Arthritis-Proof Your Life

Use herbal remedies and dietary and lifestyle tweaks to significantly reduce arthritis pain and improve quality of life.


| May/June 2017



Stairs

Don't let arthritis ruin your active lifestyle. Try herbal remedies to ease pain.

Photo by iStock/Tomwang112

More than 50 million American adults suffer from doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation, and arthritis is the nation’s No. 1 cause of disability. Many people choose to manage pain with prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceutical pain relievers. But, although these pharmaceuticals may temporarily relieve some of the pain of arthritis, they can also cause side effects, some of them serious, including potential stomach irritation,heart problems, and liver and kidney damage. Herbal and other natural medicines can be just as effective, and often have fewer side effects, although we should treat herbal medicines with the same level of seriousness as pharmaceuticals (and some do have potential side effects, which we spell out later in this article).

If you or someone you love suffers from the pain of arthritis in one of its many forms, consider the effective herbal treatment options here.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger is useful for more than just gingersnaps and pumpkin pie. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine compared ginger extract with the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) diclofenac. Some participants received a ginger extract while others received diclofenac. Both groups had similar reductions in pain, but the group taking the ginger extract had fewer gastrointestinal complaints than the drug group.

In another study published in the journal Arthritis, scientists discovered that not only was ginger effective for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, it was just as effective as the anti-inflammatory drug known as betamethasone, and superior to ibuprofen. Ibuprofen did not work to reduce levels of cytokines, while ginger was highly effective in this capacity. Cytokines are compounds that are initially involved in immune reactions in the body but quickly become detrimental to healthy cells and tissues, so reducing them is a valuable strategy in addressing arthritis symptoms and joint damage.

To get a helpful dose of this herb, thinly slice a two-inch piece of fresh ginger and add to a medium pot filled with one quart of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Add a small amount of stevia or a touch of honey to sweeten to taste, and drink throughout the day. You can also add ginger to soups, stews and curries. Although eating ginger is quite helpful, sometimes you may need the faster, stronger relief that ginger capsules or tincture (alcohol extract) can provide. Take four 550 mg capsules at once, three times daily until you begin to experience a decrease in pain, then reduce your dose to three capsules twice daily. Alternatively, you can take a dropperful of tincture three times daily to start experiencing pain relief. If you have bouts of pain, you can return to the higher dose for a few days and then drop back down to the lower maintenance dose. Of course, consult a naturally minded physician prior to use.

Curcumin

Curcumin, the main therapeutic constituent of the spice turmeric, has a proven track record of decreasing symptoms of arthritis as well as muscle pain, making it helpful for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.





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