Scientists have given sufferers of crippling rheumatoid arthritis a boost after finding a herbal medicine made from rose hips may provide an effective alternative treatment.
They found severely affected patients already being treated with conventional drugs experience significant improvement after taking capsules of rose hip powder for six months.
Experts now want to conduct more trials which could form the basis of new clinical guidelines.
The pilot study claims the rose hip remedy, called LitoZin, may help reduce NHS spending on expensive new rheumatoid arthritis drugs.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a debilitating autoimmune disease that affects around 400,000 people in the UK, 4,000 of them seriously.
However newer medicines, including TNF Alpha inhibitors and the latest "smart" drugs that target different parts of the immune system, are now becoming available, but are so costly it is questionable how many patients will receive them.
Treating just one patient with anti-TNF drugs, which act on a particular molecule, costs up to £10,000 a year.
LitoZin is already widely used by patients with osteoarthritis and the new research was prompted by RA sufferers who claim the product has given them some relief.
Professor Stefan Willich, from the Charite University Medical Centre in Berlin, who co-led the study, said: "I think we were all surprised to see such meaningful results.
"Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most difficult medical conditions I'm aware of. It's a tough disease, which makes it all the more remarkable to find such beneficial effects from this natural remedy."