Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in the general family of lupus. In this condition, the immune system goes awry and attacks healthy tissues, especially the cartilage of the joints. Various joints become red, hot, and swollen under the onslaught. The pattern of inflammation is usually symmetrical, occurring in approximately the same places on both sides of the body. Other symptoms include inflammation of the eyes, nodules or lumps under the skin, and a general feeling of malaise.
Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than in men and typically begins between the ages of 35 and 60. The diagnosis is made by matching the pattern of symptoms with certain characteristic laboratory results.
Note: Certain conventional medical treatments can slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. There is no evidence that any homeopathic remedy has the same power. In any case, rheumatoid arthritis is far too serious a disease for self-treatment. Doctor’s supervision is essential.
Studies performed to evaluate the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies for rheumatoid arthritis have returned mixed results.
A 3-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 46 people evaluated the effectiveness of individualized homeopathic remedies for rheumatoid arthritis.1 At the beginning of the study, two homeopathic practitioners evaluated all of the participants and wrote out prescriptions. Participants were then randomly assigned to receive either the prescribed treatment or placebo, unbeknownst to them or the researchers who would perform an examination. The results showed significant improvement as compared to placebo among the participants receiving active treatment, most notably in pain and stiffness.
Another positive, double–blind, placebo-controlled trial of 111 people with rheumatoid arthritis evaluated the effectiveness of a fixed remedy containing Rhus toxicodendron, Bryonia cretica, Strychnos nux vomica, Berberis vulgaris, and Ledum palustre.2 The results showed that people in the treatment group experienced a significant decrease in the amount of analgesics required and in their perception of pain as compared to those in the placebo group.
In a 6-month, double-blind study of 112 people with rheumatoid arthritis, treatment with individualized homeopathic remedies failed to prove more effective than placebo.3 Due to a high rate of dropouts, however, these results carry little weight. A high dropout rate also compromised the meaningfulness of an apparently negative 6-month, double-blind study enrolling 44 people.4
The results of another study suggest that it is the homeopath, rather than the homeopathic remedy, that produces a favorable effect. Eighty-three subjects with stable rheumatoid arthritis, who were also receiving conventional treatment, were randomized to 1 of 2 treatment groups for 24 weeks.5 One group had homeopathic consultations before being further randomized to receive different types of homeopathic remedies or placebo. The second group had a non-homeopathic consultation before being similarly randomized. For the 56 subjects who completed the study, only those receiving the homeopathic consultations experienced an improvement in their symptoms irrespective of the remedies or placebos they received.
In classical homeopathy, there are many possible homeopathic treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, to be chosen based on various specific details of the person seeking treatment.
The symptom picture for Calcarea carbonica includes feeling extremely fatigued and depleted, with cold limbs, swelling in the joints, and difficulty climbing stairs or even walking. These symptoms worsen with exposure to cold or dampness, in the morning, and with exertion.
For those with arthritic symptoms who are extremely sensitive to cold, the homeopathic remedy Causticum might be recommended. Other features of the symptom picture include feeling restless, while noticing that moving around does not make you feel any better; preferring damp weather over dry conditions; and experiencing a dislike of wind.
If, however, you tend to feel better rather than worse in cool air, you might fit the picture of Apis mellifica, made from the venom of the honey bee. Other symptoms traditionally associated with this remedy include feeling restless and fidgety overall, and noticing increased discomfort when you are exposed to heat from any source, when touch or pressure is applied to your joints, and when you lie down.
For herbs, supplements and other alternative treatments that may be useful for this condition, see the Rheumatoid Arthritis article.
For a thorough explanation of homeopathy, including dilution of therapies, see the Homeopathy Overview.
1. Gibson RG, Gibson SLM, MacNeill AD, Buchanan WW. Homeopathic therapy in rheumatoid arthritis: evaluation by double blind clinical therapeutic trial. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1980;9:453–459.
2. Wiesenauer M, Gaus W. A randomized double blind trial on the efficiency of a homeopathic drug for rheumatoid arthritis [translated from German]. Aktuel Rheumatol. 1991;16:1–9.
3. Fisher P, Scott DL. A randomized controlled trial of homeopathy in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2001;40:1052–1055.
4. Andrade LE, Ferraz MB, Atra E, et al. A randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of homeopathy in rheumatoid arthritis. Scand J Rheumatol. 1991;20:204–208.
5. Brien S, Lachance L, Prescott P, McDermott C, Lewith G. Homeopathy has clinical benefits in rheumatoid arthritis patients that are attributable to the consultation process but not the homeopathic remedy: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2010 Nov 13.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 9/18/2014