People living with arthritis are struggling with pain on a daily basis, and it absolutely doesn’t — and shouldn’t — be that way. Just how much damage can be reversed can’t be said, but there are foods, herbs, and essential oils that will reduce pain and swelling and encourage healing and repair.
Inflammation is the culprit behind the aches and pains of arthritis, so give every dinner plate an extra scoop of arthritis-fighting foods.
Fatty Fish & Flax: Omega-3’s are a must for diets of all ages and conditions, but omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for arthritis. They keep joints lubricated, reduce inflammation, and may even help our bodies with absorbing calcium and maintaining bone mass. Fatty cold-water fish like salmon and sardines are the highest edible sources of omega-3’s, but meat-free omegas can be sourced from walnuts, flax, chia, hemp seed, and purslane.
Cruciferous Vegetables: Recent studies show that sulforaphane can reduce inflammation and cut back cartilage damage. It’s so promising, that UK drug company Evgen Pharma is producing their own pill version (Sulforadex). Luckily, you can spare yourself the meds if you eat and juice brassicas like brussel sprouts, garden cress, cabbage, kale, and broccoli. Eat them as sprouts for even more sulforaphane.
Pineapple: A friend of mine would get random allergic reactions that would take place place on random parts of their body. One day, their lip got hit with that familiar tingle that cued hours of swelling. I had read that bromelain reduces inflammation, so I offered up two capsules of a QBC complex. The swelling never came, and, an hour later, even the tingling was gone. Try it for yourself.
Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oils contains a variety of phenolic compounds; the most important being oleocanthal. Studies have shown that oleocanthal is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can actually reduce the symptoms of arthritis. You can use this this oil for light cooking, salad dressings, soups, and even DIY chocolate sauce.
There are a variety of herbs that benefit arthritis thanks to pain-blocking compounds and anti-inflammatory properties. Some can be taken as tea while others, like ginger and turmeric, are better taken as supplements or capsules so that the body can get enough herb for quicker and greater benefit.
- Meadowsweet: For instant pain relief, look no further than nature’s aspirin. High in the compound salicin, meadowsweet can reduce pain and ease inflammation. And while commercial aspirin can irritate the stomach, meadowsweet actually doubles as a stomach soother for ulcers, indigestion, heartburn, and IBS.
- Cayenne: This spicy pepper is loaded with capsaicin; the compound that makes it hot as well as soothing. Capsaicin blocks the pain producing neurotransmitter known as Substance P, which cuts back on achy joints big time. Try making your own homemade hot pepper cream to see how it helps your pains. Just handle with caution!
- Borage: The leaves and flowers of this herb are edible, and bees absolutely love it. If that’s not cool enough, it’s also high in the omega-6 fatty acid GLA (gamma linoleic acid). GLA can ease inflammation, improve mobility, and keep cell membranes intact. Get daily GLA from a quality borage oil. Evening primrose and black currant oil are also high in this fab omega-6.
- Turmeric: Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is actually able to stop pain signals from being sent to the brain. It also reduces inflammation by inhibiting prostaglandins. It may also increase sensitivity to cortisol, thereby making it more effective.
- Rose Hips: This “fruit” is well known for it’s vitamin C content, but it’s one heck of an anti-inflammatory. Studies show it slows the production of proteins and enzymes that cause swelling, and it comes with a list of other great all-around health benefits.
Simply smelling essential oils will have an affect on the body, but arthritis will get the best benefits by topical use. The oils can be applied directly to swollen joints with a carrier oil (ie. coconut oil) for quick results. However, they can also be applied to the soles of the feet so that children and sensitive skin types can get the same healing effects.
- Peppermint: As an analgesic, peppermint has the ability to relieve pain. It also reduces swelling, increases circulation, and causes a cooling effect.
- Eucalyptus: Yet another analgesic oil, eucalyptus is high in anti-inflammatory compounds like eucalyptol which address swelling and pain.
- Ginger: The body produces chemicals called prostaglandins, and high levels have a connection with painful cramps, migraines, and arthritis. Ginger just so happens to lower prostaglandin fury, and minimizes pain and inflammation. And without the scary side effects of commercial pain relievers.
- Lavender: If any essential oil deserves an award of recognition, it’s lavender. It’s good for virtually anything and everything, and arthritis is no exception thanks to its analgesic and inflammation fighting traits. It’s also wonderfully sedating.
- Frankincense: This versatile oil has shown that it can reduce inflammatory activity, and even help prevent the breakdown of cartilage which can lead to so much pain. Dr. Josh Axe says the effects on arthritis are even stronger when it’s used with myrrh.
Exercise is important no matter who you are. Arthritis makes it especially important because exercise gets fluids circulating to joints and tissues. Sitting at a proper weight is also crucial because it keeps off unnecessary strain. So, even though a workout may sound like the last thing your achy joints need, the many benefits of exercise could have you feeling 100x better.
- Swimming: If you’re new to exercise, or coping with extra-painful joints; the pool is your best friend. Water takes gravity’s pressure off of our bodies, so swimming and aquatic exercise offers arthritis many benefits. Our bodies have a full range of motion, which eases movement and improves circulation. Time in the water also helps to relieve tension by giving muscles and bones a little time off.
- Tai Chi: This method of exercise may look ridiculously simple, but your ideas will change after you try it. It’s very gentle on the body, but it utilizes slow and controlled movements which activate the muscles and improve circulation. Tai chi helps arthritis in many ways; most notably by reducing pain, raising energy, and enhancing strength and balance. It’s been so effective with arthritis, it comes endorsed by the CDC. Australian doctor Paul Lam took up Tai Chi in the 70’s to help his own arthritis. He’s since developed programs that have helped millions. Try this intro lesson by Dr. Lam to see what you think for yourself.
Sources for this article include:
Eating For Aging – Organic Lifestyle Magazine
Oleocanthal: A Naturally Occurring Anti-Inflammatory Agent In Virgin Olive Oil – In Tech Open
Fight Cancer: Chew Or Juice Brassicas – Integrative Oncology
Supplement And Herb Guide – Arthritis Foundation
Top 5 Essential Oils For Arthritis – Dr. Axe
Essential Oils For Pain Relief – Massage Today
How To Ease Arthritis With Swimming Pool Exercise – Blue Haven
Tai Chi For Arthritis – Tai Chi For Health Institute