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Rheumatoid Arthritis a Holistic Approach

Evening primrose oil for rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes systemic inflammation and affects peripheral joints, particularly the small joints of the hands and feet.

In Australia, an estimated 456,000 individuals (1.9% of the population) have this condition, leading to joint pain and swelling, fatigue, morning stiffness, and decreased physical functioning and quality of life.

Inflammation Fuels the Arthritic Fire

Inflammation drives RA symptoms and disability; its reversal is a primary therapeutic target.

Research suggests that Evening Primrose Oil and Nettle improve pain and other symptoms by inhibiting the inflammatory cascade, supporting the production of anti-inflammatory mediators in plasma and increasing antioxidant capacity.

Reducing inflammation can be a disease-modifying strategy, helping to slow and prevent joint damage and improve physical functioning.

Nettle Leaf - a Time-Tested Remedy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Fresh stinging nettles were used in ancient times to flail arthritic limbs, stimulating circulation and bringing warmth to joints in a treatment known as urtication or rubefaction. Modern research confirms the herb’s therapeutic applications in arthritic disease.

Nettle leaf extract has significant anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Studies have shown that it can potentially inhibit the pro-inflammatory transcription factor NF-κB, which is heightened in the synovial fluid of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Several studies have indicated Nettle extract inhibits the production of T-cell cytokines can prevent inflammation in autoimmune diseases such as RA.

Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects of Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Obtained from evening primrose seeds, EPO is an important source of omega-6 essential fatty acids, especially gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).

New research has shown that daily EPO doses included 420 mg GLA, which is likely to have contributed to its therapeutic effects. This study supports earlier research that showed significant and clinically relevant reductions in signs and symptoms and considerable decreases in morning stiffness and articular index in RA patients taking GLA.

Standard pharmaceutical interventions may have side effects and fail to improve the disease comprehensively.

The study by Abd-Nikfarjam et al showed that three months of Nettle leaf extract or EPO treatment, alongside standard treatment, can significantly reduce inflammatory markers in patients with RA. This improves pain and enhances quality of life.

Supporting the gut

A healthy gut microbiome is crucial for overall health, and recent research has dramatically expanded our knowledge of this relationship. The connection between gut health and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) development is one example, as the gut microbiota has been suggested to be an important environmental factor of the disease.

RA is one of several conditions where gut permeability predates symptoms, and it may be possible to prevent joint damage by treating the gut. After considering factors beyond family history, research showed that patients with RA and type 1 diabetes had different gut microbiota than healthy individuals.

Lifestyle factors such as nutrition can disrupt gut microbiota and exacerbate autoimmune conditions. However, dietary interventions like prebiotics, probiotics, and supplements can restore gut health and reduce inflammation.

For patients with rheumatoid arthritis, dietary interventions have been demonstrated to lower inflammation and decelerate overall disease activity.

Benefits of a wholefood diet for rheumatoid arthritis

The Role of a Wholefood Diet

A balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for regulating our immune system and maintaining the optimal functioning of our immune cells. To support our immune system through diet, it is recommended to include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, as well as protein from sources like meat, seafood, and legumes.

Consuming a diverse range of whole foods is vital to provide your body and immune system with essential vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and proteins. These nutrients are necessary for optimal cellular function throughout the body.

Diets with a large amount of processed, packaged, and refined sugary foods tend to be nutrient deficient. They are generally associated with increased inflammation in the body, disturbances in the balance between good and bad bacteria within the gut and an imbalanced immune system.

Following highly restrictive diets for long periods can also lead to nutrient deficiencies.

Read about the Nutrients for Healthy Immune Function here.


1. Abd-Nikfarjam B, Abbasi M, Memarzadeh M, Farzam S, Jamshidian A, et al. Therapeutic efficacy of Urtica dioica and evening primrose in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Herb Med. 2022;32:100556. doi: 10.1016/j.hermed.2022.100556.

2. Riehemann K, Behnke B, Schulze-Osthoff K. Plant extracts from stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), an antirheumatic remedy, inhibit the pro-inflammatory transcription factor NF-kappaB. FEBS Lett. 1999 Jan 8;442(1):89-94. doi: 10.1016/s0014-5793(98)01622-6.

3. Marietta E, Horwath I, Balakrishnan B, Taneja V. Role of the intestinal microbiome in autoimmune diseases and its use in treatments. Cell Immunol. 2019;339:50?58. doi:1016/j.cellimm.2018.10.005

4. Opazo MC, Ortega-Rocha EM, Coronado-Arrázola I, et al. Intestinal microbiota influences non-intestinal related autoimmune diseases. Front Microbiol. 2018;9:432. doi:3389/fmicb.2018.00432

Noor S, Piscopo S, Gasmi A. Nutrients Interaction with the Immune System. Archives of Razi Institute. 2021 Dec;76(6):1579.

Tourkochristou E, Triantos C, Mouzaki A. The influence of nutritional factors on immunological outcomes. Frontiers in Immunology. 2021 May 31;12:665968.


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