Q: Can alternative remedies help rheumatoid arthritis?

A: Some complementary and alternative treatments have shown promise for rheumatoid arthritis, a disorder in which a person's immune system attacks the lining of certain joints. The best-studied alternative treatments include:

  • Fish oil. Some preliminary studies have found that fish oil supplements may reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain and stiffness. Side effects can include nausea, belching and a fishy taste in the mouth. Fish oil can interfere with medications, so check with your doctor first.
  • Plant oils. The seeds of evening primrose, borage and black currant contain a type of fatty acid that may help with rheumatoid arthritis pain and morning stiffness. Side effects may include nausea, diarrhea and gas. Some plant oils can cause liver damage or interfere with medications, so check with your doctor first.
  • Thunder god vine. Used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, extracts of thunder god vine may improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. But severe side effects can include infertility in men and reduced bone density in women. Other side effects include diarrhea, stomach upset and hair loss.
  • Yoga. This type of exercise can help improve strength and flexibility. People who have limited mobility or spinal problems may need to modify the yoga postures or use props to help with balance.
Feb. 26, 2014