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Natural Herbal Remedies for Osteoarthritis

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As a certified health and wellness coach, I love discussing food, health benefits, and how to keep weight in check.

X-ray of an arthritic hand

X-ray of an arthritic hand

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than 21 million Americans. Cartilage is a firm and sinewy material that covers the ends of joints, acting as a “shock absorber,” to reduce friction when the bones move. This shock-absorbing ability enables the cartilage to change shape when compressed during movement. Over time, cartilage can wear out, eroding its cushiony effects. The painful result? The joints become inflamed resulting in painful joints, swelling and limited range of motion. Most people over 60 have some form of osteoarthritis, though people in their 20’s and 30’s can get osteoarthritis too. Osteoarthritic pain is common in weight bearing joints of hips, knees, and spine. It can also affect fingers, thumbs, neck and large toe. While prescribed medication or surgery (in severe cases) can provide relief; many turn to herbal l treatments to address this debilitating condition. These herbs are reputed to ease inflammation or build up cartilage to reduce friction.

Natural is the way to go according to Carol Wolin-Riklin, MA, licensed dietitian and nutrition coordinator at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, Texas. She made this pertinent point, “A goal of active participation in your osteoarthritis disease treatment should be to reduce pain and inflammation and increase movement and function without dependence on medication. This can be achieved through weight loss and natural supplements.”  

Exercise is important as excess weight can add burden to the already inflamed joints. If you’re already doing that, consider natural cures that can easily be found in your local grocery market or your natural and health food stores. Most natural cures can also be purchased from specialty online stores.

Drink your green tea and keep osteoarthritis away.

Drink your green tea and keep osteoarthritis away.

Green Tea

Green tea has already been linked to many health benefits from preventing cardiovascular diseases to promoting good skin.  Researchers at the University of Sheffield uncovered more benefits: Green tea’s active ingredients, EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) and ECG (epicatechin gallate) can block enzymes that destroy cartilage and reduce swelling and pain related to osteoarthritis.  Dr. David Buttle, involved in above-mentioned study further adds that green tea should be taken as a preventive measure as its capabilities to repair already damaged cartilage is not clear.

If you are taking green tea extracts, aim for 250 – 500 mg daily or drink green tea daily.


In Ayurvedic medicine or the Hindu system of medicinal practices, ginger is often used to treat inflammation and rheumatism, together with other herbs, purgatives and rubbing oils. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a study involving 261 people with osteoarthritis, those who took ginger extract twice a day experience less pain and required less pain-killing medications. Why? Ginger inhibits the synthesis of prostaglandin and leukotriene, both inflammatory mediators.

Include ginger in your diet—grated ginger can be added to food, desserts, marinades and sauces for that extra zing.  Steep slices of fresh ginger in boiling water to make a refreshing ginger drink (honey optional).  For arthritis relief, you can also take 2 – 4 grams of ginger juice, extract or tea. Ginger oil can be used applied topically to painful joint.  You can also make a poultice of fresh ginger and apply to painful areas.

Ginger is anti-inflammatory.

Ginger is anti-inflammatory.


A recent study conducted by the Baylor Research Institute uncovered a promising osteoarthritic pain reliever—cherry. More than half of the patients involved in this study reported significant improvement in pain and function after taking tart cherry pills for 8 weeks. Dr. John Cush, rheumatologist and principal researcher in this study recommends taking CherryFlex, made from ground Montmorency whole tart cherries as it has a significant impact on osteoarthritis. 

According to Russel Reiter, nutrition researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center, cherries have a unique antioxidant profile that works like some types of pain medication.  Anthocyanins, responsible for the bright red color in cherries work to reduce levels of nitric oxide, a compound associated with osteoarthritis.

You can easily find cherries all year round in fresh, dried, frozen or juice form. Incorporate them in your diet as snacks, in smoothie or as topping for desserts and cereals.

Life is a bowl of cherries if you eat them more often.

Life is a bowl of cherries if you eat them more often.


Turmeric is the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat rheumatic conditions, digestive and liver problems as well as skin diseases.  According to, laboratory and animal studies show that curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial for treating osteoarthritis.

Turmeric is often used in Asian and Indian cooking to flavor curries, stew or to marinate meat and fish. You can also find turmeric supplements and extracts.


Often known as “Indian Frankincense,” Boswellia is commonly used in Ayurveda medicine. The resin of Boswellia tree is rich in boswellic acid, a substance endowed with anti-inflammatory effects. Its unique anti-inflammatory action acts very much like the conventional anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS such as Tylenol, aspirin or ibuprofen) used to mediate inflammatory conditions but without all the side-effects (irritation and ulceration of the stomach is a common complaint).

