Green Tea: Can It Help Joints?
The phytochemicals in green tea have been shown to reduce heart disease risk -- mostly in laboratory and rat studies. Can green tea also help relieve arthritis-related inflammation and cartilage breakdown? Some early research indicates that it does. Further studies are needed, experts say. In the meantime, there's no harm -- and possibly great health value -- in sipping a cup of green tea daily.
Keep in mind, though, that most of the studies looking at the pain-relieving effects of green tea used between four and six cups daily.
The anti-inflammatory phytochemicals in green tea are still present in decaffeinated products. So drinking decaffeinated green tea is an option if you don’t want the stimulant effect from regular green tea.
Bromelain: A Natural Anti-inflammatory
The enzyme bromelain, found in the pineapple plant, helps digest proteins when taken with food. When taken on an empty stomach, bromelain acts as an anti-inflammatory agent -- decreasing arthritis joint pain and swelling, and increasing mobility.
Indeed, there is some early evidence that bromelain can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. One study showed a combination of enzymes including bromelain may be an effective and safe alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs for people with knee osteoarthritis.
Before you take bromelain, however, check your allergies. Allergic reactions may occur in people allergic to pineapples, latex, and honeybees, as well as birch, cypress, and grass pollens.
Devil's Claw: Herbal Relief
The herb devil's claw is a traditional South African medicine used to relieve joint pain and inflammation, back pain, and headache.
Although more research is needed, there is scientific evidence that devil’s claw can help reduce osteoarthritis joint pain and may work as well as anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. In one study, 227 people with low back pain -- or knee or hip osteoarthritis -- were treated with devil's claw extract. After eight weeks of taking 60 milligrams daily, from 50% to 70% reported improvements in joint pain, mobility, and flexibility.
In studies on animals, devil’s claw can affect blood pressure and heart rate, theoretically being an issue in humans. Overall though, studies indicate it is safe when taken short term -- for three to four months -- but long-term safety isn’t known.
SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) to Reduce Inflammation and Pain
SAMe is a naturally occurring chemical in the body that is said to improve mobility, rebuild cartilage, and ease symptoms of osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, bursitis, tendonitis, chronic low back pain, and depression.
In fact, SAMe is effective in reducing osteoarthritis-related inflammation and joint pain. SAMe acts quickly, with results in one week's time. "SAMe is expensive," says Plank, "but it works with cartilage and may help build joints back up."
The Journal of Family Practice reviewed 11 studies on SAMe, showing it to be as effective as anti-inflammatory painkillers in reducing pain and improving function in people with OA. SAMe was also less likely to cause side effects.
To get the maximum benefit from SAMe, make sure you're getting enough B vitamins (B12, B6, folate) as well.