Arthritis is nearly as old as mankind, and so are some surprising arthritis treatments. These oils and herbal supplements may work as well as some drugs in easing your arthritis pain.
Using aloe vera as a treatment for arthritis dates back centuries. Evidence of its effectiveness is largely anecdotal or from limited studies, Kolasinski says, adding that more research is needed to confirm its ability to help arthritic patients. However, aloe vera is known to reduce inflammation, and arthritis is an inflammatory disease. Taken orally, aloe vera may also help ward off stomach problems that other anti-inflammatory medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause.
Mustard seed is yet another herb that may provide some relief from joint pain. Make a plaster with warm mustard seed oil and apply it to your swollen, arthritic joints. The heat the salve produces may help improve blood flow to the area and provide you with some arthritis pain relief. Kolasinski adds that, as a food, mustard seed is a good source of selenium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which have been linked to improving arthritis symptoms
Using heart-healthy olive oil in place of other fats such as butter may help reduce your arthritis symptoms, Kolasinski says. There’s a compound in olive oil called oleocanthal that works the same way as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs you may be taking for arthritis pain. Studies show that oleocanthal decreases the production of COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, which cause inflammation. An added bonus: Olive oil is rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants
Boswellia, commonly called frankincense, is derived from the resin of the plant, which is grown in northern Africa. The Bible tells of three wise men who brought frankincense and myrrh as gifts to the baby Jesus. “Frankincense has a long history of use in herbal medicine around the world,” Dr. Kolasinski says. A number of studies confirm that frankincense can help easeknee pain caused by arthritis. Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales believe that the extract from the plant inhibits the production of molecules that cause inflammation and break down cartilage tissue, which leads to joint pain.
For centuries, people with arthritis pain have reported that applying a salve of myrrh (from the Commiphora mukul tree) to swollen arthritic joints helps ease pain. Myrrh is found in abundance in the Middle East, where it is valued for its anti-inflammatory effects, and was one of the herbal gifts that the Queen of Sheba brought to King Solomon. Kolasinski says that myrrh is known for its ability to help heal wounds, though she is unaware of any studies that looked specifically at its effect on arthritis. One important warning: Pregnant women should never use myrrh, because it can cause miscarriage.
Ayurvedic and Tibetan traditions have long used the essential oil extracted from cedarwood trees in their medicines. Cedarwood oil can be used asaromatherapy to ease arthritis pain or as an ingredient in massage oil that can be rubbed into aching, arthritic joints. Aromatherapy has been found to be effective for arthritis pain. Researchers aren’t sure how aromatherapy helps, but suspect that when you breathe in the pleasant smells, it stimulates the part of your brain that allows you to relax and promote healing.