Looking forward to an active summer with lots of sports-filled days, but worried that aching joints and stiffness after months of cold damp weather might put a damper on your fun?
Medical herbalist Gabriella Clarke looks inside the herbal medicine chest for some soothing remedies to help manage symptoms and ease any discomfort.
One of the best-known herbal remedies on the market, turmeric has many benefits, but perhaps one of its best-known properties is its anti-inflammatory effect owing to the presence of curcumin, the main active phytochemical found in its root, which also gives it its colour. According to the Arthritis Foundation[i], curcumin can reduce pain, inflammation and stiffness in both osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis as well as bursitis.
Popular with the Bushmen living in the Kalahari Sands of Namibia for a variety of ills, ranging from digestive complaints to back and joint problems, devil’s claw is said to have great analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties[ii]. It is often recommended for lower back pain, but has also been found to be useful for hip and knee problems. Although it can benefit rheumatic conditions it is specifically indicated for osteo-arthritis.
A garden weed may seem an unusual choice for helping joint problems, but some research[iii] indicates that it may indeed reduce pain and inflammation. Nettles also have diuretic properties so may help to get rid of some of the fluid accumulation seen in swollen joints. In addition, nettles have proved useful in alleviating the symptoms of gout by helping to reduce uric acid levels in the blood.
Better known as a wonderfully aromatic incense rather than as a medicine, this resin has been indicated as a valuable remedy for arthritis and pain[iv]. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and studies have shown it to be clinically effective with no safety issues.
Long valued for its vitamin C content, rose hip is now being used with some success to help reduce the pain and stiffness of arthritis. In a study eight out of ten people with osteoarthritis reported feeling less pain and stiffness after taking a wild rose hip preparation. The evidence[v] is still small and more research iJoint s needed, but watch this space.
- Pace yourself – spread physically hard jobs such as housework, gardening and washing the car throughout the day rather than doing them all at once.
- Don’t sit in the same position for too long. Take regular breaks.
- Notice which positions and movements make you stiff and avoid them.
- Relax – stress can aggravate arthritic pain by causing muscle tension.