Joint pain relief is one of the biggest challenges for people who have arthritis or aching joints. Side effects of prescription drugs have proven to be so dangerous that some drugs have even been withdrawn from the market. Natural pain relievers, however, offer arthritis pain relief that is comparable to that of drugs, with the advantage of having little or no negative side effects.

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Research in Complementary and Alternative Medicine

The national medical database in complementary and alternative medicine at PubMed (U.S. National Institutes of Health) lists more than 6,000 research articles on arthritis. Hundreds of herbs worldwide have been discovered to relieve the pain of inflammation. Very few of these, however, have yet to become available to the public. Some of the more widely known anti-inflammatory herbs that are generally available as supplements include turmeric (Curcuma longa) and ginger (Zingiber officinale), both of which are in the ginger family, Indian frankincense (Boswellia serrata), Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), and white willow (Salix alba). The best one, however, continues to be under the radar – i.e., the creosote bush (Larrea tridentata). Research over the past few decades shows that the antioxidant-rich leaf resin of this plant contains unique ingredients that inhibit enzymes in the inflammatory pathway that causes pain.

Mother Nature’s Pain Reliever

I have to admit my bias in favor of the creosote bush. I have been doing research on the natural products chemistry of this species for more than 35 years, first as a graduate student and then as a professor. My interest began when I had a conversation with an old rancher in Arizona who told me that the creosote bush was the best herb he ever found for treating his horses for joint pain. All he had to do was make a poultice from leaves and young stems, strap it directly onto the inflamed joint, and watch the inflammation go down. Since then I have come to admire the creosote bush’s rich folk medical history among native people in the deserts of the U.S. southwest and adjacent Mexico. Folk medical uses of the creosote bush have paved the way for modern research. Scientific studies confirm what non-scientists have known for centuries. Unique ingredients of the creosote bush bolster this plant’s anti-inflammatory power and ability to relieve pain.

How to Use the Creosote Bush for Pain Relief

The simplest method is to apply an old-fashioned poultice. Warm and moisten a handful of leaves and young stems, then put them directly onto the painful joint. Hold the whole thing in place with a bandage. Change every 12 hours. This technique, of course, requires that you have a source of fresh creosote bush leaves. If you live in the southwestern U.S., the plant will be easy to find, because it is the most common shrub in the three main deserts of west Texas/New Mexico (Chihuahuan Desert), Arizona (Sonoran Desert), and California (Mojave Desert). A more practical method for people who do not live in the native habitat of the creosote bush, and even for most people who do, is to use a preparation that is already designed for topical use. This kind of preparation may be a little difficult to find, since most health stores do not carry it. Nevertheless, a quick internet search should yield some good possibilities.

Who is Using Creosote Bush Now?

At the moment, topical preparations have become especially popular among golfers who suffer hand or elbow pain. In my own experience, the slight pain that I used to have in my left hand was a distraction for me when I played golf. Application of a creosote bush spray preparation directly onto the painful joint eliminated that distraction (and took away a great excuse for a bad shot!). A handful of professional athletes in baseball, football, and basketball have also benefited from creosote bush treatments of sore ankles, knees, elbows, and shoulders. This herb will certainly become more popular for treating joint pain as successful stories such as these become better known.

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All the best with your joint pain relief,


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