By Maureen Williams, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (January 5, 2006)—An herbal supplement made from the seeds and shells of rose hips (Rosa canina) can overall severity of symptoms in people with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee and hip, according to a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology (2005;34:302–8).
OA, a degenerative disease common in older people, is characterized by progressive loss of cartilage in the joints and symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Typically, treatment includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and oral and topical pain relievers, which provide symptom relief but do not change the continued cartilage loss and increasing disability. Furthermore, long-term NSAID use is known to cause gastritis and peptic ulcer disease, and some of the newer anti-inflammatory medicines have recently been found to have dangerous effects on the heart. Glucosamine sulfate has been shown to slow cartilage loss and to promote new cartilage formation in arthritic joints, and its use in the arthritis management has become more widespread in recent years. Some herbal medicines have also been show to help arthritis, such as. ginger, turmeric, and boswellia, which reduce inflammation.
Rose hips are the bright red fruit of a wild rose bush, known for their high vitamin C and bioflavonoid content. Popularly used to prevent and treat colds and asthma, a recent study found that an extract from the seeds and shells of rose hips has anti-inflammatory properties.
In the current study, 80 people over 35 years old with OA of the knee or hip were required to stop using glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate (another compound found in cartilage that is used as a supplement to stimulate cartilage repair), and any type of steroid medications at least six weeks before entering the study. They were randomly assigned to receive either an extract of rose hips, 2.5 grams twice per day, or a placebo for the first three months of the study. Treatment was stopped for 14 days, after which the assignments were reversed for a second three-month period. Questionnaires were used to evaluate pain, stiffness, disability, and overall disease severity at the beginning, after three weeks, and at the end of each treatment period. Participants kept a record of their NSAID and pain reliever use throughout the study.
Although medication use was similar at the beginning of the study, acetaminophen use, the medication most commonly used by the participants, was 51% lower after three months of treatment with rose hips than after the placebo. After three months, rose hips treatment also resulted in significantly less stiffness, disability, and overall disease severity, compared with placebo. Pain levels were lower after three weeks in those using rose hips than in those receiving placebo; however, after three months the difference in pain levels was no longer statistically significant.
The results of this study show that a powdered extract of the seeds and shells of rose hips can alleviate symptoms and reduce the need for pain-relieving medication in people with OA. These findings are consistent with those from a previous study in which the rose hips extract reduced pain and increased mobility in arthritic joints. More research is needed to identify the optimal amount of rose hips needed to achieve symptom relief and to learn about the long-term effects.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.