By Dana Ullman MPH

(Excerpted from The One Minute or So Healer, Tarcher/Putnam)

This book does not primarily focus on how to use homeopathic medicines but instead provides information on various natural health strategies to treat common ailments.

WARNING: This book is a lighthearted practical health guide. Laughter may be a side effect.

“I don’t deserve this award, but I have arthritis, and I don’t deserve that either.”

Jack Benny

Sir William Osler, considered to be the “Father of Modern Medicine,” once said, “When an arthritis patient walks in the front door, I feel like leaving by the back door.” And it is no wonder that it pained Dr. Osler to try to treat arthritic patients; there is little that conventional medicine offers these people. The lucky ones get temporary relief along with drug side effects; the unlucky ones only get the side effects.

Some arthritic patients experience such constant pain that they’d like to follow Dr. Osler out the back door themselves or have an out-of-body experience, leaving their pain behind.

The term “arthritis” means inflammation of a joint, and there are various ways that people experience this. There are dozens of kinds of arthritis: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, systemic lupus, bursitis–to name just a few. The good news is that arthritis will rarely kill you. The bad news is that the stiffness that you experience can make you feel like rigor mortis has set in early.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Sometimes called the “wear and tear” variety of arthritis, osteoarthritis is thought to be a natural result of aging. This is just a theory, however, as demonstrated by the 93 year old man from Chicago who developed osteoarthritis in his left knee. When his doctor told him that it was a result of aging, the man remarked, “My other knee is 93 years old too, and it don’t hurt a bit.”

There are other factors besides aging that precipitate osteoarthritis. Likewise, each type of arthritis has numerous influences that increase or decrease the chances of getting it. It is known, for instance, that women experience most types of arthritis two to eight times as often as men (gout and ankylosing spondylitis are the exceptions). Sorry, ladies, but sex change operations are not therapeutically effective in this area.

Here, however, are some strategies which may help you.

Strategy #1: Use it or lose it. Range of motion exercises are very important to increase circulation and reduce stiffness. Although one should avoid exercising a joint that is inflamed or “hot,” these joints can be gently moved along their range of motion. Swimming is a particularly good exercise for people with arthritis. Although jogging is not associated with degenerative joint disease, you might consider walking as an alternative form of exercise if you experience any joint pain during or after jogging. Don’t overdo any exercise, but don’t underdo it either. Try to exercise 15-20 minutes a day, five days a week.

Strategy #2: Avoid arthritis “cooperators.” Some evidence suggests that certain foods can aggravate an arthritic condition. Although such foods are not thought to “cause” arthritis, they may “cooperate” with it. Avoid foods from the nightshade family, including tomatoes, eggplant, peppers (except black pepper), and potatoes (except for the potato juice, discussed below). Tobacco is also a member of the nightshade family which can aggravate arthritis. Milk, citrus fruits, and fats are other known cooperaters with arthritis and should be avoided or at least significantly reduced in your diet.

Strategy #3: Cut yourself down to size. Avoid wearing high heels. They tend to place excessive pressure on certain joints and aggravate your condition. They also tend to hurt your posture.

Strategy #4: Something to straighten you out and loosen you. Researchers don’t fully understand why, but sex, with or without a partner, has been found to relieve arthritic pain. Really.

Strategy #5: Water yourself. Stimulate circulation in the affected areas by taking a hot shower or bath, then turning on the cold water. Repeat the hot cycle and then return to the cold. If your hands, knees or feet are the primary sources of pain, you can place them in a tub or sink of hot and then cold water. Another alternative is to place a hot pack on a specific area and alternate with a cold pack. Try this at least twice a day.

Strategy #6: Become an “opiate-like” substance addict. Research has shown that the brain creates beta-endorphins–opiate-like substances that naturally reduce pain. Research has also discovered that there are lower amounts of beta-endorphins in the blood of some arthritic sufferers. Physical exercise and relaxation exercises both have been found to increase these natural pain-killers.

Strategy #7: A need for kneading. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that massage is good for people with arthritis. For the best results, avoid massaging directly on top of an inflamed joint. Instead, massage just above and below the joint.

