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Best Chinese Herbs for Arthritis

Arthritis is a broad term that refers to over 100 different types of related diseases that affect joints. Millions of people globally, including 23% of adults in the US, have arthritis. This condition is characterized by joint pain and inflammation, often leading to poor mobility and body weakness.

Though generally considered a part of the aging process, arthritis can also be caused by physical injuries and other infections. The bad news is that arthritis is incurable. Once it starts, it progresses gradually, reducing life expectancy by 3 – 10 years.

The good news, however, is that treatments have greatly improved over time, and managing arthritis is much easier today. Generally, treatments focus on alleviating the symptoms and improving the quality of life of affected persons.

Physicians typically prescribe NSAIDs and COX-2 inhibitors to manage the disease. These medications offer little beyond improving joint flexibility, reducing pain and inflammation, and minimizing physical stress on the joints.

But due to the risks associated with over-the-counter and prescription NSAIDs, alternative therapies like nutritional supplements, acupuncture, and medicinal herbs have become popular in recent years.

With regards to medicinal herbs, none are more popular than Chinese herbs. Historically, these herbs have been used to treat wide-ranging ailments, including arthritis pain, swelling, and inflammation, with minimal side effects.

As a result, they have been the subject of many scientific inquiries keen to understand how they work. However, by and large, these studies are often poorly designed and biased and provide little evidence of effectiveness. So let’s take a deep dive into what these herbs are capable of and how they might be used to aid in the treatment of arthritis.

Key takeaways 

  • Arthritis refers to a family of different types of diseases that typically affect the joints.
  • It is characterized by joint pain and swelling, but other symptoms like fatigue and tenderness are also common.
  • Chinese herbs have a long history of being used to treat a wide array of ailments.
  • Chinese herbology is guided by the Qi philosophy, and the body becomes susceptible to illness when Qi is not balanced.
  • The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
  • Ginger, dragon's blood, turmeric, devil's claw, and white willow are herbs with immense potential to manage arthritis symptoms.

A brief history of herbs and traditional Chinese medicine

Despite the challenges scientists face trying to prove the efficacy of Chinese herbs, historical records show they have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). 

Among the earliest literature depicting the use of herbs in TCM was retrieved from the Mawangdui archeological site in Changsha, China. Known as the "Recipes for 52 Ailments," this manuscript lists prescriptions for various ailments as far back as 168 BC.

The oldest book on Chinese herbal medicine is called Shénnóng's Materia Medica, believed to have been compiled circa 2800 BC. It is believed that Shénnóng—the first traditional herbalist in China—shared his knowledge of poisonous and medicinal herbs with farmers after tasting hundreds of herbs.

In his Materia Medica, Shénnóng classified herbal medicines into three groups:

  • The 'superior' group comprised herbs that could cure multiple ailments and were majorly responsible for maintaining and restoring body balance.
  • Boosters and tonics that were not ideal for long-term use.
  • Substances that treated specific diseases were only to be taken in small doses.

Though the original Materia Medica text is long lost, its existing translations are believed to have guided traditional herbalists during the Western Han dynasty. This is around the 1st century.

Chinese herbs were popular in the medieval age Islamic and western Asian countries. Ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, rhubarb, and cubeb are examples of Chinese herbs transferred from China to the West during the Silk Road trade. Indeed, there are some uncanny similarities in how these herbs were used in Islamic and Chinese medicine.

Other literature materials that talk of Chinese herbs include the Treatise of Cold Damage Disorder and Miscellaneous Illnesses (196 to 220 CE), Treatise on the Nature of Medicinal Herbs (7th century), and the more recent Compendium of Materia Medica, which is still used today.

In this ancient literature, there is reference to over 100,000 medicinal recipes and 13,000 medicinal herbs. Plants and their extracts were the most common, though minerals and animal parts also formed a part of TCM.

What causes arthritis

There are many potential causes of arthritis, depending on what type of arthritis is in question. The most common—osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis—are caused by different factors.

OA is caused by wear-and-tear damage to the cartilage due to overuse. It is most common among the elderly, with reports showing that half of the global population aged 65 years and older have OA. However, not all of them experience the symptoms.

Growing old is a natural process we can do nothing about. However, we can improve how our bodies age by, among things, adopting healthy lifestyles, eating balanced diets, and avoiding activities that place too much pressure on the joints.

OA causes the connective tissues and muscles that hold joints together to deteriorate. Also, the gradual breakdown of the cartilaginous matter that cushions the joints causes bone ends to grind against each other. Obviously, this causes pain and restricts movement.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is mainly caused by autoimmune disorders or infections. An autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to attack the synovial membrane lining the joints. This causes the lining to be inflamed and swollen. This systemic attack may expand to the cartilage, further affecting the joint.

