Review Article

Drugs & Aging

, Volume 20, Issue 7, pp 517-526

First online:

‘Natural Remedies’ in the Treatment of Osteoarthritis

  • Karen Walker-BoneAffiliated withMedical Research Council Environmental Epidemiology Unit, Southampton General Hospital Email author 

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Abstract

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common, chronic and painful condition. It is the most common of all rheumatic disorders and is destined to become one of the most prevalent and costly diseases in our society. The conventional therapeutic options employed in the management of OA are simple analgesics and NSAIDs, but these options frequently produce sub-optimal benefit and are associated with an adverse-safety profile. Unsurprisingly patients are looking to alternative and complementary medicine.

The aim of this article was to review the available literature on the effectiveness and safety of ‘natural remedies’ for the treatment of OA. Computerised literature searches were carried out for systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials examining the role of ‘natural remedies’ in the treatment of OA.

There have been few randomised controlled trials of ‘natural remedies’ that have satisfied the internationally agreed standards. There was, however, evidence of efficacy for glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and possibly avocado/soybean unsaponifiables for the symptomatic relief of OA. To date, it is not established whether any of the ‘natural remedies’ are capable of chondroprotection.

Even if ‘natural remedies’ are only modestly effective, they are widely available and well tolerated, suggesting that they may play a significant role in the management of OA in the elderly.