We take the freedom of movement for granted, until it becomes limited. The cause of this for many people comes in the form of arthritis, or the inflammation of one or more of your joints. There are two main kinds, osteo and rheumatoid, both of which affect the joint in different ways. Osteo arthritis is when the cartilage between bones wears down, until bone grates on bone. Rheumatoid is little less straightforward, being caused by an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the synovial membrane (a soft tissue that protects joints in the body) and that can lead to bone loss. Whichever you experience, there are natural remedies for arthritis to manage the pain and ease the symptoms.
1. Turmeric & Ginger Tea
Turmeric and ginger are both anti-inflammatorys, and will help with oseto and rheumatoid arthritis. Turmeric in particular has gotten a lot of attention lately. Its active ingredient is something called curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant. In addition, it lowers the levels of 2 enzymes responsible for causing inflammation (which is what we’re often fighting with arthritis.) You can take these in a capsule form or make a nice spicy tea to enjoy daily.
You will need…
2 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Honey to taste
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, and had ½ teaspoon each ground ginger and ground turmeric. Reduce to a simmer and let it be for 10-15 minutes. Strain, add honey to taste, and enjoy twice daily. This yields 2 servings.
2. Epsom Salt Soak
Epsom salt contains magnesium sulfate which sounds kind of scary, but it’s really quite a wonderful substance. A naturally occurring mineral, magnesium sulfate has been used to get relief from pain for years, namely because of its high levels of magnesium (more on magnesium below.)
You will need…
1/2 cup of Epsom salt
A large bowl
Fill a large bowl with warm water and add ½ cup of Epsom salt. Stir it around, and then submerge your sore joints in the liquid. If you are experiencing pain in a less convenient place to soak, such as your knees, try taking a bath with Epsom salts. Run a tub full of warm water and add 2 cups of Epsom salt. Soak for 15 minutes (at least).
3. Get More Magnesium (Seriously)
Magnesium is something our bodies need, but we can’t make it ourselves. It is used in over 300 different biomechanical responses in our body. It relaxes all our muscles and nerve endings, relieving stiffness and pain. It is even part of what makes our heart beat. Not only does it relax muscles and ease pain (this goes for arthritis pain too, of course) it helps bones to mineralize. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted one of many studies on magnesium that showed people who had a diet high in magnesium/took supplements had higher bone density, and overall stronger bones. There are several ways to get more magnesium and utilize it for arthritis in particular.
Supplements: Magnesium capsules are a good thing to add to your day-to-day life, but they work best when used in conjunction with an improved diet.
Diet: Really this is the clincher-as great as supplements are, they can’t do everything. Eat foods that are high in magnesium, which include dark leafy greens (like spinach), nuts, and legumes (beans).
Oil: There is magnesium oil that can be applied topically and absorbed through the skin. Try rubbing it on sore joints to relieve pain.
4. Lubricate With Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The very consistency of olive oil makes it seem like something that would lubricate your joints and ease arthritis pain, and it turns out, it actually does. A main compound in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) called oleocanthal inhibits inflammatory enzymes COX-1 and COX-2, just like Advil or aspirin does. The study showed that 1 ½ tablespoons is equal to 200-mg of ibuprofen. However, not every oil is created equal. Heat destroys oleocanthal, so it is necessary to use extra virgin olive oil or “cold-pressed.” The ripeness of the olives at the time they were pressed also determines the level of oleocanthal-generally the stronger tasting the oil, the higher the level there is present. It can be taken internally to reap the benefits, but being high in calories consider replacing any fats, such as butter, with it in cooking instead.
You will need…
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Rub a bit of olive oil onto your sore joints twice a day, massaging in to each one gently. You can also take 2-3 tablespoons daily, but be sure to give up some other form of fat due to the high calorie count in the oil (rest easy, these are good calories).
5. Dandelion Leaves
Incredibly high in vitamins A and C, dandelion leaves can help repair damaged tissue and help the liver clear toxins out of the blood. Studies, although limited, have also shown anti-inflammatory properties due to the linoleic and linoleic acid in them. Linoleic is an essential fatty acid required by the body to produce prostaglandin-which basically regulates immune responses and suppresses inflammation. Because of its involvement with immune responses, dandelion shows great potential when it comes to treating rheumatoid arthritis in particular. You can enjoy dandelion leaves in nice salad, or brew tea with them.
