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Arthritis: Can natural medicines help?

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

  • Find a balance between exercise and rest. Swimming is an excellent activity because it strengthens your muscles and joints without putting any strain on them.


  • Losing excess weight will reduce the pressure on your joints.


  • Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet and cut down on saturated fats.


  • A hot water bottle is useful when joints feel stiff and painful; try an ice pack if they are hot and irritated.
Natural medicines: are any effective?
As a pharmacist I am often asked what natural medicines are beneficial to those living with arthritis including the likes of Osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis and caused by wear and tear) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (the most debilitating form of arthritis caused by severe inflammation of the joints). For today’s talk, we don’t have the time for me to discuss all natural medicines but I will discuss a few of the most popular ones. There are thousands of natural and herbal pain relief products marketed in magazines, newspapers, the internet, health food shops etc. and most have little or no evidence and are gimmicks to help you part with your money (as when you are in constant pain you will try anything to try relieve it). My main advice, before try any alternative, natural or herbal product, check with a health professional like your pharmacist or GP first as they will advise you if there is any evidence of effectiveness and more importantly on any interactions with other medicines you are taking or potential side effects.


Omega 3 Fish oils
·         Fish oil is recommended for a healthy diet because it contains the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), precursors to eicosanoids that reduce inflammation throughout the body.
·         Because of their anti-inflammatory effect they tend to be more beneficial to those living with Rheumatoid arthritis rather than Osteoarthritis.
·         Omega 3 fatty acids are primarily found in oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines and pilchards. We should eat two portions of fish per week, one of them oily.
  • I am often asked which Omega 3 supplement is most effective for reducing inflammation and helping ease arthritis type pain and swelling.


  • One I find good results with is an Omega 3 product on the market called “Lyprinol®”.


  • It appears to demonstrate quite a powerful anti-inflammatory effect and comes with none of the fishy taste associated with traditional fish oils and side-effects commonly seen with steroids or prescription anti-inflammatory medication such as NSAIDs (eg) ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen


  • Lyprinol® comes from the New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel, which has long been recognised by the Maori people for its nutritional qualities. Lyprinol® is said to be 200 to 300 times more inflammatory action than other fish oils and flax seed. As a result, Lyprinol® has been shown in research to be beneficial for arthritis and joint pain.
Flexiseq®- a new drug free gel for Osteoarthritis
Is it worth trying?

Flexiseq®is new drug-free joint pain gel for osteoarthritis. Flexiseq® has got a lot of attention due to comments from the likes of Arthritis Ireland and experts.


Flexiseq® was researched and developed in Germany for the management of pain and joint stiffness in patients with osteoarthritis. Flexiseq® is a gel containing nanostructures called Sequessome™ vesicles, which are able to cross the skin and target sites of pain when rubbed in. Once inside the joint, Sequessome vesicles accumulate on the damaged cartilage forming a lubricating layer.


Research shows is benefits in relieving pain with comparable efficacy to celecoxib, a leading prescription drug used for treating osteoarthritis pain. Daily application in the morning and evening can potentially give improvement in joint pain in as little as two days.


Medical device…not a drug
Flexiseq® is registered as a medical device; thus Flexiseq® does not contain any pharmaceutically active ingredients meaning it doesn't contain any drugs that might interact with medication you may be taking for pain or any other ailment.


John Church, CEO of Arthritis Ireland said “We welcome any new innovative approach to making life easier for the 450,000 people living with osteoarthritis in Ireland.”


Professor Philip Conaghan, from the University of Leeds, and lead author of a major study published in the British medical journal calledRheumatology said: “Many living with chronic osteoarthritis pain can’t take or can’t tolerate current oral analgesics because of side effects.  Referring to his study involving Flexiseq he said “the new study is interesting because it suggests that a novel topical therapy, that doesn't include a topical anti-inflammatory drug, may help osteoarthritis pain”.


Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements have traditionally been used to provide pain relief for osteoarthritis pain. These chemicals are found naturally in cartilage and are thought to improve the condition of damaged cartilage in osteoarthritis. They may also slow down thinning of the cartilage. However, there is not enough evidence yet to prove that glucosamine and chondroitin help osteoarthritis. In fact, NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) who advice the NHS in the UK on what medicines are effective, cost effective safe etc., advise that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements should not be allowed on NHS prescriptions due to little evidence of their efficacy. The HSE has followed NICE’s advice and Glucosamine  was  taken off the GMS list in 2012 (meaning it was no longer covered by the medical card) with the HSE citing lack of evidence of effectiveness as the reason to no longer allow.


Lyprinol®and Flexiseq®, Glucosamine etc. are alternative therapies; they should not replace conventional treatments prescribed by your doctor. It can complement other arthritis treatments. Always consult your doctor. 
For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans, log on to or dial 04493 34591.




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