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Currently, there is no cure for arthritis. Many patients choose to use supplements and herbs alongside traditional treatment for controlling their disease activity. This article outlines 12 supplements and herbs you should try if you have arthritis.

Arthritis is a condition that is characterized by joint inflammation, swelling and pain. Currently, there is no cure for arthritis but there are several medications that can help treat symptoms of arthritis and slow down progression of the disease. In addition, many people chose to take supplements and vitamins that can help treat certain specific symptoms of arthritis. Consult with your doctor before you start on a regimen of any supplement to make sure it doesn’t negatively interfere with any medications you may be on.

These are the some of the supplements and herbs you can take to help manage your arthritis.

1. Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a chemical that helps keep your cartilage (which is the cushioning at the ends of your bones) healthy. This is beneficial as the cartilage wears away in osteoarthritis, which is the most common subtype of arthritis. Breakdown of the cartilage causes extra pain and swelling. Unfortunately, natural glucosamine levels drop as people age. Thus, taking glucosamine supplements helps keep joints healthy in patients with arthritis. Additionally, glucosamine supplements help maintain an anti-inflammatory environment.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are normally found in fish oils, avocados and other types of foods, stimulate the body to produce chemicals that are anti-inflammatory. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements have been shown to be beneficial across a range of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.

3. Green tea

Green tea contains several different types of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules which can help curb inflammation and joint pain.

4. Vitamin D

This is a vitamin is that is very important for all people, but particularly important for people with joint pain. Studies have shown that patients with low vitamin D levels have more joint pain. Thus, taking vitamin D supplements can help improve arthritic pain. When it comes to taking vitamin supplements, make sure to talk to your doctor to figure out which vitamins you should take and how much the dosage should be.

5. SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine)

SAM-e is a compound that has anti-inflammatory properties and acts as a pain reliever. Therefore, using SAM-e helps stimulate growth of cartilage and increases levels of chemicals such as serotonin, which helps reduce the perception of pain. In fact, SAM-e has been shown to help relieve pain symptoms similar to pain relievers, but with less side effects and more benefit. SAM-e is best used for osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia.

6. Capsaicin

Capsaicin is the compound in peppers that makes them hot. Use of capsaicin helps reduce pain signals. Therefore, it has pain-relieving properties and has been shown in several studies to have a 50 percent reduction in joint pain. Capsaicin is available to be used a topical cream, gel or patch. This is best used for treating osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

7. Turmeric/Curcumin

Turmeric and curcumin are spices that help reduce pain and swelling in joints by causing a reduction in inflammatory chemicals and enzymes. These are two spices that are commonly found in Eastern foods. One clinical trial came to the conclusion that using a turmeric supplement causes a long-term improvement in pain and function in patients with osteoarthritis. Additionally, another study found that curcumin led to a reduction in joint pain and swelling in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

8. Avocado-soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)

ASUs are beneficial as they help block inflammatory chemicals and prevent the deterioration of cells that line joints. Additionally, ASUs help regenerate connective tissue. ASU significantly reduces progression of osteoarthritis and has been shown to improve symptoms of the disease.

9. Cat’s claw

Cat’s claw is a supplement that has powerful anti-inflammatory properties as it helps block the production of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which is the target for several different medications that treat rheumatoid arthritis. This is specifically designed for autoimmune arthritis as it interferes with joint pain and swelling. Hence, cat’s claw is used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

10. Fish Oil

Anti-inflammatory molecules known as omega-3 fatty acids help block inflammation and reduce swelling. Omega-3 fatty acids have been studied significantly for rheumatoid arthritis and use of fish oil was shown to reduce joint tenderness and stiffness. This is best used for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome.

11. Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA)

GLA is another type of fatty acid known as omega-6 fatty acid. GLA gets converted in the body into an anti-inflammatory chemical and use of GLA in patients with rheumatoid arthritis is associated with improvement in joint pain, stiffness and strength. Another study found that GLA help reduce the need for standard pain relievers. It is best used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

12. Ginger

It has long been known that ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that are similar to those of ibuprofen. In fact, a study showed that a specialized ginger extract led to a reduction in inflammatory reactions in patients with rheumatoid arthritis as effectively as steroid therapy. Furthermore, another study showed that taking ginger extract can help reduce osteoarthritis-related pain. Ginger is best used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

  • Funk, Janet L., et al. "Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis." Arthritis & Rheumatism: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology 54.11 (2006): 3452-3464.
  • Pirotta, Marie. "Arthritis disease: the use of complementary therapies." Australian family physician 39.9 (2010): 638.
  • Carlsen, Monica H., et al. "The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide." Nutrition journal 9.1 (2010): 3.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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