Herbal Remedies for Osteoarthritis Stiffness

Find out how you can use herbal remedies for osteoarthritis stiffness like nettles, horsetail, gotu kola, oatstraw and black cohosh.

| November/December 2003

  • Nettles is one of a number of herbal remedies for osteoarthrities stiffness that helps build connective tissue.
    Nettles is one of a number of herbal remedies for osteoarthrities stiffness that helps build connective tissue.
    Photo By Christopher Hobbs

  • Nettles is one of a number of herbal remedies for osteoarthrities stiffness that helps build connective tissue.

Experts give medical advice on herbal remedies for osteoarthritis stiffness.

Herbal Remedies for Osteoarthritis Stiffness

I am an 87-year-old male. X-rays show I have osteoarthritis in my back, hips and knees. I do not have any pain but am so stiff I have trouble walking. Are there any herbs that would help the stiffness? I exercise one hour daily about five days per week but still have trouble walking.
—H.C., Williamstown, Kentucky 

Stansbury responds: Osteoarthritis, as you probably know, involves a wear-and-tear sort of degeneration of the bony aspects of joints, which itself can create pain. Mechanical and inflammatory irritation of the surrounding tissues also can accompany and contribute to the pain. While your exercise routine sounds impressive, please be certain you’re not overdoing it and contributing to the wear-and-tear and painful inflammatory processes.

Perhaps you have heard of, or are already taking, glucosamine and chondroitin, animal-derived substances that help rebuild bony and connective tissues. About 50 percent of people taking these products experience relief from osteoarthritic symptoms after taking them for several months.

Herbal choices include botanicals thought to rebuild connective tissue, such as nettles (Urtica dioica), horsetail (Equisetum arvense), gotu kola (Centella asiatica) and oatstraw (Avena sativa). These herbs also need to be taken for many months, as they relieve pain by nourishing and helping improve the tissue abnormalities causing the pain; they’re not pain relievers themselves. Research also is currently investigating nutrients such as boron, phosphorus, fluoride and others for rebuilding degenerated bony tissues.

Options that can more quickly relieve pain and stiffness are perhaps more palliative but certainly can be combined with the above remedies. Herbs that may help reduce inflammation and allay your stiffness include black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), bromelain, boswellia (Boswellia serrata) and the salicylate-containing herbs — white willow (Salix spp.) and meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).

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