22.06.2014 Eastern Healing

Alternative Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Olivier LeJus discovers the healing power of an ancient home remedy for inflammatory conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis

This month I would like write about Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease affecting nearly half a million Australians. I will describe a very cheap and simple ancient form of treatment, which, after all these years, can still be remarkably efficient at resolving pain and reducing inflammation in the joints of the sufferers.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory condition which affects the synovial lining of the joints of the body, especially the fingers, feet, wrists, ankles or elbows. In some cases, it gradually spreads to the hips, knees, shoulders and neck. The affected joints become very painful and swollen on both sides of the body.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) belongs to the category of autoimmune diseases, which are caused by the inflammation and destruction of tissues by the body's own antibodies. Even today, it is still not clear what causes the body to begin attacking itself in such a manner in certain individuals, but not in others. Sometimes the condition can resolve itself spontaneously, but in most cases it follows a progressive degenerative pattern of remission and relapse for several years before finally burning out leaving the joints severely deformed.

Since no cure has yet been found, the conventional treatment options available to the sufferer are analgesic medications or cortisone injections. Unfortunately, these medications are not only expensive to buy but also potentially dangerous to the body. The side effects include stomach ulcers and bleeding, as well as hormonal disturbances. This explains why many patients are now turning their attention to alternative forms of treatments, which are less damaging to the body.

In my clinic, I have found Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine to be effective in both alleviating pain and reducing swelling. Also many studies have shown the benefits of regular gentle exercise like Tai Qi or Qi Gong, both of which stimulate the circulation of energy and blood to the affected areas. Another traditional form of treatment which is often neglected is the traditional remedy of applying "poultices".

Poultices have a very similar action to compresses. In the old days, they were a favorite household remedy, often involving the use of bread, onions, or mustard as a carrying mixture for herbal infusions or oil. Like compresses, hot poultices can be used for relieving swellings, sprains, or even to draw pus or splinters. Cold poultices with comfrey are often applied to reduce varicose ulcers.

I must admit that I have found poultices to be both smelly and uncomfortable in the past, until I recently discovered, in an old book, a recipe I really like, and I would like to share it with you today.

The "potato compress" is a very simple folk remedy, which has been used in Japan to treat inflammation for many decades. The potato compress can absorb heat more quickly than an antibiotic to reduce inflammation very quickly. The book mentions that it can be used to treat a wide range of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, as well as respiratory conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis, cough and emphysema. It can also be used to reduce toothaches and headaches. Apparently, almost all types of cough can be treated by using the compress for two consecutive days. For headaches due to sinusitis, both inflammation and the headache itself can be treated by applying a potato compress to the forehead.

Here's the recipe!


one potato, a piece of ginger, a grater, a couple of cotton cloths or tea towels.

Step 1.

Grate an unpeeled potato, and wring the contents with a piece of cloth to remove the potato juice. Add an equal amount of flour to the potato. Mix together and knead thoroughly.

Step 2.

Grate an amount of ginger equivalent to one tenth of the previous two ingredients. Mix all the ingredients together and knead well to make a paste with the consistency of softness of an earlobe.

Step 3.

Apply baby oil to the affected area. Spread the ingredients onto the skin to make a paste roughly the thickness of a pencil. Cover with a piece of cloth, and secure with an elastic bandage.

Leave the compress for five to six hours. It should be applied only once daily, either during the day, or during the night while you sleep, which is the option I prefer. I personally recommend applying baby oil to the skin first to avoid itchiness, and stop the compress sticking to the body. But if your skin becomes irritated, I advise you to remove the compress and massage the area. To avoid staining clothing or bed sheets, one can also cover the compress with a piece of plastic after application.

If you suffer from any inflammatory condition, I strongly recommend that to you try it. Being very cheap to prepare, you have very little to lose, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

In my case, a cycling knee injury was completely resolved after applying my "potato medicine" for three consecutive nights, leaving me ready to face, once again, the challenging environment of Sydney traffic with a smile.

Olivier Lejus MHSc.BHSc. is a registered acupuncturist practising in Sydney.

Olivier Lejus

Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com