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Research seeds: Rosehips

In this article, we discuss the “Rose hip herbal remedy in patients with rheumatoid arthritis – a randomised controlled trial.

rosehips foraging basket

Plant name and species

Rosehips (Rosa canina)

Aim of study

The aim of this study was to investigate the standardised powder made from rosehips to see if it can reduce symptom scores in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Study method

Herbal preparation: 5g of standardised rosehip powder was administered daily in capsules.

Sample size: A total of 89 patients were given rosehip powder, 90% of which were women.

This trial was double-blinded, and placebo controlled. Patients were given rosehip powder or placebo daily for 6 months, in two outpatient clinics in Berlin and Copenhagen.

Results were measured after 6 months using an array of tests and questionnaires. These included the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), as well as the Disease Activity Score in 28 (DAS-28) which allows one to record swollen and tender joints. Other measurements included the physician’s global evaluation of disease activity, a rheumatoid arthritis (RA)-specific quality of life (QoL) instrument (RAQoL), and the SF-12  which is a health-related quality of life questionnaire which assesses physical and mental health. Finally the use of concomitant pain education was also assessed.

Results of study

HAQ scores improved in the rosehip group, and interesting results also showed that over time HAQ scores actually worsened over time in the placebo group which shows that rosehip could have helped prevent the deleterious progression of the condition. There was moderate clinical improvement in the DAS-28 score which refers to the 28 joints that are checked with this assessment. The Physicians Global Scale demonstrated more improvement in the rosehip group compared to the placebo group, as well as the RAQoL and SF-12 scores when measuring for physical health. The mental health scores remained unchanged. The intake of painkillers did not vary between the groups.


This study is particularly interesting as it shows how many different ways the efficacy of a medicine can be measured. Whilst some parameters improved, others did not. However overall rosehips were shown to be safe and did not cause any side effects. It is thought that some of the alleviation of symptoms may be because rosehips have high antioxidant activity, which can ultimately help prevent the degradation of joints as reactive oxygen species have been elucidated as part of the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.

The positive effects of rosehips were slow to start but were sustained over time. This with its good safety profile can make it a positive complementary medicine for treating arthritis. The sample sizes were relatively small and so more studies need to be conducted to confirm rosehips efficacy for a wider population. Future studies could also try using different extracts of rosehips and different doses.


This study indicates that rosehips may be a useful treatment for rheumatoid arthritis particularly when used with other medicines. It is safe and was shown to improve various clinical symptoms for many.

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