The 10 Best Herbs for Arthritis

Arthritis is a disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the joints. Using natural herbal remedies may help to manage mild symptoms, particularly if you use them alongside standard treatment options. …

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Written by: Siobhan Mendicino
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Medical Review by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Arthritis is a disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the joints. Using natural herbal remedies may help to manage mild symptoms, particularly if you use them alongside standard treatment options.

This article summarizes some of the most significant scientific research behind the best herbs for arthritis and its symptoms. 

best herbs for arthritis

Overview:

Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that is characterized by joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.

Arthritis can be divided into three categories: rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), and gout. In all cases, there is significant inflammation of joints, however, the cause and severity vary. 

The root cause of arthritis is inflammation. Using natural anti-inflammatory herbs can help to reduce inflammation, and thus may help to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis.

Best Herbs for Arthritis:

Below are the best research-backed herbs for arthritis. 

benefits of turmeric for arthritis

1. Turmeric

Turmeric is known to be one of the best anti-inflammatory herbs and thus is helpful for arthritis. Specifically, it’s thought that turmeric is one of the best herbs for osteoarthritis.

Curcumin, the active constituent in turmeric, is accredited with turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effect. 

A comparison study involving patients with knee osteoarthritis found that turmeric extract was helpful for reducing pain during a variety of activities, including walking and moving up and down stairs. In this study, the turmeric extract was just as effective for reducing pain as ibuprofen. 

In another trial observing participants with knee osteoarthritis, curcumin was shown to significantly reduce pain and improve physical function. Researchers found that 84% of subjects receiving curcuminoids were able to stop the use of additional anti-inflammatory medication by the end of the study.  

An 8-week trial administering water-soluble curcumin to subjects with mild-to-moderate knee osteoarthritis discovered that the curcumin alleviated pain significantly compared to placebo. The curcumin group was asked to perform tasks after receiving 180mg of turmeric so the researchers could evaluate joint swelling, pain levels during walking, the ability to climb stairs, and range of motion.  

Researchers observed that a twice-a-day administration of 500mg of turmeric was able to reduce pain and increase mobility in subjects with knee osteoarthritis. Participants who took the extract were less likely to use “rescue medication” than those in the placebo group.

Turmeric appears to also be an effective natural remedy for rheumatoid arthritis.

In a comparison study, participants with rheumatoid arthritis found improvement in inflammation, tenderness, and swelling of joints after taking 500mg of curcumin daily. Curcumin was more effective in comparison to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) usage.

Summary:

Research shows that turmeric may improve symptoms of arthritis due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties.
boswellia arthritis benefits

2. Boswellia

Indian Frankincense, or boswellia, is considered one of the best natural herbs for arthritis.

The terpenes and triterpenic acids in boswellia have shown to be the active constituents responsible for its anti-inflammatory effect.  

A recent study demonstrated that Boswellia serrata extract (containing 30% boswellic acids) reduces arthritic symptoms such as joint pain and decreased mobility in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Researchers noted that they believed these improvements were due to boswellia’s anti-inflammatory properties. 

In another osteoarthritis study, a combination of turmeric and boswellia was able to reduce painful symptoms in the study participants. Symptoms included morning stiffness, mobility limitations, and joint pain. The trial was a comparison trial where some subjects took only turmeric, some took turmeric and boswellia, and some took a placebo. The combination of turmeric and boswellia was the most effective. 

Another osteoarthritis clinical trial discovered that an herbal formula containing boswellia, turmeric, ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), and a zinc complex had the ability to increase the ability to walk and reduced pain. A total of 39 out of 42 patients preferred the herbal formula over the placebo. 

A study involving participants with knee osteoarthritis observed that boswellic acid and Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) had anti-arthritic properties. This formula improved joint function and reduced inflammation. There was also an improvement in pain and participants experienced a lasting improvement in walking capabilities after the treatment ended.

Summary:

Studies demonstrate that boswellia may help with osteoarthritis by reducing joint pain and increasing joint mobility.
ginger for arthritis symptom benefits

3. Ginger

Ginger is another helpful herb for inflammation and osteoarthritis.

A study observing participants with osteoarthritis found that powdered ginger capsules had the ability to decrease the number of pro-inflammatory proteins after 3 months of therapy. Researchers attributed this anti-inflammatory response to the shogoal and gingerol content in ginger. 

