As we journey through life, our bodies gather echoes of our experiences, often manifesting in surprising ways. Arthritis is one such echo, telling the tale of our years, our toils, and sometimes, our genetic heritage. It's a condition that's often misunderstood, causing many to mistake it as an inevitable consequence of ageing. However, it's much more complex and diverse than it first appears.
Arthritis is not a single disease, but rather an umbrella term encompassing a wide range of different conditions characterised by joint inflammation. These variations, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, to name a few, can affect anyone, regardless of age, and present a range of symptoms. These can include joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced range of motion, which can intensify over time, leading to chronic pain, inability to perform daily tasks, and potential disability.
While there are medical treatments available to manage these symptoms, growing research highlights the importance of incorporating natural herbs and supplements into our wellness routines. Certain natural compounds not only offer potential relief from the discomfort of arthritis but also can support overall joint health and reduce inflammation in a holistic manner, with limited side effects.
In this blog, we will:
- Explore the mysteries of arthritis and its various forms,
- Investigate the potent, research-supported benefits of herbs like turmeric, ginger, frankincense and devil’s claw,
- Investigate the scientifically-backed benefits of omega-3 fatty acids to fight joint inflammation,
- Briefly introduce Zen Maitri’s Joint & Muscle Collection and its potential benefits for arthritis relief,
- and most importantly, equip you with actionable, science-rooted strategies to manage arthritis symptoms effectively.
So, whether you're someone living with arthritis or you're seeking knowledge to help a loved one, grab a cup of turmeric tea and read on. The journey towards understanding and managing arthritis starts here!
An Overview of Arthritis, In All of Its Forms
Arthritis is a broad term that refers to a large group of diseases characterised by inflammation in the joints, leading to pain and stiffness. It's a common condition, affecting millions worldwide, and its prevalence increases with age. Though often associated with older adults, arthritis can affect people of all ages, including children (CDC, 2023).
There are several types of arthritis, each with different causes and treatment options. Here are a few of its possible forms:
- Osteoarthritis: The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis becomes particularly common with age. It occurs when the protective cartilage at the ends of bones wears down over time, leading the body to try to repair the loss of cartilage by producing more bone in the joint area, sometimes causing bone overgrowth. Risk factors include ageing, obesity, injury, and genetic factors. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects joints in the hands, knees, hips, neck, and in the lower back. Symptoms usually involve gradual joint pain that gets worse with weight-bearing activities and improves with rest, along with stiffness that eases with movement. (Yaseen, 2022a; Mayo Clinic, 2021a).
- Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the joints, rheumatoid arthritis causes painful swelling that can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity. It leads to symmetrical joint inflammation in joints such as the wrists, hands, feet, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and ankles, and to their progressive destruction. This disease affects about 1% of the population, with women being 2-3 times more susceptible than men. The disease can start at any age, but it's most common between 35 and 50 years. Symptoms often include general fatigue, weakness, anorexia, and low-grade fever, along with joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Although the exact cause is unknown, several factors contribute to its onset, including genetic predisposition, environmental factors such as viral infections, and lifestyle considerations such as smoking, obesity, and certain drugs. (Yaseen, 2022b; Mayo Clinic, 2021b).
- Psoriatic arthritis: Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory form of arthritis that occurs in approximately 30% of people who have psoriasis of the skin or nails (psoriasis is a skin condition causing flare-ups of red, scaly rashes and thickened, pitted nails). Psoriatic arthritis commonly involves the hips, knees, fingers or toes. In some people, it is mild, with just occasional flare-ups. In others, it is continuous and can cause joint damage if not treated. Symptoms vary from person to person but can include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, along with skin and nail psoriasis symptoms. The cause of psoriatic arthritis is not fully understood, but it is thought to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune factors. Common triggers include skin injuries, certain medications, and infections. In most cases, the psoriasis symptoms occur before the joint symptoms. (Yaseen, 2022c; Mayo Clinic, 2021c).