This curative power is validated by a double-study of 30 people in which participants either received boswellia or placebo for 8 weeks and then made a switch over for another additional 8 weeks. The results revealed that those who took boswellia showed significantly greater improvement in knee pain, knee mobility, and improvement in walking abilities than those placed on placebo.

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Boswellia's power to tame inflammation liken to NSAIDS

Boswellia's power to tame inflammation liken to NSAIDS

Cayenne (Capsaicin)

Capsaicin is an active ingredient in chili peppers and is responsible for lending a spicy hit to food.  This “burning” sensation is put to good use in many topical creams to relieve osteoarthritis.  Double-blind research confirmed the benefits of using cayenne creams containing 0.025 to 0.075 percent capsaicin to bring relief to osteoarthritis.

The heat from chili pepper can soothe osteoarthritic pain.

The heat from chili pepper can soothe osteoarthritic pain.

Harness the "evil" in Devil's claw to battle osteoarthritis.

Harness the "evil" in Devil's claw to battle osteoarthritis.

Silicon content of Horsetail helps to strengthen cartilage.

Silicon content of Horsetail helps to strengthen cartilage.

Devil’s Claw

A native plant of southern Africa, most of the world’s supply of devil’s claw comes from Namibia, with some coming from South Africa and Bostwana. Named for its small hooks on the plant’s fruit, devil’s claw is anything but evil. It contains an active ingredient called harpagosides, found in the secondary root. Its healing powers have been utilized to treat fever, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, skin conditions and conditions involving gall bladder, pancreas, stomach and kidneys. It has a bitter taste and the tea form is thought to stimulate digestive juices.


Used as an herbal remedy in ancient Roman and Greek medicine, horsetail continues to exert its medicinal powers. The plant’s stem is particularly rich in silica and silicic acids, both of which helps to mend broken bones and form collagen, an important protein found in connective tissue, skin, bone, cartilage and ligaments. This silicon content is believed to have an anti-arthritic action.

Licorice root soothes inflammation.

Licorice root soothes inflammation.

Saponin extract in Yucca can reduce swelling and pain associated with osteoarthritis

Saponin extract in Yucca can reduce swelling and pain associated with osteoarthritis

Licorice root

Licorice is a flavorful herb, often used in food and medicinal remedies and its health benefits have been used for thousands of years. Also known as “sweet root,” licorice has a compound that is approximately 50 times sweeter than sugar. Another main compound, Glycyrrhizin, is believed to contribute to the herb’s healing power. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, laboratory studies showed that glycyrrhizin reduces inflammation, promotes secretion of mucous (usually associated with coughing), soothes irritation, protects stomach and gastrointestinal tract, and stimulates the activity of the adrenal glands which regulates cortisol, the stress hormone.


If you drive to Las Vegas, you’ll see Yucca growing wild on the sides of the road. Apart from its quirky beauty, yucca contains a saponin extract which is effective in reducing swelling and pain associated with osteoarthritis. This fact was reviewed in the Journal of Applied Nutrition.

Other anti-inflammatory herbs include white willow and celery seeds. Castor oil hot packs can be applied to painful joints for relief.

Always consult your primary physician before self-medicating.

Copyright @Angeline Oppenheimer

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anglnwu (author) on January 31, 2015:

Hi Dranisha, thanks for dropping by to comment.

Dr.Anisha.S.K.Deepesh from THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA ,INDIA on January 27, 2015:

Anglnwu..good read...usefull too..thank you for sharing your knowledge

anglnwu (author) on January 19, 2012:

Thanks, Audrey, let me know if you like it.

Audrey Howitt from California on January 18, 2012:

Thank you for a very informative hub! I can't wait to give Boswellia a try!

anglnwu (author) on September 27, 2011:

Thanks, unmakeit, I agree with you--less dependency on pills is a good thing.

umakeit on September 26, 2011:

Good article and it is good to know the natural herbal way of treatment for ostearthritis. Less depnedency on the pills definitely will help. Thanks for sharing.

anglnwu (author) on August 30, 2011:

brightforyou, glad you found this hub useful. Hopefully, your sister will find some relief with natural help. Take care.

