Some people with arthritis feel better or have symptom relief with herbal and dietary supplements. There is much to choose from, but not much solid scientific evidence to show that they really work. Some herbs and supplements have been studied in smaller tests compared to pharmaceuticals due to several factors. First of all, high-quality studies of natural products and nutritional supplements are difficult to obtain due to the high cost of research and the difficulties with which manufacturers patent natural products. In almost every case, herbs and supplements need to be examined more to say whether they will work for arthritis or not. In this article, herbs and supplements will be considered as alternative treatments for arthritis.
However, it is up to you if you want to try. They may work for some people with arthritis, but not for others. Or they may make you feel a little better, but they will not replace your arthritis medications.
Before you take any herbal treatments or nutritional supplements, including vitamins or minerals, tell your doctor. Some herbs and supplements may interact with medicines or even do the same so that they can add to the effects of your medicines. Therefore, let your doctor know what you are taking for arthritis. Some products may not contain what is written on the bottle or packaging. Or the actual dose concentration can be very different from what is indicated on the label. Therefore, use caution and common sense before buying or trying something. Consult a doctor who is knowledgeable about nutritional supplements and can help you choose high-quality brands to increase the safety and effectiveness of your treatment regimen.
Alternative Arthritis Treatments
The following is a descriptive list of some nutritional supplements that patients have used to maintain their health. Please note that studies of these products and other alternative treatments for arthritis over time are associated with supporting or discouraging their use. Consult a doctor who is knowledgeable about natural products to get a complete assessment of the risks, benefits, and potential interactions with your medicines.
Unsaponifiable Avocado Compounds: A natural plant extract made from avocado oil and soybean oil. May improve pain or function.
Blackcurrant oil: A natural supplement derived from 15 to 20% gamma-linolenic acid. Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fats. May relieve inflammation.
Cucumber oil: made from 20 – 26% gamma-linolenic acid. Rich in essential fatty acids, which can help relieve inflammation or act to block inflammatory cells.
Boswellia: also called Indian Incense. Made from a Boswellian Serrata plant, it can relieve pain and improve joint function.
Bromelain: supplement from pineapple enzymes. Some people with arthritis find it can reduce joint pain.
Capsaicin: made from hot chili peppers. It can be used as a local cream, gel or patch. It depletes the amount of a neurotransmitter called substance P, which sends pain messages to the brain, so it can distract you from feeling pain in the joint or muscle. Avoid touching your eyes or mouth after applying capsaicin to your skin; use gloves.
Cat’s Claw: A supplement made from the wild vine found in Central and South America. It can have a healthy effect on the immune system and is part of alternative treatments for arthritis.
Chondroitin Sulfate: An additive derived from cartilage of cows, pigs or fish. It is designed to help replace worn cartilage in your joints, reduce pain and inflammation, and improve joint function. It is commonly used by people with osteoarthritis.
Curcumin: Curcumin comes from root turmeric. This herbal treatment has a strong anti-inflammatory effect, so it can help relieve joint pain and swelling.
Devil’s Claw: Supplement from a plant native to southern Africa. Used to relieve joint pain and inflammation, as well as back pain.
Dehydroepiandrosterone: Supplements made from the natural hormone made in your adrenal glands on top of your kidneys. There is strong evidence that dehydroepiandrosterone can help improve bone density and improve lupus symptoms, but there is less evidence that they help people with RA. This hormone can turn into estrogen or testosterone, so patients with cancer of the breast, ovary, testis or prostate should avoid dehydroepiandrosterone.
DMSO: also called dimethyl sulfoxide. A by-product of paper production, DMSO can be found in the form of a gel or cream and rubbed into the skin. It is intended to relieve pain and inflammation and improve joint mobility. DMSO studies for arthritis are few.12 modern treatment for Rheumatoid arthritis
Evening primrose: herbal oil rich in omega-6 fatty acids. It is used to reduce pain and inflammation, and some evidence suggests that it can relieve morning stiffness.
