10 Home Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease and the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when the body begins to mistakenly attack its own joints… Elizabeth Lilian - April 24, 2017

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease and the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when the body begins to mistakenly attack its own joints instead of foreign substances like viruses and bacteria, causing inflammation, pain and swelling. It’s usually experienced in the wrists, hands, elbows, feet, knees and ankles, and can damage the cartilage and bones if left untreated for too long.

Causes of rheumatoid arthritis are still not yet fully known, but it’s believed that genetics, hormones and environmental factors can play a part. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include tenderness, pain, swelling and stiffness, usually felt in the same joint on both sides of the body. Some people also experience slight fever, loss of appetite and fatigue. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect other parts of the body, like the eyes, mouth, skin, lungs, blood vessels and blood.

Currently, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but treatment includes medication, steroids, physical therapy and surgery. Here are 10 home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis.

1. Exercise

Exercise should be a common component of any healthy lifestyle. Physical activity benefits the entire body, including our mental and emotional states, by improving self-esteem, boosting the immune system, aiding in weight loss, reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and much more.

Generally, exercise should involve a combination of cardiovascular exercise like walking or jogging, strength training to tone the muscles, and stretching, to support a healthy range of motion. However, in today’s fast-paced world it can be hard to fit all that in, so don’t feel guilty if it’s not always possible. Instead, remember that some exercise is better than no exercise at all. To slowly introduce more physical activity into your life, make some simple changes like taking the stairs instead of the lift and walking to the shops instead of driving.

For those that suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, exercise can be difficult due to pain and stiffness, but it is an important, effective treatment. Exercise encourages better movement, alleviates stiffness, boosts endurance, combats fatigue, strengthens muscles and improves quality of life. Exercise helps keep your joints and muscles strong, and a lack of physical activity will actually weaken the muscles, putting more stress on already-stressed joints.

Before you begin exercising, it’s best to discuss with your doctor or physical therapist first to decide which exercises would be most beneficial. The activity doesn’t need to be strenuous either, with simple, gentle body awareness exercises like yoga, tai chi and pilates suitable for arthritis sufferers. If you join any classes at the gym or health club, be sure to tell your instructor about your condition. This will allow them to keep an eye on you and make sure you aren’t doing anything that could cause further injury or muscle distress.

2. Hot and Cold Compresses

While hot and cold compresses may seem like a bit of an old wives’ tale when it comes to treating rheumatoid arthritis, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Hot and cold therapy is often suggested by doctors and physical therapists in order to effectively relieve arthritis pain. Commonly referred to as thermotherapy, it’s believed that hot and cold compresses can help soothe stiff joints, painful muscles and lack of mobility.

When applied to affected areas, hot compresses work by dilating blood vessels, stimulating circulation of the blood and reducing muscle tension. Hot compresses can work wonders on various types of arthritis, especially when applied in the morning and before exercise. Heat therapy can be administered in different ways, like disposable heat patches, hot water bottles, microwaveable wheat packs, warm baths or showers, or a warm, moist towel.

Cold compresses work differently to heat compresses, but they’re just as effective. Cold temperatures can ease pain and inflammation, decrease muscle spasms and reduce swelling by constricting the blood vessels and numbing the nerve endings. Cold compresses can be applied by ice packs (which you can make yourself by wrapping a cloth towel around a bag of frozen vegetables), cool baths, as well as cold sprays and ointments.

While hot and cold compresses won’t cure or prevent rheumatoid arthritis, they can provide relief from pain, and help reduce inflammation. It’s important to practice proper care when using ether remedy. This can be done by making sure heat compresses are not too hot they burn the skin, so carefully test the pack before you apply it to the affected area. And ensure you don’t use an ice pack for longer than 15 minutes at a time, as this can begin to cause damage to the sensitive nerve endings and cause frostbite.

3. Fish Oil

Fish oil is a supplement that is extracted from the tissue of deep-sea fish like trout, sea bass, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring and even oysters. Fish oil contains high amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, and is purported to provide a wide range of health benefits like treatment of depression, anxiety, diabetes, macular degeneration and high cholesterol. To extract fish oil, raw fish is steam-cooked, then wet-pressed to separate the flesh from the liquid. The oil is then collected and contained in capsules.

Fish oil can help with weight loss, and is suggested during pregnancy to provide beneficial nutrients to both mother and baby. It’s also said to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, prevent plaque build-up in the arteries, boost the immune system, relieve Celiac disease and other gastrointestinal disorders, treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and improve skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis.

A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that fish oil is an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis due to extremely high levels of the omega-3 essential fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and can even lead to a reduction in nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Fish oil can also be used topically, by simply massaging it into the affected areas.

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in many different food sources like cold-water fish, flaxseeds, soybeans, tofu and walnuts, however, it’s much quicker and more beneficial to take fish oil supplements in order to get a higher concentration. Fish oil is generally considered very safe, however, supplements can occasionally cause such side effects like bad breath, burping, nausea, diarrhea, rash, and heartburn. These side effects are more likely to occur at higher doses.

