Alleviating Arthritis Pain With Herbs Part II

Modern medicine’s answer to arthritis relief is currently a double-edged sword. There are scores of medications to choose from, several of which have been designed for convenient once-daily dosing. These medications also have the backing of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which oversees years of medical research before they can be released to the general public.

The medical risks of taking these medications, unfortunately, can be serious. No prescription-based medication can claim to be free of these risks. Stomach ulcers, kidney damage, and bleeding complications are among the most commonly seen.

When looking into the possibility of taking an herbal remedy for arthritis relief, the big question should be, are these a safer alternative to modern medications? Is the effectiveness comparable?

Before we get into that, we also recommend looking into the benefits of acupuncture treatment for alleviating arthritis pain. You can learn more about this when you contact AB Acupuncture. Regular acupuncture treatment in addition to these herbal remedies could have positive effects in addressing your pain.

Now, let’s look at three different herbal remedies with both safety and effectiveness in mind.

Healers practicing Ayurvedic medicine have long used Boswellia serrata, also called Indian Frankincense, to relieve arthritic symptoms. The gummy resin collected from the Boswellia tree contains Boswellia acids which have proven anti-inflammatory properties. In comparative studies against conventional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Boswellia was found to be safer with equal effectiveness.

Boswellia acts differently than conventional NSAIDs in that it inhibits the production of leukotrienes which are mediators in the chemical pathway that leads to inflamed joints. This means that it isn’t hard on the stomach like aspirin or NSAIDs.

The recommended dose of Boswellia is 450 milligrams of boswellic acids daily (usually 150 mg three times daily). Note, however, that the extract you buy might give the milligram strength of the whole extract, only a percentage of which will be Boswellia acids. You will need to get out your calculator to figure out how much boswellic acid you’re really getting. Why DO they always do that?!?

Personally, I think Boswellia is an excellent choice for arthritis pain relief.

Another Indian herb used for arthritis relief is turmeric, one of the main ingredients in curry powder. Ayurvedic medicine has multiple uses. As it applies to arthritic relief, turmeric is believed to inhibit prostaglandins, much in the same way as NSAIDs do. Unfortunately, the risk of stomach ulcers exists as well. The recommended dose is 500-1000 milligrams several times per day. My advice: it wouldn’t be my first choice because of the risk of stomach ulcers.

Cayenne pepper is a perfect example of an herbal product that was “rediscovered” by modern medicine and subsequently found itself on pharmacy shelves as a “modern arthritic cure”. Healthcare providers call it “capsaicin” and I’m sure it sold for a premium price when it was first released as a prescription-only product.

Capsaicin comes as a cream and fortunately a prescription is no longer needed to purchase it. The strength of the cream is 0.025% or 0.075%. It is applied 3-4 times daily to the painful joint itself.

How does it work? Well, have you ever eaten an extremely hot pepper and noticed that, after the burning subsided, your tongue was numb? The same process works in joints. For the first few days after you start the cream, the joint is supposed to burn a little and there won’t be any pain relief at all. That’s because the cayenne pepper is releasing and subsequently using up Substance P, a chemical essential to the ability to sense pain by the nerves. Once all the Substance P is depleted, the nerve is “numbed” and remains so as long as you keep applying the cream.

I like capsaicin cream. It has no side effects and can be used in combination with medications taken internally. Patience, though, is the key to its success.

Once you reach a reasonable improvement in arthritic pain, stick with the treatment and begin a gentle but persistent exercise program like water-walking, bicycling, or just plain walking. Your joints will actually feel better and you will be less likely to suffer the long-term complications of arthritis. Keep moving and good luck!

Chinese herbs


Chinese herbal medicine is one of the great herbal systems of the world and has an unbroken tradition going back to the 3rd century BC. Together with acupuncture, massage (Tuina), exercise (Tai Qi, Qi Gong), and dietary therapy it forms part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. All these treatments share the same theory and the same aim, not just to treat symptoms but to deal with underlying imbalances and to strengthen the person’s Qi to prevent a recurrence of the disease.

Chinese herbal medicine is extensively practiced throughout clinics and hospitals in China for the treatment of a very wide range of conditions. Because of its systematic approach and clinical effectiveness it has for centuries had a very big influence on the theory and practice of medicine throughout the Far East.

During its two-thousand-year history, great doctors have contributed to its store of knowledge and wisdom, and in the past few decades, a great deal of research has been done in China into every aspect of its use. The result is a subtle, powerful and flexible system.


The range of conditions that can be treated with Chinese herbs is wide, but the following may be singled out:

  • Skin problems, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, urticaria
  • Digestive disorders, including diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Gynecological problems, including menstrual problems and pre-menstrual syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue, including ME or ‘post-viral syndrome’
  • Asthma, coughs, bronchitis
  • Hay fever, sinusitis, rhinitis
  • Urinary problems, including chronic cystitis


Chinese herbal medicine uses several hundred substances, mostly of plant origin (roots, seeds, flowers, twigs, and barks). These are hardly ever prescribed singly. They are combined into a formula that usually contains between 8 and 12 ingredients. The exact combination is adjusted to suit the patient’s individual condition and is likely to be altered as the treatment progresses to take account of changes that have occurred. It is therefore a very flexible system that can be closely tailored to the needs of the individual.

The prescribed mixture of herbs is usually prepared by the patient as a decoction (boiled and then simmered in water) and taken twice a day. Consultations will be on average once a fortnight, and you will be given enough herbs to last till the next appointment. In some cases, the herbs may be given in powder form or as pills (these are not as strong as decoctions but are more suitable in those cases where longer-term treatment is indicated). In addition, external treatments (ointments, washes, soaks) may be prescribed for skin problems.


The length of treatment will vary depending on the severity of the condition and how long you have had it. In some cases (especially with younger children) you can expect a good response in 2 to 3 weeks. For severe chronic problems, you may need to take the decoctions for 8 to 12 weeks. In certain cases, treatment may be even shorter or longer than these figures suggest. You may also consider using it in conjunction with other forms of Eastern medicine such as acupuncture.


There have been some recent concerns about the safety of certain Chinese herbal medicines. These have arisen from the inclusion of illegal ingredients by some suppliers, either banned toxic materials or ingredients such as steroids which by law can only be supplied by doctors. A good Chinese herbal medicine supplier observes the highest standards of safety and quality and is supplied exclusively by companies with a proven commitment to those standards. In addition, it can also have blood-testing facilities which will be used when appropriate as a further safety measure. Finally, a good sign is if they fully support worldwide conservation programs, and no endangered species of animal or plant is used.