Factors that increase the risks of developing arthritis include:

  • Obesity – excess weight piles pressure on the joints, wearing out the cartilage faster.
  • Previous injuries – injuries to the joints may develop into arthritis.
  • Sex – females are more likely to develop arthritis than men.
  • Age – the risks of developing OA, RA, and gout increase with age.
  • Family history – if you come from a family with a history of arthritis, your chances of developing arthritis are higher.

Generally, arthritis is a manageable disease, and people can lead normal lives after diagnosis. However, at advanced levels, it can significantly impair your ability to do daily tasks, especially if it affects the limbs. This can be accompanied by anxiety, depression, fatigue, and sleep problems.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

The most common symptom of arthritis is joint pain. Other signs include:

  • Joint stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Fatigue
  • General malaise

But arthritis comes in different shapes and forms, so the symptoms are likely to differ depending on the type.

While pain is a common feature in almost all types of arthritis, the location of the pain may change. For example, ankylosing spondylitis presents pain around the spine joints. The pain is often more noticeable in the second half of the night. Affected persons may also have swelling on their backs, usually in the morning, that lasts an hour or more.

For people with psoriatic arthritis, a red, scaly skin rash (psoriasis) is another typical symptom besides the usual painful joint swelling and stiffness. The rash appears on several parts like the back, knees, buttocks, scalp, and elbows. Fatigue is also a common symptom of psoriatic arthritis.

It is common to experience muscle pain and aches from time to time. Usually, this is nothing serious, especially if you engage in physically demanding activities. 

So, how can you tell the difference between arthritis pain and stiffness from normal pain?

Arthritis pain, swelling, or stiffness typically does not disappear within a few days. Also, the pain is likely to be tender (sensitive to touch).

However, there are other health conditions that have similar symptoms to arthritis, like joint swelling and pain. These include lupus, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia rheumatic, back pain, and tendinopathy.

So, to boost your chances of a good outcome, see a doctor earlier and get started on the right treatment.

What Chinese herbs are good for arthritis?

Before we tell you what Chinese herbs are good for arthritis, let's understand the philosophy of TCM. 

The principles that guide Chinese herbology are distinctly different from Western notions of how the body works, and what causes health, and illness. In TCM, the disease is caused by an imbalance of energy (Qi) in the body. 

The imbalance is caused when Yin and Yang are out of balance. Yin and Yang is a Chinese concept that contends that every living thing has two opposing energy forces – Yin and Yang. Together, Yin and Yang make Qi. 

When Yin and Yang are out of balance, Qi cannot flow, resulting in illness. Imbalances in Yin and Yang can be caused by stress, emotional turmoil, poor diet, and disease. Yin and Yang are further divided into excess and deficiency, cold and hot, and exterior and interior.

TCM philosophy also proposes that bodily organs are made of five elements – earth, water, fire, wood, and metal. Similarly, herbs are categorized into five tastes – bitter, sour, pungent, salty, and sweet corresponding to the five elements. So, a metal element organ, like the skin, is ideally treated with a pungent herb.

Whether this philosophy is practical or not, and regardless of its scientific accuracy, Chinese herbs have largely been successful in treating various conditions, especially gastrointestinal and gynecological problems.

So, what Chinese herbs may help with arthritis?

Turmeric for pain relief and inflammation

Turmeric is an Indian spice whose principal bioactive ingredient, curcumin, has medicinal properties. Studies show that this bright orange spice is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and can help ease inflammatory pain.

Low doses of 500 milligrams daily may be beneficial for people seeking to boost their overall health. For inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis, the recommended dose is between 400 and 600 mg three times daily. The total quantity taken in a day should not exceed 2,000 mg.

Our Relief recovery tincture is made with an assortment of Chinese herbs such as corydalis, myrrh, frankincense, turmeric, and the evergreen full-spectrum hemp CBD. This potent combination may help with managing arthritis pain and inflammation. This tincture promotes blood circulation and relaxes the body, helping it heal and overcome pain.

Using topicals as hot and cold treatment for inflammation

Topicals can also be used to treat inflammation. They work on the principle that the skin absorbs substances applied to it. 

On the topic of skin absorption, let's make an important clarification. There is a difference between absorption and penetration, even though these terms are often used interchangeably. 

Penetration is the right word to use when a chemical goes past the outer layer of the skin. However, when the chemical enters the bloodstream, the term is absorption. Enormous difference.

For inflammation, absorption is ideal because this allows the beneficial compounds to go deep into the tissues. The effects are holistic when these chemicals reach the bloodstream, which is great.

Hot and cold topicals affect pain and inflammation differently. 