4. Turmeric

Turmeric (also known as curcuma longa) is an herb that belongs to the Zingiberaceae family and is a close relative of ginger. Turmeric is the rhizome (or root) of a tropical plant, and also goes by the name Indian saffron. Native to South Asia, turmeric has been used for thousands of years in cuisine and medicine throughout many different cultures, particularly Indian. Turmeric is commonly used to flavor curries, mustards and other dishes, and the deep, orange color is also used to dye fabrics, food and cosmetics.

Turmeric can be used for many different purposes like heartburn, stomach problems, diarrhea, bloating, jaundice, irritable bowel syndrome, gallbladder issues, high cholesterol, fatigue, headaches, fever, menstrual cramps, depression, diabetes, kidney inflammation and much more. Turmeric contains essential vitamins and minerals like manganese, iron, vitamin B6, fiber, copper and potassium.

The myriad of benefits that come from turmeric are thought to come from its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, specifically the presence of curcumin, the main active ingredient. Curcumin is a powerful phytonutrient with antimicrobial, wound-healing, hypoglycemic, anticancer and neuroprotective properties. These properties make turmeric an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, as the curcumin is purported to block cytokines and enzymes that cause pain and inflammation.

There are many different ways to include turmeric in your diet. Golden paste is a common way to ingest it, and this can be made by mixing turmeric powder with water and heating it up on the stove until it forms a thick paste. Golden paste can be added to various recipes, or stirred into warm milk. Turmeric has a very fast rate of metabolism, and is poorly absorbed by the body. Adding black pepper can boost the bioavailability of turmeric thanks to a compound called piperine, which makes it easier for the body to absorb it. Simply add a teaspoon of ground black pepper to your turmeric to gain these effects.

5. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has become incredibly popular among health and fitness gurus in recent years, but in actual fact it’s been used for centuries in cooking, cleaning, health, skincare and more, dating as far back as Hippocrates, who supposedly used it as a health tonic. Made by fermenting apples, the health benefits of apple cider vinegar are numerous and varied.

Apple cider vinegar can help reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, regulate digestion, improve circulation, treat dandruff, heartburn and skin conditions, and even cure hiccups. Apple cider vinegar contains beneficial nutrients like vitamins B1, B2, B6, and vitamin C, as well as biotin, folic acid, pectin, niacin and pantothenic acid, plus essential minerals like potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron and phosphorus.

Apple cider vinegar contains large amounts of antioxidants in the form of polyphenols like catechin, quercetin and epicatechin. It also contains acetic acid, which is the main active ingredient and the component that gives vinegar that familiar, bitter taste and smell. Apple cider vinegar is an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis as it is a diuretic and laxative, which can eliminate the various toxins that cause pain and inflammation. It can also replenish vitamin and mineral deficiencies that contribute to arthritis.

To use apple cider vinegar for rheumatoid arthritis, simply mix a tablespoon of it with water and drink once or twice a day. The taste can be quite off-putting, but adding some honey will make it much more palatable. You can also use it topically, either by adding it to your bath or soaking some gauze in it and applying it directly to the affected area. Remember not to drink it undiluted though, as the acidity can damage the delicate lining of the esophagus and the enamel on your teeth. And make sure you purchase only organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, as this will contain the most benefits.

6. Garlic

Garlic is an herb, scientifically known as Allium sativum, that is a member of the Alliaceae family, alongside onions and shallots. Garlic is thought to be native to the mountains of Central Asia, but nowadays it’s found all over the world. Throughout the years, garlic has featured frequently in folklore and old wives’ tales to cure everything from the bubonic plague to ghosts, and while many of these have been disputed, garlic still holds a wide range of health benefits.

Garlic is referred to as ‘the stinking rose’ treatment in phytotherapy, and it contains essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants that provide a wide range of health benefits like reducing high cholesterol and blood pressure, treating tonsillitis and preventing cardiovascular disease including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to a build-up of plaque). Garlic is extremely rich in potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese and selenium, as well as vitamin C and flavonoids like beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.

Garlic can effectively treat rheumatoid arthritis thanks to the presence of anti-inflammatory compounds like diallyl disulfide, and antioxidants like alliin, allicin and allyldisulfide, which can all reduce inflammation and swelling in the joints by scavenging and inhibiting harmful free radicals. Garlic is also an anti-microbial, which can protect the body against infection. Using garlic to treat arthritis limits the risk of side effects that can be caused by arthritic medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which have been known to cause gastric damage.

Raw garlic is said to be more effective than cooked garlic, as cooking it can destroy the compounds that provide health benefits. Simply eat one or two raw garlic cloves each day. If you don’t enjoy the taste, you can supplement with garlic capsules instead.

7. Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is not technically salt, it’s a mineral that can be found in a natural spring in the town of Epsom, Surrey, which it’s also named after. Epsom salt is a compound of magnesium and sulfate, and is derived by boiling down the mineral water found in the spring. Epsom salt can be taken internally or used topically, for many different things.