Fish oil: supplements of natural liver oil from oily fish in the form of capsules or fish that you consume in your diet. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It can reduce joint pain, inflammation, and morning stiffness and is an alternative treatment for arthritis.
Flaxseed oil: An herbal supplement in capsule form. It is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an important omega-3 fatty acid that builds healthy cells. It is used to relieve joint inflammation, but there is no evidence that it works for RA. Using ground flaxseed will provide more fiber with alpha-linoleic acid than linseed oil.
Ginger: A natural root, ground into powder, taken in capsule or oily form, added to food or consumed in tea, pickled or candied. Chemicals in your body that play a role in inflammation may be reduced. It can also relieve pain similar to aspirin. Effective in relieving nausea.
Gamma linoleic acid: Gamma linoleic acid found in other herbs, such as borage oil or primrose. Rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Used in the form of a supplement or food to relieve joint pain, stiffness and swelling.
Glucosamine Sulfate: An additive made from shells of fish such as shrimp or crab (avoid shellfish allergies). Glucosamine is used to slow the deterioration of articular cartilage, relieve joint pain associated with osteoarthritis, and improve joint mobility.
Green Mussel: Shellfish found in the waters of New Zealand. Its hard shells are pulverized and placed in capsules. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can have an anti-inflammatory effect and relieve joint pain.
Melatonin: A supplement containing the natural hormone found in your brain. The hormone helps control your circadian rhythms, which tell your brain when to sleep and when to wake up. Melatonin capsules can help you sleep better if the symptoms of arthritis keep you awake. Nightmares or vivid dreams may occur with these supplements.
Methylsulfonylmethane: An organic sulfur compound found in animals and plants. It is often taken in capsules or in the form of a cream that you rub into the skin. Designed to reduce pain and inflammation.
Pine bark: An herbal extract from the bark of trees. It contains procyanidins, an antioxidant that can block pro-inflammatory enzymes. Not much evidence confirms its effectiveness in RA.
Rosehip: An herbal supplement made from tiny fruits of rose hips. They are found in capsule form as well as teas. It is rich in polyphenols and anthocyanins, natural chemicals that can relieve joint inflammation. Also rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant.
St. John’s wort: An herbal supplement made from a flowering plant found mainly in Europe. It is mainly used to alleviate the symptoms of mild to moderate depression, but some say it can reduce inflammation and pain in arthritis. Do not take with birth control or HIV medication.
Nettle: An herbal supplement made from an ordinary plant that stings your skin if you clean it. It can be eaten or cooked or taken as a supplement. It is used to relieve inflammation and pain and may work best for hay fever. Its use has been studied primarily in vitro and may be useful in reducing joint pain.
Thunder God Vine: An herbal supplement made from a plant that is used to improve pain, tender joints and inflammation in RA. One large study compared it with sulfasalazine, which is used to treat RA, and found it effective, with a list of mild to moderate side effects.
Valerian: An herbal supplement made from the root of a plant. May be taken as capsules or as tea. It is mainly used to treat insomnia, but it can also relieve pain, and also have antispasmodic and sedative effects that can relax tense muscles or joints.
Vitamin C: A water-soluble vitamin, also known as ascorbic acid, which is naturally present in certain foods, such as citrus fruits. It has been shown that it creates collagen and connective tissue in the body and is included in alternative treatments for arthritis.
Vitamin D: This is actually a hormone used by every cell in the body, obtained from the conversion of inactive vitamin D to its active form when exposed to sunlight on the skin. This vitamin helps improve bone density and is inadequate in many patients who do not have enough exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D supplements can replace missing levels while avoiding skin damage. Vitamin D can become toxic if taken in large quantities over an extended period of time, so be sure to check your vitamin D-25 OH levels regularly.
Although research has been mixed on the effectiveness of most alternative treatments for arthritis for the symptoms of arthritis, some of them promise action. You will most likely find this therapy useful as part of your overall arthritis treatment plan, but they won’t be a magic cure for your symptoms or stop taking your medications.
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