Herbs and Spices for Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptom Relief
Herbs and spices can be used as natural remedies to reduce the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). According to the Arthritis Foundation, adding certain herbs and spices as part of an anti-inflammatory diet could have an additive effect on arthritic symptoms. It’s important to note that herbs or supplements should never take the place of standard medical care for RA. Always consult with a doctor before starting on any supplement, as some can pose harmful interactions with other medications.
Ginger: used in Asian medicine and cuisine for centuries, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger has the ability to suppress inflammatory molecules called leukotrienes and to synthesize prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that cause pain and inflammation.
Thyme: a fragrant herb that has high antioxidant capabilities, thyme has been found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that could be therapeutic for rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, thyme was found to be the most commonly used herbal medicine among people with RA.
Turmeric: this golden spice has been used in ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for a variety of conditions, including arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders. Besides having anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric and curcumin (the active ingredient that gives turmeric its yellow color) also have analgesic effects. Remember to consult with a doctor before trying turmeric because it has blood-thinning properties.
Green Tea: consumed in Asia for millennia, green tea contains polyphenols, which are antioxidant-rich substances that can help reduce inflammation, protect joints, and trigger changes in immune responses that would ease the severity of arthritis. So treat yourself to a daily tea break with a cup of hot or cold green tea and do your joints a world of good.
Cinnamon: a delicious spice, cinnamon has powerful antioxidant properties that help inhibit cell damage from free radicals. Studies have found that those with rheumatoid arthritis who have consumed cinnamon powder had a significant decrease in blood levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), as well as reduced disease activity, including tender and swollen joints. Caution: large doses of the spice may interfere with blood clotting and blood thinner medications.
Garlic: sliced, minced, or chopped, fresh garlic may help ease rheumatoid arthritis pain. Garlic contains diallyl disulfide, an anti-inflammatory compound that decreases the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Garlic has anti-arthritic activity — it prevents cartilage destruction and reducing inflammation.
Black Pepper: We use it everyday to add a dash of flavor to dishes. But did you know that black pepper has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and gastro-protective effects. Pepper inhibits swelling and the production of cytokines; and may relieve inflammation, pain, and other symptoms of arthritis.
Cayenne: and other chili peppers contain capsaicinoids, which are natural compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Many ointments and creams containing capsaicin (the main ingredient in cayenne) are available to relieve arthritis and osteoarthritis pain. Cayenne may interact with different medicines, so be sure to talk to a doctor before trying this supplement.
Willow Bark: has significant anti-inflammatory properties and reduces various markers of inflammation. Consult with a doctor before taking willow bark, as it may increase the action of aspirin or an NSAID.
Borage Seed Oil: The oil comes from the seeds of the borage plant. It’s a rich source of gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a type of omega-6 fatty acid. Daily oral supplements of borage seed oil may significantly improve joint tenderness, swelling, and pain.
Devil’s Claw: A plant used for centuries in Africa to treat pain and many other medical conditions; devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) has considerable anti-inflammatory effects. People with rheumatic disorders experienced significant improvements in pain, stiffness, and function, especially in the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, and back. Devil’s claw is effective at helping knee and hip pain. Caution: do not take devil's claw if you're pregnant or have gallstones or ulcers. It may affect your heart rate and could interfere with blood-thinning and cardiac medications, as well as diabetes medications.
Ashwagandha: also called “Indian ginseng,” is an herbal treatment that’s been used for thousands of years to ease pain and joint swelling in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Ashwagandha is generally safe for people with RA. However, it may interact with diabetes or thyroid medicines. Additionally, pregnant women should talk to their providers before taking ashwagandha.
Adding herbs and spices to your diet for their anti-inflammatory properties is generally safe. However, always make sure to check with a doctor first. After all, some herbal supplements can cause unpleasant side effects or interact with medication you may be taking.