- Gout: Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that results from the deposition of uric acid crystals in joints and other tissues. It is characterised by sudden and severe attacks of joint pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness, typically affecting the big toe. Gout is caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, a condition known as hyperuricemia. Uric acid forms needle-like crystals in the joints, triggering an inflammatory response and causing acute gouty arthritis. Risk factors for gout include a diet high in purines (substances found in certain foods, including organ meats, certain seafood, game meats and red meat), obesity, alcohol consumption, and certain medical conditions. (Keller, 2022; Mayo Clinic, 2022a; Arthritis Foundation, n.d.a).
- Ankylosing spondylitis: Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory condition that primarily affects the spine, but it can also involve fingers, toes, hips, shoulders and knees. This inflammation can lead to severe and persistent pain, discomfort, and stiffness in the affected areas. Over time, the inflammation may trigger the growth of new bone in the spinal joints, causing the vertebrae to fuse together. As a result, the spine becomes rigid and immobile, limiting the individual's range of motion. In advanced cases, this fusion can lead to a forward-stooped posture, commonly referred to as a "bamboo spine". Other symptoms may include fatigue, reduced flexibility, and difficulty in performing daily activities. Ankylosing spondylitis is more common in men than women, developing most commonly between the ages of 20 and 40. The exact cause of ankylosing spondylitis is not known, but the disease tends to run in families, indicating that genetics plays a role. (Yaseen, 2022d; Mayo Clinic, 2023).
- Reactive arthritis: Reactive arthritis is an inflammatory condition that typically occurs as a reaction to an infection – typically genitourinary or gastrointestinal infections. The condition usually causes joint pain, swelling and stiffness in the knees, ankles and feet; but it can also sometimes affect the eyes (conjunctivitis), skin rashes, and urinary or gastrointestinal inflammation. In some cases, reactive arthritis may lead to long-term complications, such as chronic joint inflammation and damage. The exact cause of reactive arthritis is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve an abnormal immune response triggered by certain bacterial or viral infections. (Mayo Clinic, 2022b; Yaseen, 2022e; Arthritis Foundation, n.d. b).
Understanding the specific form of arthritis is crucial for its management, as each type may require a different therapeutic approach. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, please consider consulting a healthcare practitioner, including one of our medical herbalists – they will be able to help!
The Best Herbs for Arthritis Management
Turmeric: the Golden Spice of Relief
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), the vibrant yellow spice commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine, is a powerhouse of health benefits. One of the main secrets behind its therapeutic power is a compound called curcumin, which has potent and thoroughly studied anti-inflammatory properties. These properties may help reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis, specifically osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, curcumin also has antioxidant properties which can protect against joint damage. One study found that a highly bioavailable form of curcumin improved symptoms in patients with osteoarthritis (Daily et al., 2016).
Frankincense: Ancient Incense for Modern Relief
Frankincense (Boswellia serrata) has been a cornerstone of Ayurvedic medicine for millennia for its notable anti-inflammatory properties. Boswellic acids, the active compounds in frankincense, can inhibit the production of leukotrienes, substances that trigger inflammation in the body. Studies have shown promise for frankincense in reducing pain, enhancing mobility, and improving joint function in osteoarthritis (Mohsenzadeh et al., 2023).
Ginger: The Warming Root of Comfort
Renowned for its unique flavour and health benefits, ginger (Zingiber officinale) may also serve as an ally against arthritis. Ginger contains compounds like gingerols and shogaols with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Some research suggests that ginger could alleviate symptoms associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis by reducing inflammation and providing pain relief (Altman et al., 2001).
