Home Remedies For Arthritis & Joint Pain
There’s no doubt that any kind of arthritis can be painful and depressing, but there are a lot of things that you can do to help your arthritis symptoms at home.
What Causes Joint Pain?
There are a large number of causes of joint pain, including things as simple as a dislocation to as serious as bone cancer. There is much that can be done about the pain itself, but simply treating the pain does not cure the problem.
Types of Joint Pain
The two most common types of joint pain are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. For information about gout (another type of arthritis), see our post on it here.
Affects: 27 million people in the United States.1
Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by wear and tear on the joints over time, injury, being overweight, or having improperly formed joints; the cartilage that make up the cushion between one bone and another has eroded and their contact with each other is what causes pain.
Affects: 1.5 million people in the United States.2
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where the person’s immune system decides to attack the joints and the tissues surrounding the. The reason for the joints being attacked by the body’s defenses is unknown.
In RA, white blood cells triggered by the immune system travel to the synovium between the joints and can cause severe amounts of inflammation, which can often make the joint warm, red, and painful. The synovium ends up destroying cartilage and bone, which causes more pain. As pain increases, those who have RA exercise affected areas less and the result is the weakening of the muscles surrounding the area.
Types of Arthritis Remedies
There are 3 basic type of home remedies for arthritis & joint pain. Our definition of “Old fashioned” remedies are those that are typically found in the kitchen or bathroom or are considered common foodstuffs. They are considered separate from herbal remedies or vitamin supplements.
While some people may swear by epsom salts, there isn’t a substantial amount of evidence that proves that it actually works to help with joint pain. It is often coupled with hot water, such as in baths or soaks, so it’s not clear if it is the epsom salts, the hot water, or both that bring about pain relief.
There is no known scientific proof that epsom salts work.
Magnesium is used to regulate your body’s levels of calcium by converting vitamin D into the form that helps you absorb more calcium.
Taking too much calcium without enough magnesium available to help absorption results in calcification in numerous areas of the body, including the kidneys and gall bladder. If you don’t get enough magnesium (hint: most in the US are deficient), taking vitamin D for bone health simply can’t work, either.
Magnesium oil is made from magnesium chloride, which has been found to have greater bioavailability than magnesium oxide, which is the type of magnesium typically found in oral supplements.
Fact: Magnesium oil isn’t an oil at all. It’s a highly concentrated mixture of around 35% magnesium chloride and 65% purified water.
Magnesium is naturally found in spinach. There are 12 surprising health benefits of juicing spinach. If you are not getting enough magnesium and are taking calcium, excess deposits of calcium start setting up in your joints.
There is a reason I suggest people who suffer from arthritis start juicing.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
You may have heard about people rubbing oil on their joints to “lubricate” them. It turns out that there may be some truth to this old wive’s tale!
Doctors have discovered that a compound in cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil called oleocanthal acts as a COX inhibitor, so your favorite bottle of EVOO acts like an NSAID8 when applied to inflammation. It’s been suggested that for rheumatoid arthritis patients, supplementation with fish oil and olive oil is associated with less pain and inflammation than taking the fish oil supplements alone.9
When using EVOO for arthritis, remember that oleocanthal is destroyed by heat, so rubbing it on your joints or otherwise eating it with other food such as salad at room temperature would be best.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Taking natural apple cider vinegar with the mother in it daily can help with joint pain for multiple reasons. In it raw, unfiltered state, it contains many vitamins and minerals that are essential to joint health.
There are many ways to take apple cider vinegar for arthritis, including:
- 1 tsp ACV in 1 glass of cherry juice
- 1 to 3 tsp ACV in water
- 1 Tbsp ACV, 1tsp honey, 1tsp cinnamon, 1 peppermint tea bag, 10oz warm water
- 1tsp each apple cider vinegar and honey; add to cup of warm water, stir, and drink
Apple cider vinegar is best taken in an organic, unfiltered, unpasteurized form with the mother still in the bottle. Bragg’s organic ACV is considered the best for these qualities. Taking ACV supplement pills is basically worthless in comparison.
Many suggest ingesting it through a straw because of the potential to damage tooth enamel when taken on a regular basis.
Unsulphured Blackstrap Molassess (aka Black Treacle)
First thing’s first: This is not the molasses we’re talking about.
This is NOT blackstrap molasses. When purchasing molasses for nutritional value, pay attention to the nutritional value on the labeling. True blackstrap contains much higher amounts of vitamins & nutrients than this conventional product does.
There are multiple grades of molasses produced by boiling sugar cane, but only the third boiling is called “blackstrap” and only this third boiling has real nutritional value as a result. If it doesn’t say “blackstrap” on the label… it’s not blackstrap!
