Hey Laura, are there effective natural pain relievers for arthritis?

Emily writes:

My mum has arthritis in her thumbs and it gives her a lot of pain. I want to look for something to help her but I dont really know where to start. Do you know of any herbal (or just generally non toxic) remedies that I can suggest to her to relieve it.


Luckily, there are a lot of effective and natural ways to combat the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis!


Diet and nutrition
Probably the most important thing your mom can do is to change her diet. Avoiding inflammatory foods can really help…you guessed it: reduce inflammation! Dairy, sugary, salty, and fatty foods, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, etc.), alcohol and caffeine all contribute to inflammation. Even if she can’t give up all of these things, reducing them or cutting some of them out could really help. I’d suggest drastically cutting back on the dairy and nightshades for a couple weeks to see if that helps.

Clinical research shows show that cultures with diets rich in Omega-3 fatty acids have a lower rate of inflammatory disease (and heart disease as well - think the “Mediterranean Diet”). While research has focused mainly on rheumatoid arthritis (which is an autoimmune disease), osteoarthritis (the kind that shows up as we age) also seems to benefit from the addition of fatty acids.

She can add an Omega-3 supplement (fish oil or flax seed oil) or simply increase her intake of foods rich in Omega-3s: salmon, sardines, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds and flax oil or seeds.


Supplements
Studies have shown varying degrees of joint pain relief from Green Lipped Mussel, Glucosamine and Chondroitin (for moderate to severe pain), Shark Cartilage (probably because it is a source of chondroitin), MSM, Devil’s Claw, and Turmeric, among others. Thankfully lots of natural joint supplements like this one, contain almost all of the above ingredients. If one isn’t actually effective, maybe the other ones will be!


Acupuncture
There’s a sufficient body of evidence that acupuncture helps reduce the inflammation of the joints.


Topical relief
Used topically in gel form, Arnica is as effective as ibuprofen at reducing stiffness and sore joints. Boiron’s Arnica gel is a good one to try.

Studies suggest that capsacin cream can also relieve pain, but this is not something you want to be rubbing onto your hands, so it might not be a good solution for your mom!


Very alternative alternatives
Here are some anecdotal-evidence-only remedies that I ran across whilst Googling. People swear by them (the comments on the first two are hysterical!) and it probably can’t hurt to try them!

Gin soaked golden raisins.

Welches grape juice and Certo pectin.

Baltic amber - actually, we’ve had great results with amber necklaces for teething pain. Perhaps a bracelet for your mom would help!


If you want more extensive reading, this article from the University of Maryland medical center is pretty exhaustive on all the various forms in which arthritis relief can come.

Hey Laura, I think... Hey Laura, are there effective natural pain relievers for arthritis?

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