End the Confusion-Top Ten Herbs and Supplements for Joint Health

With all of the products currently on the market for pain and joint health it can become quite confusing. What herbs or supplements can the average consumer use to help in an overall health program? The purpose of this article is to help with distilling the overwhelming amount of data and products down to the the top ten. This may be useful for those who are looking for a simple guide to the currently available products, and how to use them.

Painful joints often have the following characteristics:-

* Low hyaluronic acid levels causes poor lubrication of the joints.
* Pain from increased levels of inflammation
* Joint load bearing surfaces have reduced cartilage depth .

Let’s look at the top five herbs first, and then we will look at five of the various supplements available that address these issues.

1. Chin Koo Teih Shang Wan-

This is a popular Chinese herbal formula. Chin Koo Teih Shang Wan helps maintain the health of bones, tendons, and the circulatory system. This formula is also good for bruising and swelling. It invigorates the blood and helps breaks up blood stagnation Chin Koo Teih Shang Wan promotes healing, allieviates pain and strengthens tendons . It is often used for acute traumatic injuries including fractures, sprains, strains, wounds, with accompanying pain and swelling.It is made up of Angelica root, Notoginseng
root,Frankincense resin, Myrrh resin,Dragons’ blood resin, Carthamus flower and Dipsacus rhizome. Chin Koo Teih Shang Wan usually comes in a bottle of 120 pills. Suggested use: Take 10 pills at a time with warm water, twice daily. (This herbal formula is prohibited during pregnancy.)

2. Tumeric-

If you have arthritis, the search for relief can be almost as frustrating as your condition. This degenerative disease breaks down the protective cartilage between your joints, causing pain and stiffness and limiting mobility. Turmeric is a part of the ginger family and it is known as a herb used arounf the kitchen.It’s the part in curry that makes it a yellow color. But it also possesses powerful medicinal properties. Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is good for treatment in mild cases of osteoarthritis inflammation. Currently only studies using animals have shown its effectiveness in reduceing inflammation of the joints, but it has a long history of being used in Ayurvededic medicine which is the traditional system of healing in India.

Tumeric has shown to be an inhibiting factor in the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes which are chemicals that cause inflammation. Still, researchers in this field are still unsure how turmeric actually works. A study was conducted in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry in 1997 which showed that turmeric in combination with capsaicin lowered inflammation in rats’ paws. Other non joint related studies have been done on inflammation within the body -one involved small mammals and another involved patients after surgery with post-operative inflammation. The studies showed in both cases that turmeric reduced inflammation as well as the drug phenylbutazone.

3. Chaparrel (a.k.a. Cresote Bush)-

One of the most common plants in the North American desert is chaparral. It’s been used for thousands of years in Native American medicine to treat a variety of problems having to do with pain. Chaparral is a popular treatment for arthritis and is sold as an arthritis medication in many healthfood stores. It is a has a caveat though-there have been instances of liver toxicity with the powdered capsule form of chaparral. It is better to make a tea from chaparral which has shown to not have the same ill effects. Consult with an herbalist before creating a tea from chaparral. There has been success with chaparral-based topical creams being applied to muscles and joints after exercise. If you’re going to use it, make sure that you only use it as
a liniment,spray,cream or bath soak. That way you will avoid all issues with the potential toxic effects.

4.Angelica (Sinensis)

In China it is called Dong Quai. The herb Angelica has been used in herbal medicine for many years in Asia as well as Europe. It is often used to treat arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Angelica contains both pain-relieving and anti-spasmodic properties. It is often prepared as a tea.Making a tea from angelica is very simple. Boil a tablespoon of angelica root in one pint of water. Boil the mixture for two minutes and remove it from heat. Allow the tea to cool to room temperature and drink it three times throughout the day. Use the angelica tea for two weeks, and then take a break for a week.

5.Flaxseed/Evening primrose oil (Omega 3 and 6)

Flaxseeds contain natural anti-inflammatory benefits. Flaxseeds contain Omega 3 fatty acids which helps the body produce Series 1 and 3 prostaglandins, which essentially act as an anti-immflammatory agents. Studies have shown that flaxseed oil may help relieve the pain from arthritis because essential fatty acids have these anti-inflammatory properties. A spoonful of fresh flax seed combined with evening primrose oil several times a day may relieve pain within a few days, and regular use helps prevent aching joints.

Liquid flaxseed oil is the easiest form to use. It must be kept refrigerated however, because heat tends to break down the Omega 3 compound.. This product is available either in liquid form, or in capsules. In order to get the best absorption however, the flaxseed oil should be taken with food. It is easily mixed into juices and other drinks, and its flavor complements yogurt ,cottage cheese and many other foods. It can also be used as a salad dressing instead of safflower or olive oil.Because of the heat factor don’t cook with it. This will deplete the oil’s nutrient content. If you prefer to use ground flaxseeds, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the ground seeds to an 8-ounce glass of water and mix.

Flaxseeds taste good and have a pleasant, nutty flavor. You can sprinkle them on salads, cooked vegetables, or cereals. I recommend you grind the seeds (or buy ground flaxseed) because whole seeds simply pass through the body. Grinding the seeds just before using them is best to preserve flavor and nutrients.Pre-ground seeds are more convenient,but grinding them yourself insures the freshness. Remember to keep them refrigerated. The brown and yellow seeds have no nutritional differences between them.

Let’s take a look at some of the best and widely available supplements that are currently sold for joint health. Remember this list of herbs and supplements is by no means exhaustive. I have tried to give the top herbs/supplements that have been shown to be effective in the widest portion of the population who use alternative healthcare products. Now lets look at the top five supplements.

