Q. My doctor tells me that I can no longer take anti-inflammatory pain relievers for my arthritis because I have had stomach problems and my kidney function is not as good as it should be. I have given up ibuprofen, but now my knees, hips and fingers are aching.

What else can I do to ease this pain? Not being able to exercise really affects my quality of life.

A. When NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen are not appropriate, doctors have few other pharmaceutical options. Acetaminophen is less likely to cause ulcers, but it is no friend to the kidneys.

That is why we sometimes suggest supplements or home remedies even though the evidence for them may be weak. Many readers report relief by using turmeric, tart cherries, boswellia, ginger, Certo and grape juice, fish oil, gelatin or gin-soaked raisins. A combination may be better than any one alone.

Here are some stories from visitors to this site to give you a sense of how some people have responded to these approaches:

TURMERIC

“I suffer from chronic back pain and arthritis and I can no longer take NSAIDs after developing hives from daily ibuprofen usage. I tried 500mg of turmeric 3x a day, the amount I saw suggested by a doctor on another site as a good starting point. The research article said two weeks for the beginning of relief.

“I had not been out of my house in almost 2 months due to the intense pain involved in climbing down our two flights of stairs. On the 4th day of this turmeric, I not only made it out of the house, I was able to shop for my own groceries! I was sore by the time I was done, but you can’t imagine how good it was to feel normal again.

“It’s been a week now and I am able to do basic household chores and go the whole day without having to lie down with ice packs on my spine for the swelling. I wasn’t sure what to expect, if this was maybe just some “voodoo doctor” remedy. It’s not a cure for my condition, but it is a blessing in the relief it gives me and it’s just been one week.” Karen


CHERRIES

“I have had arthritis for a few years in my hands. It has affected my toes and elbow. I have tried several remedies and over the counter medications with little or no results. After reading the article on Cherries or Cherry juice I decided to try it.

“I couldn’t find fresh Cherries so I got dried Cherries. After 2-3 weeks I noticed a improvement. I have eaten 10-15 dried Cherries every day now for 2 months and have no swelling in my hands and the joints give me very little to no pain at all. I have family that takes Cherry pills and they have worked as well. Thanks for the helpful hint.” Brady


“I’m 51 years old and have had ‘aches and pains’ for a few years.  My knees have been getting stiff, hard to bend, painful on stairs, etc.  3-4 ibuprofen would help for the anti-inflammation properties but would also burn my esophagus.  

“I decided to try tart cherry juice and I am seriously amazed.  I order the tart cherry concentrate on-line and mix one tablespoon into sparkling water every evening.  After one month, the joint pain in my knees is virtually gone.  I walk down stairs without holding the railing, the range of motion in my knees has improved, I feel much more mobile.  And the natural melatonin in cherries helps me sleep!  I do suggest starting with one tablespoon to be sure you don’t get overly drowsy.”  J.W.


CERTO & GRAPE JUICE

“Back in the 1950s, may father had a friend in a wheelchair because of severe arthritis. My dad brought him some Certo and told him to take it with orange or prune juice. (Back then, we didn’t know about grape juice). So the guy took Certo and he started leaving his wheelchair behind. A couple of months later he went back to his doctor and said, “I walk 2 miles a day, never felt better in my life and stopped all my meds.”

“He told the doc about Certo, and the doctor said, “You’re poisoning yourself. There aren’t any scientific studies proving this stuff. Now you go home and take your prescription medicine and get back in that wheelchair.” So he stopped the Certo and 2 weeks later he could hardly walk and he stayed in his wheelchair like the doctor told him to. Passed away a couple years later.” Skippy


“I have 4th degree arthritis in my right knee. I had 2 surgeries and some of my cartilage has been removed. My knee is bone on bone in one spot. I took Vioxx and Celebrex a few years ago, and it did help.

“My mother-in-law read that certo in white grape juice could help so I drank it for about 4 or 5 days. It worked!!!! I honestly haven’t had ANY pain for months. I really can hardly believe it. I thought maybe I would have to drink it for quite a while, or would have to drink more when the pain returns, but nope. My knee was BAD, very painful some nights. I am very grateful to find this solution!” J. Dean


“My 76-year-old father had a stiff knee which wouldn’t flex properly. Within 4 days of taking 3oz grape juice with 2 tsp of Certo 3 times a day, he said he had 70% improvement in his knee. Three weeks later, his knee is back to normal although there was a temporary relapse in the 2nd week.

