At least four different scientific reviews concerning the effectiveness and safety of popular natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis have been published since 2004. In search of natural healing rheumatoid arthritis sufferers have tried herbal remedies, nutritional supplements and alternative non-invasive therapies such as chiropractic care.
According to figures compiled by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, as many as 62% of all adults use some form of alternative therapy. 33% of them suffer from back pain, neck pain, joint pain or arthritis. These figures suggest that use of natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis is common and it is the “common usage” that prompted the scientific reviews.
Devil’s Claw, Feverfew, Lei Gong Teng and Cat’s Claw: Natural Healing Rheumatoid Arthritis?
In 2005, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital reviewed the evidence concerning the safety and effectiveness of the botanicals Devil’s Claw, Feverfew, lei gong teng and Cat’s Claw. The results were as follows.
Devil’s Claw appears to have natural anti-inflammatory activity and there is evidence supporting its use in the treatment of chronic low back pain and osteoarthritis pain affecting the hip or knee.
But, for effective natural healing rheumatoid arthritis sufferers may want to look elsewhere. Devil’s Claw can interfere with several prescription medications including Ticlipidine and Warfarin. It increases the production of stomach acid and can aggravate conditions, such as peptic ulcers and acid reflux.
Feverfew, lei gong teng and Cat’s Claw have been used historically by native healers as natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other health conditions. According to the researchers at Massachusetts General, test tube results indicate that feverfew may be very active in modulating immune system responses, but “human studies have not proven it useful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis”. Adverse side effects of feverfew may include stomach upset and mouth ulcers.
Apparently there is clinical evidence supporting the effectiveness of lei gong teng and Cat’s Claw as natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis. To quote the researchers, “Current experience. . . finds them to be efficacious in the treatment of RA. ” However, in their final conclusion they make this warning, “. . . many studies done to date are scientifically flawed. Further systematic and scientific inquiry into this topic is necessary to validate or refute the clinical claims. ”
There are safe and natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis, but both lei gong teng and Cat’s Claw are accompanied by detrimental and sometimes dangerous side effects, which are detailed below.
Unwanted Side Effects
The majority of current research concerning lei gong teng focuses on its potential as a male contraceptive. Components have been found, even at low doses, to lower sperm counts and cause temporary infertility. Because of its immuno-suppressive activity, it can increase the risk of infection.
Since immune system suppression and increased risk of infection are complications associated with prescription medications often used to treat the condition, when looking for natural healing rheumatoid arthritis sufferers may want to avoid lei gong teng, particularly if the reason behind the search is the risk associated with the use of immuno-suppressive drugs.
Great caution should be practiced when using Cat’s Claw. When collected randomly in a natural setting, the positive effects of the botanical can not be scientifically or medically guaranteed. Because there are at least two different “chemo-types” of the plant and numerous other plants known by the same name (some of which are toxic), chemical evaluation is necessary to determine its safety for human use.
In some cases, even when the chemical composition has been confirmed, serious allergic reactions, including inflammation of the kidneys has occurred. In at least one case, kidney failure has occurred. If the wrong chemo-type is used loss of coordination, reduction of the speed and force of the heart beat and sedative effects similar to those of narcotics can occur.
The safest chemo-type was originally marketed as an immune booster, while one of the other types has immuno-suppressive activity. It is unclear which chemo-type has been used in the research concerning its effectiveness as one of the natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis, but it is likely that it was the least safe variety, since the most popular theory is that RA is caused by inappropriate immune system responses and immuno-suppressive drugs are a popular treatment choice.
The Safest Natural Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis
As with most people who search for natural healing, rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are surely looking for safe, effective alternatives, with no detrimental side effects. For many years, researchers have been studying the role that omega-3 fatty acids (a dietary component found in fatty fish and fish oils) play in rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
In March of 2007, researchers at the University of Adelaide in South Australia published laboratory results concerning the possible reasons behind the effectiveness of omega 3 fatty acids as natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis, since clinical trials have consistently reported positive results with no detrimental side effects.
The researchers began with the understanding that omega-6 fatty acids (found in large quantities in the average diet) increase the activity of immune system cells that cause inflammation. Their goal was to see if omega-3 fatty acids could block the inflammatory activity caused by an omega 6 fatty acid. Their conclusion was that EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids do, in fact, negate the immune system response to omega 6 fatty acids and thereby reduce or inhibit inflammation.
The researchers concluded, “These results help fill the gaps in our knowledge regarding the mechanisms of action of n-3 PUFAs, thus allowing us to make specific recommendations for the use of n-3 PUFAs in the regulation of inflammatory diseases. ”
In a meta-analysis, similar to the review of natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis conducted in 2005, researchers in Canada reviewed clinical studies related to omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for joint pain. The results were published in May 2007. In brief, the analysis showed that patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis who received dietary supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids for 3-4 months reported a reduction in joint pain intensity, minutes of morning stiffness, number of painful or tender joints and the need for pain relieving drugs.
The conclusion: “The results suggest that omega-3 PUFAs are an attractive adjunctive treatment for joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. ”
When searching for natural healing, rheumatoid arthritis sufferers can rest assured that omega-3 fatty acids are 100% natural (as long as the manufacturer of the product includes no additives or preservatives) and 100% safe (as long as the manufacturer distills and purifies the fish oil to remove contaminants).
In general, people also find that they get many extra health benefits from fish oil, including improved ability to concentrate and a reduction in depressive feelings.
To conclude, of all the natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis, there is the most evidence supporting the safety and effectiveness of omega 3 fatty acids derived from the flesh of fatty fish.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center's website:
"Most clinical studies investigating the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for inflammatory joint conditions have focused almost entirely on rheumatoid arthritis. Several articles reviewing the research in this area conclude that omega-3 fatty acid supplements reduce tenderness in joints, decrease morning stiffness, and allow for a reduction in the amount of medication needed for people with rheumatoid arthritis. "
They go on to state that:
". . . . New Zealand green lipped mussel ( Perna canaliculus ), another potential source of omega-3 fatty acids, has been shown to reduce joint stiffness and pain. . . "
We hope you've found this article on the natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis informative.
Dan Ho is editor of http://www.omega-3-fish-oil-guide.com/Fish_oil_arthritis.html Visit us now for tips and advice on how to choose a high quality omega 3 fish oil supplement with New Zealand green lipped mussel.