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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2003 May;42(5):652-9.

Herbal medicines for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review.

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  • 1Complementary Medicine Program, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA.



With the growing interest in herbal therapies among persons with rheumatoid arthritis, there exists a need for investigation into their safety and efficacy. The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic review to examine the evidence for the use of herbal medicines for RA based on randomized clinical trials (RCTs).


A computerized search of eight electronic databases and the bibliographies of identified articles resulted in 14 studies meeting the inclusion criteria. Two raters independently extracted data and rated the trials for quality.


There is moderate support for gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is found in some herbal medicines, for reducing pain, tender joint count and stiffness. For other herbal medicines there was only a single RCT available, resulting in weak evidence. In general, herbal preparations were relatively safe to use.


Given the number of herbal medicines promoted for RA, further research is needed to examine their efficacy, safety and potential drug interactions.

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