“Interestingly, my mother tried taking some for general aches & although it didn’t relieve the pain it *did* lower her blood pressure. Many, many thanks!” Medina


GIN-SOAKED GOLDEN RAISINS

“April 10, 2013….I made the gin soaked raisins recipe. I have been using the recipe for about five weeks. Its has been a success for me! My right knee, leg and arm were in so much pain. My prescription medicine, and over the counter medications wouldn’t relieve these pains.

“One day a friend approached me about the gin soaked recipe. Since I was in pain, I decided to try this recipe. I went to the package store and bought me a half pint of Ivanbitch gin. I bought this Ivanbitch gin because the sales clerk alerted me that this was the brand that most people were buying for the recipe because “juniper berries” were one of the main ingredient listed. So I bought the half pint of Ivanbitch gin.

“I bought two boxes of the golden raisins. I bought a single Mason jar from Joan Fabric store. While I was there I bought me a package of cheese cloth. I find out that you don’t have to use cheese cloth, you can go to the dollar store and buy a light dish cloth. I packaged the two boxes of raisins in the Mason jar.

“Next, I poured the half pint of Ivanbitch gin over the raisins. I got a spoon and forced the raisins down tight so that the gin can cover the raisins. I put the top on the Mason jar tight and turn it up and down several times to blend the raisins and gin together. I took the top off the jar, and got a spoon and mashed the raisins down in the jar making sure that the gin is covering the raisins.

“I cut a piece of cheese cloth or kind of thin cloth and put on top of the jar. Do not put the top on the jar, only the piece of cheese cloth. I let my raisins set for two or three weeks until the gin evaporates out.

“Each day I will lift the cheese cloth up and mash the raisins down making sure the gin is covering the raisins. Note: A small amount of the gin will still be present in the jar, it’s not going to dry out the raisins.. I just eat a small spoon full once a day. Be careful now, remember the raisins are drunk.

“This recipe really worked for me, I am pain free and not hopping around anymore. Please feel free to comment back.” G.C.


“I was having trouble with arthritis in the hip in my early 50’s. After diagnostic tests, I was told to take pain meds and live with it. I heard Paul Harvey on the radio give the following recipe: Place golden raisins in a jar. Completely cover them with Gordon’s Gin and let set for 3 days. Spoon out and drain 7 to 10 raisins and eat. I was sold on it when my neighbor who teaches piano had begun to have arthritis in her fingers, and she had great results after using the recipe.

“After 2 weeks of taking the raisins, I have not had any hip pain in all these years. I think the Gordon’s Gin works best because I understand it has the juniper berries in their process and not just juniper flavoring. I believe the Native Americans used juniper berries to treat joint pain.

“I don’t bother to let the alcohol evaporate and most people I know don’t do that either. It does taste awful but I look at it as medicine and many drugs don’t taste good. I am not an expert but this works for me.” A.J.R.


To learn more details about all these options you may find our book, The People’s Pharmacy Guide to Quick & Hand Home Remedies of great value. We also provide more information about such approaches in our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. Keeping up your exercise is important to maintain your range of motion, as well as for other physical and mental health benefits.

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  1. Larry
    Reply

    DWB,
    I saw an article about a study of cinnamon for relief of arthritis pain. These researchers fed 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon with 1 tablespoon of honey. This was provided with the morning meal and it was reported that many of those who received this mixture experienced a reduction in pain.
    I have experienced some soothing effects from this mixture taken directly or spread on toast with butter. (yum!)
    An alternative might be 20 cherries(fresh or frozen), eaten out of hand or whipped up in a smoothie to get the maximum absorption.

