Herbal Pain Relief for Arthritis--
A Natural Answer

Herbal pain relief supplements are natural plant-based and popular complementary or alternative treatments for people with arthritis. They’ve been used effectively for all symptoms of various types of arthritis, most notably for the warnings of pain.

The concept of herbal preparations or dietary herbal supplements is simple. Herbs are plants. Your body efficiently assimilates the nutrients from plants at the cellular level. Synthetic drugs are not recognized by your body as food and cells receive little nutrient value from these treatments.

World history of herbs for natural medicine

Herbs have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Herbal pain relief was just one of the uses of the plant world. In the written record, the study of herbs dates back over 5,000 years to the Sumerians, who described well-established medicinal uses for such plants as laurel, caraway, and thyme.

The great age of herbals occurred during the 15th-16th and 17th Centuries. This coincided with the invention of the printing press in 1450, which allowed ready availability of medicinal manuscripts for the first time in English and languages other than Latin or Greek.

United States history of medicinal herbs

The United States has a much shorter history of medicinal herbal use. Native American Indians and early European settlers certainly used plants and glands as herbal pain relief and medicines, but not to the extent of the Asian settlers.

By the twentieth century, however, the pre-eminent position of herbs in medical practice began to fade. This began with the professionalism of the physician, followed by chemical drugs (like arsenic, copper, sulfate, iron, mercury and sulfur).

Then the rapid development of chemistry led increasingly to the dominance of chemical medicine and synthetic drugs as the traditional system of medical treatment in America. Over time, the use of herbal medicines declined in favor of pharmaceuticals. During this time, most Americans shied away from herbal preparations when synthetic ones were available.

However, according to the World Health Organization, 80% of people today worldwide continue to rely on herbal supplements and medicinal herbs for some aspect of their primary healthcare. In Germany, up to 700 plant-based medicines are available and are prescribed by approximately 70% of German physician

Herbal supplements popular again over the past 30 years

In the last thirty years in the United States, the public has become increasingly dissatisfied with the cost and side effect risks of prescription and non-prescription medications. This, combined with an interest in returning to natural or organic remedies, has led to increased use of herbal pain relief, for example.

The use of herbal supplements and alternative medicines is more popular in the United States than ever before.

Dry extracts sold as tablets, capsules, or lozenges are the most common form of herbal supplementation on the market today.   Extracts provide the most concentrated form of an herbal supplement--typically 2:1 to 8:1 strength..

Herbs come in several other forms:

  1. Teas (dried herbs soaked in boiling water)
  2. Syrups (concentrated extracts added to flavored preparations)
  3. Oils (extracted from plants for use in massage rubs, ointments, creams)
  4. Tinctures (extracts of 1:5 to 1:10 herbal concentration as solvents)
  5. Liquid extracts (more concentrated tinctures, usually 1:1)

What is an herbal pain relief supplement?

Herbal pain relief is just one of the properties from plant-based supplements.

Technically, herbs are a subset of botanicals. A botanical is a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal or therapeutic properties, flavor, and/or scent. Products made from botanicals that are used to maintain or improve health or fight pain may be called herbal products, herbal supplements, botanical medicine, or phytomedicines.

Herbs can be classified as a dietary supplement, if the herbal (botanical) preparation meets the definition as defined by Congress in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act which became law in 1994, quoted below:

"A dietary supplement is a product (other than tobacco) that:

  1. Is intended to supplement the diet (cannot be represented for use as a food)
  2. Contains one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and other substances) or their constituents
  3. Is intended to be taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet or liquid, and
  4. Is labeled “dietary supplement” on the product’s front panel"

Which herbs have proven effective for arthritis?

The following is a list of ten herbs and two natural substances that may be helpful as herbal pain relief for arthritis and its symptoms (each bold link below takes you to product information and cost pages of the company we recommend at the conclusion of this article.. Each non-bold link delivers a separate information page on this website for more complete background information on the substance):

Alfalfa (referred to as “the father of all foods,”) has health benefits recognized for centuries. The alfalfa leaf contains a wide range of healing properties that help reduce arthritic stiffness, swelling and pain in joints. It is a natural diuretic. Click for more information on Alfalfa

Ashwagandha (in combination with beta sitosterol—below) helps relax the body and mind. The species name somnifera means "sleep-making" in Latin, indicating its sedating and anti-stress properties. Ashwagandha root contains flavanoids and many active ingredients helpful for reducing inflammatory symptoms of arthritis. Click for more info on Ashwagandha

Beta sitosterol (in combination with Ashwagandha—above) is a soybean phytosterol that helps blunt cortisol—a hormone produced during stress that affects long-term health. For varied reasons, stress is a common aggravation for many arthritis sufferers. 