Strategy #8: Press a point near a joint. Press a pressure point that is near, but not on top of, the primary source of pain. You can find a good pressure point by feeling a slight crease in the skin (it will probably be tender). Press this point for three to five seconds, let up for a bit, then press it a couple more times in a similar manner. Some other good pressure points may be close to (not directly on) nearby joints. Try to press firmly but not too hard. Breathe into it; you will find that the pain reduces.

Strategy #9: Cast castor oil on the pain. Make a castor oil pack and place it on a joint where there is pain–though not when there’s acute inflammation. To make this poultice, pour three or four tablespoons of castor oil in a pan, heat the oil until it simmers, then saturate a flannel cloth with the oil. After you place this cloth on the affected joint, cover it with a larger towel and place an electric heating pad over it. Keep it in place for 30-60 minutes.

Strategy #10: Become a juice potato. An old folk remedy for arthritis is to drink raw potato juice. To make it, wash a potato (don’t peel it), cut in into thin slices, place it in a glass of cold water, and leave it overnight. Drink this water in the morning on an empty stomach. The lowly potato is known to have antiviral inhibitors and is rich in chlorogenic acid, which helps prevent cell mutations that lead to cancer. Whatever it is in potatoes that helps arthritic sufferers is yet to be found.

Strategy #11: Fish oil can lubricate you. Research has recently shown that fish oil supplements have antiinflammatory effects that may be helpful for arthritis sufferers. One important study showed beneficial effects when people took 15 capsules a day, though other research has suggested that benefits can be expected from taking 4-8 capsules daily. Recent research has also suggested that extracts from New Zealand green lipped mussels–now available in supplement form–are particularly good for people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Although this supplement may sound strange, would you rather suffer or try something new that may make you feel better?

Strategy #12: Life should be a bowl of cherries. Some people report relief from arthritis symptoms after eating lots of cherries, especially in the treatment of gout. People with rheumatoid arthritis, or those who take aspirin frequently may benefit from taking 500 mg. of vitamin C per day because they tend to be deficient in it.

Strategy #13: Let herbs help you bend in the wind. Make ke an herbal tea with equal parts of alfalfa, chickweed, and yucca. You might also try using a Chinese herb, called “thundergod vine” (tripterygium wilfordii), which recent research has suggested is an effective treatment.

Strategy #14: Bejewel yourself in copper. People suffering from arthritis have been known to experience relief when they wear a copper bracelet. Although skeptics point to this treatment as a classic example of quackery, it is known that some people with arthritis have difficulty assimilating copper from the food they eat. Perhaps wearing a copper bracelet provides them with an additional source of this mineral. Lending further support to the use of copper, homeopathic physicians commonly prescribe microdoses of copper (Cuprum metalicum) to people with arthritis who experience cramping pains in the joints and jerking or twitching of muscles.

Strategy #15: Sing arthritis pain? It is a well known bit of folklore that beekeepers have a low incidence of arthritis. It is also known that one folk remedy for treating arthritis is getting stung by a bee. An easier way to try this remedy is to get a homeopathic dose of bee venom in Apis mellifica 6 or 30. This medicine is primarily helpful if you have arthritic pain that is similar to the type of pain that bee venom causes: burning pain, aggravated by heat, alleviated by cold or cool applications.

Strategy #16: Poison ivy treatment. Using poison ivy for arthritis? Actually, yes, but only homeopathic doses of it. Poison ivy, known as Rhus tox in homeopathy, is a very effective medicine if you have the “rusty gate” type of arthritis, that is, pain that is worse upon initial motion and reduced as you continue to move. If you have this pattern of symptoms, Rhus tox 6 or 30 may be helpful to you. If, however, your pain is increasingly aggravated by any type of motion and is not alleviated by continued motion, take Bryonia 6 or 30.

Strategy #17: Are you too resistant to change? Is the stiffness in your character creating a stiffness in your body? There’s the story of two caterpillers who look up and notice a butterfly. One caterpiller says to the other: “You’ll never get me up in one of those.” Are you resisting inevitable change in your life? Loosen up. Say to yourself: “I expect change, and I will bend with this change.