Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that occurs when the immune systems of the body mistakenly attacks the tissues of the joint. This autoimmune disease cannot be cured. However, the symptoms can be kept under control with appropriate treatment. Herbal remedies are often used as an adjunct to allopathic drugs or alone for reducing the pain and inflammation of the joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
The efficacy of herbs in keeping the rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups under control have been supported by a number of scientific studies. These herbs contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can act as a suitable alternative to pharmacological pain relief medications.
Herbal Remedies for Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Borage Seed Oil
Borage seed oil is a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). According to studies, GLA helps to reduce moderate pain, stiffness and tenderness of the joints. Researchers have observed that rheumatoid arthritis patients who consume about 1.4 to 2.8 grams of GLA per day experienced significant improvement in joint inflammation and tenderness.
This essential fatty acid is metabolized to DGLA, a precursor of the eicosanoid prostaglandin E1 that inhibits activities of inflammatory chemicals, thereby reducing inflammation. In addition to the anti-inflammatory property, prostaglandin E1 helps to modify immune responses. Borage seed oil is well tolerated. It is safe for long-term consumption.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil is another source of GLA. It exhibits similar anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties as borage seed oil. Rheumatoid arthritis patients can take about six grams of evening primrose oil daily to treat the arthritis pain and inflammation. Regular intake of evening primrose oil can cause significant reduction in morning stiffness.
Blackcurrant Seed Oil
Another common dietary source of GLA is blackcurrant seed oil. Findings of a clinical trial with blackcurrant seed oil revealed that rheumatoid arthritis patients who took about 10.5 grams of blackcurrant seed oil daily reported significant improvement in joint tenderness.
For ages turmeric rhizome has been has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Turmeric contains curcuminoids with powerful anti-inflammatory property.
The anti-inflammatory constituents of turmeric work by preventing local activation of inflammatory substances. Prolonged intake of turmeric can prevent destruction of the joint tissues.
Flaxseed oil, also known as linseed oil, is a dietary source of omega-3 fatty studies. Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce swelling of the joint by inhibiting activities of inflammation interleukin proteins and TNF-alpha, a cytokine that induces systemic inflammation. Flaxseed oil can be used for preventing as well as managing rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
Feverfew is an herb with powerful anti-inflammatory property. It is traditionally used by European herbalists for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Parthenolide, a bioactive constituent of the herb, prevents inflammation by obstructing activities of pro-inflammatory cytokine. Prolonged intake of about 70 to 86 mg of dried feverfew can reduce inflammation and improve grip.
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The gum resin of Boswellia serrata and other boswellia species helps to alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. It contains anti-inflammatory compounds called boswellic acids. They work by inhibiting activities of enzymes needed for production of inflammatory compounds. Boswellia serrata supplements can be used as an alternative to common pain relief drugs. Moreover, prolonged use of this herb can reduce your dependence on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
In Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, ginger is recommended for reducing inflammation and preventing destruction of joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
Studies suggest that gingerols, their derivatives, essential oils as well as non-gingerol components of ginger possess anti-arthritic properties. Ginger is either used alone or combined with other anti-inflammatory herbs such as Boswellia serrata for treating rheumatoid arthritis.
Willow bark contains anti-inflammatory compound called salicin that reduces inflammation by inhibiting the activities of the COX enzymes. The polyphenols in willow bark further strengthens the anti-inflammatory effect by negating the harmful activities of free radicals that worsen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and increase the risk of degeneration of the joint tissues.
Thunder God Vine
The scientific name of the Chinese herb Leigongteng is Tripeterygium wilfodii Hook. It is commonly known as thunder god vine. It is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Triptolide, the principal bioactive compound of the herb, obstructs activities of proinflammatory compounds and proinflammatory mediators. The immunosuppressive effect of the herb helps to reduce rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
Cat’s claw is often used as an herbal remedy for rheumatoid arthritis. The roots of the plant contain oxindoles that affect the activities of the immune system. In people suffering from active rheumatoid arthritis, regular intake of cat’s claw helps to reduce inflammation and pain of the joints.