Helen Lewis from Florida on August 30, 2011:

Really excellent hub! I googled "natural remedy for osteo-arthritis" and your hub came up - I'm so glad it did. My sister has just found out she is riddled with this all throughout her body - of course they put her directly onto meds, but they can cause dependency and habituation, so I am glad to be able to introduce some natural help for her. Thank you for such a thorough and well-informed hub, :-) Helen

anglnwu (author) on November 30, 2010:

Good to see u again, francia. You're very welcome.

franciaonline from Philippines on November 30, 2010:

How generous of you to write about herbs that are good for osteoarthritis! Thanks anglnwu.

anglnwu (author) on February 17, 2010:

Pamela, thanks for your contribution.I've heard that cherry is really good for controlling pain.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 17, 2010:

Excellent hub. I have osteoarthritis and take many of those products but you listed a few I haven't tried. Thanks.

anglnwu (author) on February 01, 2010:

Nice to hear from you again, frogyfish. So, how is your green tea/ginger? I know for a fact that cherry is a great one for osteoarthritis--I had a number of people say that too. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

frogyfish from Central United States of America on February 01, 2010:

A great hub, anginwu and you gave great detail. I do take several of the things mentioned. In fact soon I shall go make my green tea and slice fresh ginger into it.

Thank You for sharing!

anglnwu (author) on January 14, 2010:

Pamela, it's really nice of you to visit my hub. Me too--I used to admire the survival skills of yuccas--their pointy leaves defying the forces of nature. Now, I know they possess medicinal values too. Thanks for dropping by.

Pamela N Red from Oklahoma on January 14, 2010:

This is great, Anginwu. I drink green tea everyday and here's just another thing it's good for.

I didn't know yucca plants were good for anything except to give you something to look at in the desert. lol

anglnwu (author) on January 12, 2010:

Maita, appreciate your comments and thank you for dropping by.

prettydarkhorse from US on January 12, 2010:

hey very nice hub you've got here, and very useful information too, keep on writing, Thanks for the information and I didn't know all these stuffs are useful specially licorice and ginger etc...for OA, Thank you, Maita

anglnwu (author) on January 11, 2010:

Happy New Year, jill of alltrades. Thanks for your encouraging words and yes, please spread the word around. Appreciate your kindness.

jill of alltrades from Philippines on January 11, 2010:

Wow, what an informative hub! Knowing about these natural remedies is really a big help. I will tell some friends about this.

Thanks for sharing anglnwu!

anglnwu (author) on January 10, 2010:

RTalloni, nice to hear from you again. Thanks for your encouragement and I hope to see you around.

RTalloni on January 10, 2010:

Good information! Thank you for sharing! I appreciate your hubs very much.

anglnwu (author) on January 07, 2010:

Donh, good to hear from you again and as always, a pleasure to read your comments. Our forefathers have always use natural resources for healing and like you said, why pander to the monetary making schemes of huge pharmaceutical drug pushers?

It's funny how you mentioned the book. I was reading one of your hubs where you mentioned that book, and I had copied the name down to try to buy it on Now, i must get to it--can't wait to read it.

I've been delinquent about visiting your hub. I will get to it right now and as you know by now--I'm a huge fan.

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on January 07, 2010:

Wow. This was not only a joy to read, but very informative. Homeopathic medicine is certainly on the rise and any alternative to the trillion-dollar pharmaceutical drug pushers is a welcome relief. I just understand why only now, after thousands of years of human civilization are people (general populace) finally accepting natural remedies to cure debilitating ailments and illnesses. I really like your accompanying photos as well!

Have you ever read "Fourth Uncle in the Mountain" by Quang Van Nguyen with Marjorie Pivar? I highly recommend it!

Thanks so much for sharing this!

anglnwu (author) on January 06, 2010:

BKCreative, thank you for dropping by and I truly appreciate and value your comments--they're always insightful and helpful. I agree that nature has endowed us with all the cures there is to find for any and every ailment. Glad to hear 1st hand that your cousin found OA relief by eating cherries.

Thank you again and I'm glad we both enjoy researching and writing about health issues.

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on January 06, 2010:

This is the greatest hub!

I've been doing research on natural remedies for OA and everything you mentioned is so great. My cousin tried the cherries and got almost immediate relief. Food is after all the best medicine - not only does it work - it has always worked! I always drink green tea and I am one of those older folks who just does not have chronic ailments like so many my age.

Beautiful pictures too. Thanks so much for such a well done hub. I'll bookmark it so I can share it with some folks who are so tired of drugs which just suppress symptoms, cause serious side effects, and do not eliminate the underlying causes.

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