Red pepper Also called capsicum or cayenne pepper, red pepper has recently gained popularity as an arthritis remedy. It contains a substance called capsaicin, which reduces the levels of a chemical compound that transmits pain signals to the brain. Mix a few dashes of the ground pepper with 2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil. Apply with gauze several times a day. Allow a week or more of continued use for the desensitization to take place. The first few doses will cause a mild burning sensation. Alternatively, capsaicin ointment is available commercially. It is also an ingredient in several over-the-counter products. Cayenne is highly irritating. Keep it away from the mouth, eyes, and other mucous membranes, and avoid direct contact with the pepper's seeds.
Wintergreen The oil from wintergreen leaves contains methyl salicylate, a close relative of aspirin. Modern-day herbal healers prescribe wintergreen oil in external preparations to reduce joint and muscle inflammation and pain. The number of applications should not exceed five per day. Wintergreen oil is toxic if taken internally.
Dandelion Studies in the 1980s found that dandelion root has moderate anti-inflammatory properties. The powdered root extract is available in capsule form. Liquid root extracts are also sold. To make tea from a plant, add 3 tablespoons finely chopped dandelion root and leaves to 2 cups cold water. Boil for 3 minutes. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before straining. Drink it three times a day. Some people may have allergic reactions after handling dandelion.
Chamomile This herb has long been used as a tea for digestive upset. More recently, it has been used as an external compress for arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Brew a strong infusion using 2 tablespoons dried flowers in 1/2 cup hot water. Steep, then strain. Soak a clean cloth in the liquid and apply. People allergic to pollen may experience an allergic reaction.
Evening primrose The gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) found in the oil of the seeds of evening primrose, a common wildflower, was shown in scientific tests to have an effect on pain and morning stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The oil is available in both capsule and extract form.