You will need…
3 teaspoons of fresh dandelion leaves, or 1 teaspoon of dried
1 cup of boiling water
A handful of fresh leaves (if making a salad)
A dash of extra virgin olive oil (if making a salad)
For fresh dandelion tea, step 3 teaspoons of fresh leaves or 1 teaspoon dried in 1 cup of boiling water. Strain and drink twice daily. Dandelion tea is very bitter…you have been warned! You can add honey to sweeten it up if you’d like. To make a salad, simply toss the greens in with another recipe, or eat them plain with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Older leaves can be gently sautéed to soften them up a bit.
6. Blackstrap Molasses Drink
High in valuable minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, blackstrap molasses has been a cherished home remedy for arthritis for a number of years. Blackstrap molasses is what remains after the 3rd boiling of sugar syrup, and is nothing like the nutrient lacking refined sugars used today. As a dietary supplement (easily consumed as a drink) blackstrap can help relieve symptoms of arthritis and joint pain, thanks to its vital constituents that regulate nerve and muscle function, and strengthen bones.
You will need…
1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses
1 cup of warm water
Heat 1 cup of fresh water until warm, but not hot. Stir in a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses and drink once daily. Do note that it can sometimes have a laxative effect.
7. White Willow Tea (the original aspirin)
Before there was aspirin, and I mean way before aspirin, there was white willow bark. The Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about it all the way back in 5th century BC. It wasn’t until 18-something or other (1829, I believe) that it was found that white willow was so effective because it contained an active ingredient called salicin. Salicin is converted in the body into salicylic acid-similar to acetyl salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. But because the naturally occurring salicin is converted after it passed through the stomach, it resulted in less irritation/side effects. While it can be taken in a capsule form, I usually opt for the tea version of just about everything.
You will need…
2 teaspoons of powdered or chipped white willow bark
1 cup of water
Honey or lemon to taste
Bring 1 cup (8 oz.) of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add 2 teaspoons of powdered or chipped white willow bark and let it infuse for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let it steep for 30 more minutes. Drink twice daily-it’s bitter, so honey and lemon are usually welcome here.
When it’s painful and difficult just to move, the last thing you feel like doing is getting up and exercising. As unpleasant as it may sound though, exercise is vital for those who suffer from any form of stiffness, joint pain, or arthritis. Exercise will help control weight (an excess of which puts more strain on your joints) strengthens the muscles that support the joint, even when the cartilage is thinning, and lubricates the joints, allowing them to move more freely. When we are inactive the synovial fluid in the joints is the consistency of a thick gel, but once we get moving and warming up, the liquid becomes more viscous and can do a better job of lubricating our joints and keeping them going smoothly. Just imagine if you were to be sedentary every day, pretty soon you’d be so stiff it’d be just about impossible to move. But if you get up and move around every day, you’ll get stronger and will loosen up as well.
Going for a brisk walk-start with 15 minutes and work your way up into a solid daily routine.
Doing joint-targeted exercises-certain stretches and exercises specifically target joints to help rid them of stiffness and pain.
Getting a dog-doing so backs up the first point, because you’ll have no choice but to walk!
9. Peppermint Eucalyptus Oil Blend
Peppermint and eucalyptus don’t change the course of the arthritis itself, but they do have analgesic, or pain-relieving, properties. The cooling sensation that they produce can temporarily override your discomfort, and create a soothing sensation that can ease the pain of arthritis.
You will need…
5-10 drops of Peppermint oil
5-10 drops of Eucalyptus oil
1-2 tablespoons of carrier oil (olive, almond, grape seed, etc).
A small dark glass bottle
Blend 5-10 drops of eucalyptus and peppermint oil together, and then mix into 1-2 tablespoons of carrier oil. Carrier oil is needed to dilute the essential oil so that it does not irritate the skin, and can be olive oil, grapeseed oil, or something of the like (not oil.) Store the oil blend in dark glass bottle away from direct sunlight, and rub into your joints when they ache.
10. Juniper Berry Tea
A 2009 research trial published in the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” found that juniper berries do indeed help with arthritis pain thanks to a component called terpinen-4-ol. Terpene suppresses a type of white blood cells called monocytes which, as a part of our immune system, respond to signals of inflammation. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks normal joint tissue for no reason, leading to inflammation, pain, and loss of function. If taken daily, juniper may be able to reduce the uncomfortable inflammation thanks to its terpene content. Only prickly juniper and common juniper varieties were effective.
Note: Do NOT drink juniper berry tea while pregnant.
