The Benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine for Arthritis

The discomfort of arthritis can be debilitating. After all, joint pain and stiffness can put a damper on even the simplest tasks and activities. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. When it comes to alleviating the symptoms of arthritis, there are plenty of natural treatment options that can make your day-to-day life much more enjoyable.

There are two common types of arthritis: rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. While both are characterized by progressive deterioration of joint health, they have different causes. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Osteoarthritis is caused by prolonged wear and tear. 

Since many conventional analgesics and anti-inflammatories have side effects, many patients turn to alternative medicine to treat arthritis. With this in mind, here are some of the most common evidence-based Chinese medicine treatments for arthritis.


Herbal Remedies

China’s medical system is one of the oldest in the world. Dating back at least 2,000 years, China has around 13,000 medicinals used in over 100,000 recipes. Plant extracts are the most common ingredients in Chinese herbal medicine. With such a long history, it’s not surprising that traditional Chinese herbal remedies are often used to alleviate the inflammation and discomfort of arthritis. 

Probably one of the most well-known anti-inflammatory roots that play a role in traditional Chinese medicine is turmeric. Often used in Indian cuisine to add color and flavor to dishes, turmeric — and its active ingredient curcumin — is believed to have analgesic properties. As such, it’s often recommended for treating the pain and swelling of arthritis.

Used to settle the stomach, treat heartburn and alleviate insomnia, Angelica root has also been widely used to treat the symptoms of arthritis. The perennial herb has been said to not only reduce inflammation and pain but also promote cartilage repair. 

Turkey tail mushrooms have been credited with boosting the immune system. They are also packed with antioxidants including phenols and flavonoids, which makes them great for reducing inflammation and improving joint health. 

Another well-known anti-inflammatory, ginseng, is packed with antioxidant properties. Aside from alleviating the discomfort of arthritis, the fleshy root has been credited with regulating blood sugar levels, boosting the immune system and improving brain function.  


Acupuncture and Acupressure

The use of acupuncture as a medicinal system was first documented around 3,000 years ago, although it is believed that bones and stones were already being used as acupressure tools some 6,000 years ago. Today, acupuncture is a well-known treatment for a huge number of conditions including musculoskeletal problems, headaches, insomnia and arthritis. 

The treatment involves the insertion of needles into key points of the body to balance the flow of energy — called chi or qi — in the meridians (energy channels). In traditional Chinese medicine, arthritis is believed to be the byproduct of blockages in the flow of energy due to cold, wind, dampness or heat. There are over 2,000 acupuncture points that can be stimulated to treat these blockages.

Studies have shown that acupuncture can be used to stimulate the central nervous system. This in turn releases various chemicals in the body to stimulate self-healing and reduce pain. As such, acupuncture can be an effective treatment for arthritis.

Based on the same philosophy as acupuncture, acupressure is a non-invasive treatment that uses hand pressure (or an instrument) to stimulate certain points in the body. It is believed that acupressure has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects that promote well-being and joint health.