Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of physical disability among adults. By the year 2030, an estimated 20% of North Americans will be over 65 and at risk for the condition. Fortunately, there is a growing acceptance in the health care community and the general public that natural therapies for arthritis pain and stiffness are available and are effective. Along with dietary and lifestyle changes, here are a few of the most popular and proven.
GLUCOSAMINE: By far the most well known and well researched natural arthritis remedy, glucosamine gets right to the heart of the matter by actually restoring damaged cartilage. It is a building block needed to manufacture healthy cartilage that can properly cushion the joints and prevent wear and tear. A recent major review of over 16 randomized, controlled clinical trials on glucosamine concluded that the trials “provided evidence that glucosamine is both effective and safe” in treating osteoarthritis.
In October of 2002, yet another clinical trial reported excellent results. Over 3 years, 200 patients with knee osteoarthritis took 1,500 mg of glucosamine per day, or a placebo pill. The researchers found that those in the glucosamine group had significantly less disease progression than those in the placebo group. The glusosamine patients also reported up to 25% fewer symptoms, while the placebo group reported only moderate change. The researchers conclude that “long-term treatment with glucosamine sulfate retarded the progression of knee osteoarthritis.”
BOSWELLIA: This gum resin is a relative of frankincense and has been shown to relieve pain and inflammation in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies indicate that boswellia blocks leukotrienes, substances in the body that promote inflammation. According to researchers, boswellia is “as effective in treating pain and inflammation as one the most frequently prescribed NSAIDs,” but without the unwanted side effects of such drugs. As a powerful, natural anti-inflammatory, boswellia has also been found to improve asthma, bronchitis and colitis.
DEVIL’S CLAW: One of the original natural arthritis remedies, devil’s claw has also been the subject of recent research. In a trial of 122 patients with arthritis of the hip and/or knee, devil’s claw was compared to a popular arthritis drug used in Europe. After assessing pain levels, joint function and mobility over 4 months, researchers concluded that devil’s claw was as effective as the drug in treating the disease. Like boswellia, devil’s claw has anti-inflammatory properties that help ease joint and muscle pain.
As with any dietary supplement, seek advice before combining with existing medications or if you have other medical conditions.
Sources: Arch Intern Med, Oct 14, 2002, Coch Lib, Issue 4, 2002; Earl Mindell’s Supplement Bible by E Mindell, Fireside:1998; Joint Bone Spine 2000;67(5):462-7