Epsom salt has many benefits, it can be used to remove splinters, exfoliate the skin, clean grout and tiles, get rid of slugs, relieves constipation, relieve headaches, treat congestion, boost growth of vegetables and roses, treat bug bites and itchy skin, promote wound healing and even encourage peaceful sleep. Epsom salt is also commonly used in baths to relieve muscle aches and pains. This is due to the large amounts of magnesium and sulfate that is easily and effectively drawn in through the skin as we soak.

Magnesium deficiency can contribute to rheumatoid arthritis, and Epsom salt can replenish this lack of minerals. Magnesium is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and promotes better absorption of calcium, which can help prevent damage to the bones. Sulfate is equally beneficial in treating arthritis as it helps flush toxins and heavy metal from the body, further easing bone and joint pain.

Take an Epsom salt bath two or three times a week, adding one to two cups of Epsom salt to warm water and soaking for at least 10 minutes. You can also make an Epsom salt topical treatment by mixing a tablespoon of salt with warm water until it becomes a thick paste. Apply to the affected areas and allow it to soak into the skin for as long as possible before rinsing off with warm water.

8. Ginger

Ginger is an herb taken from the rhizome of the Zingiber officinale plant. It’s commonly used in many cultures as a spice and herbal medicine but is thought to have originated in Southeast Asia. Ginger is often used in Ayurvedic therapy and other natural remedies, for the treatment of things such as nausea, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual cramps, bloating, painful gas, stomach cramps, heartburn, indigestion, loss of appetite and more.

Ginger can boost circulation, lower high blood pressure and reduce blood sugar levels. It contains a wide array of essential vitamins and minerals, like dietary fiber, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate, niacin and riboflavin. Ginger also contains polyphenols like caffeic acid and gingerol. Gingerol is the main active ingredient in ginger, and is the source of its unique taste and scent.

Gingerol has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes ginger an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis pain and swelling. One study found that ginger had a positive result on the reduction of osteoarthritis pain in the knee, while another study found that a combination of cinnamon, ginger, mastic and sesame oil could decrease pain and stiffness when applied topically to the affected areas.

Ginger is an antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti-viral, detoxifying, warming spice that can be used in many different ways. It can be ingested raw, or in the form of powder or oil, and even taken in supplement form. Brew raw, fresh ginger in hot water to make a soothing tea, or chew slices of ginger each day. You can also apply ginger oil to the affected area and massage it in, then allow it to soak into the skin for a further 10 minutes.

9. Massage

Massage therapy has been used for more than 5,000 years in ancient cultures all over the world like Greece, Egypt, China and India. Massage is believed to provide many therapeutic properties, and can treat a wide variety of issues. There are different styles of massage, but they all generally involve using the hands to manipulate the muscles and tissue of the body. Massage can reduce tension in the muscles and joints, encourage flexibility, improve circulation and even uplift the mood.

Massage can be applied all over the body, and can be an effective natural remedy for things like anxiety, back pain, neck pain, depression, injuries, headaches, migraines, high blood pressure and insomnia. Massage can also stimulate and detoxify the lymphatic system, the body and improve skin tone. Different styles of massage include Swedish, Shiatsu, Thai, deep tissue, hot stone, reflexology, myotherapy and much more.

While any type of massage can have therapeutic benefits, myofascial release massage and moderate-pressure massage are thought to be the most effective ways to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Myofascial release therapy is a style that uses longer pressure on the affected areas of the body to relieve tightness of the connective tissues (also known as the fascia). This can improve pain and inflammation, and can be self-administered by gently rolling the skin back and forth across the affected areas.

Moderate pressure massage therapy has been shown to improve pain and range of motion and involves applying pressure to the affected areas. This too can be self-administered, and the inclusion of essential oils can further improve benefits. Lavender, eucalyptus, ginger, peppermint and rosemary essential oils are particularly effective in relieving arthritis.

10. Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil is derived from the evening primrose plant, also known as King’s Cure, Sun Drop, and German Rampion. Evening primrose is a hardy plant that grows around the world, but is native to America. It’s purported to hold many medicinal properties, and was commonly used by Native Americans to speed up wound healing, act as a sedative, relieve bad coughs and muscle spasms, and relieve pain.

Evening primrose oil is used to treat eczema, acne and other skin conditions, balance hormones, improve fertility and prevent hair loss. Evening primrose oil contains high levels of an omega-6 fatty acid known as Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health, as well as growth and development.

Evening primrose oil is best used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis when taken as a daily supplement. The suggested dose is 500 mg twice a day, but you can also use the oil as a topical treatment by massaging it gently into the affected area. Side effects of evening primrose oil are rare, and it’s generally considered safe for consumption, but it can cause nausea, stomach pain and headaches if taken in too high a dose.

Rheumatoid arthritis can be easily managed with some simple, effective lifestyle changes. Relieve pain and discomfort by avoiding situations that are more likely to cause strain on the joints, and rest whenever you feel you need it. Enjoy a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients, avoid excessive alcohol and smoking, and try to keep active to avoid worsening the condition.