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Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2001 Mar-Apr;19(2):177-83.

Herbal therapies in rheumatology: the persistence of ancient medical practices.

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Hospital General Regional No. 46. Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, Guadalajara, Jalisco, México, DF.



To determine how frequently herbal remedies are employed as alternative therapies in rheumatic diseases, and the historical justification for their use.


We conducted a survey in 250 outpatients in the rheumatology clinic of a teaching hospital in México. We registered general demographic information and the previous use of herbal remedies for rheumatic conditions, how effective they were, and the presence of adverse effects during their use. We identified the herbs employed, and cross-checked them with medical texts from the 16th through the 18th centuries on the use of herbal remedies.


Of 250 surveyed patients, 126 (51%) had used herbal remedies for their rheumatic conditions. 63% of all users reported them to be effective for the purpose they had been prescribed. 12% reported adverse effects, none of them life-threatening. Being a user had no relation with the patients' formal education. Three patients did not answer the survey. We were able to identify 67 plants. One third of these are either prescribed for rheumatic conditions in the consulted bibliography, or else were used for the same purpose by ancient Mexican cultures.


Herbal remedies are frequently used for rheumatic conditions. Some of them have an historical antecedent for their use in rheumatic conditions. They deserve a cautious evaluation as adjunctive therapies in rheumatic diseases.

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