  2. Cathy
    Reply

    TURMERIC GINGER TEA – help for pain
    I drink a turmeric/ginger tea that I make myself which helps with my arthritis pain. Take 1/4 tsp powdered turmeric, 1/8 tsp of powdered ginger, and 1/8 tsp of powdered cardomom (which is also ginger). I buy the spices in bulk at my local health food store (costs me about $5, and it lasts me a month). I mix up a batch and store it in a jar so I don’t have to measure it out each time I drink it.
    Pour boiling water over the powder and drink. I add stevia to it as a sweetner as I have a sweet tooth. I also sometimes add a little vanilla cream- delicious! It’s strong and spicy, but it helps with my hip and joint pain (I’m 57 yrs old). I also drink it over ice sometimes. The spices settle a little at the bottom. Just stir occasionally as you drink.
    Sometimes I’ll add a little star anise or cinnamon to it, just depends on my mood. I drink this at least twice a day. Heard about the original recipe from someone that called in to a People’s Pharmacy radio broadcast – so thankful to have heard that broadcast :)

  3. mb
    Reply

    I have been taking a combo of turmeric 500 and boswelia- I give a thumbs down to celebrex, ibuprofen, naproxex all these corrode the intestine.

  4. suki65
    Reply

    Hi have you tried ubiquinol it is very good

  5. Pete H.
    Reply

    I’m 80 years old with 2 old knees, a hip, and lower back pain. I’ve tried most these treatments, but they don’t for me. Just bought turmeric, I’ll let you know.

  6. DWB
    Reply

    October 2013 I read in Bottom Line Personal newsletter about kitchen spices proven effective to control pain or other maladies. I’d been using supplements, including multivitamins, for about 20 years, and was aware of the benefits of consuming vit. C, tart cherry juice, celery seed extract, fish oil and turmeric to reduce inflammation and pain due to arthritis, gout (a form of arthritis), bursitis, etc.
    I began adding ground ginger root as well as a little ground cinnamon to my first few cups of coffee every day. I had intended to see my doctor regarding chronic pain in my left shoulder joint, both thumb joints, and recurring sciatica at the time I started this regime.
    However, I have not visited my MD since, and will do so this week only for a routine physical. Ginger root and cinnamon are anti-inflammatories, and I have had to resort to ibuprofen or aleve only a very few times over the last 8 months.
    I did have to cut back on cinnamon for awhile when I experienced canker sores, which apparently is symptomatic of excessive cinnamon ingestion, and I was also using it in my own prepared tooth brushing “powder” along with baking soda and sea salt (learned from a health newsletter).
    Consequently, at age 72 I currently require NO prescription medications.

  7. RC1956
    Reply

    I have used several muscle rubs with some good relief (albeit temporary). MaxFreeze and BioFreeze are good. MaxFreeze has arnica and ilex. Tiger balm used with MaxFreeze provided some more relief.
    My favorite rub now is from Arbonne Herbal Massage Pain Relieving gel. It contains capsaicin, menthol, methyl salicylate, as well as calendula, arnica, anthemis noble flower extract, eucalyptus, witch hazel. It gets very warm but not hot, scent doesn’t linger. It’s somewhat expensive but lasts a long time as you only need pea sized portions. I was using the Tiger Balm and MaxFreeze together which makes this about the same price and a tube lasts for over a month.

  8. Leah O.
    Reply

    Has anyone who is currently taking “Losartan” for blood pressure, having any side effects or experiencing a vision change?

  9. PP
    Reply

    Certo is also sold under the name of “sure-jell” and I find it in the same section with Jello and bakery products in grocery stores. one package is enough for a 48 oz. bottle of grape juice. I like the red version, cause of the flavenoids for blood pressure.

  10. Elizabeth
    Reply

    I would encourage the OP (original poster) to try Aspercreme. I also have a painful joint disorder and can’t take NSAIDs. My rheumatologist recommended this and said “There are lots of prescription meds out there that cost ten times as much and aren’t any better.”
    I like it because it’s very effective, works fast, doesn’t smell or irritate my skin, it’s cheap and doesn’t require a prescription. Also, you only put it where needed, so it’s not like taking a systemic medicine that can affect your kidneys, liver, etc.
    (Just so you don’t think I’m getting paid to promote this product, I should mention that I’ve seen store-brand versions available which are probably just as effective and even cheaper).
    I would also urge the OP to try at least a session or two with a licensed Physical Therapist. This has done wonders for my pain & mobility issues. (I was glad to see that he/she is already sold on the benefits of exercise).
    Also – warm packs or ice packs (talk with your doctor or P/T as to which would be better), and perhaps try Tiger Balm or a Capsaicin rub. Tiger Balm is a pungent-smelling liniment which works for me – I think it’s partly psychological (“if it smells this strong, it must be working!”). I haven’t tried Capsaicin rubs myself – I know some people dislike the burn, while others find it blocks the pain signals from the nerves.
    Hope this helps!
    Elizabeth

  11. Annabelle Masse
    Reply

    There is information about flax being helpful, also.

