Arthritis: Causes, Natural Treatment, and Herbal Tea to Try
What is arthritis?
Arthritis, which means joint inflammation, is not a single disease but includes more than a hundred diseases and conditions that affect the joints and joint tissue. Osteoarthritis, or 'wear and tear' arthritis is the most common form of arthritis that involves gradual degeneration of protective cartilage. Other types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, gout, and juvenile arthritis.
The symptoms can vary as there are many forms of the disease but usually involve pain or stiffness in one or more joints. Symptoms can appear suddenly or appear gradually over time and the severity and duration of symptoms can vary depending on the form of arthritis and the individual. Common symptoms include:
- Pain or aching
- Stiffness or swelling
- Swollen joints
- Decreased range of motion
- Weight loss
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Muscle weakness
- Arthritis is one of the oldest human diseases, dating back more than 500,000 years ago.
- Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the US. According to the National Health Interview Survey (2010-2012), 52.5 million people in the US have arthritis. By 2040, this number is projected to increase to 78 million.
- Women are more likely to have arthritis compared to men (7 to 1 ratio). Children can also develop arthritis.
- In the US, an estimated 300,000 children have juvenile arthritis.
- According to the National Health interview Survey, the risk of arthritis is almost double for obese adults (29%) compared with adults who are underweight or at normal weight (16%).
There is no sure way to prevent arthritis. Some risks factors, such as genetics, gender, and age, are not modifiable. Fortunately, there are some ways to reduce the risk of arthritis. Modifiable risk factors include obesity, injuries, injections, and occupational hazards.
1. Stay in a healthy weight range.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every pound adds four pounds in the load exerted on the knee. Research shows that maintaining a healthy weight can help delay the progression of the disease.
2. Protect your joints.
Avoid injuries or excessive use of your joints such as repeated knee bending. Some sports, recreational activities, or occupations may increase the risk of developing arthritis. While physical activity is recommended for both the prevention and the treatment of arthritis, make sure it is not doing more harm than good.
3. Keep your immune system healthy.
Infections and microbial agents can infect the joints and cause various forms of arthritis. The immune system protects the body and helps prevent certain forms of arthritis by fighting infections and diseases. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle plays an important role in making sure the immune system is healthy.
4. Eat foods rich in omega-3s.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in salmon and soybeans, can help reduce inflammation. Use healthier oils such as extra virgin olive oil, which contains oleocanthal, a substance with properties similar to some anti-inflammatory drugs. Eating antioxidant-rich foods can also help reduce inflammation. These can be found naturally in fruits and leafy vegetables.
5. Avoid foods that can cause inflammation.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, sugar, saturated and trans fats, omega-6 fatty acids (found in mayonnaise and salad dressing), refined carbs (found in white bread and rice), MSG, gluten, casein, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, and alcohol can all cause inflammation. Eating healthier foods will help lower the risk of arthritis and other conditions such as heart disease.
1. Be physically active.
According to research, physical activity and physical therapy can help improve function and decrease pain for those with arthritis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Moderate exercises include brisk walking, biking, swimming, dancing, tai chi, and yoga.
2. Strengthen your muscles.
The CDC also recommends doing muscle strengthening exercises at least 2 days a week. Examples of exercises include lifting weights, bodyweight exercises, and using resistance bands.
3. Weight loss.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, losing weight could help in the treatment of arthritis. A study found that for women, for every 11 lbs of weight lost, the risk of knee osteoarthritis declined by 50%. Staying within a healthy weight range and maintaining a healthy diet is important for treating or delaying the progression of arthritis.
4. Use splints or other assistive aids.
Splints and braces could help provide support to the joints and decrease strain. The Arthritis Foundation provides some good tips on how to make everyday tasks easier to do.
5. Get a massage.
A gentle massage has been shown to help reduce joint pain and stiffness, and may help increase the range of motion. (Massages may not help if the joints are too sensitive.)
6. Try aromatherapy.
Herbal Tea To Try
Rooibos tea is a rich source of calcium, manganese and fluoride which help to maintain bone structure and strong teeth. Regular consumption of rooibos tea may help support overall health of bones and joints and lower the risk of developing arthritis, osteoporosis and chronic joint pain. Researchers believe that rooibos tea may increase the activity of osteoblast cells, which are cells that create bone mass. Learn more about rooibos.
Black seeds may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress (cell damage caused by oxidation) in people with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting joints.
According to a study published in the academic journal Phytotherapy Research, tested patients saw a decrease in the number of swollen joints and shorter duration in morning stiffness. The researchers concluded that supplementation with black seed could have therapeutic benefits for those with rheumatoid arthritis. Black seed extract has also been shown to protect bone marrow in animal studies. Learn more about black seed.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, ginger helps reduce joint pain and inflammation for those with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Several studies have found evidence that ginger could potentially alleviate pain for people with arthritis. In one clinical trial, ginger extract appeared to help reduce pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Some studies have also compared ginger to conventional drug treatment. In one clinical trial, use of ginger extract was compared to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug, for patients with osteoarthritis. Both substances significantly reduced pain with no significant difference, suggesting similar efficacies. Learn more about ginger.
Gotu kola may provide therapeutic benefits in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic condition that affects many joints, including those in the hands and feet. According to a study published in International Immunopharmacology, the herb could potentially improve joint function, reduce inflammation, and alleviate symptoms of arthritis. Researchers believe the underlying mechanism of the herb’s action is through regulating immunity and protecting joints from destruction. Learn more about gotu kola.
Nettle has historically been used to treat joint pain. Modern research has found that oral use of nettle leaf extract might improve symptoms of pain related to osteoarthritis. The Arthritis Foundation has shown support for this statement. Some clinicians use nettle leaf extract in combination with conventional anti-inflammatory drugs or other analgesics (pain-relieving drugs) for treatment.
In a study published in the Journal of Rheumatology, nettle was found to have an effect against diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties. In a study conducted in Germany, nettle leaf extract was found to contain an anti-inflammatory substance that suppressed several substances involved in inflammatory joint diseases. Learn more about nettle leaf.
Don't like the above ingredients?
Switch it up with some of these ingredients:
- Green tea: Green tea contains antioxidants such as polyphenols and EGCG which helps reduce inflammation and damage to joints and cartilage, potentially benefiting those with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Turmeric root: According to the Arthritis Foundation, this potent medicinal herb may also have benefits for those with arthritis. Modern clinical research shows that turmeric may relieve symptoms of various types of arthritis by reducing joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Curcumin, the yellow pigment found in turmeric, may help reduce joint pain and swelling by inhibiting certain inflammatory substances and enzymes. A clinical trial conducted in 2010 found that turmeric supplement had long term benefits for people diagnosed with osteoarthritis. In another study conducted in 2012, a curcumin product was found to reduce joint pain and swelling for those with rheumatoid arthritis more effectively than diclofenac sodium, an anti-inflammatory drug.
- Citrus peel: Vitamin C helps prevent inflammation and supports healthy joints and citrus peel is loaded with vitamin C. It also exhibits anti-inflammatory properties and contains substantially more enzymes, flavonoids, and phytonutrients than the fruit.
- Other herbs that may help with easing some of the symptoms related to arthritis include: chamomile, meadowsweet, roses, spikenard, stevia leaf, strawberry leaf, and thyme leaf.
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