For thousands of years, cultures from around the world have been successful in reducing joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis through the use of natural spices and herbs and although it is safe to say that no one spice is going to cure your arthritis or joint pain, part of a successful treatment plan is to focus on a full spectrum of treatments as each on their own may not lead to significantly measurable results – but together they combine to reduce the problem.
Gingerol is the compound in ginger that gives it flavor and some of its anti-inflammatory properties. Elements in ginger were found to reduce the action of T cells, immune cells that can add to systemic inflammation, in an analysis published in the July 2015 issue of Phytotherapy Research.
Try stir-frying with ginger or eating fresh pickled ginger. Galina Roofener, a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist at the Cleveland Clinic, agrees that ginger can be a beneficial part of your plan to control arthritis symptoms and recommends working with a trained herbalist.
Animal studies have shown that essential oils of turmeric have anti-arthritis properties. In a review published in January 2013 in The AAPS Journal of curcumin, the active ingredient that gives turmeric its yellow color, researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found that this natural remedy may have antibacterial and anti-cancer properties, as well as anti-inflammatory properties that could help with rheumatoid arthritis.
“Both turmeric and curcumin, two parts of the same plant, have very strong anti-inflammatory activity and can be used for the treatment of inflammation, especially joints,” Roofener says. But she cautions that turmeric is also a blood thinner and should be avoided in large doses if you take a blood-thinning medicine.
Green tea contains polyphenols, says Dr. Jonas, which could aid in reducing inflammation and protecting joints, according to research published in December 2014 in Arthritis Research & Therapy. Evidence from animal studies suggests that polyphenols, which are rich in antioxidants, may suppress the immune response. That could be important because rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the dysregulation of the immune system leads to inflammation in the joints, causing pain and swelling, Jonas says.
In China and India, cinnamon bark is used to make natural remedies such as medicinal powders and teas. “Cinnamon may have some properties that fight inflammation,” Roofener says. “Cinnamon is a hot herb. It’s very useful for aches and pains, especially when they are worse with cold or cold weather.” Researchers who published an analysis of the phytochemicals in cinnamon that help reduce inflammation theorized that cinnamon could be used for inflammation if the right concentration is determined. The findings were published in Food & Function in March 2015.
“Although fine on your cinnamon bun, if it’s overdosed, it might not be safe for pregnant women,” Roofener warns. Larger doses of the spice could interfere with blood clotting and blood thinner medications. For RA inflammation, cinnamon may be a good option, but in moderation. Powdered cinnamon can be added to oatmeal or even oranges for a delicious and healthy dessert.
Fresh garlic can liven up any dish and may help ease rheumatoid arthritis pain. A study published in August 2013 in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology noted that garlic has significant anti-inflammatory effects because it inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory substances known as cytokines. But the study found that heating garlic extract significantly reduced its anti-inflammatory properties.
Garlic can be added to many types of foods, including roasted vegetables, stir-fries, and sandwich spreads.
Peppers are widely used to fight pain and swelling in traditional natural remedies. For instance, capsaicin, the substance that gives hot peppers their heat, is used in gels and creams as an arthritis treatment, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Research published in August 2010 in the journal Natural Product Communications found that many of the anti-inflammatory properties found in capsaicin are also found in black pepper.
Willow bark has been shown to help reduce markers of inflammation, according to research published in April 2013 in Phytotherapy Research. When researchers gave a willow bark extract to 436 people with rheumatic pain or back pain for three weeks, they saw a significant reduction in pain, according to a report in the August 2013 issue of Phytomedicine.
One Last Word
Adding herbs and spices to your diet for their anti-inflammatory properties is typically very safe as long as you haven’t had any type of allergic reaction in the past. It should be also pointed out that some spices should not be taken if you are pregnant.
If you are taking natural spices or herbs for treatment purposes, it’s always a good idea to put a space of at least two hours in between taking them and your Doctor prescribed medications.