Four years ago (WDDTY, vol 8, no 6) when I first wrote about rheumatoid arthritis (RA), I reported that wearing copper bracelets, correcting low gastric acid, identifying environmental and food allergies, and eating at least one avocado pear a day had proven benefits.
Since then, much more evidence has come to light of alternative remedies that may be highly beneficial to sufferers of this condition.
Paloondo, a plant found in Mexico and Southern California, was used by the Aztecs for inflammatory rheumatoid-arthritic conditions and has been found to be useful for RA in homoeopathic potencies. Euretin and Paloon-don-Dragées, two patented medicines made in Austria and licensed in the European Union, have shown evidence of success.
Paloondon-Dragées has undergone a placebo-controlled Hahnemannian proving - the basic homoeopathic experiment in which a remedy is tested to determine whether it can produce the symptoms it is meant to cure - and was indeed found to produce arthromuscular rheumatism (Homoeother rheumatisch Leiden Paloondo, 1970, 6: 241-5.)
Bromelain, an enzyme obtained from the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus), can be effective in reducing the amount of inflammation associated with RA and the dose of steroids needed to manage it.
Twenty-five patients with stage II or III RA were able to taper their steroid dosages down to small maintenance doses of enteric-coated bromelain. Joint swelling was also substantially reduced in most patients (Penn Med J, 1964, 67: 27-30).
This Indian system of medicine has long used the yellow pigment - called curcumin - derived from the turmeric plant (Curcuma longa) to treat joint inflammation.
In one double-blind study, RA patients were given either curcumin or phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Those taking the turmeric showed similar improvements in duration of morning stiffness, walking and joint swelling compared with those taking the NSAID, but without the substantial side-effects usually seen with the drug (Ind J Med Res, 1980; 71: 632-4).
Two experimental studies have shown that the root of the Chinese medicinal herb Lei gong teng (Tripterygium wilfordii) is usually effective to some degree for both RA and ankylosing spondylitis (J Trad Chin Med, 1983, 3: 125-9; Chin Med J, 1989, 102: 327-32).
A herbal remedy made from the Yucca plant has also been shown to be helpful in easing the symptoms of RA.
In an American study involving Desert Pride Herbal Food Tablets (containing Yucca plant saponin extract), 149 RA patients were given either the Yucca saponin extract or placebo for one week to 15 months. At the end of the trial, 61 per cent had less pain, swelling and stiffness compared with 22 per cent of those taking the placebo. Some improved within days or weeks whereas some took several months or more (J Appl Nutr, 1975; 27: 45-50).
Good osteopathic care can modify the course of RA and even bring about a remission. Once the acute inflammation has subsided, this should include heat, friction, hot wetpacks, stretching, exercise, support and careful passive articulation of the affected joints (Br J Gen Pract, 1993: 15-8).
A Norwegian study showed that a change to a vegetarian diet normalised dietary fatty acids and reduced the inflammation seen in RA.
The patients were allowed to consume only vegetable soups, vegetable juices, garlic and herbal teas for the first 10 days. Thereafter, the diet was gluten-free, and meat was allowed only sparingly on every second day. For the first three months, citrus, salt, refined sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa, cola, strong spices, alcohol, milk and milk products were strictly forbidden (Bartram T, Bartram’s Encyclopaedia of Herbal Medicine, London: Robinson Publishing, 1998: 372).
Harald Gaier is a registered homoeopath, naturopath and osteopath.