Herbs to Take for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the joints. It often presents with flu-like symptoms and gradually progresses to more severe pain and disability. While medications like ibuprofen and celecoxib (Celebrex) are effective for treating inflammation, they may also increase the risk for serious health problems like heart attack and stroke when taken frequently for RA. There are many herbal alternatives for treating rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, some of which may be less likely than certain medications to cause unwanted side effects.

White Willow Bark

Willow bark is a great herbal ally to have on hand for rheumatoid arthritis flare ups. It contains a substance known as salicylin–the active component of aspirin. According to Drug Information Online, willow bark is as effective as acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) for reducing inflammation. It is generally well-tolerated, but may increase the risk for gastrointestinal bleeding. For this reason, willow bark should not be taken with other blood thinners or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). The recommended dose of salicylin for treating inflammation is 60 to 120 mg per day.

Ginger Root

A zesty ingredient in cookies and other baked goods, ginger is an herb that may be beneficial for treating rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. It contains compounds called gingerols, which are responsible for much of its inflammation-fighting power.

According to ABC Science, ginger directly affects the pathways involved in pain perception while reducing the inflammation that causes pain. Unlike aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs, ginger does not cause gastrointestinal irritation and is less likely to cause adverse cardiovascular effects.

Because it has blood thinning properties, ginger should not be taken with other medications that thin the blood, such as aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix). It can be taken safely in doses of up to 4 g daily and may be brewed into a delicious tea for its healing effects.

Turmeric (Curcumin)

Curcuma longa—better known as turmeric—is a brightly colored herb with a variety of healing properties. It contains curcumin—a substance that gives the spice both its bright yellow color and anti-inflammatory effects. Turmeric works by decreasing amounts of COX-2 and LOX enzymes, which are responsible for triggering pain and inflammation in the body. According to the National Institutes of Health, turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant that can be used to treat conditions ranging from arthritis to cancer.

The recommended dose of turmeric for treating inflammation is 450 mg to 3 g daily in divided doses. Side effects are usually mild and can include heartburn, diarrhea and nausea. Like other anti-inflammatory substances, turmeric may increase bleeding risks.

About this Author

Based in Las Vegas, Tracii Hanes is a freelance writer specializing in health and psychology with over six years of professional experience. She got her start as a news reporter, and has since focused exclusively on freelance writing, contributing to websites like Wellsphere, Education Portal and eHow Health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication arts from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.