Can Spices Relieve Your Arthritis Pain?
(BlackDoctor.org) — In your search for relief from the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, you might hear or read about spices and dietary supplements that are said to help ease symptoms.
But before you head to your kitchen, or the grocery store, you need to find out which ones will fit best into your rheumatoid arthritis treatment plan. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health, just about all supplements have the potential to interfere with your regular medications or cause other unwanted side effects, such as an allergic reaction, so learning more about them and talking with your doctor beforehand is essential.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Supplements
A variety of complementary and alternative claim to be helpful for arthritis. Some of the most commonly known supplements include:
Borage oil comes from a plant and contains omega-6 fatty acids, which are thought to offer people with rheumatoid arthritis some relief from pain and joint stiffness. According to NCCAM, however, results of studies involving borage oil for rheumatoid arthritis have not been conclusive. Borage oil and other oils that contain omega-6 fatty acids, such as evening primrose oil, can increase bleeding and bruising. NCCAM also warns that borage oil is made with an additive that may increase liver damage. Also, the appropriate dose of borage oil varies with each individual, so discuss what is appropriate for you with your rheumatologist.
Capsaicin cream is numbing agent that comes from cayenne peppers. The cream is rubbed onto joints that are sore and inflamed. Studies suggest that this cream is modestly effective in reducing joint pain if it is used daily. Side effects can include a burning sensation after application.
Cod liver oil, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, is the only dietary supplement that has been strongly associated with relieving symptoms such as inflammation and pain among people with rheumatoid arthritis. “It has results similar to non-steroidal drugs like ibuprofen and can be used safely,” says Robert W. Hoffman, DO, professor and chief of the division of rheumatology and immunology in the department of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “It also has cardiovascular protective benefits.”
The risks of cod liver oil include increased bleeding and bruising and possible exposure to mercury from the original codfish. Research has shown 10 grams of cod liver oil daily to have a positive effect on joint pain, but there are no official recommendations about how much you should take.
Flaxseed oil, which comes from ground flax seeds, also contains omega-3 fatty acids. This oil is available in gel capsules and as in oil form for salad dressings or foods, but it must be kept refrigerated. Adults can take about 3,000 milligrams a day. It is available at pharmacies, health food stores, and some grocery stores.
Ginger is a spice that comes from the root of the ginger plant. It can be ground up to a powder, used fresh, boiled as a tea, or crystallized. Ginger has been used in Ayurvedic medicine (ancient medical practices native to India) for hundreds of years to fight inflammation. Data from scientific studies is scarce and inconclusive, but at least one study has shown ginger to help relieve some of the pain and swelling experienced by people with RA. Ginger can be bought at grocery stores as a spice, tea, crystallized candy, or a fresh root. It is available in capsule form as well. It can be used daily, but you should not use more than four grams each day.
Turmeric is a spice that, like ginger, has played a role in ancient Ayurvedic practices as an inflammation fighter. Research into its effectiveness is ongoing. At least one study has shown that taking turmeric daily can help relieve morning stiffness and joint pain. Turmeric is available as a ground spice, in capsules, and as a cream. Curcumin is the active ingredient that addresses inflammation. Taking too much turmeric can cause stomach problems such as ulcers. About 1,200 milligrams a day is what is typically recommended. It can be bought at health food stores and grocery stores.
Rheumatoid Arthritis & A Healthy Diet
Although many supplements are available in pill form, it may be a healthier (and less expensive) to turn to your diet for pain relief.
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables is also a diet rich in antioxidants, which also play a role in fighting inflammation. “All RA patients should eat a healthy, balanced diet,” says John M. Stuart, MD, professor of medicine and rheumatology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “There is good evidence that diets rich in antioxidants may have at least modest long-term benefits.”
Before trying any supplements…
If you decide you’re interested in taking supplements, talk to your doctor first about what’s right for you, and be sure to keep them informed after you begin taking the supplements. Remember that unless your doctor says differently, those with rheumatoid arthritis should not stop traditional — and more proven — treatments.