Best for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
What it is: The bark and root of a South American vine.
How it works: Cat’s claw is an anti-inflammatory that inhibits tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a target of powerful RA drugs. It also contains compounds that may benefit the immune system.
Studies: A small 2002 trial showed that it reduced joint pain and swelling by more than 50 percent compared with placebo.
How much: Capsule, tablet, tea extract: 60 mg daily in divided doses. Look for a brand that is free of tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids.
What it is: Oil from cold-water fish such as herring and salmon – a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
How it works: Omega-3s block inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins, and are converted by the body into powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals called resolvins.
Studies: EPA and DHA have been extensively studied for RA and dozens of other inflammatory conditions. A 2010 meta-analysis found that fish oil significantly decreased joint tenderness and stiffness in RA patients and reduced or eliminated NSAID use.
How much: Softgel, liquid: 3.8 grams EPA and 2 grams DHA daily for RA. (Look for 85 percent to 90 percent concentrations of omega-3s).
NOTE: Studies show fish oil also can relieve symptoms of Osteoarthritis (OA), depression and Sjögren’s syndrome.
GLA (gamma linolenic acid)
What it is: An omega-6 fatty acid found in some plant-seed oils, including black currant, borage and evening primrose.
How it works: The body converts GLA into anti-inflammatory chemicals.
Studies: In a 2005 trial, 56 patients with active RA showed significant improvement in joint pain, stiffness and grip strength after six months and progressive improvement in control of disease activity at one year. A smaller study found that a combination of evening primrose oil and fish oil significantly reduced the need for conventional pain relievers.
How much: Capsule, oil, softgel: 30 mg to 3 grams daily in divided doses or 450 mg GLA and 240 mg EPA daily.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
What it is: The dried or fresh root of the ginger plant.
How it works: Used in Asian medicine for centuries, ginger has been showed to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen and COX-2 inhibitors. Ginger also suppresses leukotrienes (inflammatory molecules) and switches off certain inflammatory genes, making it oitentially more effective than conventional pain relievers.
Studies: In a 2012 in vitro study, a specialized ginger extract called Eurovita Extract 77 reduced inflammatory reactions in a RA synovial cells as effectively as steroid did.
How much: Capsules, extract, tea: In studies, 255 mg of Eurovita Extract 77 twice daily.
NOTE: Several trials show ginger may help reduce OA pain.