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Rheumatoid Arthritis: Best and Worst Supplements and Herbs

WebMD explains which supplements and herbs may help relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and which ones you should not take.

Supplements and Herbs for RA: The Best continued...

According to the NCCAM, ginger may increase risk for bleeding and should not be used in people with bleeding problems, heart problems, or diabetes, Curcumin may cause upset stomach and diarrhea and shouldn't be used in people with gallbladder disease or gallstones. Boswellia may also cause upset stomach. White willow bark can cause a serious allergic reaction to patients with a history of allergy to salicylates (aspirinallergy). Other side effects may include upset stomach, bleeding, rash, and kidney problems.

Avocado-soy unsaponifiables: This vegetable extract made from avocado and soybean oils “seems to help the body regenerate normal connective tissue,” says Leopold. ASUs, as they’re often called, may cause upset stomach. Even just eating avocado and soy should give people “a mild effect,” he says.

SAM-e may act as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic but may cause vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and nausea.

Cat’s claw, from the bark of an Amazon vine, may slightly reduce joint swelling and pain, but there is no conclusive evidence that it can successfully treat rheumatoid arthritis. Cat’s claw may cause nausea, headaches, and dizziness.

Supplements and Herbs for RA: The Worst

Arnica: When ingested, may be poisonous, says Leopold. Used topically, it can cause itchiness and rash.

Kombucha tea: A fungal mushroom fermented product with a high risk of contamination.

Colloidal silver: This actually contains silver, says Leopold, which can turn the whole body blue permanently. It can also cause kidney problems, fatigue, stomach upset, and neurological problems.

Thunder god vine: This may cause stomach upset, skin reactions, temporary infertility in men, and a stop to periods in women. Extended use may lead to decreased bone density. Some parts of the plant are poisonous and could cause death.

Supplements and Herbs for RA: The bottom line?

Live a healthy life. Exercise helps keep your joints mobile, decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke, and may even reduce inflammation. And most important, talk to your doctor before trying any herb or supplement. Even if your doctor doesn’t ask you point blank about any herbs and supplements you’re taking, remember to volunteer the information.

Reviewed on June 18, 2013
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