|| What are the best herbs for arthritis?
Because most people assume we can just suggest a few single
herbs, let me first explain that
Time-Tested Herbal Combinations are Best
Chinese herbal medicine is a sophisticated medical system at
least 1800 years old. It uses formulas of herbs individually modified
for each person. It also can integrate modern pharmacologic knowledge
of each herb for specific diseases. There are thousands of single
Chinese herbs, though only about 400 are commonly used (and few
of them are familiar to westerners). Similarly, there are hundreds
of formulas of herbs, but about 100 are commonly used and modified.
Herbal Self-Prescription is Dangerous
It is the wisdom of Chinese herbal medicine, confirmed by popular
experience (witness the ephedra deaths), that single herbs self-administered
by the public are not safe. It is better to see a trained and
licensed herbalist. Classical formulas are safer than single herbs
and less likely to interact with drugs. (More
info on drug herb interactions)
Different Kinds of Arthritis
With arthritis, we have to first differentiate between osteoarthritis
(OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA)- OA is a natural part of aging,
and RA is an autoimmune disease. In Chinese herbal medicine, we
always sub-diagnosis the person's particular imbalance, called
a "pattern." So, there are easily 8 types of OA, and
5 types of RA. These have to be diagnosed by a professional. That
way, you get the best healing faster and with much less likelihood
of adverse effects.
Some Single Herbs for Arthritis
I know you're looking for 5 single herbs, so I will try to give
you that. I can also give you a profile of the most common herbal
formulas for OA and RA. These are meant to be educational only.
I suggest you hook up with a Chinese medicine herbalist for a
one on one consult, diagnosis, and prescription.
- Upper limb pain: cinnamon twig
- Lower limb pain: angelica pubescentis root
- Lower back pain: eucommia cortex
- Mild pain worse with cold: jujube dates, ginger root, cinnamon
- Pain from blood and qi deficiency: dang gui, astragalus, poria,
- With fatigue and diarrhea: cinaamon twig, astragalus, white
peony root, licorice root
- One general herb formula for OA is called juan bi tang (Alleviate
The above herbs may help for mild and simple joint pains- but
for stronger cures, see a Chinese herbalist.
- For autoimmune disease, proper diet is essential. Avoid the
"nightshade" vegetables (green peppers, etc.). Most
RA patients have weak digestion, so they should avoid too much
sugar, raw foods and chilled drinks, and instead eat soups,
rice, and other easy to digest, nourishing foods.
- Avoid astragalus, since it may boost an already overactive
- RA patients may be taking steroids (like prednisone) that
have serious long-term adverse effects, and short term cause
symptoms like insomnia and anxiety. This can be soothed with
three herbs: Raw rehmannia, cooked rehmannia, and licorice root.
[There are other good examples of herbal formulas soothing the
side effects, or boosting the therapeutic effects of pharmaceutical
drugs. On the other hand, single herbs are more likely to interact
poorly with drugs.]
- Many of the most effective Chinese herbs for RA are strong
and could be harmful if misused or applied to the wrong person.
For this reason, the best herbal RA treatment would come from
a very advanced Chinese herbalist, and I think it would be irresponsible
to mention these herbs in a general public article. (But, for
example, some forms of aconite are used, but aconite is rather
toxic and quite strong - perhaps not like the mild, natural,
nice substances most westerners think herbs are.)
- One of my favorite examples of a bad acupuncture study was
for RA. The scientists used only one point (Liver 3) on everyone
- not a point that any competent acupuncturist would use. Of
course, it didn't work, and they wasted all that time and money
trying to prove something no trained acupuncturist would expect
Hope this is helpful. If you have any questions, as above, feel
free to email back.
All the best!