Natural alternative remedies for arthritis

In a previous article, I discussed some practical and easy-to-do steps people with arthritis can do to help manage the pain associated with the condition. While arthritis may prove to be discomforting for most people, the good news is that there are a lot of natural alternative remedies for it. Aside from pharmaceuticals, there are a great number of foodstuff and plant products that are reportedly effective in mitigating arthritis. Most of these may be found on the shelves of your local grocery store. Some of these are, in fact, very common that you may have already eaten or used one before. It is important to always use these products with a grain of salt, however, and only after you have discussed them with your doctor. But even though they might not be as effective as medications, they are certainly worth a shot.

1. Alfalfa

Acclaimed as one of the best herbal treatments for arthritis by the Washington State University, alfalfa has been used to treat arthritis and a variety of other medical conditions since time immemorial. Its leaves, seeds, and sprouts are used by many people for bladder and kidney problems, prostate conditions, high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma, and numerous types of arthritis. This wonder herb is also loaded with Vitamins A, C, E, and K4 as well as the minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Alfalfa's high mineral content has a neutralizing effect on the blood which could, consequently, help counteract or reverse acidosis (an acid condition of the blood) which often causes or aggravates arthritis.

The best way to use alfalfa is to make tea out of it. As Bob Dorris, D.O.M. (Doctor of Oriental Medicine) recommends, in a tea pot, place one ounce of alfalfa leaves and pour one quart of hot, boiling water. Boil for thirty minutes then strain the liquid. Drink this throughout the day, for two to three weeks. After this, stop drinking the tea for one week. Then, start drinking alfalfa tea again for another two to three weeks.

Alfalfa seeds, instead of leaves, may also be used to make alfalfa tea. Get one teaspoon of alfalfa seeds and add them to one cup of hot, boiling water. Drink three to four cups per day for a duration of two to three weeks. Afalfa seeds, leaves, and sprouts may likewise be used in salads, sandwiches, and even pizzas (as in Yellow Cab's Dear Darla Pizza). Many nutritionists and herbalists recommend not using alfalfa powder, however, since it contains an amino acid that can promote joint pain.

2. Borage seed oil

Borage seed oil has been shown by numerous scientific studies and clinical trials to be effective in reducing arthritis-related inflammation while having very few side effects. As researchers of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center have found, aside from being well tolerated, borage seed oil has ''resulted in statistically significant and clinically relevant reductions in the signs and symptoms of disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.''

The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center attributes the oil extract's anti-inflammatory property to gamma linoleic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid that helps improve joint pain, joint stiffness, and grip strength.

Borage seed oil may be taken orally as a dietary supplement. Most borage oil supplements actually contain a mixture of GLA, Vitamin E, and Sunflower seed oil. recommends that the supplement should contain no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Each capsule usually contains 90 mg of GLA from borage seed oil, and 215 mg of linoleic acid from a mixture of borage/sunflower seed oil. Two to three capsules are usually taken per day. Most health food stores sell borage seed oil supplements produced by Shaklee Corporation, the leading natural nutrition company in the United States. Borage seed oil may also be purchased in liquid form. Some massage the oil over the affected area/s. Others drink one teaspoon of the oil per day.

3. Cherries

Unbeknownst to many, something as sweet and delicious as cherries can actually help with arthritis pain. The small, fleshy fruit is replete with the minerals magnesium and potassium. While the former is a natural painkiller, the latter has a potent anti-inflammatory effect. This combination helps mitigate the pain and swelling associated with arthritis. In addition, cherries contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins.

Several studies point to cherry's efficacy for many types of arthritis. Researchers at the Boston University Medical Center found that people who ate at least 10 cherries a day experienced significantly less recurrent attacks of gout. Another study conducted by the Oregon Health and Science University concluded that drinking tart cherry juice twice a day for three weeks ''led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers.'' The same study has found, in fact, that tart cherries appear to have the ''highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.'' Mike Adams, editor of, goes as far as to say that cherries are a miracle cure for gout and arthritis pain.

It doesn't really matter whether you eat fresh, frozen, or canned cherries. Cherry syrup or juice also has the same effect as whole cherries. The plethora of scientific and anecdotal evidence seem to agree that 8 to 10 cherries per day is the ideal number to alleviate arthritis-related pain and inflammation.

4. Eucalyptus oil

A very common, age-old remedy for arthritis pain is eucalyptus oil. Though not as potent as other natural alternative treatments, eucalyptus oil still provides relaxing pain relief due to its anti-inflammatory property. The best way to use eucalyptus oil for arthritis is as follows. First, warm a small quantity of the oil, then apply a very thin layer of it over the painful area/s. Next, cover the area/s with a plastic wrap. Apply heat over the wrapped area/s either through steaming towels or a hot compress. This remedy is best done before bedtime.