6 Natural Anti-Inflammatory Supplements to Treat Arthritis

Arthritis can cause life-changing pain that can debilitate performing daily tasks. Out of many, there are three main types of arthritis: Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Psoriatic arthritis. Osteoarthritis comes with age and overuse of joints. As the cartilage breaks down within joins, the bones starts to grate, causing severe pain and inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system attacks the lining of the joints. Persistent inflammation, over time, will break down the joint and will damage it completely. Psoriatic arthritis is also an autoimmune disease that not only attacks and inflames the joints, but the dermis surrounding the affected area. Although Arthritis is sometimes unpreventable and incurable, there are ways to naturally alleviate inflammation and pain. Boswelia serrata, fish oil, plant seed oils, red ginger extract, green lipped mussel, and rosmarinic acid are all natural supplements that can aid in reducing inflammation.

Boswelia serrata is a deciduous tree that grows in Asia, America, and Africa. The plant parts used are the gum and resin, also known as frankincense. The resin of Boswelia Serrata contains boswellic acids (pentacyclic triterpenic acids such as 5-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid and leukotriene) that specifically inhibits the formation of pro-inflammatory enzyme, 5-lipoxygenase. 5-LO synthesizes inflammatory leukotrienes, that induces migration of inflammation-generating cells and calcium dislocation. In vivo study examined that Boswelia serrata significantly reduced inflammation for patients with osteoarthritis. The Boswelia Serrata resin extract is sold over the counter as Boswellin, available in capsules and creams.

Fish oil contains two different types of omega 3 fatty acids, DHA (docosahexenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapetaenoic acid.) These fatty acids reduce inflammation by blocking inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins and suppressing inflammatory chemicals called resolvins, which makes it a natural weapon against arthritis. It is proven safer to take copious amounts of fish oil over cod liver oil because cod liver oil has high amounts of vitamin A and D, which can be potentially toxic. Dietary guidelines recommend eating two portions of fish a week, or about 0.45 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids.

Plant seed oils, including palm oil, blackcurrant seed oil, flaxseed oil, primrose seed oil, are used as rich sources of Fatty acids, such as n-3 and n-6 fatty acids. Fatty acids act as a precursor of hormone-like substances. Scientific interest in n-3 fatty acids have grown for health benefits related to cancer, inflammatory disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Interest has also grown in that western diet rich in n-6 fatty acids are known to play pro-inflammatory roles, whereas n-3 fatty acids have shown anti-inflammatory activities. Balance of these each affect the body’s eicosanoid regulated physiological functions. Plant seed oil is abundant in n-3 fatty acids, which can remarkably inhibit mechanisms of inflammation. Scientific evidence points that selected fatty acids acts as competitive substrate in membranes to suppress the formation of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids such as PGE2 and LTB4. Plant seed oils can be found at the local grocers or can be found at a health store in tablets.

Red ginger extract is known for analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Red Ginger extract mainly affects macrophages, which infiltrates inflamed sites and release cytokines such as prostaglandins and NO. It inhibits macrophage migration to inflamed sites in arthritis, and inhibits macrophage activation induced by lipopolysaccharides.  Inhibition of prostaglandins from RAW264cells is the principal mechanism of the anti-inflammatory action of ginger. Red Ginger extract also significantly suppresses NO production in lipopolysaccharides-stimulated macrophage cell lines by inhibition of NO synthase. These inhibitory factors of the supplement will help reduce inflammation and pain in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Red ginger is commonly found in Asian dishes as well as in teas.

The green lipped mussel is a mollusk found on the coast of New Zealand that is traditionally served as food and is increasingly functional as a nutraceutical. Their unique chemical composition makes it an interesting anti-arthritis treatment. They have been many anti-inflammatory omega-3 PUFAs that inhibit pro-inflammatory molecules, including interleukins and COX-1 and COX-2 activities. Pufas are composed of long hydrocarbon chains with double bonds that cannot be synthesized by the body, but are needed for optimal health. In additions to omega-3 PUFAs, the green lipped mussel has copious amounts of GAG, polysaccharide molecules such as chondroitin sulfate, heparin sulfate, dermatan sulfate, and hyaluronic acid that play an important role in cartilage synthesis. Two hypothesis envelope how GAG can help arthritis. The first is the “substrate” hypothesis, where GAG tact to target tissue and provide a substrate to form new GAGs within the specific cartilage. The second is the “direct anti-inflammatory” hypothesis, where GAGs and molecules impart inhibitory effects on inflammatory enzymes. Extracts of the green-lipped mussel are sold as Lyprinol, and are helpful for treating osteoarthritis.

Rosmarinic acid is found in big quantities in common household seasonings such as oregano, lemon balm, sage, and rosemary, as well as in dietary supplement tablets. It is known to induce T cell apoptosis (programmed cell death) in abnormal T cells, and to reduce interleukin pro-inflammatory enzymes. Rosmarinic acid also acts as an immunosuppressant by interfering with the signal transduction of specific tyrosine kinase enzymes inside T cells. Because of its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects, it may be a valuable tool for reducing autoimmune inflammation for rheumatoid arthritis without risks or side effects.

Taking these supplements can reduce pain and swelling, as well as improve the quality of life for arthritis patients. There can be potential side effects or interactions between medications depending on what you consume.  Before taking each supplement, consult with your doctor so that you understand what is right for you.

Joyce Woo