1. Glucosamine/Chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin, when used alone or together, are safe and have few side effects. In normal human cartilage Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural occuring elements that act as a type of padding between the bones in the joints. These products are available in a variety of forms, such as  glucosamine hydrochloride, N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG), and glucosamine sulfate (a combination of glucosamine and mineral salt). Glucosamine can also be purchased in synthetic forms. Glucosamine is well absorbed by the body.

There are natural sources of Chondroitin, for example shark cartilage, but it can also be produced synthetically in a lab. Chondroitin sulfuric acid, chonsurid, and chondroitin sulfate  are other names for Chondroitin. How does Glucosamine work? Within a collagen matrix Cartilage contains compounds called proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans (GAG’s).GAG’s and proteoglycans form long chains and lattices to which the collagen adheres. A major building block, Glucosamine is a foundation by which the body manufactures proteoglycans and GAG’s. The supply of glucosamine is the rate limiting step in this manufacturing process. Cartilage and other related structures like discs, tendons and ligaments are continuously being remodeled in health, being worn away during activity and then reformed again.Delayed repair to cartilage and these other related tissues are linked to low levels of glucosamine Taking glucosamine supplements can boost GAG and proteoglycan levels by up to 170%, thereby facilitating the repair process.

2. SAM-e

SAM-e can reduce the moderate pain and lack of mobility of osteoarthritis.It has more often known as a natural remedy for depression. SAM-e is short for S-adenosylmethionine, which is a molecule that helps several chemical reactions within the body. Over 22,000 patients have been involved in clinical trials which have shown SAM-e is a decisive factor in relieveing pain in osteoarthritis sufferers. European doctors have been using SAM-e on those with osteoarthritis (or depression) for decades. It has been noted that depression can make the symptoms of osteoarthritis more intolerable according to Doctor Graeme Shaw, M.D., an integrative medicine physician in Los Altos, Calif. Many experts on the subject of osteoarthritis recommended SAM-e as a form of treatment.

SAM-e helps build the collagen by delivering sulfur to the cartilage, where it bonds to strengthen joints. How SAM-e alleviates depression is question many experts have. It is thought that SAM-e helps in a range of production of mood-enhancing chemical messengers within the brain.

A review was published in the Journal of Family Practice 2002 of 11 randomized, controlled studies. These studies showed that SAM-e is has greater effects in improving joint function in osteoarthritis patients than does a placebo, and that it is just as effective in reducing pain and improving joint function as NAID’s (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen). A double-blind study reported in the American Journal of Medicine in a 1987, showed 22 people suffering with osteoarthritis of the knee took 1,200 mg of SAM-e daily. The other control group of 23 people suffering with osteoarthritis of the knee took the drug piroxicam. The study showed significant pain relief using hoth treatments and improvement with mobility and morning stiffness. The patients who took SAM-e however retained the benefits much longer after stopping the supplement than those who took the drug conventionally used.

3.Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is another natural supplement that is said to help lessen joint pain. This is largely due to the fact that hyaluronic acid is another compound naturally found within the body that essentially keeps the joints (as well as cartilage) lubricated. When someone begins to lose or produce less hyaluronic acid, his joints actually stiffen. This makes it difficult to get around and sometimes painful. Using a hyaluronic acid supplement can change this, though studies are still very limited on its efficacy.

4.Vitamin D

When joint deterioration happens, it will inevitably cause pain. While not an actual analgesic, Vitamin D has shown some benefit in lessening (or stopping) the deterioration of cartilage in the joints. It is believed that vitamin D may help in combating joint pain when taken as a daily supplement. By stopping this deterioration, the intensity of the pain will not increase, and may well cease. Vitamin D alone is not recommended to treat joint pain and should be used in conjunction with other treatments.

5.MSM

MSM which is one part in the amino acid chain occurs naturally in the body. Without a sufficient amount of MSM in our bodies, the amino acids continue to construct the glands, but do not produce the correct enzymes. This in turn makes us susceptible to unnecessary illness. MSM is an aceonym for the chemical Methylsulfonylmethane, an organic source of sulfur which is widely utilized by the body in the formation of connective tissue and in the antioxidant glutathione. Structurally and functionally important to more than 150 compounds in the body including enzymes, hormones, antibodies and free radical scavengers, this source of sulfur is vital.

When a cell dies, a new cell takes its place. MSM is the flexible bond between proteins. Without the appropriate amount of MSM, free radical scavengers attaches and the bond becomes rigid. MSM is so effective that doctors can often reduce their patients’ medication dosage, and can occasionally even discontinue their medications and instead give them MSM sulfur.

MSM is rapidly gaining a reputation as a natural solution for pain, as more and more people become aware of the risks in taking the over the counter pain relievers and prescription. Medical authorities continually caution physicians and patients with regards to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers known as NSAIDs.

During the first 2 weeks of using MSM, you may experience some negative symptoms related to the process detoxification.In that period toxins are flushed from the system. The symptoms of this detoxification could be in the form of skin rash and or possible headache and fatigue or diarrhea. The more toxins present in the body the more severe the symptoms may be.Also the more MSM will be needed for the process of detoxification. Starting with a lower dosege will reduce symptoms of detoxification.

Well there you have it. My “Top Ten” picks of the most widely used and effective herbal products and supplements. I hope this little guide has helped you understand more about what products are available without the confusion of looking at hundreds of various products and messages that sometimes are more about sales than helping you with your joint pain.

In the end, I believe that you must take back the power of your own health through education and informed product choices. All of these products I have mentioned should be used in conjunction with an intelligent and regular exercise program. Check with your healthcare provider to help you in designing a program that is tailored for your particular needs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions-and be critical in your thinking when it comes to giving over any aspect of your healthcare to anyone. Good sleep,a relaxed mind, and a healthy diet are also important components to not only controlling or eliminating joint pain-but in keeping the whole body at a high level of functionality. Stay Healthy!

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