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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2, Issue 3, Pages 301-308

Biological Basis for the Use of Botanicals in Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Review

Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatic Diseases, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH-44106-4946, USA

Received 4 February 2005; Accepted 24 July 2005

Copyright © 2005 Salahuddin Ahmed et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee and hip is a debilitating disease affecting more women than men and the risk of developing OA increases precipitously with aging. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the most common form of inflammatory joint diseases, is a disease of unknown etiology and affects ∼1% of the population worldwide, and unlike OA, generally involves many joints because of the systemic nature of the disease. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the first drugs of choice for the symptomatic treatment of both OA and RA. Because of the risks associated with the use of NSAIDs and other limitations, the use of alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and medicinal herbs, is on the rise and according to reports ∼60–90% of dissatisfied arthritis patients are likely to seek the option of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This paper reviews the efficacy of some of the common herbs that have a history of human use and their anti-inflammatory or antiarthritic properties have been evaluated in animal models of inflammatory arthritis, in studies employing well defined and widely accepted in vitro models that use human chondrocytes/cartilage explants or in clinical trials. Available data suggests that the extracts of most of these herbs or compounds derived from them may provide a safe and effective adjunctive therapeutic approach for the treatment of OA and RA. This, in turn, argues for trials to establish efficacy and optimum dosage of these compounds for treating human inflammatory and degenerative joint diseases.