Osteoarthritis (also referred to as OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting the synovial joints and specifically characterised by loss of cartilage within the joint and accompanied the overgrowth of the underlying bone and border of the joint.
There are multiple causes of OA, it begins predominantly in our middle years and its incidence increases with age.
OA affects both the spinal and peripheral joints, and while many believe OA to be a process associated with aging, it is more likely that OA is the end result of many diseases associated with the joints.
All alternative osteoarthritis treatments, including medicinal herb should focus on the most important factors in treating OA – which is the ageing of the connective tissue, family history, lifestyle and previous joint disease that is characterised by inflammation.
The principle signs of OA are, bony changes of the joints, tenderness in line with the joints, loss of movement and often there will joint crepitus, where the sensation of bone rubbing on bone occurs when the joint is moved.
Medicinal herbs for osteoarthritis treatment should reduce inflammation, pain and further degeneration of the joints.
Medicinal herbs can be used on their own or as an addition to conventional medication and along with a proper diet could go a long way to alleviate many of the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.
It is vital though that the use of any medicinal herbs, especially in conjunction with conventional medication, is discussed prior to uses with a reputable health care professional.
Medicinal Herbs for Osteoarthritis
Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
This herb is a popular choice for OA because of its anti-inflammitory action.
It is also known for its success in treating muscle pain (myalgia), the dual action of devil’s claw is supportive in those with arthritis.
Devil’s claw will also stimulate digestion due to its bitter principles; and the foundation of any naturopathic treatment always looks to improving digestion.
Devil’s claw has also shown in one study from 2003 to reduce muscle pain for patients with mild to moderate back pain.
Devil’s claw should be used where there is musculo-skeletal pain associated with inflammation. Note that the herb is not indicated if there are gastric ulcers or hyperchlorhydria (over production of digestive juices).
Cayenne (Capsicum annum)
Cayenne has a unique method of action to relieve pain.
A resinous compound within it, capsaicin gives this herb its heat and spicy flavour.
Applied topically, in ointment form, this herb will relieve the pain associated with OA.
Various commercial capsaicin creams are available, generally in 0.025% and 0.075% strengths, with one to three applications needed daily.
It is best to use the milder form, and resort to the higher concentration ointment if necessary.
It is essential to wear disposable gloves or wash thoroughly with soap after applying. Capsaicin cream will not treat the cause of pain, and should be seen as a supportive measure at best, and as part of an overall treatment of your osteoarthritis.
Celery Seed (Apium graveolens)
Celery seed extract is an anti-inflammatory and is useful in combating chronic inflammation.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
This broad spectrum herb owes its anti-inflammatory activity to the inhibition of the enzymes involved in arachidonic acid metabolism, which reduces the synthesis of inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes responsible for inflammation processes in OA.
Secondarily, Ginger is a circulatory stimulant and increases circulation to arthritic joints and increases the effectiveness of other arthritic herbs in a formula.
Seventy-five percent of osteoarthritis patients found their pain and swelling reduced, and all patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief of pain, in an uncontrolled clinical study using dried ginger.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Research into the anti-inflammatory activity the plant’s vibrant yellow rhizome has focused on the constituent curcumin, an inhibitor of arachidonic acid metabolism.
In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial, osteoarthritis patients received a preparation containing turmeric, withania (ashwaganda), boswellia serrata and a zinc complex or placebo for three months.
This combination of medicinal herbs and mineral therapy provided a significant improvement in arthritic symptoms.
Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)
Boswellia resin is an anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medicine. The active constituents, boswellic acids, reduce the formation of inflammatory leukotrienes.
This herb is indicated in the treatment of many inflammatory conditions including OA and is specifically indicated in the treatment of children suffering from juvenile chronic arthritis.
Other natural herbs that have been used for osteoarthritis treatment.
- Chamomile – (Matricaria recutita)
- Dong quai – (Angelica sinensis)
- Pau d’arco – (Tabebuia avellanedae)
- Dandelion – (Taraxacum officinale)
- European Ash – (Fraxinus excelsior)
- Artichoke – (Cynara scolymus)
- Comfrey – (Symphytum officinale)
- Duckweed – (Lemna minor)
Other Natural Remedies For Osteoarthritis Treatments
Alternative osteoarthritis treatment, from a nutritional perspective, is best undertaken under the guidance of a qualified health care practitioner who understands his patient particular nutritional needs.
However, broadly speaking, Glucosamine, 15mg daily, Vitamin C, A and E in combination with a high potency B Complex and the minerals Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium in conjunction with a diet high in essential fatty acids and low in processed food will go a long way in relieving many of the symptoms.