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!