In treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA), conventional medicine has concentrated on powerful drugs to suppress symptoms. But there are a surprising number of alternative treatments that deal more directly with the cause.
Wearing a copper bracelet helps. In one study of 240 RA patients, those wearing copper bracelets had a statistically significant improvement, compared to patients given a placebo bracelet (Agents' Actions, 1976; 6: 454).
The reason the bracelets work is less mysterious than it seems. We know that the the worse the RA, the more elevated the blood levels of copper. Copper concentrations in the synovial fluid (found in the joints) in RA sufferers are also three times those of non sufferers. But the rise in these copper concentrations leads to a fall in levels of copper in the liver and other copper storing tissues. These localized copper deficiencies lead to an increase of iron in these tissues, which may help cause RA. Using copper bracelets restores some of this lost copper; in the study, each bracelet lost an average of 13 mg of copper while being worn.
The very low incidence of RA in pre industrial Europe has been put down to the use of copper cooking utensils and plates (K D Rainsford, in J R J Sorensen, Ed, Inflammatory Diseases and Copper, Humana Press, 1982).
Copper can also be used for pain relief. Anthroposophical medicine has had long success with a copper ointment used for pain in RA (Weleda, product code 6066).
Copper's anti inflammatory effect is related to its ability to form selective anti oxidants (J Int Acad Prev Med, 1980; 7-21). This is why practitioners of nutritional medicine advocate replacing conventional medicine's high dose aspirin therapy with a copper salicylate complex supplement.
In one study of over 1000 RA patients given this copper complex, 89 per cent showed better joint mobility, decreased joint swellings, and normalization of red blood cell levels for an average of three years (Inflammation, 1977; 2: 217-238).
In folk medicine, feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) has been a stalwart of RA treatment.
However, its effectiveness depends on its containing at least 0.4 per cent of the active ingredient parthenolide. When tested, most of the 35 commercially available preparations of feverfew contained either no parthenolide or only minute traces of it (J Pharm Pharmacol, 1992; 122: 266-70).
If you decide to use Feverfew, check the parthenolide content first.
Test for low gastric acid production. About half the RA patients I see are suffering from a low acid levels, which very often leads to leaky gut, which, in turn, is known to lead to inflammatory joint disease (including RA) (Clin Exp Rheumatol, 1990; 8: 75-83). It's important to check for a leaky gut at the same time.
Check out your allergies. Several medical anthropologists point out that, historically, the appearance of arthritis seems to have coincided with the farming of cattle or cereals like wheat, rye, barley and oats all known to be common allergens. In one study, nearly three quarters of the participating 44 RA patients felt their condition was "better" or "much better" once they'd eliminated suspected allergens from the diet (Lancet, 1986; i: 236-8).
Eat an avocado a day.
Dr John Heinerman, a medical anthropologist, reports he has not found a single case of RA among the Mayan Indians of the Yucatan Peninsula and Guatemala who regularly consume ripe avocado pears. The same is true of various native North West Amazon tribes who live in areas where wild avocados grow in abundance. Only when they give up avocados and start eating a Westernized diet do they start suffering from the disease (J Heinerman, Encyclopedia of Healing Juices, Parker Publishing, 1994).
Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homeopath and osteopath.