A large clinical trial found that ginger extract was effective in reducing pain and improving the capacity to walk in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Researchers noted that those taking the extract did experience mild adverse gastrointestinal effects. 

Another study involving subjects with osteoarthritis demonstrated that ginger extract was able to reduce pain and improve mobility. Those taking the extract were twice as likely to discontinue rescue treatment than those taking the placebo. 

In an animal study, shogoal was able to decrease swelling as well as inhibit the inflammatory response in rats with osteoarthritis.

Summary:

Ginger has been found to be effective in treating common arthritis symptoms such as joint pain, lack of mobility, and swelling.
artemisia annua - herbs for arthritis

4. Artemisia annua (Sweet Wormwood)

Clinical research has found that Artemisia annua (also known as sweet wormwood) may be one of the best herbs for arthritis.

In a human clinical pilot trial, sweet wormwood extract was shown to be helpful for improving joint mobility and reducing stiffness and pain in the joints. Researchers administered both 150mg and 300mg twice daily and found that the 150mg was just as effective as the 300mg dosage.

A comparison study with 159 subjects discovered that wormwood taken with common arthritic drugs was more effective for reducing joint pain than taking the drug alone. The arthritic drugs included methotrexate and leflunomide. 

In a lab-based study, the active constituent of sweet wormwood, artemisinin, was able to reduce inflammation. Researchers observed that the artemisinin inhibited pro-inflammatory biomarkers and therefore reduced the body’s inflammatory response.

Summary:

Artemisia may be helpful in improving mobility while reducing joint stiffness and pain.
stinging nettle - an herb for treating arthritis

5. Stinging Nettle 

Stinging Nettle is thought to be one of the best natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis.

In a placebo-controlled study, researchers found that stinging nettle cream was helpful for those suffering from painful joints. When participants rubbed the cream on the arthritis-affected areas, they experienced a reduction of pain and improvement in overall function. 

Another clinical trial found that a stinging nettle supplement was significant for reducing arthritic pain in subjects with knee or hip osteoarthritis. Researchers noted that those receiving the stinging nettle supplement were less likely to request additional analgesics or NSAIDs for managing their pain. 

Natural herbalist, David Hoffmann, mentions that stinging nettle is a popular herbal remedy for osteoarthritis.

Summary:

Research has found that stinging nettle is helpful in reducing pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
andrographis benefits for arthritic symptoms

6. Andrographis

Andrographis may be helpful in benefitting arthritis and joint pain.

In a placebo-controlled study, 60 study participants struggling with rheumatoid arthritis supplemented with ParActin, an andrographis extract found to be capable of decreasing joint pain, swollenness, and tenderness when compared to placebo.

In another double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study involving participants with knee osteoarthritis, it was noted that those who used ParActin (the same extract used in the study mentioned above) experienced lower levels of pain, stiffness, fatigue, and higher levels of physical function and quality of life when compared to the placebo.

In an in vitro study, researchers found that andrographolide, the main compound in Andrographis paniculata, may be able to reduce arthritis and joint dysfunction by decreasing inflammatory markers. This compound also seemed to inhibit various autoimmune pathways, which are relevant to the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.

An in vitro and in vivo combination study discovered that andrographolide, a compound found in andrographis, could reduce inflammatory markers and suppress key signaling pathways linked to inflammatory cytokines. This compound helps to reduce various inflammatory factors related to arthritis.

Lastly, one study noted that andrographolide suppressed certain inflammatory mediators and markers. It also decreased the overall toxicity of cells.

Summary:

Research indicates that andrographis may be one of the best herbs for reducing arthritic symptoms and inflammation. Though well-researched, additional human clinical studies would be useful in confirming these findings.
herbs for arthritis - devil's claw

7. Devil’s Claw  

Devil’s claw has shown to be an effective herb for osteoarthritis.

Researchers believe the inhibition of the inflammatory response is due to active constituents in devil’s claw called iridoid glycosides.

A number of trials have demonstrated that devil’s claw is supportive of pain reduction and has anti-inflammatory effects for those with osteoarthritis. 

Lab studies have demonstrated that devil’s claw possesses properties that inhibit inflammatory cytokines. Devil’s claw has also been proven to reduce arachidonic acid metabolism, which inhibits COX-2, and leads to the reduction of inflammation.