Devil’s Claw: The Fierce Fighter Against Inflammation
This plant native to Southern Africa, aptly named for its hook-like fruit, holds a potent weapon in the fight against arthritis. Harpagoside, a bioactive compound in Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), has demonstrated strong anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests that Devil's Claw can significantly reduce pain and improve physical functioning in osteoarthritis, making this fierce-looking plant a potential friend for those suffering from arthritis (Leblan et al., 2000).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Liquid Gold for Lubricating Arthritic Joints
Omega-3 fatty acids, those nourishing compounds found in the likes of fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds, could be your supportive friends in the management of arthritis. These wonderful molecules, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have the knack for calming inflammation - a real perk when dealing with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. Once in your body, they morph into compounds known as resolvins and protectins, which are quite talented at toning down inflammation and safeguarding your joints.
Even for osteoarthritis, which is less about inflammation and more about wear and tear, Omega-3s can be a helpful ally: inflammation still plays a sneaky part in the breakdown of cartilage in osteoarthritis. By calming this inflammation, Omega-3s may help slow the disease's progression, providing some much-needed relief and support to your joints.
When welcoming Omega-3s into your arthritis management plan, there are a couple of things worth keeping in mind. First, quality matters. Make sure you're choosing a supplement that's pure and trustworthy, one that's been checked over for contaminants, and which doesn’t come with the risk of going rancid – these fatty acids are particularly sensitive to oxidation through exposure to light, heat or air. Second, a little balance can go a long way. Many of us get plenty of omega-6 fatty acids in our diets, which, in excess, can stir up inflammation. So, increasing your omega-3 intake while taming your omega-6 intake could bring a healthier balance and a more peaceful, inflammation-free state. When looking to reduce your omega-6 intake, watch out for processed and fast foods, commercial mayonnaise and salad dressings, low-quality margarine and omega-6-rich vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, peanut oil or soybean oil.
Zen Maitri’s Joint & Muscle Collection: Powerful Natural Products to Combat Arthritus
At Zen Maitri, we’ve developed a range of products to ease joint and muscle pain and stiffness – including to alleviate symptoms of various types of arthritis. Many of these products feature the herbs presented above. Our Joint & Muscle Collection aims to provide natural, effective support for your health journey.
Here you’ll find our Joint and Muscle Balms, which are rich in soothing medicinal herbs like comfrey and marshmallow root. These balms, whether in the original or in extra-strength CBD-infused version available in-store, work diligently to alleviate muscle and joint discomfort. Enhanced with the invigorating scents of cajeput and pine, these balms can become a part of your daily relaxation ritual.
We also invite you to unwind with our Joint and Muscle Bath Salts, formulated with a blend of Epsom salts, dried frankincense, ginger and meadowsweet and anti-inflammatory, relaxing and circulation-boosting essential oils of rosemary, peppermint and lavender. This soothing combination is ideal for an after-exercise soak to help with stiffness and discomfort.
Our Joint and Muscle Massage Oil provides a more hands-on approach to relief. With carefully selected botanical ingredients like sweet almond oil and arnica oil, this blend promotes the relaxation of sore muscles and stiff joints.
On the nutritional capsules front, we offer our Joint and Muscle Supplements. A powerful blend of anti-inflammatory herbs such as frankincense, turmeric, ginger and devil’s claw, these capsules aim to support your body's natural healing and maintain mobility and flexibility.
Our Joint and Muscle Tea is a comforting blend of ginger, turmeric, Solomon’s seal, meadowsweet and cinnamon. This warming brew is designed to help combat underlying inflammation while promoting overall joint, muscle, bone, and ligament health.
For a holistic body experience, we provide our ayurvedic Mahanarayan Oil and Wild Irish Seaweed Bath Kit. The oil brings comfort to achy muscles and joints, while the seaweed bath kit, rich in skin-loving minerals, offers an unparalleled bathing experience.
Last but not least, as part of this Collection, our Nerve Oil has been more specifically formulated to ease nerve pain and associated symptoms like numbness and swelling. With ingredients like St. John's Wort and Frankincense essential oil, it not only soothes physical discomfort but also brings a sense of calm and relaxation. A little addition to your health regimen that can make a significant difference if you struggle with sciatica or neuralgia.
