in physical function compared with the placebo group — leading the authors to believe that green tea might be an excellent adjunct therapy for knee pain (15).
Furthermore, a 2017 study suggested that catechins — the phenolic compounds found in green tea — inhibit inflammatory signaling involved with rheumatoid arthritis (16). You can maximize your green tea intake in many ways, including green tea beverages, supplements, or powder sprinkled on foods.
9. Ensure To Take Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining bone health and the function of the immune system. Plenty of research has linked low blood vitamin D levels with an increased risk for arthritis (17) (18). However, whether vitamin D supplementation benefits people with arthritis pain remains uncertain.
Some research implies that vitamin D prevents cartilage loss and the resulting osteoarthritis; others note that the results are inconclusive (19) (20). For example, the authors of a 2017 study seem very confident that vitamin D reduces pain and stiffness and improves physical performance and overall life quality in people with knee arthritis (21).
Whether beneficial or not, you do not want to have low vitamin D levels, especially when you already have arthritis. Thus, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take vitamin D supplements, not only to prevent deficiency but also to see yourself whether it improves arthritis or is just another hoax.
10. Apply Aloe Vera Gel
In the end, you can also make use of aloe vera — a popular herb used in alternative medicine. Researchers believe aloe offers two-fold benefits. The topical application of aloe vera relieves pain and stiffness and improves joint function on the one hand, and reduces your dependence on NSAIDs on the other since NSAIDs cause many gut-related side effects (22).
While oral aloe vera intake may cause some side effects, researchers believe it may also offer relief against pain caused by osteoarthritis (23).