Natural Medicine for Osteoarthritis

There are many effective natural treatment options for osteoarthritis. Previous research showed that glucosamine sulfate might be effective not only in decreasing painful symptoms associated with OA, but also in addressing actual degeneration of the joint tissue that is responsible for the discomfort. However, recent studies have demonstrated that glucosamine does not prevent cartilage damage in people with osteoarthritis.

Prevention is always the goal with natural medicine. Once symptoms develop, however, there are specific natural remedies and diet changes that have proven to be effective in stopping and, in some cases, reversing the damage and discomfort associated with degenerative joint disease.

Osteoarthritis & Diet Recommendations

Include the following foods in your diet: fresh vegetables (except the nightshade vegetables, which should be avoided), fruits (especially pigment-rich berries since they contain anthocyanidins, which enhance collagen matrix integrity and structure), whole grains, flax seed oil, deep ocean fish (anti-inflammatiry omega 3 oils), nuts, soy products and beverages (hormonal support).

Drink 2 liters of fresh water daily.

Avoid sugar, refined flour products, processed foods, fast foods, saturated fats (animal and dairy products), hydrogenated oils, nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes), tobacco products.

Include extra fiber in your diet by adding 1 Tbs. psyllium seed husk fiber and/or 5-8 Tbs. flax seed meal and/or oat bran daily to diet.

Osteoarthritis & Nutritional Supplementation

The following nutrients have been shown to be deficient in patients suffering from osteoarthritis, so supplements should be taken:

  • Vitamin C: 1000 mg 3 times a day with meals
  • Vitamin E: 400-800 IU daily
  • Zinc: 30 mg daily
  • B6: 50 mg daily
  • Copper: 2 mg daily
  • Boron: 5 mg daily
  • Glucosamine Sulfate: Although previous studies showed that this joint cartilage precursor may promote cartilage regeneration in affected joints, relieve pain, and repair damage, recent research questions its effectiveness. Some people with osteoarthritis experience an improvement in symptoms after at least 6 weeks of taking this supplement. The usual recommended dose is 500 mg 3 times a day.
  • S-Adenosylmethionine (SAM): SAM improves swelling, early morning stiffness, range of motion, and pain relief. Take 1000 mg daily for 2 weeks, then 200 mg 2 times a day.
  • Flax Seed Oil: Flax seed oil is an anti-inflammatory. Take 1-2 Tbs daily.

Osteoarthritis & Things you should NOT take

NOTE: Chondroitin sulfate, shark cartilage, and bovine cartilage are NOT absorbed well by humans and are therefore not useful in degenerative joint disease treatment protocol.

Osteoarthritis & Herbal Therapeutics

None of the following herbal remedies have significant side effects associated with regular use at the suggested doses. As with all medications, herbal or otherwise, more is NOT better, and overdosing can lead to serious illness and death. Follow dosage outlines carefully.

Rarely, an herb at the prescribed dose will cause stomach upset or 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, standardized extract formulas be used. If possible, consult with a natural health practitioner such as a holistic medical doctor or licensed naturopathic physician before starting any alternative treatment plan.

The following herbs have been shown to be useful in the natural treatment of arthritis:

  • Boswellia serrata: standardized extract contains 400 mg boswellic acid 400 mg; take 3 times a day.
  • Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) extract : This herb has a long tradition as an arthritis remedy and has anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. Take 400 mg 3 times a day.
  • Yucca: Its anti-inflammatory action appears to work by inhibiting absorption of gastrointestinal toxins, thereby decreasing the level of circulating inflammatory agents.

Osteoarthritis & Homeopathic Medicine

A trained homeopathic practitioner is needed to diagnose and prescribe a deep acting, constitutional remedy for chronic symptoms.

Standard dosage for acute symptom relief is 12c-30c, 3 to 5 pellets every 4 hours until symptoms resolve. If you have chosen the right remedy, you should experience a change in your discomfort shortly after the first of second dose.

Warning: most homeopathic remedies are delivered in a pellet that has a lactose sugar base. If you are intolerant to lactose, be advised that a homeopathic liquid may be a better choice.

Osteoarthritis & Physical Medicine

The goal of physical medicine in the treatment of arthritis is to increase blood flow to the joint and its surrounding muscles and ligaments. This nourishes the tissues and removes waste products that may have accumulated as the result of inflammation.

Rub a cream or ointment containing 0.075% capsaicin in the affected joint up to 4 times daily.

Physical exercise that doesn't stress the joints is advised. Walking, swimming, and dancing are all good exercises that increase circulation to the joint and muscles.

Hot and cold hydrotherapy will increase circulation to the joint and surrounding tissues. Alternate ice and hot water bottle or hot compress (3 minutes hot, 30 seconds cold), and always finish with cold to flush the issues.

Regular chiropractic adjustments will assure correct posture and muscle tone to support proper joint function.

Publication Review By: John J. Swierzewski, D.P.M.

Published: 31 Dec 1999

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015