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Natural Medicine for Rheumatoid Arthritis

written by: BStone • edited by: lrohner • updated: 2/24/2011

Natural therapies such as nutrition, herbs, and massage can be very helpful for improving healing and reducing the symptoms of arthritis. Learn all about choosing natural medicine for rheumatoid arthritis.

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    Healing Arthritis Naturally

    There is no cure for the chronic inflammatory joint disease known as rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms and progression of the disease are generally managed with drug therapy. While conventional care plays an invaluable role in the treatment of this disease it is also worth considering the use of natural medicine for rheumatoid arthritis.

    Holistic, alternative remedies attempt to improve the body's ability to naturally heal itself. While drug therapy can effectively help patients deal with the joint pain and inflammation, long term use can have adverse effects while also suppressing rather then supporting immune health. Learn about what is available for natural treatment and discuss your choices with your doctor.

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    Diet and Nutrition

    Cherries Are Anti-Inflammatory Making a healthy, well-balanced diet a priority can greatly help arthritis sufferers in the long term. A high fiber, low-fat diet can help to remove toxins and waste from the body that may be contributing to health problems while also taking some of the strain from the body of digesting heavy foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes serve to provide nutrition for immune health, tissue regeneration, inflammation relief, better circulation and even mental well-being.

    Some nutritional supplements may have benefits as well, although it is important to talk about what you choose to take with your doctor. Also, many natural supplements have not been proven as effective. The following are examples of helpful supplements that are relatively safe for general use.

    • Sources of omega-3 fatty acids or the omega-6 fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid, such as evening primrose oil, fish oil, black currant seed oil and flax oil may help to reduce inflammation.
    • Vitamin C has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Vitamin E also has antioxidant properties, protecting joints from free radical damage. Do not exceed doses of 200 IU a day and talk to your doctor before taking vitamin E if you are taking any blood-thinning medication.
    • Sea greens such as kelp are rich sources of minerals for skeletal health.
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    Herbal Medicine

    Herbs supply the body with antioxidants, nutrition, and beneficial medicinal compounds. For the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis there are herbs for relieving the pain and inflammation, to improve blood circulation, to provide valuable nutrients for bone health, and to help cleanse the body of toxic build-up. Some of the best herbs for internal use include:

    • Nettles
    • Ginger
    • Meadowsweet
    • Celery seed
    • Horsetail
    • Burdock root
    • Turmeric

    Herbal medicine is also a useful natural therapy for rheumatoid arthritis when used externally. Some of the best remedies include a capsicum cream to relieve pain and swelling which can be purchased over the counter. You can also make a homemade herbal remedy for pain relief — mix cayenne powder with wintergreen essential oil, just enough to make a paste. Apply to painful joints for about twenty minutes and then wash off. Do not use on broken skin.

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    Massage Therapy

    Massage therapy is also helpful for managing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. If you have the opportunity consider seeing a professional therapist for regular treatments. Massage will increase circulation, stimulate the release of toxins from the body, and ease pain.

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    More Options for Using Natural Medicine for Rheumatoid ArthritisLearn about more alternative therapies for improving well-being and relieving symptoms. Other forms of natural medicine for rheumatoid arthritis include hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and magnetic therapy.
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    Hydrotherapy

    Hydrotherapy is the use of hot and cold water for healing. You can seek treatment through a professional hydrotherapist in your area. For more Hot Water Can Ease Arthritis Pain mild treatments at home, simply alternate between hold and cold packs, applying to swollen, painful joints for fifteen minutes at a time. You can also use a hot/cold shower upon waking to reduce stiffness — alternate between one minute of hot water and one minute of cold water. Epsom salt baths are also helpful, although be sure to talk to your doctor before use, they are not suited for people who have heart problems.

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    Mind-Body Medicine

    Mind-body medicine can also be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis naturally. Meditation, guided imagery, yoga, and tai chi are all helpful for helping the body and mind cope with the stress and pain of suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Consider taking up meditation at home, allowing yourself twenty minutes a day. Join a yoga class, or take up tai chi to manage symptoms, improve circulation and flexibility, get some physical activity, and improve overall well-being.

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    Other Alternative Treatment Options

    Other options when choosing natural medicine for rheumatoid arthritis include acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, and magnetic therapy. Acupuncture may be an effective natural therapy for pain. By releasing blockages of energy flow and allowing for a state of harmony, acupuncture treatments can be beneficial for arthritis through improving the body's state of health. Chiropractic medicine involves spinal manipulation to help the body overcome illness. Magnetic therapy is a much less studied form of healing. There are some studies to support the claim that magnets relieve pain, and others to discredit it.

    All of these natural treatment options may be beneficial for you. Alternative medicine is not a substitute for regular medical care, but it is a wealth of healing possibilities. Ultimately, they involve taking care of your health so your body can heal. No matter what you choose make sure you are eating a healthy diet, getting some form of exercise, and discussing your well-being with your doctor.

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    References and Image Credits

    "Rheumatoid Arthritis and CAM." (National Institutes of Health) <nccam.nih.gov/health/RA/RA.pdf>

    Hoffmann, David. "The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies." (Element Books, 1996).

    Balch, Phyllis A. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).

    Page, Linda. "Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone." Eleventh Edition (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).

    photo by Jayneandd

    photo by Steven DePolo