It has significant amounts of vitamins and trace minerals11:
- Vitamin B-6
Golden Raisins & Gin
Sounds funny, huh? I thought so, too.
Raisins contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals such as vitamin C, potassium, and calcium. It also contains anti-inflammatory compounds such as: coumarin, myricetin, quercetin, resveratrol, and ascorbic acid.
The alcohol by itself has long been known to bring pain relief, but you would think all you would have to do is grab a box of golden raisins, a bottle of gin, and eat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Alcohol is a solvent and is being used here to extract the constituents of the raisins and make them more readily available for digestion.
The gin you want for this is gin that has been made from real juniper berries. The cheap brands of gin only use artificial juniper flavoring; if you want old school results, you have to use old school methods. Gin wasn’t invented as a pleasure drink; it was used as a way to deliver the health benefits of juniper berries. A gin that will work is Gordon’s London Dry Gin, because the recipe is unchanged from 1769.13
Recipe: Take 1 cup of golden raisins, put them in a bowl, and cover them with gin. Wait for the majority of the liquid to be absorbed by the raisins or evaporate, then consume 9 or 10 raisins a day. It may take a week or two to start feeling the effects.
Purple Pectin Remedy
This arthritis remedy dates back to the 1940’s, but there has been no scientific studies or solid evidence to suggest how it works. Pectin has been proven to lower blood sugar, while grape juice contains anti-inflammatory polyphenols.
Recipe: Use 1Tbsp liquid pectin in 8oz grape juice and drink one or twice daily. Effects could take up to a couple of weeks.
Flaxseed offers plenty of nutritional value that can help with arthritis symptoms, including anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha-lineoleic acid (ALA)14. In the body, ALA is converted into the other, more potent omega-3’s: docosahexaeonic (DHA) and eicosapentaeonoic (EPA).
Consume flaxseed oil to get the biggest omega-3 benefit.
Tart cherries and unsweetened tart cherry juice have been shown to reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis and gout because they contain powerful antioxidants
Don’t consume sweetened cherry juice regularly for arthritis, however; the added sugars can cause sugar spikes if used too much. Liquid cherry extract works, also.15
For more about cherries, check out our post on cherries and how they help reduce symptoms of gouty arthritis.
Celery and celery seed extract contain 3-n-butylphthaline (3nB). It is what gives celery it’s unique flavor and smell and it’s been found to lower blood pressure.
It’s been reported to help with the symptoms of rheumatic pain and while we have found mentions of 2 studies that seem to support this, we can’t find the text of them anywhere.16
Cayenne pepper and other hot peppers have a component in them called capsaicin; it is the chemical that makes peppers spicy. If you’ve ever used OTC arthritis creams that have a burning sensation to them, that’s what you’re getting: capsaicin.
It works to relieve pain because it depletes substance P, a neurotransmitter that tells our brain that we are experiencing pain.
The homemade cream version work just as well, but with fewer ingredients. Depending on the strength that you want, you can use cayenne pepper or habanero peppers. If you like it and will make it regularly, skip getting your cayenne pepper at the grocery store and buy a bag of it here to save money. You can get the recipe for 3 different salves at EveryDayRoots.com.
Stinging nettles have been known to help relieve arthritis pain, but this has typically been by applying the nettle leaves directly to the site of the inflammation. Brave people! Unfortunately, this means that unless you have access to fresh nettles, this won’t work.
It’s also been shown that stinging nettle extract also helps reduce the amount of NSAIDs that they have to take.17
The active compound in licorice (glycyrrhizin) helps your body release cortisol. Because cortisol suppresses the immune system, it can help with rheumatoid arthritis, which is an auto-immune disease.
It is best taken as licorice tea or as a supplement.
If you take cyclosporine, licorice root or products containing licorice extract are not recommended because the licorice can block the medication. Licorice can also interfere with high blood pressure pills, anti-inflammatories, birth control pills, insulin, and aspirin.18
Claims that angelica is useful for arthritis are anecdotal in nature; we haven’t found any evidence for its effectiveness.
Eucalyptus oil is often used topically to reduce pain at the site of the inflammation.
To use, mix 3 or 4 drops of eucalyptus oil into 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil and apply to the affected joints.
Black cohosh is primarily used to help with the symptoms of menopause, but it may help with RA in women specifically because there has been evidence that that RA may be aggravated by estrogen deficiency during menopause.20
Ginger has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. One study at the University of Miami that had 247 patients with osteoarthritis compared the effects of ginger extract to placebo. The ginger extract was effective at reducing the pain and stiffness 40% more than the placebo.27
You can take ginger as a tea, in capsules, or as an extract.
