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Tell me about folk cures for arthritis…

Most conventional rheumatologists would just as soon forget that there are “folk remedies.” Some of this feeling is grounded in training… following the rigidity of the scientific method. Others simply don’t know… and others don’t have the time to explore other options. This article discusses some of the more common folk remedies that have surfaced over the years.

Arthritis is a term that is derived from the Greek… "arthron" for joint, and "itis" for inflammation. It is used to refer to more than 100 different conditions.

It affects almost 70 million Americans and that is the source of folk remedies. Since arthritis is so common and so many people have tried different types of treatments, there are some remedies that are passed on from generation to generation. This goes on despite the lack of supporting medical evidence that prove they actually do work. Rarely though, these remedies have been found- through scientific scrutiny- to have anti-inflammatory properties.

The popular radio announcer Paul Harvey mentioned gin-soaked raisins in the 1990’s. This became an overnight arthritis treatment sensation.

Although the formula varies slightly according to what person you talk to, the basics are simple: Eat nine gin-soaked raisins a day. Is there a possible scientific explanation? In this case, there may be. Resveratol is a bioflavenoid- a powerful antioxidant- that is present in the skin of grapes. Could it be this fact that explains the effectiveness of this age-old remedy?Bee stings: There is scientific evidence that bee venom may contain potent anti-inflammatory ingredients. It is very important not to try this on your own. Also, if you are allergic to bee stings, definitely do not do this.

Gin soaked raisins: Take a box of golden raisins (these are sometimes called white raisins); place in shallow container; cover raisins with distilled gin; let soak for a few weeks until gin evaporates; place in jar; eat nine raisins a day. Apple cider vinegar: Two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water, three times a day. Some people sweeten with honey or add baking soda for pH balance. There is a preparation sold in our area called “Jogging in a Jug”. It is a mixture of vinegar and grape juice. Some of my patients swear it helps them.

Eat spicy foods: There is actually proof with this. Foods containing garlic, ginger, capsaicin, curcumin, and the like do have anti-inflammatory properties.

Avoid tomatoes and other nightshade vegetables: This is a gray area. Some people do seem to have a problem with certain foods causing their arthritis to flare. This is an area of some interest in that food allergy may play a role. The jury is still out.

Gelatin: You can buy gelatin capsules or you can make gelatin (the store variety like Jell-O) but instead of chilling it, drink it. Some suggest drinking a cup a week; you can drink more if you wish. Some people make potions with grape juice and pectin (a jam thickener, such as Certo, that contains gelatin powders).

Fresh Pineapple: Eat fresh pineapple frequently for the bromelain, an enzyme found in fresh pineapple (freezing or canning is thought to destroy the enzymes so eat fresh). Bromelain can also be purchased in capsule form as a supplement.

Copper Bracelet: Some believe that copper is absorbed by the skin to relieve joint pain when wearing a copper bracelet but the results are anecdotal and effects controversial. If you wear one, pay a little extra for ones with anti-tarnish coating.

Magnets: Static magnet therapy is believed to relieve pain by increasing circulationFeature Articles, but that has not been proven through numerous scientific studies. Magnetic treatment is considered harmless unless it squeezes your pocketbook too hard.

Rub WD-40 on a joint: I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this one. There is no scientific or otherwise proof this works.

The bottom line to all of these remedies is this: the user should use common sense and his or her own research including consultation with a rheumatologist.

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Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR is a rheumatologist For more info: Arthritis Treatment

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