Aloe vera is one of the most commonly used herbs in alternative medicine. Known for its healing properties, it’s popular for treating small skin abrasions. You may already have a bottle of aloe vera gel in the medicine cabinet from a past sunburn. This same type of product may be applied topically to soothe aching joints.
Aloe vera is also available in whole form from the leaves of the plant. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) says that oral aloe vera can cause decreased blood sugar and gastrointestinal side effects, such as diarrhea. Topical aloe vera, on the other hand, does not cause any side effects and should be safe to try for arthritis.
Boswellia, also called frankincense, is praised by alternative medicine practitioners for its anti-inflammatory capabilities. It’s derived from the gum of boswellia trees indigenous to India.
This herb is thought to work by blocking substances (leukotrienes) that attack healthy joints in autoimmune diseases such as RA. The NCCIH acknowledges promising evidence of boswellia in animal studies. But it notes a lack of human trials. Boswellia is available in tablet form and topical creams.
Cat’s claw is another anti-inflammatory herb that may reduce swelling in arthritis. This herb is from a tropical vine, and its usage dates back to Incan civilizations. Traditionally, cat’s claw is used to boost the immune system.
In recent years, the immunity powers of the herb have been tried in arthritis. The downside is that cat’s claw may overstimulate the immune system and make arthritis pain worse.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, a study showed cat’s claw can help with RA swelling. But there’s no proof that this herb can prevent further joint damage.