An open trial with 250 patients; 85 with osteoarthritic knee pain; 104 with low back pain; and 61 with hip pain demonstrated highly effective results after 8 weeks of treatment with devil’s claw extract. All groups improved by week 4 in both generic and disease-specific outcome measures. Results improved further by week 8. Participants with hip arthritis saw the greatest improvement, followed by those with knee arthritis and back pain.

The European Medicines Agency mentions that devil’s claw is supportive for those with minor joint pain. 

Summary:

The anti-inflammatory properties of devil’s claw have been held responsible for this herb’s ability to reduce joint pain.
herbs helpful for arthritis - maca

8. Maca

Maca has been found to be one of the best herbs for joint health.

In one study, participants with osteoarthritis were either given glucosamine sulfates or a combination of maca and cat’s claw (Uncaria guianensis) administered orally, twice daily. Both treatments improved joint function, and reduced stiffness and pain, although study participants preferred the maca and cat’s claw. The maca and cat’s claw group was also found to be less likely to use a rescue medicine

Summary:

Maca may be one of the best herbs for improving joint function and health.
hops, an herbal remedy for arthritis

9. Hops

Hops is a beneficial herb for joint pain.

In a study involving 17 adults struggling with chronic joint pain, patients were given an isolated constituent in hops that was able to reduce joint pain after 12 weeks. Several participants reported pain relief as early as 2 weeks after beginning the study. At the start of the study, 13 out of the 17 participants were taking traditional OTC pain-relievers, while only 4 of the participants were taking them after 12 weeks.

Summary:

Hops has been found to demonstrate an ability to reduce chronic joint pain.
benefits of california poppy for arthritis

10. California Poppy

California poppy is an herb that may be a herbal remedy for arthritis.

In an animal study examining the pain-reducing benefits of California poppy extract, several findings reported that California poppy may be an herb effective in treating acute and chronic pain, including pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Summary:

Due to its ability to reduce pain, California poppy may be beneficial in treating both the acute and chronic pain commonly connected with osteoarthritis.

Types of Arthritis:

There are a variety of different types of arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints, and may cause severe joint damage, loss of function, and disability. Typically genetics and environmental factors trigger RA. The most severe form of arthritis. RA is found in ~1% of the U.S. population.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis happens due to age, obesity, joint trauma, and genetics. Around 40% – 47% of the U.S. population will develop osteoarthritis in their lifetime.

Gout

Gout occurs when there is an overabundance of uric acid in the blood which deposits in the joints and causes inflammation. Gout affects 8 million people in the United States.

Research has found that females are more affected than males in cases of RA and OA, while males are more likely to develop gout. 

Common Symptoms of Arthritis:

Arthritis can be a very painful and immobilizing disorder. Symptoms that arise can become increasingly worse over time and have a detrimental effect on the quality of life. 

Some common symptoms of arthritis include: 

  • Inflammation
  • Pain 
  • Immobility and stiffness
  • Joint deformities
  • Decreased range of motion 
  • Loss of function
  • Weakness

The Development and Effects of Arthritis:  

Chronic inflammation is the main characteristic of arthritis and is known to be caused by varying factors depending on the type of the condition.

Since RA is considered an autoimmune disorder, other diseases are often associated with this condition, including:

  • IBD 
  • Psoriasis
  • Sjogren syndrome
  • Systemic sclerosis
  • Celiac disease 
  • Dermatomyositis

Due to the immobility that arthritis causes, there are a number of life-threatening ailments that can stem from this condition. 

Some of those issues/diseases include: 

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Unemployment
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Blood clots

Lifestyle changes and modern medicine are both options that help manage inflammation of the joints. Adding natural herbs and supplements for arthritis can help to fill in potential gaps.

Conclusion:

Arthritis can be a debilitating, painful disease that affects physical health and quality of life. 

A variety of natural herbs have been clinically shown to reduce inflammation and may help to alleviate some of the painful symptoms of arthritis.

When considering a change to your standard healthcare routine, it’s important to consult your primary healthcare practitioner. 

As with all supplements, it is important to consult a medical practitioner should you consider making any changes to your standard routine. 

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About Siobhan Mendicino

Siobhan is a herbal researcher and writer. She has a bachelor of science in communications as well as having completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in herbal studies.

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