Herbal Remedies, Supplements & Acupuncture for Arthritis


Herbal Remedies

For over 5,000 years, herbs have been used for their medicinal properties. The ancient science of Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of foods as medicine and many different plants/vegetables are valued for their medicinal-like properties and health benefits. While there can be benefit to these herbs in helping to treat certain conditions, they should never be used alone as sole treatment. It should be known that the companies that create these herbal remedies and supplements do not undergo monitoring and evaluation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so long-term safety is not established.

Herbal Remedies and Supplements for Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative arthritis caused by wear and tear of the joints. It is a chronic condition and can cause pain. There are several herbal compounds that are marketed today that provide relief in arthritis pain such as turmeric, ginger, devil’s claw, willow bark, and Boswellia serrata.

Ginger and willow bark extract may relieve pain, and interestingly these products have compounds in them similar to NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Turmeric has gained more recent fame in managing pain from osteoarthritis due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The current recommendation is to take curcumin, the active form of turmeric at 500 mg–1000 mg daily.

Supplements are also available over the counter for treatment of rheumatologic symptoms. Some of the most common are glucosamine sulfate along with omega 3. These supplements can provide modest pain relief in patients that have osteoarthritis but use of pain relievers such as NSAIDs and acetaminophen may still be needed in conjunction with these supplements.

Acupuncture for Arthritis

Developed in Asia over 2,000 years ago, acupuncture is a treatment modality consisting of needles which are inserted into the skin at specific points along meridians or channels which are deemed to be associated with various organ and bodily functions.

There have been many studies demonstrating the use of acupuncture for relief of pain caused by osteoarthritis. Due to the low risk profile of acupuncture, it is considered to be a safe therapy and may be considered in addition to conventional treatment for management of osteoarthritis pains.

For More Information

In conclusion, many herbal remedies and supplements are available on the market to manage pain. While they can be helpful, there is limited data to prove efficacy and these agents are not reviewed by the FDA so long-term safety has not been determined. Acupuncture can also be a beneficial modality of treatment to relieve pain. It is best to speak to your doctor about which complimentary medical therapies can be right for you.

Updated April 2023 by Bhakti Shah, MD, and reviewed by the American College of Rheumatology Committee on Communications and Marketing.

This information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment of a medical or health condition.

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