Natural Herbal Remedies for Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than 21 million Americans. Cartilage is a firm and sinewy material that covers the ends of joints, acting as a “shock absorber,” to reduce friction when the bones move. This shock-absorbing ability enables the cartilage to change shape when compressed during movement. Over time, cartilage can wear out, eroding its cushiony effects. The painful result? The joints become inflamed resulting in painful joints, swelling and limited range of motion. Most people over 60 have some form of osteoarthritis, though people in their 20’s and 30’s can get osteoarthritis too. Osteoarthritic pain is common in weight bearing joints of hips, knees, and spine. It can also affect fingers, thumbs, neck and large toe. While prescribed medication or surgery (in severe cases) can provide relief; many turn to herbal l treatments to address this debilitating condition. These herbs are reputed to ease inflammation or build up cartilage to reduce friction.
Natural is the way to go according to Carol Wolin-Riklin, MA, licensed dietitian and nutrition coordinator at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, Texas. She made this pertinent point, “A goal of active participation in your osteoarthritis disease treatment should be to reduce pain and inflammation and increase movement and function without dependence on medication. This can be achieved through weight loss and natural supplements.”
Exercise is important as excess weight can add burden to the already inflamed joints. If you’re already doing that, consider natural cures that can easily be found in your local grocery market or your natural and health food stores. Most natural cures can also be purchased from specialty online stores.
Green tea has already been linked to many health benefits from preventing cardiovascular diseases to promoting good skin. Researchers at the University of Sheffield uncovered more benefits: Green tea’s active ingredients, EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) and ECG (epicatechin gallate) can block enzymes that destroy cartilage and reduce swelling and pain related to osteoarthritis. Dr. David Buttle, involved in above-mentioned study further adds that green tea should be taken as a preventive measure as its capabilities to repair already damaged cartilage is not clear.
If you are taking green tea extracts, aim for 250 – 500 mg daily or drink green tea daily.
In Ayurvedic medicine or the Hindu system of medicinal practices, ginger is often used to treat inflammation and rheumatism, together with other herbs, purgatives and rubbing oils. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a study involving 261 people with osteoarthritis, those who took ginger extract twice a day experience less pain and required less pain-killing medications. Why? Ginger inhibits the synthesis of prostaglandin and leukotriene, both inflammatory mediators.
Include ginger in your diet—grated ginger can be added to food, desserts, marinades and sauces for that extra zing. Steep slices of fresh ginger in boiling water to make a refreshing ginger drink (honey optional). For arthritis relief, you can also take 2 – 4 grams of ginger juice, extract or tea. Ginger oil can be used applied topically to painful joint. You can also make a poultice of fresh ginger and apply to painful areas.
A recent study conducted by the Baylor Research Institute uncovered a promising osteoarthritic pain reliever—cherry. More than half of the patients involved in this study reported significant improvement in pain and function after taking tart cherry pills for 8 weeks. Dr. John Cush, rheumatologist and principal researcher in this study recommends taking CherryFlex, made from ground Montmorency whole tart cherries as it has a significant impact on osteoarthritis.
According to Russel Reiter, nutrition researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center, cherries have a unique antioxidant profile that works like some types of pain medication. Anthocyanins, responsible for the bright red color in cherries work to reduce levels of nitric oxide, a compound associated with osteoarthritis.
You can easily find cherries all year round in fresh, dried, frozen or juice form. Incorporate them in your diet as snacks, in smoothie or as topping for desserts and cereals.
Turmeric is the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat rheumatic conditions, digestive and liver problems as well as skin diseases. According to nlm.nih.gov., laboratory and animal studies show that curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial for treating osteoarthritis.
Turmeric is often used in Asian and Indian cooking to flavor curries, stew or to marinate meat and fish. You can also find turmeric supplements and extracts.
Often known as “Indian Frankincense,” Boswellia is commonly used in Ayurveda medicine. The resin of Boswellia tree is rich in boswellic acid, a substance endowed with anti-inflammatory effects. Its unique anti-inflammatory action acts very much like the conventional anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS such as Tylenol, aspirin or ibuprofen) used to mediate inflammatory conditions but without all the side-effects (irritation and ulceration of the stomach is a common complaint).
This curative power is validated by a double-study of 30 people in which participants either received boswellia or placebo for 8 weeks and then made a switch over for another additional 8 weeks. The results revealed that those who took boswellia showed significantly greater improvement in knee pain, knee mobility, and improvement in walking abilities than those placed on placebo.
Capsaicin is an active ingredient in chili peppers and is responsible for lending a spicy hit to food. This “burning” sensation is put to good use in many topical creams to relieve osteoarthritis. Double-blind research confirmed the benefits of using cayenne creams containing 0.025 to 0.075 percent capsaicin to bring relief to osteoarthritis.
A native plant of southern Africa, most of the world’s supply of devil’s claw comes from Namibia, with some coming from South Africa and Bostwana. Named for its small hooks on the plant’s fruit, devil’s claw is anything but evil. It contains an active ingredient called harpagosides, found in the secondary root. Its healing powers have been utilized to treat fever, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, skin conditions and conditions involving gall bladder, pancreas, stomach and kidneys. It has a bitter taste and the tea form is thought to stimulate digestive juices.
Used as an herbal remedy in ancient Roman and Greek medicine, horsetail continues to exert its medicinal powers. The plant’s stem is particularly rich in silica and silicic acids, both of which helps to mend broken bones and form collagen, an important protein found in connective tissue, skin, bone, cartilage and ligaments. This silicon content is believed to have an anti-arthritic action.
Licorice is a flavorful herb, often used in food and medicinal remedies and its health benefits have been used for thousands of years. Also known as “sweet root,” licorice has a compound that is approximately 50 times sweeter than sugar. Another main compound, Glycyrrhizin, is believed to contribute to the herb’s healing power. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, laboratory studies showed that glycyrrhizin reduces inflammation, promotes secretion of mucous (usually associated with coughing), soothes irritation, protects stomach and gastrointestinal tract, and stimulates the activity of the adrenal glands which regulates cortisol, the stress hormone.
If you drive to Las Vegas, you’ll see Yucca growing wild on the sides of the road. Apart from its quirky beauty, yucca contains a saponin extract which is effective in reducing swelling and pain associated with osteoarthritis. This fact was reviewed in the Journal of Applied Nutrition.
Other anti-inflammatory herbs include white willow and celery seeds. Castor oil hot packs can be applied to painful joints for relief.
Always consult your primary physician before self-medicating.
Copyright @Angeline Oppenheimer
Other interesting health reads:
Health Benefits of Pu-erh Tea: http://hubpages.com/hub/King-of-Tea-Curative-and-Preventive-Powers-of-Pu-erh-Tea
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