It is excruciating that Rheumatoid arthritis limits our day-to-day activities, with joint pain and stiffness as the main manifesting signs and symptoms. It has left us the option of seeking the intervention of synthetic drugs.
However, the use of synthetic medications presents us with one side effect or the other, which further complicates the limitations causing the inability to be involved in daily activities.
The good news is, the herbal extracts derived from some specific plants and trees have certain biologically active substances which are known for the physiological functions they perform in the body. In contrast to the usual synthetic drugs, these herbal extracts do not generally involve severe adverse effects. They are thus making treatment with them friendly.
Here is a list of herbal remedies to treat the symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis and how they work;
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)
Aloe vera is a succulent plant popularly known for its potent effect in relieving sunburns, heartburns, healing of wounds, and slowing down the growth of cancer. Little do people know that this same plant has a beneficial potency in treating the signs and symptoms accompanied with Rheumatoid arthritis. Aloe vera has the effect of relieving inflammation and inhibiting the progress of damages to the structures of the joint. The anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects of Aloe Vera are due to the active ingredients in its gel, of which the most potent is called Anthraquinone. This active ingredient works by inhibiting the expression of the enzyme Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which is evident in inflammatory responses. However, because of the toxicity of Anthraquinone when consumed orally, it is often recommended applying Aloe vera gel topically to the site of the joint affected.
Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)
The gum resin extracts from the Boswellia tree contain β – boswellic acid, which is responsible for the anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic and anti-arthritic activities seen when used. The anti-inflammatory response is wholly due to the ability of the boswellic acid to inhibit the cytokines and the mediators that initiate inflammation in the place. Shutting down inflammation also helps to reduce or prevent swelling around the joint. The anti-atherosclerotic activity of Boswellia extract enhances the repair of the integrity of blood vessels that might have been compromised. And lastly, the anti-arthritic effect is because the extract of the tree helps in reducing the breakdown of Chondroitin sulphate. This glycosaminoglycan offers protection against the degeneration of the articular cartilage seen in Rheumatoid arthritis.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger is a flowering plant that is often used as a spice in cooking because of its strong flavor. However, it is also used as a herbal means of treatment to yield relief of pain in any condition, especially rheumatoid arthritis. The extract of Ginger contains potent chemical ingredients named sesquiterpenoids. This extract’s content is useful in managing the inflammatory response and related inflammatory swelling seen in Rheumatoid arthritis. It is due to the ability of the chemical ingredient to block the channel of the Cyclooxygenase pathway by inhibiting the enzyme Cyclooxygenase-2(COX-2).
Camellia sinensis is an evergreen shrub tree from whose leaves and buds green tea is made. The green tea has an active ingredient called epigallocatechin. This ingredient directly targets a transforming growth factor TAK-1 that is responsible for transmitting the signals causing inflammation and the destruction of tissues seen in Rheumatoid arthritis. Thus, the anti-inflammatory effects of Green tea in easing the symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis. Green tea is processed and packaged into tea beverages.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.)
The oil gotten from the eucalyptus tree is often used in dental practices because of its antimicrobial effects. The topical extracts are also used in combating the symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis. This is due to the impact of analgesic and anti-inflammation produced by eucalyptol (1,8-cineole). Eucalyptol blocks the production of specific cytokines and prostaglandins mediating inflammation through its anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory action. Thus, the pain is checked, as well as swelling of the affected joint. Eucalyptus oil is often applied externally to the affected part of the body.
Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
It is a woody vine tree that derived its name from the claw-shaped thorns it possesses. Cat’s claw extract has some compounds such as alkaloids and tannins that are responsible for its pharmacological importance. The active ingredient in this extract is mainly anti-inflammatory, which helps treat two symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The alkaloid content of the extract works by shutting down the production of inflammatory mediators, and thus, blocks the inflammation of tissues and related inflammatory swelling.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
The turmeric is a flowering plant cultivated for its roots used in cooking and for medicinal purposes. The turmeric plant extract is oily; it contains resins and, importantly, yellow-colored substances called curcuminoid. The bioactive curcumin plays a crucial role in inhibiting inflammation through the cyclooxygenase pathway. By this, it can stop inflammation of the joint at both acute and chronic phases of rheumatic arthritis without any known serious side effects.
The Black Adusa (Justicia gendarussa)
The black adusa is an evergreen plant that grows in wet areas; they are shade-loving plants. The extracts of Black adusa contains some constituents which are known for their anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects. These potent constituents include β-sitosterol, Apigenin, and flavonoid vitexin. They serve to bring the arthritic condition into remission, thus displaying their anti-arthritic effect. However, the Apigenin acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by forestalling the expression of inflammatory enzymes through the lipoxygenase pathway blockade.
The Thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii)
It is a perennial plant commonly found in China. The plant is cultivated for its leaves and root, which has been adapted for medicinal purposes. The extract of this very plant contains some immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory molecules, which is useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis. The constituents present in the extract act by inhibiting the inflammatory mediating cytokines and decreasing the arthritic joint counts and scores. Because rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, the immunosuppressive capabilities of this extract make it very much potent.
Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula)
It is a deciduous tree commonly found in India, China, and Sri Lanka. The extracts of this tree have constituents like tannic acid, chebulinic acid, Anthraquinone, and sinnosides. They have an anti-arthritic effect.
Mango (Mangifera indica)
The mango tree has mangiferin concentrated in its young leaves and barks. This bioactive substance has numerous pharmacological importance of which is the anti-inflammatory effect. The anti-inflammatory action is due to its ability to modulate different pro-inflammatory signaling molecules.
In conclusion, observation has shown that the use of synthetic drugs though potent are without some unbearable side effects such as infection, recurrent headaches, nausea allergic reactions, muscle pains, and fever, to mention a few. Natural remedies for treating rheumatoid arthritis presents no severe side effects and is increasingly becoming popular among patients.
The options of natural treatment available include the use of extracts from various plants, which include; Aloe vera, Boswellia, Ginger, Green tea, Eucalyptus, Cat’s claw, Turmeric, Black adusa, Thunder god vine, Myrobalan, Mango, etc. All of these options have Anti-inflammatory, Anti-atherosclerotic, and Anti-arthritic properties, which make them useful in the treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis.