Rhus Toxicodendron

Written by Debra Stang
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on June 20, 2013

Rhus Toxicodendron

Rhus toxicodendron is a homeopathic remedy. It is also known as Rhus tox. and by its more common name, poison ivy. Other names include Toxicodendron pubescens and Toxicodendron radicans. Rhus toxicodendron is used for treating several conditions, including:

  • skin rashes
  • cramps
  • strains
  • sprains
  • restless leg syndrome
  • flu
  • viral infections
  • arthritis

This remedy has primarily been studied for its effectiveness as a treatment for arthritis pain. Research shows that its effectiveness against this kind of pain is questionable at best.

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What Is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a philosophy developed over 200 years ago in Germany. It features two key beliefs:

  1. Like cures like. Homeopathy suggests that you can cure someone by giving him or her a substance that reproduces the symptoms they are currently experiencing.
  2. Law of minimum dose. This means that the substance given to the person who is ill should be diluted as much as possible.

Homeopathic remedies purport to address health issues in a way that adheres to these beliefs. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 3.9 million adults and 910,000 children used homeopathic remedies in 2006 (NCCAM, 2012).

What Does Rhus Toxicodendron Address?

Rhus toxicodendron is most commonly used for the alleviation of arthritis symptoms. 

It can be given to people with arthritis of any age, adult, or child. Proponents say that it’s most effective when used during arthritis flare-ups that do not respond well to the application of cold packs.

How Is Rhus Toxicodendron Administered?

Rhus toxicodendron is available in pill, capsule, liquid, ointment, and gel forms.

Consult your primary care physician and a homeopath before trying this treatment. Your primary care physician can warn you if there are any reasons why you should not take it. A homeopath can help you select the means of administration and the dilution that is right for you.

Rhus toxicodendron is available over the counter and requires no prescription. You will self-administer it by swallowing a pill or rubbing an ointment or gel into your sore joints.

What Are the Benefits of Rhus Toxicodendron?

The evidence is mixed regarding the effectiveness of Rhus toxicodendron as a treatment for arthritis. A recent study in the journal Homeopathy assessed a group of rats with arthritis who were given several dilutions of this substance. The researchers found that Rhus toxicodendron protected rats from inflammatory lesions, weight changes, and radiological joint changes due to arthritis and pain (Patil, 2011).

Rhus toxicodendron has not proven as useful in trials on humans. The NYU Langone Medical Center discusses two studies conducted on humans. The first pitted Rhus toxicodendron against the anti-inflammatory drug fenoprofen, a known effective treatment. Fenoprofen proved more effective at relieving arthritis pain while Rhus toxicodendron did no better than a placebo.

The other study they discuss compared a homeopathic gel containing Rhus toxicodendron to a gel made from another anti-inflammatory drug called piroxicam. The two treatments were equally effective. It should be noted, however, that piroxicam in gel form had never been studied as a treatment for arthritis pain. It is therefore possible that piroxicam gel and Rhus toxicodendron are equally ineffective (NYU Langone Medical Center, 2012).

What Are the Risks of Rhus Toxicodendron?

FDA does not evaluate over-the-counter homeopathic medications for safety. Therefore they do not offer an official list of side effects. There is anecdotal evidence of people who are highly sensitive to Rhus toxicodendron developing a rash and swelling of the lower extremities. These stories have not been corroborated or supported by the FDA.

What Can Be Expected After Taking Rhus Toxicodendron?

Every person will have a unique response to homeopathic medications. Practitioners are usually reluctant to set a specific timeframe for relief of symptoms.

The goal is for acute symptoms to resolve within a few days. Chronic symptoms like arthritis pain should ideally begin to show improvement quickly. Symptoms will continue to improve over the next three to four weeks if the treatment is effective.

Some people need to take the homeopathic remedy only once or twice. Others with chronic pain may need to take it on a continuing basis. 

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