Arthritis affects joints year round, however many people find it harder to manage the symptoms around the cooler, wetter months. Herbs have been used for centuries for joint pain and here are a few hand-picked highlights where modern research is helping confirm traditional use....
Rose hip: Rosa canina, fruit from the blossom of wild roses. Often used as supplemental vitamin C to help recover from colds and flu-like infections. The Research: Taking a rose hip powder for 3-4 months reduced pain and stiffness, improved function and mobility, and decreased use of rescue medication in patients with osteoarthritis compared to placebo.
Turmeric: Curcuma longa This curcumin-containing rhizome has long been used for digestive complaints and as an anti-inflammatory. The Research: Taking a turmeric extract significantly reduced use of painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) whilst another study showed that turmeric worked as well as ibuprofen for pain reduction in osteoarthritis. Extract of Curcumin may also reduce morning stiffness, walking time, and joint swelling in Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Devils Claw: Harpagophytum procumbens is used traditionally for many joint aches and pains including arthritis, gout, myalgia, lumbago and tendonitis as well as migraines. The Research: Taking devil's claw orally can help lessen back pain and pain of osteoarthritis allowing patients to decrease use of NSAID’s for pain relief
White willow: Salix alba. Traditionally used for headache, pain, myalgia, gout, arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Aspirin was derived from this plant as it contains a group of anti-inflammatory compounds called salicylates. The Research: Taking a willow bark extract daily can reduce lower back pain and reduce the pain of osteoarthritis.
Ginger. Zingiber officinale has many traditional uses including assisting digestion, easing sickness and nausea, improving circulation and as an anti-infective. The Research: Taking ginger extracts can reduce the pain of standing after walking, and joint stiffness.
Massage therapy using an aromatic essential oil containing 1% ginger and 0.5% orange can also ease muscle and joint pain and stiffness.
Frankincense: The resin of Boswelia serrata is used for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), rheumatism, bursitis, and tendonitis as well as ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory conditions. The Research: Several studies have shown it to reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis and in a clinical trial, taking two capsules of a product with ashwagandha turmeric and zinc three times daily significantly improved pain, morning stiffness, grip strength and disability scores in RA.
Chilli: Capsicum minimum is traditionally used to stimulate circulation, improve digestion, ease toothache, pain relief and muscle spasm to name a few. The Research: Its active constituent; capsaicin interferes with pain signals to reduce pain and stiffness in arthritic joints.
Over the counter tips:
The THR (Traditional Herbal Registration) logo shows that a herbal product meets safety and quality standards. If buying a product without the THR label, choose well recognized brands such as Potters Herbals, Pukka & Natures Aid.
Always check with a Registered Herbal Practitioner before taking herbal products if you are taking conventional medicines too.
For more complex cases it is better to seek help from a Registered Herbal Practitioner who will take your whole health into consideration and prescribe a herbal medicine tailored to your own specific health needs and that can be taken alongside any conventional medicine you may be taking.