Frankincense is the resin from trees in the Boswellia genus in the family Burseraceae. There are 3 tree species that are particularly used to produce it: Boswellia sacra, B. frereana, and B. serrata. There are different grades of resin available depending on when it is harvested.
Indian frankincense (B. serrata) was tested as a treatment for osteoarthritis and it was found that those who took 333mg daily reported that they had less pain, more mobility, and could walk longer distances than the other group that had taken placebo.28
Frankincense is often taken in capsule form and is rarely taken as a tea. It is also very commonly burned as incense, but inhalation is likely not effective for arthritis pain.
Turmeric has long been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to reduce the symptoms of arthritis and it’s been discovered that it may not be without merit.
Dandelion greens are the leaves of the common yard dandelion so many people try to get rid of.
It is best eaten in salads or taken in capsule form, because it is bitter.
Vitamin & Mineral Supplements
Glucosamine & Chondroitin
The dosages listed in the study were 400mg chondroitin sulfate plus 500mg glucosamine hydrochloride three times per day.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for human health, but our bodies are not capable of producing them, so we have to obtain them through foods or through supplements. It is important to note that supplementation with omega-3s will not stop joint damage, it will only treat the symptoms of it.32
Calcium is important for strong bones, but it’s a little more complicated as a supplement than most of the others listed here because it is tied in with magnesium and vitamin D. Because of this, you may take calcium and feel no benefits due to other vitamin deficiencies.
Calcium citrate: easily absorbed, expensive, doesn’t contain much elemental calcium
Calcium carbonate: found in antacid tablets, least expensive, has more elemental calcium, but must be taken with meals
Calcium phosphate: Easily absorbed, more expensive than calcium carbonate
You shouldn’t take more than 1,200mg of calcium per day unless instructed to do so by your doctor because it can cause kidney problems.
One study shows that zinc supplementation helped with tenderness of patients who tried it, but more research is needed.35
There is no evidence that copper bracelets or supplements that contain copper improve the symptoms of any type of arthritis.
There is no evidence that supplements that contain chromium improve the symptoms of any type of arthritis.
A lack of vitamin C has been linked to arthritis; a study published in the Riordan Clini in Wichita, KA showed that vitamin C delivered intravenously in high doses can be beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis.43
Vitamin D is important to maintain healthy bone and joint structure. Because people with arthritis tend to be prescribed steroids for their condition, so it’s very important that they get a sufficient amount of vitamin D, either from food or through supplementation.45
You can get more vitamin D naturally by spending about 15 to 20 minutes in the sun every day during the spring and summer; you’ll need to stay outside longer to get the same effects.
Physical methods of pain relief are also available for people who do not wish to take supplements. This includes anything that affects the body directly in a physical way.
Exercise is very important for people who have arthritis. It may seem like the last thing that you want to do if your joints hurt all the time, but it can be quite beneficial.
Reasons you should exercise:
Strengthening muscles: Keeping the muscles that surround your joints strong is critical, because weak muscles can actually increase pain.
More energy: Regular exercise increases energy available to get you through the day. It is known to decrease fatigue.38
Controls excess weight: Being overweight can aggravate the symptoms of arthritis due to the weight alone and likelihood of weak muscles
Maintain bone strength: Exercise increases bone mineral density.39
Types of exercises you should perform:
Stretches: These increase your range of motion
Strengthening: Use these types of exercises to strengthen the muscles around your joints; if they become too weak, they may increase the pain you experience.
Aerobic: These exercises have the ability to help lower excess weight, particularly by increasing metabolism.
While traditional acupuncture is based on the ideas of qi (pronounced “chee”) in traditional chinese medicine, it turns out that there may be some merit to the effects of the method.
For rheumatoid arthritis, there has been evidence that it may reduce tenderness in the joints.
For osteoarthritis, a German study seemed to reduce pain and stiffness after a 3 month course. The results lasted another 3 months.50
There is much anecdotal evidence associated with yoga having a positive effect on arthritis, but only recently has there been any real evidence to support it.
One study in 2001 shows that hand grip improves for both normal people and in people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.52
Another reason yoga is thought to be helpful is that it supports flexibility in the joints.
There has been some evidence that guided imagery may help with fibromyalgia53, but nothing on the effectiveness of it on rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis is known.
There hasn’t been enough study done on the effects of mindfulness meditation on people with arthritis for there to be any indication of benefit. It may help, however, with the depression often experienced by those who have it.54