Arthritis: Natural Pain Relief

Are you feeling the changing weather in your joints? If so, you are among many others. Arthritis is the current leading cause of disability in people above the age of 65. If your joints have begun to trouble you, read on to identify what kind of arthritis you have and how to treat it through nutrition and effective, all-natural solutions!

Western Medicine: The 2 main types of arthritis
Like Western science, Chinese medicine acknowledges two main types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting over 21 million Americans. A degenerative disease in which the soft cartilage of the joints is slowly degraded, the causes of OA may involve aging, wear and tear, genetic predisposition, obesity, metabolic and hormonal disorders, repetitive use injuries, and even gout. The onset of OA is gradual with symptoms usually appearing after the age of 50. The most common symptoms are deep, aching joint pain that gets worse with movement, stiffness upon waking, joint swelling, and a limited range of motion in the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition resulting from immune system malfunction in which your own bodily defenses attack and erode the joints. The causes of the immune reaction are unknown. However, clinical observations suggest that the most likely triggers are: pathogens, environmental toxins, and emotional stress (when coupled with genetic predispositions).

The Eastern model has an added advantage in treating arthritis: It breaks down the disease further, into four categories based on traditional Chinese medical knowledge.

Chinese Medicine: The 4 types of arthritis
Types of arthritis fall under four categories: cold, wind, damp, and heat:
1. Cold invading the joints – The cold type includes symptoms of a sharp, stabbing, fixed pain in the joint, which is exacerbated by cold and relieved by heat. Usually these individuals have a pale complexion.

2. Wind disturbing the joints – The wind type manifests as a pain that shifts locations, comes and goes suddenly, and sometimes causes dizziness—behaving much like the wind.

3. Dampness congealing in the joints – The damp type causes dull, deep, aching pain that lingers in the joints or extremities. It can include visible swelling and persistent stiffness.

4. Heat scorching the joints – The heat type is characterized by sudden, acute attacks that make the joints red, swollen, painful and warm to the touch, with pain that is relieved by cold and aggravated by heat.

Natural dietary relief for all 4 types of arthritis
Chinese medicine addresses each of these arthritic conditions with dietary therapy:
1. Cold – Eat warming foods such as green onions, garlic, peppers, mustard greens, ginger, black beans, sesame seeds, grapes, parsnip, spices such as turmeric, fennel, anise, and horseradish, organic chicken, and lamb. Rice wine can also be helpful, but avoid if you have high blood pressure. Avoid cold foods, ice-cold beverages, and raw fruits and vegetables.

2. Wind – Eat more scallions, grapes, mulberry, black beans, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables. Avoid meats, shellfish, sugars, alcohol, smoking, and other stimulants.
3. Damp – Eat more barley, millet, mung beans, mustard greens, azuki beans, millet, brown rice, as well as bland and diuretic foods. Avoid cold foods, ice-cold beverages, dairy products, and raw fruits and vegetables. Also, avoid exposure to damp, humid environments by dressing properly.

4. Heat – Eat cooling foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, including dandelion greens, cabbage, and melons. Eat more mung beans, soybeans, and soybean sprouts.
Avoid spicy food, alcohol, smoking, and warming foods such as green onions. Tomatoes and eggplants may exacerbate the inflammation and should also be avoided.

Home Remedies for all 4 types of arthritis
1. Cold – Boil a 1/2 cup chopped parsnip, 3 grams of cinnamon, 1 gram of black pepper, and 3 grams of dried ginger in 2 cups of water. Drink this twice daily for one month.

2. Wind – Boil 1/4 cup of chopped scallions in 2 cups of water. Drink this tea three times daily. Chinese parsley tea is also beneficial for wind arthritis.

3. Damp – Cook 1/3 cup each of mung beans, pearl barley, and red beans in 4 cups of water and eat this dish daily for one month. Cornsilk tea is also beneficial for damp arthritis.

4. Heat – Boil 1 cup each of dandelion and peppermint in 4 cups of water. Drink this three times a day. You can also apply crushed dandelion poultice to the affected joints, changing every two hours.

Soothe pain with herbal remedies:
For generally relieving the pain of arthritis, use herbs as a natural alternative to drugs:
Stinging nettle helps to alleviate arthritic pain. Research shows that the nettle blocks the production and action of inflammation-inducing immune cells such as cytokines and prostaglandins. Seek out stinging nettle (leaf) supplements at your health food store.

Turmeric, the common spice found in curry, is also sold as a supplement for its anti-inflammatory properties, and research has shown its effectiveness for arthritis pain. A typical dosage is 400 mg three times a day.

Capsaicin cream (derived from hot chili peppers) can be a good topical for relieving the pain and discomfort of arthritis.

Chinese herbal blend. Healthy Arthritis and Joint Formula is a blend of traditional herbs that promote healthy joint function and relieve the painful symptoms of arthritis. It is also helpful as a preventive formula for athletes.

Finally, one of the best preventive measures for degenerative joints is exercise. Research has shown that with regular moderate exercise, pain and inflexibility can be reduced by at least 25 percent. I recommend tai chi and qigong exercises to help strengthen the joints; these exercises are gentle, and you can engage in them when it is too painful to practice strenuous exercise. Most licensed practitioners of Chinese medicine are able to teach these exercises.

I hope you find the natural ways to relieve arthrtis! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

--Dr. Mao

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