Herbs for Fluid on the Knee

The term “fluid on the knee” refers to a condition called prepatellar bursitis, also known as knee effusion, water on the knee and housemaid’s knee 1. As these names suggest, this condition is characterized by inflammation of the protective layer of tissue that lines the patella, or kneecap. Certain herbs may help to reduce pain and swelling. However, if symptoms continue, see your doctor. Fluid build-up on the knee can indicate a serious injury, infection or underlying disease that might need further medical treatment.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


The most obvious signs of fluid on the knee are pain and inflammation. You might also experience limited mobility. While this condition usually occurs more often in older people, a person of any age that participates in sports is also at risk, as are people who are obese. According to the Mayo Clinic, common causes of fluid on the knee other than physical injury includes rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, bursitis, gout, bleeding disorders and the presence of cysts or tumors 1.cause:

  • According to the Mayo Clinic
  • common causes of fluid on the knee other than physical injury includes rheumatoid arthritis
  • osteoarthritis
  • bursitis
  • gout
  • bleeding disorders
  • the presence of cysts or tumors 1

Homeopathic Herbs

Homepathic preparations of Ruta graveolens, commonly known as herb-of-grace or rue, is a traditional remedy for pain and swelling. The “Physicians’ Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines” describes several coumarin compounds found in rue that possess anti-inflammatory properties. However, one chemical present in rue called chalepsenin may trigger uterine contractions, making this remedy unsuitable for pregnant women even in homeopathic dosages. This particular compound also increases the risk of photosensitivity, which means the skin may show signs of allergy to sunlight.

Topical Treatments

Topical creams and salves that contain arnica are commonly used to counter inflammation, including fluid on the knee. Due to the toxicity of arnica, its application is limited to homeopathic or topical use. Most natural health food stores stock arnica-based creams. Comfrey is a traditional topical treatment for bruises, sprains and inflammatory conditions like fluid on the knee. Specifically, the leaf contains alkaloid compounds that inhibit the activity of leukocytes, specialized white blood cells that rush to the site of an injury and produce swelling. The herb is available commercially as an oil or salve, or the fresh leaves can be soaked in hot water and applied as a warm poultice.

Dietary Herbs

According Min Soo Jun, lead author of a study published in the Oct. 20, 2010 issue of the “Journal of Ethnopharmocology,” the methanol extract of Carthamus tinctorius, or safflower, exerts anti-inflammatory effects 3. Specifically, the extract increases the release of an enzyme that suppresses the activity of two other enzymes involved in producing inflammation in soft tissue. C.C. Wang and colleagues from Taipei Medical University in Taiwan reported similar findings in the Sept. 17, 2010 issue of the “Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.”

Turmeric, the spice that gives Indian dishes a golden color and warm flavor, contains curcumin compounds and fights inflammation. However, it may take several weeks of supplementation for you to experience the beneficial effects. According to James A. Duke, PhD, author of “Dr. Duke's Essential Herbs,” turmeric, and its cousins ginger and cardamom, contain natural agents that inhibit inflammatory enzymes 5. However, Duke cautions that people with gallstones or bile duct obstruction should not consume large amounts of these herbs or take them in supplemental form.


Consult your health care practitioner before using herbs to self-treat fluid on the knee to rule out a serious traumatic injury or an underlying medical condition. Likewise, seek professional advice before using herbal therapies if you are taking other medications or have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.