Joint pain is not something most people think about; we expect our bodies to work in a certain way, and take our freedom to walk and run for granted. Until something changes, and the freedom is comprised; this can be the onset of arthritis, or a joint and muscle injury. Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system condition, causing inflammation of the soft tissue in the joints, while osteo arthritis causes the cartilage between bones to disintegrate. There are many natural remedies for joint pain, both internal and topical.
An Ayurvedic remedy for pain in the joints, turmeric has an ingredient, curcumin, which is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in nature. One study of turmeric, published in 2009 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found that curcumin is as effective as ibuprofen in relieving the pain of knee osteoarthritis. Curcumin reduces the levels of two inflammatory enzymes. Mix a teaspoon of dried turmeric with honey in a glass of warm milk, and drink this twice a day for a few days. You can also take turmeric capsules, 250 to 500 mg, three times daily, for pain relief. Turmeric can interfere with some medications—blood thinners in particular.
2. Epsom salt
Long valued for its ability to comfort aching joints and bones, Epsom salt contains magnesium sulfate, which relaxes muscles and nerve endings. For aching joints in the hands, fill a large bowl with warm water and pour in half a cup of Epsom salt. Stir gently, then place your hands in the bowl, and let them soak for at least fifteen minutes. For other aching limbs, try a warm bath with Epsom salt.
3. Dandelion leaves
A plant that has followed humans around the world, the dandelion is a powerful detoxifier. It’s rich in vitamins A and C, and its leaves repair damaged tissues and aid the liver in clearing toxins. To make an anti-inflammatory tea, steep three teaspoons of fresh dandelion leaves in a cup of boiling water, or use one teaspoon of dried leaves to the same amount of water. Strain the leaves and drink twice a day. You can also make a salad with dandelion leaves and olive oil, or fry the new blossoms lightly in oil.
4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
One of the main components of extra virgin olive oil is oleocanthal, a substance that inhibits inflammatory enzymes COX-1 and COX-2, which is exactly what Advil and aspirin do. One and a half tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil is roughly equal to two hundred milligrams of ibuprofen. Take two to three teaspoons daily for pain relief, or rub a bit of olive oil directly on the sore joints twice a day, and massage it in.
An element that humans need but cannot make themselves, magnesium is frequently absent from modern Western diets. It is needed in more than three hundred biochemical processes in the body, including relaxing muscles and nerves, and easing pain and stiffness. Besides these crucial functions, magnesium helps bones to mineralize; a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who eat a lot of magnesium have higher bone density and stronger bones. You can take a magnesium supplement, but better still is to ingest the element through foods—dark leafy greens (spinach, kale), nuts, pumpkin seeds, and beans. Magnesium oil is another choice; rub it right on the sore joint.
6. Blackstrap Molasses
An old wives’ remedy, blackstrap molasses is an easy home treatment for joint pain. After the third boiling of maple syrup, blackstrap molasses remain; this brew is rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These minerals make it an effective aid for arthritis pain, and for strengthening bones. Heat a cup of fresh water until it is warm, not hot; stir in a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses. Drink this once a day, and be warned it is a laxative.
Cayenne peppers contain capsaicin, a compound that inhibits Substance P in the body. Substance P communicates pain signals from nerve endings to the brain; capsaicin stops it from signaling. A topical capsaicin cream can be made at home with beeswax and cayenne pepper powder, or look for a cream at a health store. This treatment is temporary, not to be used for more than a few weeks at a time.
The Bosweilla plant goes by another name, frankincense—this was one of the Magi’s gifts to the Christ child. A flowering plant native to Asia and Africa, Bosweilla is both anti-inflammatory and pain relieving. It disables white blood cells that initiate swelling, and shrinks tissues that are already painfully inflamed. Bosweilla is taken as a supplement, and is sold in many health stores and online retailers.
9. Peppermint & Eucalyptus
Both of these plants have pain-relieving properties. They each create a cooling sensation on the skin, which calms soreness and mild pain. Combine five to ten drops each of peppermint and eucalyptus essential oil with a tablespoon or two of a carrier oil—olive, safflower, grape seed—and mix well. Store this mixture in a dark bottle away from direct sunlight, and rub some onto sore joints whenever you need to.
10. Juniper Berry Tea
Juniper berries contain a substance called terpinen-4-ol, which inhibits the white blood cells that instigate inflammation. This information was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2009, after a research trial was performed. When ingested daily, juniper can reduce overall inflammation and its pain and soreness. Not to be taken while pregnant, juniper tea can be made with a tablespoon of fresh juniper berries, a cup of boiling water, and some honey to cut the bitterness. Steep the berries in the boiling water for 15 minutes, strain, and drink a cup twice a day.
11. Hot and Cold Compresses
One of the easiest remedies on this list to make, hot and cold compresses can be very effective at treating joint pain. Heat therapy decreases pain by increasing blood flow, and it relaxes sore muscles; cold calms inflammation and numbs aching joint. Start with heat: place a hot compress (always wrap the heated item—rock, potato, water bottle—in a towel) on the trouble spot for three minutes. Take it off and immediately apply a cold compress for one minute; repeat this process for fifteen to twenty minutes. It’s a good idea to have both compresses made up before you start the treatment, which you can repeat a few times a day. This therapy is not for people who have circulation issues.
The tiny and powerful fenugreek seed, which is both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in nature, is a good remedy for arthritis pain. Finely grind a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds, swallow it, and follow with a glass of lukewarm water (cold water is contrary to easy digestion). Try this safe treatment every morning. You can also soak fenugreek seeds overnight and eat them in the morning.