If pain and stiffness have an uncomfortable impact on your life, a mug of tea may be a simple and gentle path to feeling better. When it comes to treating arthritis, “I believe all tea can be benefic ial,” says Mahsa Tehrani, MD, a rheumatologist in Vienna, Virginia. “Tea has fantastic anti-inflammatory properties which can theoretically help with the underlying inflammation,” she says.
Check with your doctor before trying any complementary treatments to make sure they won’t interact with your prescription medications or other products that you take. Like all supplements, teas are not regulated by the FDA and products could contain ingredients that aren’t listed on the label or provide irregular doses; in some cases drinking tea could up your risk for experiencing medication side effects. Discuss specifics with your doctor. Once you get the go-ahead, teatime may become your favorite part of the day.
1. Ginger Tea
It’s not just for upset stomachs. A 2016 Italian study published in Natural Product Research evaluated the effect of ginger supplementation on inflammation and chronic knee pain in people with arthritis. Test subjects took 25 mg of ginger for 30 days—along with 5 g of echinacea—and reported significant improvements on a quality of life pain scale. Ginger root is readily found at grocery and health food stores; simply slice it thinly and steep in hot water for about 10 minutes. Precaution note: Ginger can act as a blood thinner, so you may want to skip it if you’re on blood-thinning medications.
2. Green Tea
In addition to being a heart-health protector and brain booster, this antioxidant superstar may also help reduce the joint pain and inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. An animal study published in Rheumatology & Arthritis in February 2016 found that a phytochemical in green tea, known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), may help block the effects of RA without impacting other cellular functions. Although the study was conducted on animals, the researchers believe EGCG may be a future alternative to prescription medicines. Note: Green tea may interact with acetaminophen (Tylenol), codeine and other drugs.
3. Rose Hip Tea
This orange-red ball that appears on the stem of rose plants when they’re not flowering is a concentrated source of vitamin C, and it’s long been used as an herbal remedy. But a study published in Australian Family Physician in July 2012, found that one of its phytochemicals, galactolipids, has antinflammatory properties that can benefit those with both osteoarthritis and RA. Their analysis found that rose hip powder “consistently reduced pain scores, and that the patients allocated to rose hip powder were twice as likely to respond to rose hip compared to placebo,” say study authors.
Rose hips make a tart and fruity tea that’s often blended with hibiscus; check a health food store or specialty tea shop to find it. Be mindful: Rose hip may interact with antacids and estrogens.
4. Black Tea
The standard bearer of tea bags, black tea is rich in quercetin, a bioflavanoid that has anti-inflammatory effects. A 2015 study published in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics found that quercetin reduced inflammation and increased antioxidant defense in animal test subjects. But be warned: Black tea can be high in caffeine depending on how it’s brewed, which may impact the effectiveness of certain medications. And if it makes you feel jittery, try decaf instead.
5. Willow Bark Tea
An ancient Chinese herbal pain relief remedy, willow bark is chemically similar to aspirin, and there are a handful of medical studies that support the use of willow bark in joint pain and osteoarthritis. A review published in the May 2015 issue of Phytotherapy Research found that willow bark extract has both anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects that stem from the polyphenols and flavonoids it contains. But for people on many medications, this will not be a good treatment option. People who take methotrexate (Trexall, Rheumatrex), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), beta-blockers, blood-thinning medication, those who are pregnant, and anyone under 16 should not take willow bark.
6. Nettle Leaf Tea
The stinging nettle plant has been used for hundreds of years, especially in Europe, to treat muscle and joint pain, arthritis, and gout. A study published in the journal Molecules in August 2015 found that the antioxidant activity in nettle leaf extract inhibits one of the key enzymes that affect the inflammation process.
You can buy nettle in most health food stores; but it is not recommended for pregnant women or those with kidney or bladder issues. Nettle leaf is also used as a topical skin treatment for joint pain.