What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Are you struggling with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms?

Have you been told your only option is to take medications riddled with unwanted side effects in order to manage the disease?

Are you wondering if there are other answers out there? 

When I was diagnosed with Still’s Disease (which is very similar to rheumatoid arthritis), western medicine doctors told me there was no hope and that I would be on steroids and pain killers for the rest of my life. 

I turned to herbs and other natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in desperation. What I found out astonished me. 

While western medicine is absolutely astounding in some aspects (emergency care, surgery methods, etc), they have virtually no answer to chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. While doctors are prescribing dangerous medicines with the only goal of suppressing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, herbalists and other natural health practitioners are seeing their patients fully recover from RA, without the use of dangerous medications. 

Discovering this in my early 20’s was a total paradigm shift for me. Up until then I had held western medicine in fairly high esteem. It absolutely boggled my mind that alternative “quacks” actually had more answers and more success for these types of potentially crippling diseases.

However, using natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis symptoms is more complex than simply using this pill for that disease. The success of my health programs lies in personalized recommendations that actually get to the root cause of the problems. 

In part 1 of this two-part series I am going to look at what is rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, a couple of causes of rheumatoid arthritis, and some of the problems associated with commonly prescribed rheumatoid arthritis medications. 

In part 2 I will look at natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis diet, rheumatoid arthritis supplements and herbs for rheumatoid arthritis.  

This article is not meant to be a DIY article on how to treat rheumatoid arthritis. RA is a complex disease and there isn’t a simple silver bullet that is going to solve all your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. 

Instead, this article is meant to show you the many general considerations in working with someone who has rheumatoid arthritis, from food to herbs and supplements.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA for short) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that can cause debilitating pain in the joints.

In this disease, the immune system attacks the synovium of joints. This attack results in a fluid build-up in the joints that causes pain. Severe and progressed attacks can result in joint deformation. 

Approximately 1.3 million people in the US have rheumatoid arthritis. It can effect people of all ages and both sexes, although women are three times more likely to get it than men. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

The main rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are debilitating arthritic pain that effects joints bilaterally. That means that both wrists or both knees will be effected at the same time. 

If left untreated RA can cause severe joint malformations and can even cause organ damage. 

One of the main rheumatoid arthritis symptoms is “flares”. This refers to the intermittent attacks of the arthritic pain. People with RA may go long (or short) periods of time without pain, only to have it reoccur suddenly. 

During a rheumatoid arthritis flare a person may also experience fatigue, a low grade fever, muscle stiffness and loss of energy. 

Cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis

When treating rheumatoid arthritis, western medicine is most concerned with suppressing the rheumatoid arthritis symptoms so the person can have less pain and go about their life. Anyone with RA will agree that less pain is incredibly important. 

However, what western medicine fails to ask (or to address) is what is the cause of rheumatoid arthritis? 

What is the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is the most important question to me. My goal is to get to the root of the problem so that you can truly overcome the disease, not simply manage the symptoms.  

From my perspective as an herbalist there are numerous causes for RA. A person could have one or, more commonly, many branches of the disease that need to be addressed. Here are two issues that are very common for people with RA. 

Intestinal permeability - Poor digestive health resulting in a “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability is often thought by alternative health practitioners to be a common factor in many autoimmune diseases. I don’t ask my clients to get an intestinal biopsy to confirm the state of their intestines. Instead, I evaluate their digestive health and take the appropriate personalized steps to help correct any problems. This may include changing their diet, loading doses of probiotics, and digestive herbal teas to help heal the intestines. 

Imbalanced Immune System -Undoubtedly someone with an autoimmune disease like RA has problems with their immune system. Again, it’s important to know what is going on with the individual rather than give one-size-fits-all approaches. Lifestyle changes, including stress reduction, immunomodulating herbs and careful supplementation of nutrients (like vitamin D3) might be used to help balance a person’s immune system response. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications

Western medicine often uses the following drugs to suppress RA symptoms (while doing nothing to actually address the cause or heal the person of this disease). 

Pain Killers

NSAIDs are commonly prescribed to address the severe pain. While often considered safe, these over-the-counter medicines are responsible for killing thousands of people a year. They wreak havoc on the digestive system, often exacerbating the digestive problems responsible for the RA in the first place. They can also cause kidney and liver toxicity and failure.


These steroids, like prednisone, are frequently given to quell inflammation. They also have many unwanted side effects (adrenal fatigue, weight gain, acne, hypertension) and, while they can initially suppress many of the symptoms, they have reduced effects over time. 

Immunosuppressive Drugs

Various immunosupressive drugs are given to patients with severe or progressed rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. These drugs can sometimes slow the damage of the disease and prevent further joint degradation. However, these drugs also wreak havoc on the immune system, which is already stressed. Like the other drugs in this section they only suppress symptoms while never fully resolving the underlying issues.  


Rheumatoid arthritis is a complex inflammatory disease with autoimmune components. While western medicine diagnoses and prescribes medications for rheumatoid arthritis, their rheumatoid arthritis treatment seldom provides any long lasting cure. 

In Part 2 of this series I’ll look at various natural rheumatoid arthritis treatment, including foods, herbs and supplements. 

Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Healand co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.  

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