The popularity of natural treatments for joint problems is rising. One of these is homeopathy – some people swear by it while others think it’s nonsense. So, we’ll review what research has to say about homeopathic medicine for arthritis in the knees.
It turns out some common homeopathic remedies – like arnica, Rhus Tox, or honey bee venom – show promising results for knee pain. Although others hardly work for joint problems (or other health conditions, for that matter).
But don’t worry, we’ll discuss that below. You’ll be able to decide whether to give homeopathy a shot or not. Here are the topics covered, click on any of these bullets to go to its section:
- Can it help knee pain?
- 5 common homeopathic remedies
- Side effects
- Evidence-based treatments for knee pain
Can homeopathy provide knee pain relief?
Homeopathy is a system of complementary medicine. Practitioners – homeopaths – believe that natural substances cause certain ailments if taken in large amounts. But, taking them in minimal quantities does the opposite – healing that same illness.
Now, current research shows most homeopathic remedies aren’t better than a placebo – at least for most health conditions. (1)
But, certain herbal remedies commonly used in homeopathy – like arnica or Rhus Toxicodendron – may help some people with knee osteoarthritis. (2, 3)
5 Homeopathic medicines commonly used in knee arthritis
Arnica Montana is one of the most popular homeopathic remedies, particularly for painful joints. Its topical application may have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that could help in (4):
- Rheumatic pain – like that from rheumatoid arthritis.
- Management of mild knee pain and bruises.
However, research shows mixed results at best (4, 5):
- One study reported that arnica cream may be comparable to topical ibuprofen, at least for people with hand osteoarthritis.
- Another one showed arnica didn’t improve joint pain for people recovering from knee surgery.
With that said, it’s still worth a try – it’s safer than most drugs, with side effects usually related to itchiness or minor rashes. (4)
2) Rhus Toxicodendron
Also known as poison ivy, Rhus Toxicodendron is a flowering plant native to Asia and eastern North America. The plant itself is toxic but its extracts can have medicinal properties, according to research done on animals. (6)
However, this depends on the form. A study with knee osteoarthritis patients concluded that oral Rhus Tox was significantly inferior for knee pain, compared to fenoprofen.
But topical applications may help joint pains. One trial reported that a gel containing Rhus Tox, arnica, and other homeopathic compounds could reduce pain as an NSAID cream. (2)
Although research is few and far between, the topical effects of Rhus Tox are promising. NSAIDs often carry severe side effects with prolonged use, so turning to natural alternatives may be better for the long term.
Related: What to take for knee osteoarthritis?
Turmeric is a common spice derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, a member of the ginger family.
It contains curcumin, a bioactive compound that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These in turn can help knee pain in rheumatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other chronic diseases. (7, 8)
Learn more: All about turmeric for knee pain.
4) Bryonia alba
Bryonia alba is a poisonous, perennial flowering vine. When extracted for homeopathy purposes, it loses its toxic properties. (9)
It’s popular in folk medicine for treating muscle and arthritis pain, with homeopaths commonly prescribing it for bursitis-related knee problems. (3)
5) Honey bee venom
This homeopathic remedy has long been used to manage arthritic pain. This is due to its supposed anti-inflammatory properties. (10)
Some studies show it could reduce muscle pain when used topically. Dermal injections may have an effect on severe pain caused by knee osteoarthritis as well. (11)
Related: What about tea tree oil for knee pain?
Side effects of homeopathic treatments
Homeopathic treatments are considered safe for most people. Side effects may be seen with topical applications, but are usually mild allergic reactions like rashes. If taken through the mouth, there’s a minor risk of stomach upset. (12)
However, there’s a concept in homeopathy called “homeopathic aggravation.” Practitioners believe this is a temporary worsening of the symptoms, before an expected improvement. (12)
With that said, the best way to prevent side effects from this therapy is by seeking homeopathic treatment from a trained practitioner.
Evidence-based ways to treat knee joint pain
Many treatments help knee pain, but some have more research backing them up than others. These include:
- Lifestyle changes – losing weight, sleeping better, exercising often.
- Doing physical therapy.
- Wearing a knee brace.
- Doing home remedies for knee pain, like heat/cold therapy or stretches.
- Taking specific medications, depending on your knee problem.
- Taking dietary supplements for knee pain, such as glucosamine, turmeric, or CBD.
What homeopathy treatments may help knee pain?
The homeopathy treatments that may help knee pain include arnica, Rhus Tox, and turmeric.
Conclusion: Knee arthritis and homeopathy medicine
Some types of homeopathic remedies may help with severe pains and swollen joints. But there’s still a lack of research supporting its use. However, it’s generally safe so it’s definitely worth a try.
- Cukaci, Cemre et al. “Against all odds-the persistent popularity of homeopathy.” Wiener klinische Wochenschrift vol. 132,9-10 (2020): 232-242. doi:10.1007/s00508-020-01624-x
- Van Haselen, R A, and P A Fisher. “A randomized controlled trial comparing topical piroxicam gel with a homeopathic gel in osteoarthritis of the knee.” Rheumatology (Oxford, England) vol. 39,7 (2000): 714-9.
- Lennihan, Burke. “Homeopathy for Pain Management.” Alternative and Complementary Therapies, vol. 23, no. 5, 2017, pp. 176–83.
- Smith, Amanda G et al. “Clinical Trials, Potential Mechanisms, and Adverse Effects of Arnica as an Adjunct Medication for Pain Management.” Medicines (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 8,10 58. 9 Oct. 2021, doi:10.3390/medicines8100058
- Widrig, Reto et al. “Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study.” Rheumatology international vol. 27,6 (2007): 585-91. doi:10.1007/s00296-007-0304-y
- Patel, Dhanraj Ramanlal et al. “Toxicodendron pubescens retains its anti-arthritic efficacy at 1M, 10M and CM homeopathic dilutions.” Homeopathy: the journal of the Faculty of Homeopathy vol. 101,3 (2012): 165-70.
- Daily, James W et al. “Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials.”Journal of medicinal food vol. 19,8 (2016): 717-29.
- Paultre, Kristopher et al. “Therapeutic effects of turmeric or curcumin extract on pain and function for individuals with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review.” BMJ open sport & exercise medicine vol. 7,1 e000935. 13 Jan. 2021, doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000935
- Kujawska, Monika, and Ingvar Svanberg. “From medicinal plant to noxious weed: Bryonia alba L. (Cucurbitaceae) in northern and eastern Europe.” Journal of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine vol. 15,1 22. 9 May. 2019, doi:10.1186/s13002-019-0303-6
- Bigagli, Elisabetta et al. “Exploring the effects of homeopathic Apis mellifica preparations on human gene expression profiles.” Homeopathy : the journal of the Faculty of Homeopathy vol. 103,2 (2014): 127-32. doi:10.1016/j.homp.2014.01.003
- Jang, Soobin, and Kyeong Han Kim. “Clinical Effectiveness and Adverse Events of Bee Venom Therapy: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Toxins vol. 12,9 558. 29 Aug. 2020, doi:10.3390/toxins12090558
- Stub, Trine et al. “Adverse effects of homeopathy, what do we know? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Complementary therapies in medicine vol. 26 (2016): 146-63. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2016.03.013