Printer Friendly

Ease your arthritis pain with these topical herbal products.

If you have pain from arthritis in your hands or knees and don't want to take pharmaceutical drugs, there are other options. You can take an anti-inflammatory herbal supplement. You can gently massage the area and increase blood flow, which reduces inflammation. Or you can go to your local drugstore and buy a natural, non-toxic over-the-counter gel or ointment that can reduce your pain. This is a temporary solution, but you may find that reducing your pain just for a little while can make a huge difference in the quality of your life.

A recently updated Cochrane review of herbal therapies may help you choose which topical products to try. You may remember from past newsletter articles that Cochrane reports are randomized, placebo-controlled studies. They are the gold standard of studies. I will always give more credence to a Cochrane report than any other because they tend to be more accurate.

This report included several herbal products--evaluated by a new Cochrane report--that reduce pain from arthritis as well as low back muscle pain. All are inexpensive and easy to find. And they don't interfere with any medications.

You've no doubt heard of capsaicin. It's the active ingredient in hot chili peppers. When you apply it to your skin, it depletes a chemical in the nerves that transmits pain. This chemical is called substance P. When capsaicin-based gels and ointments come into contact with your skin, substance P desensitizes that area to pain.

Capsaicin is a popular ingredient in many topical over-the-counter pain products. It works for more than just arthritis. It also helps relieve nerve-based pains like shingles, diabetic neuropathy, and itching. And in many cases, it works well. But use it with caution. In some people, it can irritate the skin and cause a burning sensation. A study of 99 people with pain in their knees found more adverse effects in those who used capsaicin-enhanced products than those using a placebo. But when it works without irritating the skin, it's an excellent solution. Just begin by using a small amount to see what effect it has on you.

You can find gels, ointments, and lotions containing capsaicin in drugstores and on the Internet. Some are pure capsaicin, while others include such ingredients like menthol--an analgesic--along with anti-inflammatory components like borage oil and Boswellia serrata extract. Adding anti-inflammatory substances to capsaicin often reduces its adverse effects.

Arnica ointment or gel is a popular product that can help relieve arthritis, muscle, and joint pain. Many years ago, I foolishly mowed my lawn without wearing shoes. I was using an old push type lawnmower that I needed to push periodically with my left foot over uneven grass. By the time I finished the lawn, I could hardly walk. The pain in my foot was intense.

Two days later, there was little improvement. I was bedridden and unable to walk. At that time, I was working in a holistic clinic with a number of other practitioners. I phoned our acupuncturist, thinking that acupuncture might reduce my pain. But when he came to my house, he simply handed me a tube of arnica gel. "Rub this on your sore foot," he instructed. "It's better than acupuncture for this kind of inflammation." I didn't believe that this was possible, but he was right. My pain was completely gone within a few hours.

Arnica gel or ointment works as well as ibuprofen and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). However, according to the Cochrane report, arnica can have more adverse side effects than ibuprofen. I've personally used arnica without any problems, and I've suggested it for many other people in pain. I'm very satisfied with its results--even when the pain is not as dramatic as my foot injury.

Many health food stores sell a topical product consisting of arnica and herbal extracts called Traumeel. I have used this particular product successfully, as well as an arnica extract. Both arnica and its individual herbal components also are available in liquids and pellets that may be taken orally as well.

If you're looking for an herbal extract that reduces pain without increasing side effects, try Comfrey extract. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that rubbing an ointment containing comfrey root extract three times a day for five days reduced the intensity of back pain in participants by a whopping 95%. And that's not all. Pain relief occurred in just an hour.

In a double-blind study, when researchers compared comfrey ointment with other anti-inflammatory creams for back pain, it out-performed all other products. You should know that they used comfrey for muscle and joint pain--not arthritis. But all are conditions of inflammation, so it should work just as well for your arthritis. If you try any of these, please let me know how they work for you.

For a complete listing of Dr. Nan's recommended dietary supplements and nutraceuticals, please go to:

Or call toll free 800-791-3395 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

"Comfrey Root Extract Ointment Relieves Back Pain Fast," British. Journal of Sports Medicine, 2009, May 21. Medical News Today. Retrieved from
COPYRIGHT 2013 Women's Health Letter
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Women's Health Letter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2013
Previous Article:How to stop the endless cycle of disease once and for all.
Next Article:Are bioidentical hormones safe?

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters