Top herbs and spices that support healthy joints

Top 15 Herbs and Spices for Joint Health

Healthy joints are a critical aspect of overall well-being, impacting our ability to move, exercise, and enjoy life to the fullest. Maintaining optimal joint health involves a holistic approach, including balanced nutrition, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle. Dietary supplements can also play a valuable role in supporting joint function.

Joints are the hinges that connect your bones and allow you to move. They're held together by stretchy bands called ligaments and have a protective covering of cartilage. Joint health supplements are like special helpers for your joints, providing important nutrients that help keep your joints strong and working well, so that you can move easily and comfortably.

With this in mind, we'll explore the top herbs and spices known for their potential to promote healthy joints and help you lead your most vibrant and active life.

15 herbs and spices that support healthy joints

Herbs and spices have long been used for wellness as well as nutrition. Some, like garlic, ginseng and chamomile, are as famous for their health benefits as they are for their taste. Other spices and spice blends, like oregano, paprika, cardamom, allspice and garam masala, are known less for health and more for what they add to a recipe. But the following herbs and spices stand out for their ability to help keep you moving comfortably.

1. Boswellia (Indian frankincense)

Boswellia serrata extract is derived from the resin of the Boswellia serrata tree, also known as Indian frankincense. Boswellia is most commonly used to support healthy joints and a healthy inflammatory response. The active components in Boswellia that are responsible for its health benefits are known as Boswellic acids. These compounds help inhibit inflammation to support joint health.

2. Curcumin from turmeric

Turmeric is a golden-hued spice known for its distinctive flavor and vibrant color. The active compound in turmeric spice is curcumin, which has antioxidant properties that promote whole-body health. This popular spice also promotes a healthy inflammatory response to promote joint flexibility and comfort.

Incorporating turmeric into your diet—sprinkled into your favorite curry or as a soothing drink like turmeric spice tea or golden milk—can be a convenient and delicious way to harness its potential benefits for healthy joints. However, curcumin has low bioavailability, which means that it is poorly absorbed by our bodies. A curcumin supplement is a more reliable way to ensure consistent intake.

Tip: When incorporating turmeric spice into your meals, consume it with a high-fat meal or blend it with black peppercorns—this will help enhance its absorption.

3. White mulberry (M. alba)

White mulberry (Morus alba) is a plant native to China and India. The leaves, bark and fruits of the white mulberry tree have been studied for their potential health benefits. White mulberry contains compounds that promote a healthy inflammatory response and encourage joint comfort.

White mulberry root extract is sometimes combined with other plant extracts (like cutch tree and Chinese skullcap) in dietary supplements designed to support healthy joint cartilage and joint function.

4. Cutch tree (A. catechu)

The cutch tree (Acacia catechu) is a deciduous tree native to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The bark and heartwood are rich in catechin, a type of flavonoid that is also found in green tea and has many bioactive properties, including encouraging a healthy inflammatory response. A randomized controlled trial found that supplementation with a blend of cutch tree extract and Chinese skullcap was effective in promoting joint comfort and mobility.

5. Chinese skullcap (S. baicalensis)

Chinese skullcap (S. baicalensis) is a flowering plant that has been used in traditional Chinese culture for centuries. The root of the plant is often utilized for its potential health benefits. Chinese skullcap is rich in a bioactive compound called baicalin. Like the compounds in the cutch tree, baicalin promotes a healthy inflammatory response.

6. Angelica gigas Nakai

Angelica gigas Nakai (A. gigas), also known as Korean angelica, is an herb indigenous to Korea and China. Extracts from its root may offer potential benefits for joint health and are commonly used for joint comfort. The herb has antioxidant properties and has been studied to help inhibit inflammation to support joint health and flexibility.

7. Black sesame

Black sesame seeds are small, flat, oily seeds from the Sesamum indicum plant. The seeds and their oil are used in many cuisines around the globe. Black sesame seeds contain many important nutrients, including several minerals, protein and healthy fats that are beneficial for our health.

Black sesame seeds are also rich in bioactive compounds, including sesamin, that support a healthy inflammatory response and promote muscle and joint health. When combined with other plant extracts, the results are even more pronounced. Herbal supplement blends with these ingredients can help provide relief for muscle and joint soreness.

8. Tamarind seed extract

Tamarind is derived from the Tamarindus indica tree, which is native to tropical Africa and Southern Asia. The fruit pulp is sweet and tangy and is used in many cuisines and recipes around the world. Tamarind also promotes a healthy inflammatory response and helps support joint comfort and mobility.

A randomized controlled study found that a blend of extracts from turmeric and tamarind encouraged joint comfort and a healthy range of motion in 90 days compared with a placebo.

9. Borage seed

Borage seeds are the seeds of the borage plant, Borago officinalis, also known as the starflower or bee flower. Borage seeds are harvested mostly for their oil, which is rich in a healthy omega-6 fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a precursor to dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA).

It turns out that not all omega-6 fatty acids are the same. Unlike some, DGLA helps inhibit the production of unwanted compounds. So, by promoting healthy levels of DGLA, borage seed promotes a healthy inflammatory response, which supports comfort and health throughout your body.

10. Evening primrose

Evening primrose oil is derived from the evening primrose plant, Oenothera biennis. It is another source of GLA and is commonly found in supplements to support a healthy inflammatory response. However, the studies on evening primrose oil are small, and more research is needed. In addition, borage oil contains two to three times more GLA than primrose oil and is a more reliable source of this important omega-6 fatty acid.

11. Willow bark

Willow bark, also known as Salix, is derived from the bark of willow trees and has been used for thousands of years. Hippocrates advised people to chew on the bark. Willow bark contains a natural compound called salicin, which has been studied to promote joint comfort.  Willow bark also contains many polyphenols and flavonoids, which contribute to its beneficial health effects.

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12. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is an aromatic spice derived from the bark of trees belonging to the Cinnamomum genus. Renowned for its warm, sweet flavor, cinnamon is a versatile ingredient used in both sweet and savory recipes. Adding a dash of cinnamon to dishes like oatmeal, baked goods, curries, and stews can add rich depth of flavor.

Beyond its culinary applications, cinnamon is also known for its potential health benefits. Cinnamon has antioxidant properties and helps inhibit inflammation to support joint and immune health.

13. Ginger

Ginger, derived from the Zingiber officinale plant, is a widely used spice with a long culinary history. It has a distinctive knobby shape and pungent flavor and is used in recipes from teas to stir-fries.

The bioactive compounds in ginger, most notably the gingerols, contribute not only to its characteristic flavor, but also to its potential health benefits. Gingerols have antioxidant properties and may help support a healthy inflammatory response throughout the body. Ginger supplementation has been shown to inhibit inflammation to support joint health and healthy C-reactive protein levels. This property makes it a popular choice for encouraging joint comfort and mobility.

14. Oplopanax (devil's club)

Oplopanax horridus, commonly known as devil's club, is a plant native to North America, particularly in the Pacific Northwest and parts of Alaska. Traditionally, indigenous peoples in these regions have used the inner bark and roots of the plant for various health purposes, including joint comfort and healthy digestion.

The plant contains compounds commonly used to help relieve joint discomfort. However, scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness for joint comfort is limited.

15. Harpagophytum procumbens (devil’s claw)

Harpagophytum procumbens, commonly known as devil's claw, is a plant native to southern Africa. It gets its name from the tiny hooks that cover its fruit. The tuberous roots of the plant have traditionally been used for health purposes. Today, it is commonly used in herbal remedies to support healthy joints and joint comfort.

Other ways to support your joint health

A holistic approach to joint health involves multiple strategies. Incorporating dietary supplements into your daily routine is one way to contribute to joint well-being. Here are some additional ways to support your joints:

Stay active

Regular physical activity helps keep your joints flexible and strengthens the muscles around them. Whether you enjoy taking leisurely strolls or engaging in strength-training sessions at the gym, try to incorporate consistent physical activity into your daily routine. Low-impact exercises like swimming, walking, and cycling are all gentle on the joints. Yoga is an excellent option that combines gentle movement, flexibility and mindfulness for overall well-being.

Maintain a healthy weight

Extra weight can put strain on your joints, especially those in the knees, hips, and spine. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help alleviate stress on your joints.

Protect your joints

Don't forget to stretch or try foam rolling before any kind of physical activity and try to avoid excessive strain or impact on your joints. If an exercise is uncomfortable, stop doing it. Start slowly and let your joints adjust to the movements. This will help you get the most from your workout and prevent discomfort later.

Eat foods that nourish your joints

By making mindful choices during meals, you can actively contribute to healthy joints. Choose foods like omega-3-rich fatty fish, colorful antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins for essential nutrients. Many of these beneficial foods align with the Mediterranean diet, celebrated for its focus on unprocessed, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil and fish. This dietary approach not only promotes heart and brain health, but also has been studied for its potential to support a healthy inflammatory response, which can encourage healthy and comfortable joints.

Get enough sleep

Quality sleep is crucial for overall health, including how well you move the next day. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

Stay hydrated

Proper hydration is essential to keep your joints lubricated and functioning optimally. Water helps maintain the synovial fluid that cushions and lubricates joints.

Wondering which nutrients can best support healthy and comfortable joints? Take our health needs quiz for a personal recommendation on the dietary supplements that fit you best.

About the Author: Sonali Ruder, DO, is a board-certified emergency medicine doctor, classically trained chef, cookbook author and founder of the popular website, TheFoodiePhysician.com. Dr. Ruder is a contributing writer, recipe developer, spokesperson, and health and wellness expert for several national magazines, websites, and organizations. Her passion is giving people the tools to take control of their health, starting in the kitchen!

References

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