We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our site. Cookies are files stored in your browser and are used by most websites to help personalise your web experience.

By continuing to use our website without changing the settings, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more
You are here:
> > > > Margaret's story – rheumatoid arthritis and complementary medicine

Margaret's story – rheumatoid arthritis and complementary medicine

Pills with a bottleMargaret Fisken, from Aberdeen, was 40 when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. For five years she tried a large number of complementary medicines to try and relieve her increasingly deteriorating condition, spending around £200 in the process.

'The rheumatoid arthritis started in my feet and spread through my body within a few months,' explains Margaret. 'At that time I wasn’t given any strong medication, and the disease took hold – the joints became quite deformed.'

One of the first complementary medicines she tried was cider vinegar. 'Someone said to me: "I hear such and such works so you should try it,"' says Margaret. 'However, I didn’t find that anything worked at all.'

Over the years Margaret tried the following products – without success:

  • Blackcurrant seed oil 
  • Capsaicin gel 
  • Chondroitin
  • Devil's claw
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Feverfew
  • Fish oil
  • Ginger
  • Rosehip
  • Glucosamine
  • Homeopathy
  • Selenium
  •  Vitamins
  • Aloe vera
  • Cider vinegar
  • Echinacea
  • Garlic
  • Zinc
  •  Copper

She found conventional drugs the most helpful, in particular methotrexate. 'When the methotrexate kicked in, I didn’t feel I needed anything else so gave up trying the complementary medicines,' she says. 'Standard drugs are the only medicine that has worked for me.'

'I was diagnosed in 1992 and between then and 1998 I was trying everything. I was virtually chair bound, and movement was so painful. On occasion, if going out I had to go around in a wheelchair and I couldn’t move without assistance. I was also in severe pain.

'Methotrexate revolutionised my life. Within a few months of starting the medication I improved fairly dramatically, and it gives me a reasonable quality of life with just the odd blip.'

Margaret was a member of the expert panel convened by Arthritis Research UK to assess products for the complementary medicines report.

She says she thinks Arthritis Research UK’s report is long overdue and much needed, and is happy to have been involved. 'There are many people looking to spend large amounts of money on all this stuff and people trying to sell it are hugely hyping it up, and yet until now no-one has been able to say with any authority if it works or not,' she adds.


0800 5200 520

Our new helpline: Call us for free information, help and advice on your type of arthritis. Open Mon–Fri 9am–8pm.

All calls are recorded for training and quality purposes

Virtual Assistant

Our new Arthritis Virtual Assistant uses artificial intelligence to answer your arthritis related questions 24/7.

Ask a question
For more information, go to
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.