Top 10 natural remedies for arthritis
Tackling arthritis with dietary supplements can greatly reduce the level of inflammation in your joints.
These supplements alleviate symptoms of both osteoarthritis (OA) and autoimmune or rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Whereas drugs like NSAIDs only damp down inflammation and pain, supplements actually have the potential to halt degenerative changes. Each supplement tends to be effective for two out of three people with joint pain, so choose one and try it for a few months to find what works for you. Most joint health supplements can be taken together for synergistic benefits. As well as being as effective as some analgesics, they are less likely to cause side effects.
1 Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
A powerful antioxidant needed for production of collagen in ligaments and cartilage. Lack of vitamin C may contribute to cartilage ageing. Supplements can reduce osteoarthritic hip and knee pain. In a study of 640 men and women, those with moderate to high vitamin C intakes (two or more times the recommended daily amount) were three times less likely to develop knee pain. The usual recommended intake is 60-120mg daily. Nutritional therapists recommend up to 1-3g daily. Supplements may cause indigestion – use ester-C, a non-acidic form that is more readily absorbed.
2 Vitamin D
Essential for absorption of calcium and phosphate, deposition of calcium and phosphate in bone, and bone modelling. Cartilage and bone is sensitive to lack of vitamin D. In people with low vitamin D, hip osteoarthritis can progress three to four times more rapidly. Vitamin D supplements can relieve joint pain. People low in vitamin D are 33 percent more likely to get RA. The usual recommended intake is 5-10mcg. Up to 25mcg daily isn’t thought harmful.
Vital for maintaining strong, healthy bones. People with arthritis have reduced mobility and are at risk of osteoporosis, especially if their calcium intake is low and/or they take corticosteroids. Supplements can improve bone strength in people with all types of arthritis. Intakes of 800-1000mg are needed for bone health. Nutritional therapists may prescribe 300-1500mg. High doses should be taken with other minerals, e.g. zinc, iron, and magnesium. People with kidney stones should take calcium with EFAs.
4 Evening primrose oil
A source of the anti-inflammatory omega-6 essential fatty acid (EFA) gamma linolenic acid (GLA). Research shows that taking evening primrose oil for three months may enable people with RA to reduce their NSAID dose. Evening primrose oil also reduces fatigue in people with RA. Take 500mg to 3g daily. This is equivalent to 40mg and 240mg GLA. Do not take if you have a rare disorder known as temporal lobe epilepsy.
5 Omega-3 fish oils
A rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA damp down inflammation and can reduce the need for painkillers. They also reduce coronary heart disease risk in people with RA. Take 500mg to 4g daily. For severe inflammatory disease, nutritional therapists may recommend up to 6g daily. Seek medical advice if you have a blood-clotting disorder, diabetes, or take blood-thinning drugs.
6 Green-lipped mussel extract
Contain an omega-3 fatty acid (eicosatetraenoic acid) that inhibits production of inflammatory substances. One study found these extracts significantly improved OA symptoms by 53 percent in one month, and 80 percent in two months. A clinical trial involving people with RA and OA found significant benefit for both. Take 200-1200mg daily. Supplements are available in powdered or oil form.
A natural substance needed for cartilage repair. Supplements improve OA symptoms by as much as 73 percent and are at least as effective as paracetamol in reducing pain. A Lancet study showed taking 1500mg glucosamine daily produced significant improvements in pain and disability in people with knee OA, with no significant loss of joint space over three years. Take 1000-2000mg daily. Glucosamine is often combined with chondroitin, selenium or MSM for increased effectiveness.
8 Chondroitin sulphate
Attracts water into joints, which acts as a shock absorber, as well as a nutrient transport system. It inhibits enzymes that break down cartilage, while stimulating those that produce structural substances. Research shows taking chondroitin greatly improves pain and joint function in people with knee OA within three months. In people taking a placebo, joint space width decreased; in those taking chondroitin, there was no deterioration. Take 800-1600mg daily. Chondroitin is often combined with glucosamine, as they are naturally synergistic.
9 MSM (methyl-sulphonyl-methane)
An anti-inflammatory sulphur compound that reduces free radical formation. MSM can reduce pain in people with OA by 82 percent within six weeks. The combination of 500mg glucosamine plus 500mg MSM three times daily significantly improves joint function and reduces pain more than either on its own. Take 1-2g daily, in divided doses.
10 CMO (cis-9-cetyl-myristoleate)
A waxy oil containing cetylated fatty acids; acts as a joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory. Lubricates joints and reduces pain when taken orally, or rubbed on as a cream. Research shows that 68 days of taking oral CMO significantly increases range of knee movement in people with OA. Take 300-600mg daily with an enzyme (lipase) to aid digestion.