Herbal Medicine for Arthritis


This painful and debilitating joint disease is usually either classified as osteoarthritis (OA) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

OA is a condition in which the cartilage of the joints slowly deteriorates and hardens. Bone spurs often form in the area of the joint, resulting in deformity and limited mobility. Inflammation is not present or is minimal. OA most commonly affects those age 65 and older.

Unlike OA, RA is characterized by inflammation of the membranes surrounding joints; they become tender and swollen. It is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body’s immune system is attacking its own tissues. RA most often strikes people between the ages of 20 and 40, crippling more women than men. RA often attacks joints in a symmetrical fashion, e.g., both hands or both knees. Joints can become deformed.

Causes of Arthritis

In traditional Chinese patterns of disharmony, the various types of arthritis fall typically under the category of “painful obstruction syndrome.” Acute painful obstruction can be due to wind, cold, dampness, or heat, although it is usually a combination of wind, dampness, and cold.

In an acute attack of wind, cold, and dampness, symptoms include joint pain that gets worse with cold and is relieved with warmth, a feeling of heaviness or numbness in the limbs, limited mobility of the affected area, and, possibly, a slow pulse. A more chronic arthritis condition is generally associated with an underlying deficiency of the vital substances involving the liver and kidneys, in view of their relationship to the tendons and bones.

Western Treatments for Arthritis

The most common Western treatment for arthritis is non­steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Although these drugs can relieve pain and decrease inflammation, they do nothing to cure the disease. And their common side effect, gastric irritation, can lead to ulcers. In fact, a patient often bounces back and forth between a rheumatologist and gastroenterologist, first receiving treatment for the arthritis and then receiving treatment for the ulcer caused by the medication.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatments for Arthritis

Traditional Chinese Medicince treatments also reduce pain and inflammation, but they focus on eliminating the cause of the arthritis and, thus, the disease itself.

Acupuncture: Arthritis responds very well to acupuncture. When combined with moxa, it can relieve pain and reduce inflammation immediately. Some acute cases require only a few treatments. Needles are typically placed into points surrounding the painful area, bringing circulation to the area and helping relieve the stagnation that causes pain and swelling. A more chronic, long-term arthritic condition can take months or even years to resolve. For this reason, it is essential to begin treating this disorder at the earliest stage possible.

Herbal Therapy: Herbal therapy is especially important as part of the treatment of chronic cases. The treatment strategy varies, depending on whether the condition is due to heat or cold, or if there is a deficiency of any vital substances. Herbal remedies in chronic cases of cold and dampness need to nourish the underlying deficiency as well as expel the cold and dampness. The most effective formula is one custom-made for the patient’s individual constitution and pattern of disharmony. null