For acute pain and injury, Dragon Hemp Cooling Balm is ideal. It contains 'cooling' herbs like menthol and corydalis plus full-spectrum CBD to exert its soothing effect deep within the affected muscle tissue. Cold treatment also helps reduce swelling and treatment time.

But if you are among the 20% of Americans affected by chronic pain and inflammation, 'hot' topicals can provide relief. This Dragon Hemp Warming Balm also packs full-spectrum CBD and Chinese herbs such as dragon's blood and aconite, providing a warm, soothing sensation in the affected area. So, whether it is back pain or arthritis, this balm absorbs into the skin to provide prolonged relief.

Dragons blood for increased circulation

Dragon's blood is a natural plant resin extracted from different tropical tree species popularly known as dragon trees. These include the Dracaena, Croton, Daemonorops, and Pterocarpus genera trees.

This herb has been used for various purposes for millennia, with records of its use stretching from ancient Greece to Rome, China, and the Middle East.

Today, it is a widely used supplement for digestive problems and diabetes.

Dragon's blood may also stimulate blood flow, warm and relax muscles, and help other beneficial compounds reach deep into muscle tissue. This is precisely the reason why we use it in our Warming Balm. And in so doing, it helps to relieve chronic pain and inflammation.

Ginger for arthritis 

This herb needs no introduction as it has a long history of use in alternative and traditional medicine. Today, fresh ginger is a popular house remedy for nausea and vomiting. As a rich source of antioxidants, ginger is also a valuable ally for keeping arthritis, inflammation, and numerous infections in check.

Besides its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger also possesses potent antibacterial and antiviral qualities that may help with:

Pain and inflammation are common biomarkers of arthritis and can seriously affect your sleep quality. 

Dragon Hemp's lemon ginger-flavored Sleep Gummies are designed to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Packed with premium-grade CBD and CBN, these delicious gummies will fast-track your transition into dreamland! 

Devil's claw for arthritis

Devil's claw is a herb native to South Africa. It is primarily used to alleviate pain and inflammation in patients with arthritis. It is thought to help improve mobility and motility.

Clinical studies have shown that this herb may, indeed, reduce pain sensation and improve mobility within a few weeks of treatment.

Though instances of toxicity are rare, it’s important to note that this herb can be toxic in high doses.

White willow bark for arthritis

White willow is a medium-sized tree native to Europe, as well as Central and Western Asia. The bark of this tree contains a compound called salicin, which is chemically similar to aspirin.

This herb is also a rich source of anti-inflammatory flavonoids. These ingredients are thought to be behind the herb's anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. These attributes make white willow a valuable commodity for managing arthritis symptoms.

Are Chinese herbs safe?

Yes, Chinese herbs are generally well tolerated. However, herbs can just be as potent as conventional medications and should be taken with care. As Shénnóng points out, in his ancient book, some herbs may be toxic, especially in large doses, while others might cause allergies.

As with life, moderation is key. Also, work with qualified practitioners and stick to the recommended dosing guidelines. Keep taking your regular medications, and always consult your doctor if you plan to supplement with herbs.

Why CBD with Chinese herbs make a wellness duo 

The practice of mixing herbs is as old as herbal medicine itself. Besides enhancing effectiveness, it also lessens the side effects of some herbs. Mixing herbs allows herbal practitioners to address comorbidities, which is usually the case with illnesses.

In the case of arthritis, the pain usually accompanies inflammation. These can be worsened by other symptoms like fatigue, joint stiffness, anxiety, and in some cases, rashes. Obviously, a single herb won't address this diversity of conditions, but several herbs in a single concoction might.

CBD has made a name for itself in recent years as a potent health and wellness supplement with many benefits. From pain relief to reducing anxiety and minimizing inflammatory reactions, CBD is indeed a modern herbalist's must-have.

So combining CBD with Chinese herbs makes a lot of sense! That's why Dragon Hemp’s products typically blend the two. Based on custom formulas developed by health practitioners and experienced herbalists, this combination has proven effective at enhancing performance, supporting recovery, and restoring overall well-being.

Where to buy Chinese herbs with cannabinoids online 

Ultimately, to enjoy the benefits of Chinese herbs, get them from certified manufacturers of herbal supplements. Remember that herbal and natural supplements are not regulated, so it is pretty much anyone's game out there. It’s also important to remember that many of these herbs are meant to manage the symptoms of certain illnesses and conditions and are not a cure. For example, in patients with arthritis, these herbs may help to manage pain and inflammation, but cannot be used to treat arthritis itself. 

Besides offering high-quality herbal products that work, Dragon Hemp makes it much easier to buy these products online. So, check us out on this link to view our full range of products.
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