Dear Pharmacist: I am 60 years old, and now I’m told I have osteoarthritis. My doctor said that there is no known “cure” for this. I need to know the best natural treatments. --O.W. Melbourne, Fla.
There isn’t a quick magical fix for osteoarthritis, you have to treat the cause and it’s not always easy to figure that out. Osteoarthritis has always been considered a “wear and tear” disease. But tick bites can cause painful, swollen joints (Lyme disease) and that is actually how Lyme was discovered; kids with joint pain were popping up all over Lyme Connecticut.
There are many prescription drugs that ease pain, such as Celebrex or Relafen. They are not always tolerated. For the most severe cases, physical therapy, injections of cortisone and surgery may be options. These of course, have their own risks. Let’s talk about simple things.
Capsaicin Let’s hear it for peppers. Commercial capsaicin products are sold nationwide in patch form, gel, cream and roll-on. You apply it externally, and with repeated applications, it helps block pain signals. Wash your hands after applications (or use gloves). The last thing you want to do is apply capsaicin, then get it on yourself in the bathroom. Talk about a hot tamale!
Astaxanthin This protective antioxidant is best known for vision health, however, it suppresses COX 2 enzyme, prostaglandins, interleukins, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a). Simply put, astaxanthin helps painful situations that end in “itis” like arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, etc. You may need 6 to 12mg daily.
Glucosamine sulfate You make this if you have healthy cartilage, but you can also supplement. I think it’s well tolerated, even though the studies are mixed. Glucosamine may be helpful, but only if combined with other substances.
Ginger A natural spice that has anti-inflammatory properties, also sold as a supplement. I eat this with sushi all the time, but you can buy it as a powdered spice, or fresh root in the produce section, and turn it into a tea. It reduces pain by blocking prostaglandins (that’s what ibuprofen does too). Ginger is selective, it only blocks the ‘bad’ prostaglandins, not the ones that benefit your body.
DMSO This is used on race horses, externally. Many Internet sites sell it, and health food stores. People use it all the time for joint pain, including myself but because it is technically for horses, unless you’re a horse, I can’t really tell you anything more.
Methylsulfonylmethane (or you can just say MSM, phew) is a natural sulfur compound related to DMSO (see above), and it’s been shown to improve pain symptoms, and although it is present in trace amounts in a variety of food, it is much more efficient to take a supplement.
I can send you a longer, detailed version with more remedies and treatment options. Sign up for my newsletter at www.dearpharmacist.com.