Homeopaths don’t simply treat arthritis—they treat the person with arthritis. Because arthritis is usually only part (sometimes a significant part) of the disease, the homeopathic approach seeks to strengthen the overall constitution, rather than just suppressing local symptoms. It makes sense and is often very effective.
The best results with homeopathy and arthritis tend to occur in people who are in early onset or who have not taken massive doses of corticosteroidal drugs. But at least some relief can be provided to many people in varying stages of arthritis.
Natural Pain Relief
Two research reviews find a body of evidence suggesting that homeopathic medicines, either individually or in a combination formula, can provide relief for people with rheumatic disease or osteoarthritis. Nevertheless, more research is warranted.
One study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology on the homeopathic treatment of people with rheumatoid arthritis finds that 82 percent of patients who were prescribed an individually chosen homeopathic medicine experienced some relief from pain, while only 21 percent of patients prescribed a placebo experienced a similar degree of relief.
Another study compared the results of a homeopathic formula product versus acetaminophen in the treatment of osteoarthritis. The homeopathic remedy was found to be safer and work better than this conventional drug.
A third study on patients with osteoarthritis tested a single homeopathic medicine (Rhus toxicodendron 6x); this remedy was not found to be more effective than a placebo or a conventional drug. However, the study was fundamentally flawed: Rhus tox is more commonly effective for people with rheumatoid arthritis, not osteoarthritis. Further, giving the same homeopathic medicine to everyone with a specific disease is rarely effective, since homeopathic medicines work much better when prescribed to fit a person’s unique syndrome.
Another recent study compared a homeopathic topical application with a conventional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). This randomized, double-blind trial evaluated 172 osteoarthritic patients over four weeks to find that a homeopathic topical gel was as effective and well tolerated as NSAID gel. The homeopathic gel, applied three times daily, contained Symphytum, Rhus toxicodendron, and Ledum palustre.
The following remedies primarily provide relief of the acute phase of arthritic inflammation. It’s best to obtain professional homeopathic care for deeper, more significant relief and cure. Because symptoms are actually defenses of the body, using a medicinal substance that causes and mimics these defenses augments the person’s healing abilities.
Rhus toxicodendron (poison ivy): This is the most common remedy for acute arthritic pain. It is indicated for someone experiencing “rusty-gate” syndrome, e.g., great pain upon initial motion, reduced pain the more the person moves around, and stiffness again after resting for a while. Typically, sufferers are particularly stiff in the morning upon waking and after they sit or lie still for a period of time. Those who benefit from this remedy also tend to be very sensitive to cold and wet weather, and they often experience aggravated symptoms at night and in bed. Warm bathing or showers along with continued motion provide temporary pain relief.
Bryonia (white bryony): This remedy is indicated when arthritic pain is aggravated by any type of motion. The more the person moves, the worse pain he or she experiences—usually sharp and excruciating. Some relief is achieved from lying still, applying heat or direct pressure, and resting on the painful side. Symptoms tend to worsen after exposure to cold, with simple jarring, and after eating.
Apis (honeybee): When a person experiences great swelling in the joints with hot, burning, stinging pain, this remedy can be highly effective. Warm or hot applications as well as touch or pressure tend to aggravate the condition, while cool air and cold applications provide some relief.
Belladonna (deadly nightshade): When rapid and violent onset of throbbing arthritic pain arises in red, hot, swollen joints, this is the remedy to consider. The arthritic symptoms are aggravated by touch, jarring, and especially motion, and they may be relieved by warm wraps.
Ruta (rue): This remedy is sometimes given when the condition develops at the site of an old injury. Symptoms are aggravated by motion or touch, in the morning, and from exposure to cold, wet weather, and they are relieved by rubbing and warmth. Ruta is also indicated when sensitive nodules develop on the periosteum (connective tissue surrounding bone) and tendons after an injury.
Rhododendron (yellow snow rose): Consider this remedy if Rhus tox seems indicated but doesn’t work. Rhododendron is also effective for arthritic pains aggravated during cold and wet weather (especially storms), during the night, and from sitting too long, if symptoms are relieved by continued motion or walking. This remedy is also helpful for arthritic pain in the small joints, lower back, or shoulder, and with pains that wander from one place to another.
Kalmia (mountain laurel): This is useful for a sudden onset of severe acute arthritis, especially when the pain is paralyzing and tends to come and go. Pains may even move from one joint to another or tend to travel downward. The person may experience numbness, weakness, and trembling. A heart condition may alternate with arthritic symptoms. Motion of any sort and exposure to cold aggravate the pain, while hot bathing provides temporary relief.
Caulophyllum (blue cohosh): This homeopathic remedy is useful when arthritis primarily affects the small joints of the body, specifically those in the hands and/or feet. In particular, closing the hand creates a lot of pain. This remedy is more often given to women than men, especially when a woman is pregnant or experiences concurrent menstrual or hormonal disturbances.
Pulsatilla (windflower): Consider this remedy when arthritic pains tend to move from one place to another. Symptoms are worse from initial motion or during rest, in the evening or at night, and definitely from exposure to warmth. Also, symptoms are relieved by cold applications and by slow motion. This remedy is also invaluable when a person has a Pulsatilla constitution: gentle, mild, yielding, moody, and sympathetic.