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Herbal remedies for arthritis mostly ineffective, says study

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 10, 2009

Many herbal medicines and other complementary therapies do nothing to help people with rheumatoid arthritis, according to a report published today.

A review of published data on natural remedies found the majority were completely ineffective at relieving patients’ symptoms, or had only tentative evidence to suggest they worked.

Almost half of the UK population tries complementary medicine at some point in their lives, and more than £450m a year is spent on herbal remedies, homeopathy, osteopathy, acupuncture and similar treatments. Among people with arthritis and similar conditions, the figure is nearer 60%, doctors said.

In the report, compiled by the charity Arthritis Research Campaign, doctors reviewed medical research on more than 50 remedies sold as treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia, a condition that causes pain in the muscles and connective tissues.

Each therapy was ranked from one to five, with one indicating the treatment has no effect, and five meaning there is good evidence that it works. Only fish oil, which is sold for rheumatoid arthritis, received the top ranking of five, while 17 of the remaining 20 treatments were deemed completely ineffective or had too little evidence to support their efficacy. Among them were extracts of elk antler velvet and green-lipped mussels.