Borage Oil (GLA). While not considered a primary herbal pain relief component, Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) from borage seed oil is used as an anti-inflammatory and assists the body in forming prostaglandins that help regulate many normal body processes. It’s considered even more effective for relief of arthritis when combined in a dietary supplement blend of sunflower seed oil (linoleic acid) and Vitamin E. Click for more information on Borage Oil (GLA)

Boswellia (in combination with safflower – below) has herbal pain relief (anti-inflammatory) properties comparable to those of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Starts slower but lasts. Long-term use does not lead to irritation or ulceration of the stomach as do NSAIDs. Click for more information on Boswellia

Menthol is an organic compound obtained from peppermint oil with local anesthetic and counter-irritant qualities In an herbal pain relief cream from symptoms of arthritis or other conditions, menthol replaces the pain message with a cooling sensation in order to provide temporary relief from localized pain. Click for more information on Menthol

Passion flower and German chamomile Passion flower is a climbing vine. The above ground parts are used to make preparations for sleep problems (insomnia) and other nervous disorders.  German chamomile is an herb taken by mouth for a variety of disorders, including restlessness and insomnia.  When these herbs are combined with Valerian (below) it makes a safe yet powerful sleep aid.

Safflower (in combination with boswellia—above) has a centuries-old tradition of medicinal use in Asia. The safflower plant provides natural alternatives for joint discomfort of arthritis. It’s an herbal pain relief extraction as its properties reduce pain and inflammation. Click for more information on Safflower

St. John's Wort is a shrubby plant used as a natural alternative treatment for mild depression, anxiety or sleep disorders commonly linked to people with arthritis. It has long been used as an herbal supplement in Europe for treating mood disorders and has become very popular in the United States. It has far less side effects than drugs. Click for more information on St. John’s Wort

Valerian is a hardy perennial flowering plant safely used as an dietary herbal supplement for relief of insomnia, anxiety or restlessness. The pain and discomfort of arthritis can prevent sound sleep. The valerian root promotes a calm, restful sleep and helps maintain a relaxed state naturally. Click for more information on Valerian

Other dietary supplements helpful in arthritis relief

Glucosamine is a sugar compound found naturally in the human body, but its production slows with aging when people need it the most. Taking glucosamine as a nutritional supplement is thought to help repair damaged cartilage, a typical symptom of osteoarthritis and other types of arthritis. When combined in a supplement with cat’s claw (above) it improves joint lubrication, joint cushioning, and restores a comfortable range of motion. Click for more information on Glucosamine

Fish Oil--Omega-3 Fatty Acids from cold water fish (tuna, mackerel, halibut, cod, salmon) are anti- inflammatory for arthritis relief. Fish oil is also effective in rheumatoid arthritis. Good dietary fish oil supplements contain all seven fatty acids, and guarantee the removal of all contaminants such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins and PCBs. Click for more information on Fish Oil (Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids)

Current industry regulations opens door to opportunists

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the dietary supplement industry and is the government's enforcement arm of the current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) rules for manufacturers.  While these regulations require manufacturers to test the purity and composition of their products to bring more strict control on quality and safety, they have been widely criticized for not mandating standardized testing methods.  No clinical study requirement for product efficacy is a concern for many industry watchdogs.

Additionally, the FDA does not approve dietary supplements, nor even see the finished product prior to marketing.  Instead, the FDA's authority is limited to intercession after consumers report adverse reactions.

The FDA lacks the resources to adequately monitor the facilities of supplement makers, inspecting only a fraction annually of an estimated 13,000 makers.  In spite of the perceived loose regulations, more than half of manufacturers routinely fail the cGMP's safety and purity requirements during FDA facilities inspections. 

