Chillies are hot, but most other arthritis remedies have little effect

While many complementary medicines have little proven effect on people with arthritis, a few of the compounds on sale have evidence to back their claim that they offer relief.

This is the finding of the British-based Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC) after it reviewed complementary remedies using results from randomised, controlled trials.

‘€œDespite the number of complementary and alternative medicines on the market, evidence from randomised controlled trials was available for only 40 of them,’€ according to the ARC report.

ARC scored the products out of five, with five being effective and one being useless.

‘€œFor nearly two thirds of compounds used for rheumatoid arthritis (the most common inflammatory arthritis) the available data suggest they are not effective, while the effectiveness of glucosamine, a supplement popular with people with osteoarthritis (OA) is again called into question,’€ said the report.

It measured effectiveness according to improvements in pain, movement or general well-being.

Fish body oil scored a perfect five out of five for people with rheumatoid arthritis, reducing joint pain and stiffness.

But almost two-thirds of the other products could prove little or no effect. The ineffective 13 were named as ‘€œantler velvet; blackcurrant seed oil; collagen; eazmov herbal preparation; feverfew; flaxseed oil; green-lipped mussels; homeopathy; reumalex herbal mixture; selenium; Chinese herb tong luo kai bi; vitamins A,C and E anti-oxidant vitamins; and willow bark’€

The report issued a red alert for ‘€œthunder god vine’€, a product promoted for rheumatoid arthritis, which was shown to have dangerous side effects.

For osteoarthritis, Capsaicin gel, made from chilli peppers, proved most effective in relieving pain and joint tenderness, also scoring a perfect five.

But one of the most popular supplements taken for osteoarthritis, glucosamine, showed mixed results with glucosamine sulphate scoring three and glucosamine hydrochloride scoring a mere one.

For fibromyalgia, only four products could be assessed as they were the only ones that had done trials to back their claims. None were effective.

‘€œWhile over 60 per cent of people with arthritis or other aches and pains use some form of complementary and alternative medicine – and find different things work for them – it is useful to also have the scientific evidence available and just as important to know how safe we think they are to use,’€ said Professor Gary Macfarlane, who led the research.

Professor Alan Silman, the Arthritis Research Campaign’€™s medical director, explained: ‘€œComplementary medicines are widely used by people with arthritis as they seek to avoid taking potentially harmful drugs, preferring natural products. However, natural does not mean they are either safe ‘€“ or effective. Many people spend hundreds of pounds on these products and they need to know that there is a strong chance of benefit.’€ Health-e News.

The full report is available at


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    Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews

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