Painful joints can have such a devastating effect on the quality of our lives and make us feel much older than our chronological age. Living with vibrant health requires good self-care, but it can be hard to stay motivated when we are experiencing pain on a daily basis. Although there are many causes for joint pain, reducing joint pain naturally with diet and herbs can offer significant relief.
There is a surprising amount of research supporting the use of herbs, supplements, essential oils and dietary changes for reducing arthritis and joint pain.
Natural Remedies for Joint Pain
Diet and Joint Pain
Making adjustments in our diet can lead to significant relief for most types of joint pain. Focus on reducing foods that increase inflammation, and include more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to reduce and soothe inflammation.
Eating well doesn’t have to be restrictive, or difficult. It’s all about finding a healthy balance that works for you. Pay attention to the signals your body sends.
Reduce inflammatory foods
- Simple sugars
- Processed foods high in omega-6 fatty acids (safflower oil, corn oil, canola oil)
- Saturated and trans fats (processed foods)
- Refined carbohydrates
- Gluten and casein (for many people)
Increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory foods will help the body reduce the inflammatory response. Aim to include these in your daily and weekly meal plan:
- Antioxidant rich fruits – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, goji berries
- Antioxidant rich vegetables –cabbage, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, winter squash
- Antioxidant rich herbs and spices – clove, cinnamon, turmeric, cocoa, basil, ginger, thyme
- Homemade bone broth made using bones from grass-fed, organic beef and chicken
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen and COX-2 inhibitors. Research in 2012 found ginger extract reduced inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis as effectively as steroids (Source). Earlier studies showed reduced osteoarthritis pain in knee and hip joints with daily supplementation for three months.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s block inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins, and are converted by the body into powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals called resolvins. Taking 1,000 mg of fish oil supplements once a day for 8 weeks reduced pain and improved functioning in people suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. And getting more omega-3s helped people with rheumatoid arthritis reduce their reliance on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Turmeric/Curcumin (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric has a long history of use in the ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine systems, and today there are thousands of peer-reviewed research articles demonstrating the health benefits of turmeric. Curcumin is the chemical in turmeric that reduces joint pain and swelling by blocking inflammatory cytokines and enzymes. Several studies using a turmeric supplement demonstrated long-term improvement in pain and function in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Capsaicin is the substance responsible for the heat in hot peppers. Research has shown significant pain relief for osteo and rheumatoid arthritis with the application of capsaicin cream four times a day for two weeks. Capsaicin is available as a topical cream, gel, or patch. You can also make your own cayenne salve for pain relief. The Herbal Academy has a simple, but highly effective recipe using cayenne, ginger, and turmeric – Warming Ginger Cayenne Pain Relief Salve.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are structural components of cartilage, and help support and cushion joints. In addition, glucosamine appears to have natural anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties.
Studies on the effectiveness of these popular supplements for treating pain and swelling associated with osteoarthritis have been mixed.
Although no serious side effects have been found with taking these supplements, both glucosamine and chondroitin may interact with blood thinning drugs like warfarin (Coumadin) and should be used with caution.
Real Bone Broth
Did you know you can get both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate from homemade bone broth? Real, homemade bone broth using (organic, grass-fed) chicken and beef bones will provide you with a great source of joint-supporting nutrients like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, collagen, and gelatin. You can read more about the ways bone broth supports healthy joints and overall health here.
SAM-e acts as a pain reliever and has anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows it may stimulate cartilage growth. Studies show the use of SAM-e offers similar pain relief as NSAIDs, but without the side effects.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil comes from a flowering shrub native to North and South America. The seeds contain high levels of gamma-linolenic (GLA), an essential omega-6 fatty acid. Research on the use of evening primrose oil for reducing joint pain in rheumatoid arthritis is not conclusive, but there is some evidence it can reduce morning stiffness and offers anti-inflammatory benefits.
Other Natural Remedies for Joint Pain
Epsom Salt Soaks
High in magnesium and sulfates, Epsom salts are easily absorbed through the skin to provide quick relief as they lower inflammation, reduce muscle spasms and relax tense areas.
There are two effective ways to use Epsom salts –
Add two cups of Epsom salts to warm bathwater and soak for 20 minutes, or create a compress by diluting two cups of salts into a gallon of water and soaking a towel in the salt water for several minutes. Apply the towel to the sore area and re-soak after 10 minutes.
Essential Oils for Joint Pain
Essential oils are rapidly absorbed through the skin, delivering benefits quickly.
Frankincense and Myrrh Essential Oils
The active components in both frankincense and myrrh have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties (source), and research shows the combination of frankincense and myrrh to be most effective in reducing inflammation and pain in joints.
Peppermint and Eucalyptus Essential Oils
Applying peppermint and eucalyptus oils to spots that are inflamed and swollen will help relieve heat, swelling, and discomfort (source). The cooling menthol of these oils help remove heat and discomfort as the oils are absorbed. In animal studies, these oils were able to reduce swelling and fluid retention.
Pain-relieving Remedies to Make at Home:
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Wishing you health and pain-free living,