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Can rose hip help with joint pain?

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Rose hip has been used for centuries in herbal medicine, and studies show it can be beneficial in the treatment of joint pain.

🕒 4 min read

Rose hips are the colourful fruits of the wild rose, which provide a nutritious feast for fruit-eating birds, deer, rabbits, squirrels and other foragers.

Also known as the dog rose, Rosa canina, it mostly grows in Europe and parts of Africa and Asia.

This popular name may have come from the ancient Greeks; Hippocrates, the so-called father of modern medicine, believed its roots could cure the bite of a rabid dog.

Another, perhaps more likely, explanation is that the species was formerly known as the 'dag rose' from the Italian word for dagger, due to its sharp thorns.

Rose hips were used by herbalists to treat kidney stones, digestive ailments, high blood pressure and respiratory infections such as bronchitis, coughs and colds.

In particular, rose hip syrup was a popular tonic, and it's likely that its beneficial effects resulted from its high content of antioxidants and vitamin C – 100g of rose hip powder contains at least 500mg of vitamin C.

However, no studies have yet investigated the traditional belief that rose hip syrup can help keep colds at bay.

As a food, rose hips were used in ancient Rome to flavour sweets and, during the Second World War, were used to supplement the diet in the form of jam, jellies, soups and stews.

You can also make a medicinal tea by simmering a tablespoon of cut rose hips in 300ml water for 10 minutes, then drinking.

How rose hip reduces joint pain

Scientists have found that rose hips contain at least 129 active compounds, including flavonoids, tannins, anthocyanins, phenols, fatty acids and organic acids.

The combined actions of these substances help to suppress inflammation and have beneficial effects against obesity and diseases of the liver, kidney and heart.

When it comes to reducing joint aches and pains, rose hips have an aspirin-like ability to inhibit a group of enzymes (COX-1 and COX-2) that are involved in the generation of pain and inflammation.

A galactolipid isolated from rose hips has also been shown to inhibit the activity of inflammatory white blood cells, and to lower levels of inflammatory markers in the circulation.

In addition, rose hips contain folic acid, antioxidant flavonoids and carotenoids such as lycopene. These powerful antioxidants also help to suppress inflammation, pain and stiffness.

Older couple out running 

Rose hip has been shown to inhibit a group of enzymes that are involved in generating joint pain and inflammation.

Rose hip for osteoarthritis

Several studies have investigated the effects of taking rose hip powder, versus placebo, in people with osteoarthritis.

A review of two of these studies found that those taking rose hip powder enjoyed significantly improved hip flexion, compared with placebo, though no significant changes were seen in flexion of the knees.

Additionally, in research where 287 people took either rose hip powder or a placebo for an average of three months, the pain scores in those taking the powder improved significantly.

A 2006 Danish study involving 94 adults with arthritis in their hips or knees found that more than 80 per cent of people taking rose hip extracts reported noticeable benefits after three weeks, with reductions in pain and stiffness.

They also needed significantly less medication (such as painkillers) than when taking placebo.

Finally, in 2013, a study involving 30 people with rheumatoid arthritis pain in the hands found that, after three months, there was a 90 per cent reduction in pain compared to a 36 per cent reduction when taking placebo.

The level of pain relief provided by rose hip extract appears to be equivalent to that achieved with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as paracetamol and aspirin, but with fewer side effects.

As a result, half of patients in studies report that they have reduced their use of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs when taking rose hip supplements. Some also report improved energy levels, quality of life and general wellbeing as a result of reduced joint problems.

Coming up roses

Unlike non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen), rose hip extract does not thin the blood, cause stomach irritation or peptic ulcers, or affect blood clotting mechanisms.

As a low-risk natural ingredient, rose hip can form a useful part of a wider pain-relief package.

Extracts provide the perfect addition to other ways of managing arthritic pain, such as taking long soothing showers and baths, regular exercise, keeping your weight down and getting enough vitamin D and calcium.

Rose hip extracts can also be used together with other joint-friendly supplements, such as glucosamine, chondroitin and fish oil.

Nobody wants to be in discomfort, put up with sore joints, or have difficulty moving about freely. Fortunately, rose hip has proven to be one more weapon in the fight to reduce and manage arthritic pain.

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