You will need…
1 tablespoon of dried juniper berries
1 cup of fresh water
Bring 1 cup of fresh water to a boil, and place 1 tablespoon of dried juniper berries in a mug. Pour the boiling water over the berries and let them steep for 20 minutes before straining. Drink 1 cup twice daily, and add honey to taste if you like.
11. Golden Raisins & Gin
First off I am not recommending that you go and drink gin, but I thought this was an interesting old home remedy for arthritis. Gins flavor is derived from juniper berries (see #11 for a more in depth explanation of juniper berries) which contain anti-inflammatory properties. Golden raisins (only golden can be used in this recipe) require sulfides in their processing to give them their characteristic color. Sulfides are found in both glucosamine and chondroitin, which many people have found to be helpful remedies for arthritis. This remedy stretches back at least 20 years, and some people swear by it, while others have had limited success.
You will need…
Around 1/2 cup of gin
1 cup of golden raisins
a shallow dish
The amounts will vary depending on how big of a batch you are making, but basically you just need raisins and enough gin to just cover them, and the above amounts are just to give a general guideline. I am one of those people who, even if it is a loosely interpreted recipe, like to have some numbers to start with. Anyways, place 1 cup of golden raisins in a shallow dish, and pour in enough gin to just barely cover them. Cover with a towel and store them away in a dark place until the gin has evaporated (around 2 weeks.) Eat 9 of the raisins daily, keeping in mind the results may take several weeks to show.
12. Bosweilla Supplements
Also known as Frankincense, Bosweilla is a flowering plant native to Africa and Asia. The gum resin or extract of the plant works as an anti-inflammatory and pain-killer. It works against inflammation by ‘disabling’ white blood cells that would cause swelling, and also helps shrink tissue that has already become inflamed and painful. I am afraid I don’t have a tea recipe for this one, as it is generally taken in a tablet supplement form, much like a vitamin. It is sold at many health stores and online, and is fairly reasonably priced compared to what some other supplements cost.
13. Pectin & Grape Juice
Pectin is a water soluble carbohydrate substance found in the cell walls of plants, where it helps keep cell walls together, and gives fruit firmness as it ripens. It is extracted from fruit to use as a setting in jams and jellies, and has become popular as a home remedy for arthritis when combined with grape juice. It has been tentatively hypothesized that it helps return the synovial tissue to a more elastic and lubricated state, which results in pain-free movement. Despite the fact that more studies are needed on pectin and connective tissue many people have found, for whatever reason, great relief from their arthritis with it. The grape juice is the liquid of choice due to the fact that it can help with inflammation.
You will need…
1 tablespoon of liquid pectin
8 oz. of grape juice
Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid pectin with 8 oz. of grape juice and drink 1-2 times daily. It will take a week or two for the effects to show.
14. Cayenne ‘Capsaicin’ Ointment
A common OTC pain reliever for joint pain contains capsaicin, a component in hot peppers that inhibits something called Substance P. Substance P is involved in transmitting pain signals to our brain, and when the capsaicin interferes with it, it minimizes the alert to the discomfort, and therefore the discomfort itself. It has been one of the more effective topical treatments for arthritis, and you can make your own at home with humble cayenne. Keep in mind, however, that it is only a temporary fix and should be used sparingly if possible.
You will need…
3 tablespoons of cayenne powder
1 cup of grapeseed oil (or any other oil like almond, olive, jojoba)
1/2 cup of grated beeswax
A double boiler
A glass jar with a tightly fitting lid
Mix together 3 tablespoons of cayenne powder with 1 cup of your oil of choice and heat in a double boiler for 5-10 minutes over medium heat. Stir in a 1/2 cup of grated beeswax and continue to stir until it has melted completely and everything is blended together. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, and then whisk together. Chill for another 10-15 and then whip again before putting it in a glass jar with a tightly fitting lid and storing in the refrigerator. It will keep for 1 ½ weeks-apply daily as needed for pain.
Our body is an incredible structure that takes a great amount of strain and stress every single day-it’s really no wonder our joints, the things that allows us movement, begin to feel the burden. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the complexity of the body provides a mystery that we may or may not ever solve. Whichever form of arthritis or joint pain you happen to suffer from, a deeper understanding of what is causing it can help you determine the best way to treat it. Nature also does a surprisingly good job at healing-we wouldn’t have made it very far otherwise-and you may find great success in naturally treating your condition and regaining the freedom of movement.