There are a lot of herbs and spices that have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with arthritis and joint discomfort.
Herbs for arthritis relief
Aloe vera: This succulent perennial plant is a natural joint healer. There are over 250 species of aloe, but only five of them have any nutritional value. Aloe vera is loaded with vitamins A, B, C and E. These vitamins are anti-inflammatory as well as strong antioxidants.
It also contains bradykinin, salicylate, and other natural steroids that help reduce inflammation. Aloe vera also contains glucosamine, a natural compound found in the cartilage of joints. You can take aloe vera either as a juice or as capsules. An aloe vera gel can be applied directly on the swollen and painful joints for topical relief. Any way you take this joint-friendly plant, it can help reduce the inflammation and pressure around the joints, making movement easier.
Boswellia: In ancient times, boswellia was considered so valuable that it was one of the choice gifts brought by the wise men to baby Jesus. For centuries, this resin, also called frankincense, has been used in perfumes, incense sticks, and for therapeutic purposes.
The resin, which is derived from the gum of boswellia trees, has also been used in Ayurvedic medicine. Ancient medical texts suggest the resin of boswellia has good anti-inflammatory and joint supporting properties. Modern clinical research has identified that certain acids, especially acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) from this plant help counteract inflammation. In preclinical research, AKBA has been shown to help regulate immune functions and reduce inflammation in joints.
Ginger: Like Boswellia, ginger has been used medicinally for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine as a natural anti-inflammatory food. Recent research on the therapeutic effects of spices, conducted at Odense University in Denmark, confirms what the ancient Indian doctors knew.
In the clinical studies done at the university, people suffering with arthritic pain showed significant improvements in pain, swelling and morning stiffness by eating ginger daily.
The research also found that ginger was superior to non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Tylenol or Advil – in addition to blocking the formation of the inflammatory compounds, ginger also has antioxidant effects that break down existing inflammation and acidity in the fluid within the joints.
Ginger's active ingredients, gingerols, possess anti-inflammatory characteristics responsible for its medicinal actions. Gingerols work by preventing the formation of cytokines, an immune chemical that triggers inflammation.
Fresh or dried ginger can be added to stir-fries, curries and soups. But if that doesn't appeal to your tastes, try this simple ginger tea: Add chopped ginger (a one-inch piece) to a quart of water and boil on the stove for 30 to 60 minutes. Add one to three drops of stevia to sweeten each cup of tea. Drink three cups daily to reduce arthritic or muscle pain.
While on the subject of tea, it's good to know that green tea helps reduce inflammation in the body.
Willow bark: If you've seen the Harry Potter movies, you would have seen the willow tree on the grounds of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In fact, the way the bark of a two- to three-year-old willow tree helps relieve aching joints, well, you might think it's magic. It isn't. It's pure science.
The main chemical that gives willow bark its therapeutic effects is salicin. Experts say that when the body processes salicin, it turns it into salicylic acid, which is the chemical precursor to Aspirin. No wonder many people refer to willow bark as "Nature's Aspirin." There are many studies that willow bark provides effective relief for lower back aches and the aching of arthritic joints.
And the good thing is, willow bark does not have any of the harsh side effects of Aspirin.
Cat's claw: A Peruvian vine, cat's claw gets its name form pairs of large curved thorns that grow on the side of the vine. Natives of the South American jungles, have used cat's claw for thousands of years as a medicine to treat inflammatory conditions like arthritis and joint aches.
Cat's claw was first popularized by the German natural scientist, Arturo Brell, who migrated from Munich to Peru in 1926. While living in Peru, Dr. Brell found that the natives of the rain forests used it to treat inflammatory conditions. When Dr. Brell used cat's claw to treat his rheumatic pain, he found considerable relief.
Modern researchers found that cat's claw is a rich source of phytochemicals like alkaloids, tannins, flavonoids, and phytosterols that can help prevent and fight inflammation.
Caution: Please do not confuse the Peruvian herb with another "cat's claw" that grows in northern Mexico and southern Texas. The Mexican cat's claw has no known health benefits and its bark may even be poisonous.
Avocado-soybean extract: Nowadays, as the trend is more toward natural remedies, there's a great deal of interest in the use of botanical material for the relief of joint aches and arthritis. Of these, a class of biologically active compounds classified as unsaponifiable lipids are proving to be highly effective – especially the unsaponifiables from avocado and soy beans. Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables, or ASUs as they are commonly called, are a natural vegetable extract made from one-third avocado oil and two-thirds soybean oil.
ASU blocks pro-inflammatory chemicals, prevents deterioration of synovial cells (which line the joints) and may help regenerate normal connective tissue. ASU has been researched extensively and has been proven as a safe natural alternative for the relief of arthritis symptoms. In fact, the French government has tracked ASU's safety record for more than 15 years and has yet to find any significant problems.
In addition to the above herbs for arthritis relief, there are a lot of herbs that have been used as a natural support for joint health. Some of these, like eucalyptus, green tea, thunder vine, turmeric, and garlic have also been proven as natural herbs for treating joint pains. Also bromelain, an extract from the pineapple plant, demonstrates anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and is being researched as a cure for joint pain.
Of course, the thing with most of these herbs is that you have to be patient for results. In most cases, the speed of action depends on how long the arthritis has been present in the joints.
And yes, before you start replacing your meds, with these herbs for natural pain relief, make sure you talk to a doctor first. They will not only advise you on how to taper off your drugs, they will also be able to track the prognosis of your symptoms.