Alternative Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis
A number of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
treatments have been tested for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These treatments
- reducing pain
- lowering stress levels
- reducing inflammation
There is limited evidence to support the use of many CAM
treatments for RA. These treatments are not
a replacement for traditional medicine. They should only be used as a
supplement. Delaying or avoiding the use of conventional medicine could have
serious consequences for your long-term health.
It’s important to let your doctor know about any CAM
treatments you are using. These treatments may interact with other therapies.
Herbs and Supplements
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. There is
evidence that regular consumption of omega-3 acids may lower levels of inflammation
regularly in some individuals. According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, clinical
trials suggest that fish oil may reduce morning stiffness and the need for
pain-relieving drugs in some RA patients.
Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA)
This omega-6 fatty acid is found in the oil from seeds
of several plants, including:
- evening primrose
- black currant
According to the National
Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), research suggests that GLA may reduce joint
pain and stiffness in RA patients. It may also reduce patients’ need for pain
Thunder God Vine
This plant is often used in traditional Chinese medicine
(TCM). The NCCAM explains that small clinical
trials have suggested that it may reduce inflammation and suppress the immune
system. However, this supplement can cause serious side effects, including:
- stomach problems
- hair loss
- bone loss
- skin problems
- reproductive problems
The dangers of this supplement may outweigh its
benefits. It’s also difficult to find thunder god vine products in the United
Other Herbs and Supplements
The following herbs and supplements have shown promise
in lab tests and animal studies. However, they have not yet been the subject of
- Green tea may
reduce the symptoms of both RA and osteoarthritis.
- Ginger has
- Turmeric extract
has been found to protect the joints from inflammation and damage in
- Frankincense resin has shown anti-inflammatory and immune-suppression effects
in the lab.
A number of mind body techniques have the potential to
reduce pain and improve physical function and mood in RA patients. These
- guided imagery
Some RA patients have also improved their quality of
life by practicing tai chi. This
is a Chinese martial art combining slow, gentle movements with deep-breathing
exercises. Tai chi does not reduce pain or inflammation. However, it can
improve mood and overall physical function.
The NCCAM explains that some small clinical trials have suggested
that dietary changes may help some patients with RA. This may be because foods
that the body perceives as allergens increase overall inflammation.
Diets that have shown tentative benefits for treating RA
- elimination diets that get rid of potential food triggers
- vegetarian diets
- vegan diets
- Mediterranean diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains,
nuts, fish, and olive oil and low in red meat and dairy
However, more research is needed.
It’s important to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet.
Talk to your doctor before making any significant dietary changes.
This TCM technique uses very thin needles to stimulate
the nerves. It has been shown to treat various types of chronic pain. However,
there is limited research on its use for patients with RA. There is not enough
data to declare it effective.