Many natural products have purported anti-inflammatory properties, and some have a long history of use for treating inflammation and the pain that is associated with musculoskeletal inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and tendinitis. Although there is some limited evidence that a few natural products may provide modest benefits, in general, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of many of these natural products for inflammatory conditions. This issue of the digest provides a current summary of the evidence of several natural products marketed for improving these conditions.
Modality and Summary of Current Evidence
Preliminary findings from laboratory research suggest that curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, may have anti-inflammatory properties, but in spite of its long history of use for inflammatory disorders, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of turmeric supplementation for these disorders.
There is some evidence that bromelain may be useful as adjunctive therapy to help improve acute nasal and sinus inflammation, but there is insufficient evidence as to whether bromelain has any beneficial effects on other inflammatory conditions.
In spite of its long history of use, only a few small clinical trials have been conducted that support the use of willow bark extracts in chronic low-back pain and osteoarthritis.
There is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may provide a modest benefit for symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
There is some limited evidence that devil’s claw may provide modest improvements in low-back pain over the short term. There is some moderate evidence that devil’s claw is beneficial for osteoarthritis of the spine, hip, and knee.
Based on available evidence, it is unclear whether supplementation of ginger is beneficial in treating rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or joint and muscle pain.
There is some evidence that thunder god vine may reduce some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis; however, thunder god vine may be associated with some serious adverse side effects.