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Sunday, 14 February 2010

How to treat rheumatoid arthritis with Chinese medicine?

Tiejun Tang

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, progressive and disabling auto-immune disease. Statistical data shows 0.8% of the UK adult population suffer from RA. More than 7 million people in the UK (15% of the population) have long term health problems related to arthritis.

RA in Chinese medicine is diagnosed as Bi syndrome. Chinese medicine believes Bi syndrome is due to invasion of exogenous pathogenic wind, cold, dampness and heat. These exogenous evils can cause meridian blockage and sluggish qi & blood flow.

Clinical symptoms are marked by pain,soreness, numbness, heaviness, burning sensation, incapability of flexion and extension in muscles, bones and joints, or even accompanied with joint swelling or joint deformity.

If more Wind is in excess, patient often has a wandering pain in the limbs and joints; if more Cold is in excess, patient often has a steady pain; if more Dampness, patient will often have a swelling, heaviness, ache pain in the joints.

Treatment principles of Bi syndrome should be expelling Wind, dispersing Cold, eliminating Dampness, clearing away heat, dredging the meridians.

Many Chinese herbs can very effectively release the symptoms of RA.

If the joint pain happened in upper limbs, Qianghuo(Rhizoma seu Radix Notopterygii), Sangzhi (Ramulus Mori), Baizhi (Radix Angelicae Dahuricae), Weilingxian (Radix Clematidis) can be selected.

If the joint pain happened in lower limbs, Duhuo (Radix Angelicae Pubesentis), Niuxi (Radix Achyranthis Bidentatae), Mugua (Fructus Chaenomelis), Xuduan (Radix Dipsaci) can be selected.

For spinal joint pain Duzhong (Cortex Eucommiae), Sangjisheng (Ramulus Taxilli), Gushuibu (Rhizoma Drynariae), Yinyanghuo (Epimedium) should be selected.

Professor Tietao Deng treat Bi syndrome like to use local Cantonese herbs, many them are from vine category. Such as Kuangjinteng (Caulis Tinosporae), Luoshiteng (Caulis Trachelospermi), Rendongteng (Caulis Lonicerae), Jixueteng (Caulis Spatholobi), Qingfengteng (Caulis Sinomenii), Haifengteng (Caulis Piperis Kadsurae) et al.

Treating disease according to syndrome differentiation is the most important in Chinese medicine. Different case might have different symptoms, the prescription must be modified on each case and each treatment.

Except herbal medicine, acupuncture is a very effective therapy in the arthritis treatment. The acupoints selection can be local points around the affected joints or the distance points target on expel the wind cold and dampness. A systematic review included 13 RCTs,showed electroacupuncture and manual acupuncture all showed positive treatment effect on knee osteoarthritis[1]. The other RCT report showed acupuncture for peripheral joint osteoarthritis suggest statistically significant and clinically relevant benefits [2]. 

Because RA is mainly due to wind cold and dampness, patients should pay more attention on prevention and nursing. Try to keep your joint warm in cold weather and avoid overstrain of your joint is very necessary.

  1. Vas J.Evidence from RCTs on optimal acupuncture treatment for knee osteoarthritis--an exploratory review.  2007 Jun;25(1-2):29-35.
  2.  Manheimer E. Acupuncture for peripheral joint osteoarthritis. 2010 Jan 20;(1):CD001977.


  1. I am really a big fan of chinese medicine and I have been self studying about it. This article is very helpful. It gives total insight to the viewers when it comes to RA. It gives comparison and guide on how to deal with RA.

    Chinese herbs can be helpful on RA. But it should be taken religiously, with a proper timing and of course it should have a good feedback. Chinese herbs is good when it is taken wisely.

    Recent studies had indicated that barley, wheat grass, marine phytoplankton , omega 3 had a good impact to people with RA.

    Personally, taking this all will confuse the patient on what to buy or what to prioritize.

    As for my brother who has a RA, Midori Greens had been a good help to him. It had all the components that will be beneficial in relieving his infection and flare associated with RA.

    Once again this content is very usable for everyone not just the person with RA.

    All the best,
    PS - Here's a $5 off coupon for Midori Greens at iHerb dot com : Ahi214

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