What is rosehip?

Rosehip is a herbal medication with anti-inflammatory properties. It’s available over the counter in capsule form. Evidence suggests that rosehip may be effective in relieving some symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

  • Family: Herbal medicine of the Rosaceae family
  • Scientific name: Rosa canina
  • Other names: Rose heps, rosehip drink, LitoZin, Hyben Vital, Burr rose, camellia rose, Cherokee rose, chestnut rose, cabbage rose, Cili, coumaric acid, dog rose, French rose, gooseberry rose, hansa, hedge-pedgies, heps, hip berry, Japanese rose, Virginia rose

Rosa canina is a species of wild rose native to some regions in Europe, Africa and Asia. Rosehip is made from the fruits that usually develop after the bloom has died. You can buy if from high-street shops.

How does it work?

Rosehip extract contains polyphenols and anthocyanins, which are believed to ease joint inflammation and prevent joint damage. It’s also rich in vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that can override harmful molecules (free radicals) which are produced within your cells and which may cause tissue damage or disease. Other studies have found that it can reduce the production of specific enzymes that break down cartilage.

Is it safe?

Side-effects are usually mild but include:

  • allergic reactions
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea
  • heartburn.

Interactions with other medications and dosage haven’t been well studied, although trials have used 5 g of rosehip a day.

Trials for rheumatoid arthritis

In this trial, 89 participants with rheumatoid arthritis were randomly assigned 5 g of rosehip powder or placebo powder once a day for six months.

  • Those who received rosehip reported greater improvements in disease activity, quality of life, physical function and physical global assessment than the placebo group.
  • There were more dropouts and side-effects in the placebo group.
  • One person in the rosehip group developed vasculitis, but it was unclear whether this was related to the treatment as they were also on several other medications.

Trials for osteoarthritis

Systematic reviews

Two systematic reviews identified two RCTs that examined the clinical effectiveness of rosehip in osteoarthritis:

  • In the first trial in the reviews, 100 people with hip and/or knee osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to receive either LitoZin tablets (5 g rosehip) or a placebo once a day for four months.
  • The second trial involved 112 people with osteoarthritis in multiple sites. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either Hyben Vital tablets (5 g rosehip) or a placebo once a day for three months.

Results

  • In the first trial, rosehip significantly improved hip flexion when compared with the placebo, but it didn’t significantly improve the range of rotation of the hip and the degree of flexion of the knee.
  • Significantly more participants in the active treatment group reported a reduction in pain compared with the placebo group.
  • Of those given rosehip in the second trial, 66% reported a significant reduction in pain, compared to 36% of participants who received the placebo.
  • The rosehip group also had a reduction in some disease-related symptoms (like morning stiffness) and a significant decline in painkiller use.
  • In both trials, the active treatment was well tolerated with only minor gastrointestinal side-effects.

Trial 1

The treatment outcome of LitoZin (5 g rosehip) was compared with a placebo in 94 people with osteoarthritis.

  • After three weeks of treatments, rosehip resulted in a significant reduction in pain scores and painkiller use compared to the placebo, but it didn’t significantly reduce stiffness and disability or improve the overall disease severity.
  • After 15 weeks, participants who were given rosehip had a significant reduction in pain, stiffness, disability and painkiller use as well as significant improvement in overall disease severity compared to participants on the placebo.