We invite you to explore this blend of scientific knowledge and the natural healing power of plants – do get in touch with us for any questions!
Embracing Nature’s Wisdom: A Holistic Approach to Arthritis Management
In conclusion, we've explored the remarkable potential of natural herbs and products made with them, such as our Joint and Muscle tea and balms, to soothe the often debilitating symptoms of arthritis. These offerings are testament to the power of Mother Nature, providing not just relief from physical discomfort, but also nurturing your overall wellness.
Holistic and integrative approaches to managing arthritis have gained traction in recent years, moving beyond conventional medication to encompass lifestyle modifications, natural supplements, and mindful practices. Our specially formulated products are aligned with this integrative philosophy, working to improve not just physical health, but mental and emotional well-being as well.
However, it's crucial to remember that while herbs and omega 3 can provide a plethora of benefits, if you are struggling with arthritis, it is important to consult a medical herbalist and/or another healthcare practitioner to devise a bespoke management plan for you. Everyone is unique, and what works wonders for one person may not work the same way for another.
Arthritis can indeed be a challenging journey. Yet, with a holistic approach, the right guidance, and the support of herbs, a balanced diet and lifestyle and natural supplements, you have the power to influence your health positively and live a more comfortable and fulfilling life. Remember, the journey to wellness is not a sprint, but a marathon, and every step taken towards a healthier life is a victory in itself. Here's to your health!
Altman, R.D., & Marcussen, K.C. (2001). Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 44(11), 2531-2538. https://doi.org/10.1002/1529-0131(200111)44:11<2531::aid-art433>3.0.co;2-j
Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.a). Gout. https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/gout
Arthritis Foundation. (n. d.b). Reactive Arthritis. https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/reactive-arthritis
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2023). Arthritis. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/index.htm
Daily, J.W., Yang, M., & Park, S. (2016). Efficacy of turmeric extracts and curcumin for alleviating the symptoms of joint arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of medicinal food, 19(8), 717-729. https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2016.3705
Leblan D, Chantre P & Fournié B.(2000). Harpagophytum procumbens in the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Four-month results of a prospective, multicenter, double-blind trial versus diacerhein. Joint Bone Spine. 2000;67(5):462-467. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11143915/
Mayo Clinic. (2021a). Osteoarthritis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoarthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351925
Mayo Clinic. (2021b). Rheumatoid arthritis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648
Mayo Clinic. (2021c). Psoriatic arthritis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriatic-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354076
Mayo Clinic. (2022a). Gout. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gout/symptoms-causes/syc-20372897
Mayo Clinic. (2023). Ankylosing Spondylitis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ankylosing-spondylitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354808
Mayo Clinic. (2022b). Reactive Arthritis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/reactive-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354838
Mohsenzadeh, A., Karimifar, M., Soltani, R., & Hajhashemi, V. (2023). Evaluation of the effectiveness of topical oily solution containing frankincense extract in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. BMC Research Notes, 16(1), 28. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13104-023-06291-5
Yaseen, K. (2022a). Osteoarthritis. MSD Manual Professional Version. https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/joint-disorders/osteoarthritis-oa?query=Osteoarthritis%20(OA)
Yaseen, K. (2022b). Rheumatoid Arthritis. MSD Manual Professional Version. https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/joint-disorders/rheumatoid-arthritis-ra
Yaseen, K. (2022c). Psoriatic Arthritis. MSD Manual Professional Version. https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/joint-disorders/psoriatic-arthritis
Yaseen, K. (2022d). Ankylosing Spondylitis. MSD Manual Professional Version. https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/joint-disorders/ankylosing-spondylitis?query=ankylosing%20spondylitis
Yaseen, K. (2022e). Reactive Arthritis. MSD Manual Professional Version. https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/joint-disorders/reactive-arthritis