When it comes to searching for good, readily available remedies for treating arthritis, or indeed any disease, we look back in time and take lessons from our ancestors, obviously.
However, we might have to go a long way back in the case of arthritis-right back to the dinosaurs, in fact. Scientists in Bristol, UK, found that a Pliosaurus‘ 150 million-year-old skeleton displayed arthritis-consistent jaw bone erosion, and that the Iguanodon, a young baby at just 90 million years of age, had ankle osteoarthritis. It’s believed even the mighty T-Rex suffered from gout.
But what does the old-fashioned arthritis cures have to do with that? Well, it goes to show that the disease has been around since the beginning of time, and that is a long time since living creatures have tried to beat the condition, or at least be able to live comfortably with that.
Arthritis also made the Historians fool. The popular portrayal of Neanderthal man is that of an arthritic, hunched over, loping figure, but the reality is that the first Neanderthal skeleton to be recovered belonged to an arthritic whose actions caused his stoop.
And here is where this long leap into the past becomes relevant – tests carried out on Neanderthals’ teeth clearly showed that they too pursued pain relief – the results showed both yarrow and chamomile, and both of these plants are known for their pain relieving properties.
After all, they were kind of smart.
We do have pharmaceuticals to take care of now, of course, but at what cost? And what would happen if all of a sudden those medications were in short supply? Well, we could do what our ancestors were doing, and look for help to the Earth.
By watching their sick animals, the Native Americans learned a lot about the healing properties of plants, noting which plants they went to for various ailments. They also respected the land, selecting only every third plant to ensure an endless supply. The remains of Native American originating from 4500 B.C. displayed consistent characteristics of rheumatoid arthritis, therefore it makes sense that they searched for and found many remedies.
Many of those treatments can still be used today.
While this plant is not native to the States, when it arrived in the 1850s, Native Americans made good use of its healing properties. The Alfalfa plant’s roots that extend deep into the soil, absorbing many of the minerals and nutrients from the earth. The leaves were eaten as vegetables, as a pain reliever, or steeped in boiling water to make tea, while the seeds could be ground up to make flour.
2. Black Cohosh
The roots of the Black Cohosh plant, still known today as anti-rheumatic and taken in tablet form, can also be dried and used to make tea, which can relieve arthritis pain when taken twice a day. (Long-term use should be avoided due to the possibility of liver damage.)
Most often in the world of herbalism, a plant’s name or appearance will give a clue to its uses and Boneset is no exception. It was first used for the treatment of Dengue, also known as Break Bone Fever, but was later recognized for its ability to alleviate arthritic and rheumatic pain. The leaves and flowers can be used in hot water, as a cure for colds and flu, not just for pain relief but also.
4. The Eucalyptus Tree
This was introduced to the USA in the late 1800s and used in the treatment of arthritis by Native Americans. Provides relief by creating a hot poultice from the leaves and applying it to the swollen joints. Eucalyptus trees can be cultivated in warm environments or as indoor plants, but essential oil can be used when fresh leaves are not readily available, and when combined with a hot compress, the pressure and steadiness of swollen, sore joints can be alleviated.
5. Green Tea
Native Americans understood that drinking green tea at regular intervals improved bones and joints. The theory behind this is that the chemicals in the tea block the arthritis-responsible cartilage-destroying enzymes.
#6. Willow Bark
Perhaps the most entertaining of therapies the North Americans used was Willow Bark. Such as its pain-relieving properties that the salicylic acid contained in the tree formed the basis of the analgesic which we now know as Aspirin. The willow tree’s inner bark can be chewed, both as a pain reliever and as food for hunger, and can also be boiled along with the leaves to make a pain relieving tea. The inner bark can also be ground down, and the sawdust could be used as flour.
Needless to add, Native Americans did not hold the monopoly on natural remedies for arthritis. As we have already seen, we have been afflicted by the disease since the beginning of time and each age and every person has their own methods of treating it.
For example, the Ancient Egyptians employed some fascinating techniques.
Honey would also frequently be applied to sore joints in ancient Egypt, as it was believed to relieve the discomfort and pain associated with the arthritis. They would also drink a glass of milk (known for its strong anti-inflammatory properties) with and turmeric.
8. Wild Opium Lettuce
Considered a weed, Wild Opium lettuce can be found almost anywhere – in your backyard, on the side of the road, and on the waste ground – yet it is said to have strong sedative and pain-relieving properties similar to those produced by opium but without the side effects. The dried stem and leaves can be steeped in hot water and eaten as pain relieving tea, or taken as syrup by boiling them in water and sugar until thickened.
There are as many treatments for arthritis as there are types of the disorder itself (there are more than 100 causes of the disease), and although some are undeniably worth trying out, there are many that may make you cough or laugh loudly, but they do say laughter is the best medicine. These techniques are just for the purposes of fun!
#9. Carrying a potato! It was assumed by holding a raw potato in your pocket, the food would ‘absorb’ arthritis and the pain would have gone away!
#10. Cutting a hole in the head! The Incans (and many other civilizations) claimed that by creating a hole in the skull from which the pain would escape, internal suffering could be alleviated. (Don’t try this at home!)
#11. Hammering on a bowl. We’ve just had those moments when we’ve had too much pain and all we want to do is to sleep it off. Well, the Italians had a solution to that problem – they would put a wooden bowl over the head of the patient and then loudly hammer on the bowl until the patient passed out of the noise!
#12. Electric Eels. The Ancient Egyptians used to put electrical eels on the body of a patient and permit the shock to pass through them to relieve the pain. In today’s types of TENS (Trans cutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation) devices, a much safer (and more pleasant) approach is employed.
Related: 5 Home Remedies for Diarrhea
For as long as man has been alive, suffering has afflicted us, and our quest for relief has created some incredibly successful methods to achieve that relief.
And some of them … Not so much.
But if you know where to look and what to do, Mother Nature has sent us an overflowing cabinet of medicines.