  12. Periodic Pains
    Reply

    Thank you for all of these ideas.
    What is Certo?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE:
    Certo is plant pectin. It can be found in the canning department of most groceries. It is necessary to make jams and jellies thicken.

  13. RC1956
    Reply

    I used the gin soaked raisins for two recipes and had little to no relief. I am going to try turmeric and ginger. I have joint pain in jaw, neck, shoulders, caused by cervical disc disease with five bulging discs, daily headaches (face, forehead, cheekbones, temples). Gabapentin (Neurontin) only helps minorly, leaving me “drunk” enough to bounce into walls at night.

  14. Patricia
    Reply

    I am having excellent results from castor oil hot packs and castor oil rubs (every day) directly on my knees and other joints that hurt. here is one of the many sites with info. there is much info on the ‘net.

  15. abigail
    Reply

    Many thanks to GC who shared such a detailed account of his methods in April 2013 and to all the others who posted their gin and golden raisin ideas.
    I have not found golden raisins in the natural food stores I go to. Do they contain sulfites?

  16. J.V. Isaacs
    Reply

    I was crippled with osteo-arthriitis in the spine, and pelvis, and, bursiitis in the shoulders which no medication could help. In desperation, I used the Mediterranean Diet as a basis for foods, and supplements which fought inflammation, and cut out the foods which caused inflammation; stopped taking any medication for pain; and, after three weeks, was free of all pain, and able to move my body parts freely. All this information I gained from reading, “Best Choices from the People’s Pharmacy”.
    Now, at sixty-three years of age, I am able to touch my toes without bending my knees; squat; kneel; and, run short distances without discomfort; all actions I have not been able to take since I was eighteen! I do use a cane, as, I’m unable to stand for long without feeling the effect in my lower back, as, I suffer from spondulolysthesis, and scholyosis, but, the comment is often passed by bystanders that, the cane is hindering my walking, as, I walk so quickly!

  17. vr
    Reply

    I sure would like an answer to this question that would work for me, as I too can no longer take NSAIDs. I’ve tried every remedy suggested in this article and none of them have offered significant relief. Turmeric and fish oil do help a tiny bit, but not much.

  18. Cindy G.
    Reply

    I have a had knee trouble for years but have kept the pain at bay by taking glucosomine chondroitin MSM supplements. The only brand that really works well is called Finest from the drugstore that starts with a “W”. I’ve tried other brands and they don’t work as well for some reason. Also, I do leg lifts to strengthen the knee area. Displacement of the knee cap also causes pain. I move them to the inside and downwards. This occurs after kneeling on a hard surface for me.

  19. C.A.
    Reply

    Homeopathy could help greatly.

  20. LauraP
    Reply

    I have a (now 40 years old) cousin dealing with the adult stages of juvenile arthritis. She has never once taken medication for her pain. More recent (last 10 years or so) she has had to buckle down and learn what she can do to manage her arthritis (she thinks her arthritis was in remission until she took a vaccine for international travel). To this day she takes no meds AND she is a triathlete competing multiple races annually.
    Here is what she has done through the years that helped her: Colostrum. Bovine colostrum from New Zealand and specifically the best company she found and used was Symbiotics. She mixed the Colostrum into orange juice primarily three or more times a day at one point.
    Today she has altered her diet even more so that the typical foods that trigger her pain like night shade vegetables, salt, foods with preservatives and nitrates/nitrites and drinking wine. She has removed all dairy from her diet, drinks fresh cold pressed juices everyday, and makes sure she moves (for her it is to swim or run or bike). The day she doesn’t move she feels the stiffness creep in. Again no meds. And no OTC pain meds either for her joint pain.
    I personally can vouch for the bovine colostrum. I took it while recovering from a DVT episode that resulted in a Pulmonary Embolism. Five months into recovery I was on a business trip coughing up blood (turned out to be old blood). I spent a day in an ER, ending it with a radiologist who did an ultrasound on my leg. They said they couldn’t see any scarring on the veins or any trace of the DVT where it should have been. And I felt great- more energy, more mobility in my body – the entire time I was drinking these Colostrum shakes.

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