This information is not intended as medical advice. Consult your health care practitioner to determine which therapy is best for you, especiallyif you are pregnant, considering pregnancy or are taking other herbs or medications.
Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)
Boswellia, an extract from the Boswellia serrata tree, has been extensively studied in humans and found to have several powerful antiarthritic effects. It inhibits inflammatory factors, acts as an analgesic and may also improve circulation to damaged joints and inflamed tissue. In one placebo-controlled study, 70 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients had a reduction in pain and stiffness. A standardized dose of 200 mg, twice daily, was given to research subjects (Agents Action, 1986, vol. 18).
Bromelain (Anas comosus) Bromelain, taken between meals, inhibits "bad" prostaglandin production and reduces inflammation (Japanese Journal of Pharmacology, 1972, vol. 22). It is measured in milk-clotting units (mcu) or gelatin-dissolving units (gdu). If you are allergic to pineapple, do not take bromelain because it is a pineapple derivative.
Chondroitin sulfate is a natural body lubricant that provides cartilage with its elasticity and provides protection for bones that are in contact with one another. It acts as a shock absorber for joints and helps to transport nutrients to joint spaces. Chondroitin sulfate is most often sold in nutritional supplements along with glucosamine sulfate. Studies comparing chondroitin sulfate to NSAIDs found chondroitin to be more effective at halting inflammation and edema (Journal of Rheumatology, 1996, vol. 23).
Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
In the past 20 years, studies have confirmed that devil's claw is a potent anti-inflammatory. When standardized devil's claw was studied in 50 arthritis patients, results found symptoms and severity of pain were markedly decreased. Controlled clinical research in Europe compared the efficacy of a standard antiarthritic drug, phenylbutazone, with devil's claw. The results revealed devil's claw to be more effective in reducing pain and inflammation without the unpleasant side effects associated with the prescription drug (Journal of Medecine Actuelle, 1985, vol. 12).
is a hormone produced by the body that acts as an anti-inflammatory. Stressful events cause a release of cortisol that cause our DHEA levels to drop. Low DHEA levels are also seen in those with inflammation and high levels of IL-6 and IL-1, both known to cause inflammation and pain. By increasing our DHEA levels, it may be possible to control cortisol, IL-6 and IL-1. Plant sterols and sterolins help control cortisol and are used by the body to make DHEA naturally. Have your DHEA tested by your doctor to make certain you are in the normal range. DHEA supplements are not available in Canada.
Touted as the "arthritis cure," glucosamine sulfate has been shown in more than a dozen human trials to be as good as, or better than, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in controlling inflammation and pain (Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 1994, vol. 2). Glucosamine normalizes cartilage metabolism while preventing its breakdown and acts as a shock absorber, lubricating and repairing joint tissue. Cartilage repair generally takes two to three months.
According to authors Stanley W. Jacob, MD, Ronald M. Lawrence, MD, PhD and Martin Zucker of MSM, The Natural Solution for Pain (Berkley Books, NY), MSM relieves pain and reduces inflammation, scar tissue formation and muscle spasm. Research reported in The Journal of Anti-aging Medicine (Summer 1998 ) found that when eight patients were given 2,250 mg of MSM daily and six patients were given placebo, those treated with MSM indicated they had better than 80 percent reduction in pain after six weeks of treatment.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or algae control inflammation by decreasing IL-1 and inhibiting enzymes that cause inflammation. A tremendous amount of research has evaluated the anti-inflammatory effects of fish oils, though the dosage varies from study to study (Arthritis and Rheumatism, 1994, vol. 37).
Plant Sterols and Sterolins According to a paper published in 1998 by PJD Bouic, PhD (Arthritis Trust of America Newsletter, Summer 1998), plant sterols and sterolins were able to control the release of immune factors, thereby halting the immune process that ultimately destroys cartilage. Most importantly, sterols and sterolins also stopped autoantibody production and the release of IL-6, IL-1 and IL-4 in rheumatoid arthritis. Testimonials touting remission for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers spawned a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted in South Africa under the direction of Bouic. Results are soon to be published. In addition, a double-blind, US-based, placebo-controlled study is in process to verify the remission rates discovered in North American rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.
Tumeric (Curcuma longa)
Esteemed by Ayurvedic practitioners for centuries, turmeric contains anti-inflammatory curcuminoids, active substances found in turmeric. These reduce pain by blocking the enzymes that cause inflammation. Several double-blind studies have shown dramatic improvements in symptoms experienced by rheumatoid arthritis sufferers (Indian Journal of Medical Research, 1980, vol. 71). Turmeric is also an antioxidant.
Vitamin A helps increase the positive immune factors that turn off the inflammatory- and pain-causing immune factor IL-1. Pregnant women should take vitamin A only under a physician's supervision, as it can cause birth defects.
Vitamin E decreases inflammatory prostaglandins that are associated with pain and inflammation. It also decreases the negative effects of stress. Stressors cause the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol then causes the inflammatory immune factor IL-6 to be released. Vitamin E also increases the positive immune factor that keep IL-1 and IL-6 under control. (International Journal of Vitamin Nutrient Research, 1984, vol. 26).
Willow Bark (Salix alba) Willow bark, an ancient remedy used to treat fevers and arthritic complaints, is often referred to as nature's aspirin. Salicin is its active ingredient. Many human studies have evaluated willow bark's ability to rapidly relieve pain and reduce inflammation (Fact, 1998, vol.3).