8 Unconventional Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Green Tea
    1. Green Tea
    Scientists say green tea and its active ingredients, polyphenols, show promise in treating both RA and osteoarthritis. Studies are under way to determine exactly how. Polyphenols may affect the immune system and decrease substances that destroy joints in people with RA. In the meantime, go ahead and brew a cup: Green tea is generally safe to sip in moderate amounts.

  • Overhead shot of citrus foots including grapefruit, orange and pomegranate
    2. Pomegranates
    Extract from this exotic fruit decreased joint tenderness by 62% in one small, 12-week study. The researchers credit pomegranates' antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and repair cell damage. The extract included the same amount of antioxidants found in one serving of pomegranate juice. Plus, parts of the peel are shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

  • spices-in-containers-at-market
    3. Turmeric
    This bitter, orange-yellow spice, often used in curries, has been shown to protect joints from inflammation and damage in animal and small human studies. The active compound within it is called curcumin. However, more research is needed to confirm its benefits in humans with RA.

  • woman-with-eyes-closed-in-meditation-class
    4. Meditation
    Most types of meditation involve focusing your attention and quieting your mind. One variety—mindfulness-based stress reduction—was shown in a preliminary study to reduce depression and improve coping skills in people with RA. Evidence also suggests that relaxation and imagery can help people feel calmer and better when used alongside medications or other traditional treatments.

  • Fish in a pan
    5. Fish Oil
    Extracts from salmon, tuna, and other oily fish contain omega-3 fatty acids—compounds our body uses to fight inflammation. Fish oil may relieve tender joints, ease morning stiffness, and reduce your need for traditional RA medications. But be careful if you're also taking blood thinners or blood pressure medications, as fish oil may increase the effect of these medicines.

  • woman-standing-at-holiday-gathering
    6. Thunder God Vine
    Traditional Chinese medicine has long used the root of this medicinal plant to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, including RA. Small clinical trials support its effectiveness in easing symptoms. However, because the root causes severe side effects and other parts of the plant are poisonous, products containing it are not widely available in the United States.

  • Massage therapist giving back massage to client
    7. Ayurveda
    Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world's oldest systems for treating medical problems. It originated in India and uses herbs, diet changes, massage, oils, and detoxification routines. In one recent pilot study, patients did equally well whether they used ayurvedic treatments, traditional medication, or a combination of the two, but doctors caution that much more research is needed.

  • Group of Young People Practicing Tai Chi Outdoor
    8. Tai Chi
    Sometimes called a "moving meditation," this practice involves a flowing series of slow, relaxed movements. It may not reduce joint pain, swelling, or tenderness. However, practitioners with RA may experience improvements in mood, quality of life, and physical function.

8 Unconventional Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis

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  1. Ayurvedic Medicine: An Introduction. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/ayurveda/introduction.htm
  2. Green Tea. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/greentea
  3. Meditation: What You Need to Know. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm
  4. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Complementary Health Approaches. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/RA/getthefacts.htm
  5. Tai Chi: An Introduction. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://nccih.nih.gov/sites/nccam.nih.gov/files/D322taichi.pdf
  6. Traditional Chinese Medicine: An Introduction. National Institutes of Health.  National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/chinesemed
  7. Turmeric. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/662.html
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Last Review Date: 2019 Aug 3
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