In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in joints has become damaged, disrupting the smooth gliding motion of the joint surfaces. The result is pain, swelling, and deformity.
The pain of osteoarthritis typically increases with joint use and decreases with rest. For reasons that are not clear, although x-rays can find evidence of arthritis, the level of pain and stiffness experienced by people does not always match the extent of injury noticed on x-rays.
One double-blind study compared the effectiveness of the homeopathic remedy Rhus tox 6x against the anti-inflammatory drug fenoprofen, as well as placebo.1 However, the results were not promising. At the conclusion of the study, fenoprofen was found to provide significantly greater pain relief than Rhus tox, and the homeopathic remedy proved no more effective than placebo.
A much larger double-blind study compared a homeopathic gel containing the remedies Symphytum officinale, Rhus toxicodendron, and Ledum palustre against a gel made from the anti-inflammatory drug piroxicam.2 Of the 184 people with knee arthritis who were enrolled in this study, 172 were followed for the full 4 weeks. The results showed that the two treatments were equally effective.
However, these results are not as promising as they might at first appear. Oral piroxicam is a well-established therapy for osteoarthritis, but the effectiveness of piroxicam gel is far from clear. Thus, it is possible that this study simply proved that the two gels were equally ineffective! Furthermore, the "homeopathic remedies" contained in the gel were more like herbal treatments than homeopathic treatments, because they were not extremely diluted.
In classical homeopathy, there are many possible homeopathic treatments for osteoarthritis, to be chosen based on various specific details of the person seeking treatment.
If your arthritis pain and stiffness is worse in the morning, is relieved by heat, but aggravated by cold, and improves with movement, then you may fit the symptom picture for Rhus toxicodendron.
Calcarea carbonica is used for arthritis made worse by cold or damp, especially when it is the knees that are especially painful. People prescribed this remedy are often overweight and out of shape.
Calcarea fluorica is often recommended for arthritis related to past injuries.
Kali carbonicum may be used when arthritis has led to permanently swollen or deformed joints.
For herbs and supplements that may be useful for this condition, see the Osteoarthritis article.
For a thorough explanation of homeopathy, including dilution of therapies, see the Homeopathy Overview.
1. Shipley M, Berry H, Broster G, et al. Controlled trial of homeopathic treatment of osteoarthritis. Lancet. 1983;1:97–98.
2. van Haselen RA, Fisher PA. A randomized controlled trial comparing topical piroxicam gel with a homeopathic gel in osteoarthritis of the knee. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2000;39:714–719.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 9/18/2014