This law has opened a wide door to opportunistic entrepreneurs. The market is flooded with new dietary supplements of all kinds. Retail sales of herbal supplements in the USA exceeded $8 billion of a $37 billion dollar industry in 2017.  This represents an increase of 8.5% of the total sales in 2016. This is the strongest growth for this type of products in more than 15 years, according to the American Botanical Council (ABC). 

Dietary herbal supplements have been contaminated and sub-potent

In recent years, the dietary supplement industry has been the target of widespread criticism for selling products with contaminated and undeclared ingredients, or with sub-potency. The media has characterized the industry as being largely unregulated and allowing unscrupulous companies to flourish.

Herbal pain relief products and other dietary supplements are a topic of great public interest. It’s estimated that nearly one-third of Americans use herbs or herbal supplements. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that nearly 70% of those taking medicinal herbs or herbal dietary supplements were reluctant to reveal their use to their doctors.

The FDA has received tens of thousands of adverse event reports concerning dietary and herbal supplements. Many complaints are related to misbranding or adulteration, especially with undeclared pharmaceutical ingredients. A significant number of others were because of pesticides, bacteria, glass, lead and other heavy metal contamination.

"This has been a `buyer beware' market," Dr. Mark B. McClellan, an ex-FDA commissioner, has said, adding,  "Millions of Americans use dietary supplements every day, and we need to make sure they're getting the products they pay for."

The cGMP regulation “is an example of better late than never,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.  But he said the rules “do not appear to go as far as they could have.”

Risks of dietary herbal pain relief supplements

Many consumers believe that herbal pain relief or dietary supplements are safe because they are natural. This is not necessarily true. Plants can be toxic and excess doses can produce toxicity of some herbs.

In addition, herbals may interact with synthetic drugs causing toxicity to the patient. If you are under a doctor’s care taking pharmaceutical drugs, you should always check with your doctor for possible inter-actions before beginning a complementary alternative medicine (CAM) program.

Not all dietary supplements are equal.

If you’re using an herbal pain relief supplement that’s contaminated, for example, you may have replaced the purity and proven efficacy of a drug for an herbal product without proven efficacy at all.

One study analyzed 59 preparations of echinacea and found that about half did not contain the species listed on the label!    A government-funded NCCAM study of ginseng products found that more than half contained less than half the amount of ginseng listed on their labels!

On March 2, 2010 the makers and sellers of fish oil supplements were sued by the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation in California under California Proposition 65 for not telling consumers on product labels that their products contained toxic levels of PCBs. The defendants in this lawsuit were Omega Protein, a Houston-based company that is the world's largest producer of omega-3 fish oil, and the many companies that they produced fish oil for -- companies like Rite Aid, CVS, GNC, Now Health Group, Pharmavite, Solgar and Twinlab. And that's just the beginning. Mateel only tested 10 omega-3 supplements manufactured by Omega Protein to date and have found PCBs in all of them. They plan to continue testing and to add other companies to the lawsuit if their products are also contaminated.

Even scarier is that many of the product labels said that the omega-3 supplement was treated to reduce or remove PCBs. Consumers were led to believe that they were safe!

Who can you trust as an herbal dietary supplement company?

In an industry that is obviously flawed, how do you find out whether what’s in the herbal pain relief bottle is safe to take? How do you find out whether science has proven that the product does what it claims?

These are legitimate questions. They’re the same questions my husband and tried finding answers for in 1994 related to dietary nutritional supplements for our own health. In fact, I developed a list of 30 questions to help us find a top-quality manufacturer.

We found only one natural health company, so different from others, that it stood out when the determining factor is solid science and double-blind placebo-controlled clinical studies.

Whether you’re talking about herbal pain relief from arthritis or nutritional supplementation for overall health, we think it’s important that you find a company you can trust with your health. After all, it’s your life you’re talking about. Why take a chance? It’s comforting when you find a company that’s as concerned about your health as much as you are.

The gold standard is peer-reviewed studies in medical journals

For risk assurance, proper double-blind clinical trials are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of each plant before they can be recommended for medical use.

If you’re currently using a dietary supplement or herbal pain relief treatment, ask the manufacturer if they conduct randomized double-blind placebo controlled testing or any other clinical studies on any of their products.

The gold standard for clinical testing is to have your studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, American Journal of Cardiology, etc.

