Natural Herbs For Arthritis

Get expert advice on which herbs for arthritis are safe and effective. Cayenne, devil’s claw, yucca and more may ease arthritic pain and stiffness.

| October/November 2002

  • Arthritis can make any task such as gardening more difficult. And unfortunately, arthritis is far more complicated than simple inflammation of the joints. There are about 100 different types of arthritis, with osteoarthritis being the most common form.
    Photo by Dmitry/Fotolia

  • Cayenne
  • Yucca

Is there an effective herbal treatment for arthritis? Some people have found relief from herbal therapies, but what may work for one person may not work for someone else.

Arthritis is far more complicated than simple inflammation of the joints. There are about 100 different types of arthritis, and at least that many herbs have been used over the centuries to treat the condition. In fact, plants can be potent partners in fighting inflammation, and more animal studies have been conducted on the anti-inflammatory activity of medicinal plants than any other research category.

With all the reputed herbs for arthritis, you might have to experiment to find the treatment that works best for you. But caution is in order—this sort of experimentation has led some arthritis sufferers to try questionable practices, such as ingesting highly toxic pokeweed berries, encouraging live bees to sting the affected area, or flailing inflamed joints with stinging nettles.

Herbs such as cayenne, devil’s claw, and yucca are safer alternative treatments for arthritis. Each of these herbs has demonstrated some effectiveness in treating arthritis by reducing inflammation, relieving pain, or increasing joint movement. If you choose any or all of these herbs, however, please do so only under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner.

Capsaicin for Pain

One herb that has found its place in conventional management of pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is cayenne (Capsicum annuum), or more specifically, the pungent component in cayenne, capsaicin. Both over-the-counter and prescription ointments and creams containing capsaicin are prescribed by physicians and can be found at your local pharmacy.

The concentration of capsaicin in topical preparations is typically 0.025 to 0.075 percent. A single dose of capsaicin causes minor pain, producing a burning sensation on the skin, along with inflammation and hypersensitivity. However, repeated, long-term application leads to desensitization, numbing of pain, and some reduction in inflammation.

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