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How Does the Cabbage Family of Vegetables Affect Arthritis?

By Elizabeth Eilender, MS, RD, CDN ; Updated August 14, 2017

In the battle against joint pain, it may pay to get ahead -- a head of cabbage, that is. Folk wisdom about its anti-inflammatory properties has been circulating for generations. The vegetable is said to alleviate pain and swelling when used as a compress. A cold cabbage leaf treatment involves applying a cleaned, chilled cabbage leaf to an affected joint for up to 20 minutes several times a day in order to relieve inflammation, reduce pain, and increase circulation.

Red cabbage in particular is a rich source of antioxidants in the form of anthocyanins -- a class of plant pigments that have demonstrated anti-inflammatory characteristics, and may be helpful for arthritis-related symptoms.

Research

While clinical research on the benefits of cabbage leaf compresses for the treatment of arthritis pain is scant, a small body of data shows that cabbage compresses may help relieve the pain and discomfort associated with breast engorgement that some breast-feeding women experience. The cabbage’s chemical properties are believed to dilate small blood vessels, allowing fluid to shift and thereby reducing swelling.

However, research published in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine demonstrated that cabbage leaves helped decrease engorgement, but did not significantly improve pain or discomfort. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence says that it works for some lactating women, as well as for people suffering from arthritis pain.

Nutritional Value

If you prefer to eat cabbage rather than wear it, this common cruciferous vegetable has a lot to offer nutritionally. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, and is a good source of potassium and fiber. All varieties of cabbage provide antioxidants, but red cabbage in particular is a rich source of antioxidants in the form of anthocyanins -- a class of plant pigments that have demonstrated anti-inflammatory characteristics, and may be helpful for arthritis-related symptoms.

Cabbage can be eaten raw or cooked in a number of ways; however, cooked cabbage retains more nutrients when sautéed, rather than boiled or steamed.

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About the Author

Eilender is a college lecturer and health sciences writer based in New Jersey.

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