The herbal dietary supplement company that my husband and I use was founded in 1956 and is known as the #1 natural nutrition company in the U.S.. It has invested more than $250 million in clinical testing, research and development and has over 100 published studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals—more than any other nutritional company!

We're 100% drug free in treatment of arthritis pain

While there’s no cure for arthritis, herbal pain relief supplements have controlled our symptoms.

From personal experience over many years, my husband and I have treated our arthritis with a variety of methods. However, beginning in 2003, our natural nutritional company introduced a scientifically designed herbal pain relief program, which has successfully weaned us away from drugs. We no longer use prescription or non prescription pharmaceuticals of any kind for relief of pain and arthritis symptoms.

Instead, we’ve substituted three separate products with excellent results without any side effects whatsoever.

My husband’s knees are in the best shape they’ve been in ten years. He now plays tennis without the pain, swelling and extreme stiffness he used to experience.  You can read our arthritis stories by scrolling to the bottom of this About Me page.

Recommended herbal pain relief supplements for arthritis relief

The clinical studies have spoken--there are herbal pain relief supplements that can have significant benefits, and more and more people are choosing safer alternatives to treat arthritis joint discomfort.

After extensively researching herbal and natural remedies for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, we've experienced great success with the following products:

A natural herbal complex for chronic pain relief

A natural glucosamine hydrochloride complex for joint health

A natural deeply penetrating herbal pain relief rub that we think is the best found anywhere on the market.

Each of these supplements contains natural osteoarthritis relieving nutrients and special herbal ingredients formulated to help reduce inflammation, stiffness and swelling as well as protect the joints and bring forth long lasting pain relief. Best of all, they do the job naturally without the side effects of drugs!

I’m happy to confidently recommend the above highly effective herbal pain relief trio of supplements. Try any or all to see if they work for you.

Borage oil. Several studies confirm borage oil GLA, an omega 6 fatty acid, as an effective treatment for joint pain, stiffness and grip strength in RA patients, with few side effects. Click here for details

Fish Oil. Studies validate that fish oil supplements reduce joint inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis and other arthritis types. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Click here for more information

Ashwagandha. Dietary supplements containing ashwagandha provide natural herbal stress relief without the side effects of drug treatments. Click here for more

Glucosamine Hydrochloride. The first authentic natural helper to appear in arthritis treatment in years. As a nutritional supplement it’s thought to help repair damaged cartilage. Click here for more on glucosamine hydrochloride

Boswellia. This ancient herb has natural benefits similar to arthritis pain relief medicines but without harmful side effects. Click here for more on boswellia

Cat’s Claw. Can help put the spring back in your step by lessening joint discomfort. Click here for more

Safflower. This plant’s properties reduce pain and inflammation and provide natural alternatives for joint discomfort. Click here for more about the safflower herb

Menthol. In an arthritis pain cream, menthol replaces the pain message with a cooling sensation in order to provide temporary relief from localized pain. Click here for more details

St. John’s Wort. Helps life spirits of arthritis sufferers as a natural alternative treatment for mild depression, anxiety or ....Click here for more

Valerian. Sleep well tonight with this safe herbal choice as a natural dietary supplement for insomnia relief, restlessness and anxiety. Click here for more information

Alfalfa. Known as the “father of all foods,” the alfalfa leaf contains a wide range of healing properties that help reduce arthritic pain, swelling and stiffness in joints. Click here for more on alfalfa’s benefits

Arthritis Products. 3 safe natural products scientifically designed to fight pain and reduce dependency on pharmaceutical medicines. Each unique for rapid relief and joint health... Click here for details

Vitamin Supplements. There are no vitamin supplements proven to reduce symptoms of arthritis, a debilitating disease. A natural multivitamin can improve overall health and vitality. Click here for recommended multivitamin.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Relief. Many of the natural or herbal supplements for osteoarthritis are also recommended for rheumatoid arthritis. Click here for RA natural treatment options

Joint Pain Relief. Wouldn't it be great if you could have a drug-free future with no harmful side effects and have complete control over your joint pain? It's not a dream--all of this is possible.... Click here for more on natural joint pain relief

Osteoarthritis Relief. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It affects joints of the knees, hips, fingers, lower spine and neck. Click here for more on osteoarthritis

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