Naturopathic (Natural) Treatment for Arthritis

Arthritis is the degeneration of a joint and the related pain. There are many types of arthritis and osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common. Osteoarthritis can be caused by trauma, joint overuse, infections, and other factors.

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disorder that results when the hyaline cartilage, which allows joints to move (articulate) freely, undergoes degenerative change. This change results in the destruction of cartilage and the development of conditions such as bone spurs. It occurs in both men and women, and is a natural result of aging. Individuals in their 20s and 30s may have joint changes and by their 50s and 60s symptoms frequently occur.

Symptoms include pain, swelling, morning stiffness, restricted mobility, and joint noise (crepitus) when moving. Commonly affected sites are fingers, shoulders, spine, knees, and hips. The disorder is frequently asymmetrical (affects joints on one side).

Arthritis & NSAIDS (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs)

NSAIDs (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, indomethacin) are often used to treat the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis. They are relatively inexpensive and usually effective. However, there are often side effects, due to the drug itself or to the high dosages required. Studies indicate that NSAIDs not only reduce the ability to repair cartilage, but also increase the degeneration process. While NSAIDs may provide symptomatic relief, they may, in fact, worsen the condition.

Arthritis & Nutrition

Dietary changes can provide the proper nutrients needed to repair damaged joint tissue and eliminate foods that can damage joint tissue. Excess body weight adds to the stress on joints, so losing weight can be beneficial.

Removing foods in the nightshade family (solanaceae) from the diet may also be beneficial. The nightshade family includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and tobacco. They contain alkaloids (a plant constituent) that may interfere with joint repair and increase inflammation.

  • Eat kale, artichoke, celery, turnip greens, mustard greens, lettuce, millet, barley, almonds, black mission figs, cherries, pineapple, blackberries, black currants, limes, olive oil, and gelatin.
  • Avoid sugar, dairy products, refined foods, fried foods, junk food, caffeine, spinach, asparagus, rhubarb, and the nightshade family.
  • Eliminate food sensitivities from the diet. Use an elimination and challenge diet to determine food sensitivities.
  • Drink 1/2 ounce of water per pound of body weight daily (e.g., a 150 lb person would drink 75 oz of water).

Arthritis & Supplements

  • Copper—Take 1 mg daily
  • Essential fatty acids (flaxseed oil)—Take 1-2 tbsp daily.
  • Glucosamine sulfate—Take 500 mg 3 times daily. Glucosamine sulfate is believed to rebuild the cartilage in joints. It may take up to 6 weeks for symptoms to improve.
  • Methionine—Take 250 mg 3 times daily.
  • Niacinamide—Take 500 mg 3 times daily. Clinical results show niacinamide to be effective in treating osteoarthritis. Caution: Using niacinamide at this high dose can cause side effects (liver damage) so use with a physician's supervision only.
  • Vitamin A—Take 10,000 IUs daily.
  • Vitamin B-5—Take 12.5 mg daily.
  • Vitamin B-6—Take 50 mg daily.
  • Vitamin C—Take 1-2 grams daily.
  • Vitamin E—Take 400-800 IUs daily.
  • Selenium—Take 200 mcg daily.
  • Zinc—Take 45 mg daily.

Arthritis & Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicines rarely have significant side effects when used appropriately and at suggested doses. Occasionally, an herb at the prescribed dose causes stomach upset or a headache. This may reflect the purity of the preparation or added ingredients, such as synthetic binders or fillers. For this reason, it is recommended that only high-quality products be used. As with all medications, more is not better and overdosing can lead to serious illness and death.

The following herbs are used to treat osteoarthritis:

  • Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)—Is nutritive.
  • Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)—Is an anti-inflammatory, an antispasmodic, and a digestive stimulant.
  • Burdock (Arctium lappa)—Is nutritive and an alterative.
  • Chaparral (Larrea mexicana)—Is an antiinflammatory and an antihistamine.
  • Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)—Is an antiinflammatory and an analgesic.
  • Juniper (Juniperus communis)—Promotes digestion and excretion of uric acid and dispels gas. Caution: Juniper can cause kidney irritation. Do not use more than 6 weeks in succession. Do not boil leaves, infuse only for 20 minutes.
  • Yucca (Yucca spp)—Is an antiinflammatory and an antispasmodic.

Arthritis & Hydrotherapy

  • Heating compress to affected area
  • Constitutional hydrotherapy (particularly for chronic aggravations)

Arthritis & Homeopathy

The standard dosage for acute symptom relief is 3 pellets of 30C every 4 hours until symptoms resolve. Lower potencies, such as 6X, 6C, 30X, may be given every 2 to 4 hours. If the right remedy is chosen, symptoms should improve shortly after the second dose. If there is no improvement after 3 doses, a different remedy is given. The following remedies have been shown to be effective in acute, symptomatic relief of osteoarthritis.

  • Bryonia—Indicated for pain in limbs and joints that are better with warmth, swollen joints, and joints worse with touch.
  • Kali bichromicum—Indicated for shooting, pricking pain; wandering pain; stiffness all over; and pain worse in the morning, with motion, or with cold.
  • Rhus toxicodendron—Indicated for the sensation of stiffness on first moving limbs after rest and when pain is as if bruised or sprained.
  • Ruta graveolens—Indicated for inability to bend; pain in all joints and hip bones; and pain worse in wet, cold weather.
  • Ledum—Indicated for stiffness in all joints that move only after applying cold water; painful, hard nodes; and pain worse by warmth of bed.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 01 Sep 2015