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Do Herbal Supplements Work for Knee Pain?

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Herbal supplements always catch our attention as they are safe to use and do not have any side effects. Many of these supplements have been used over ages for various disorders, and their uses have been described in Ayurveda.

Knee pain is a chronic problem for many people. It is believed more than 15 crore people suffer from knee pain in India.

Many people often take vitamins and these supplements to relieve their joint pain. If you look up the internet, you will find many mixed reviews about these supplements because of their efficacy. So, the real question that is heavily debated is, do these supplements for knee pain actually work?

The only way to determine is to go through various studies on the action of herbs on knee problems.
Let’s dive in!

What Does Research Say?

Here’s what research has to say:

  • Glucosamine: It is a sugar protein that helps to form cartilage. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance commonly found in bones, bone marrow, fungus, and shellfish. Taking the supplement has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity. Some studies have shown oral usage of glucosamine was linked to pain relief in osteoarthritis. Another research indicated that glucosamine might be able to reduce pain in rheumatoid arthritis too.
  • Chondroitin: Chondroitin is a naturally occurring chemical that is formed of sugar chains. It is believed that chondroitin helps keep flexibility in the joints and maintain fluid. Some studies show the beneficial effects of taking chondroitin in osteoarthritis. It demonstrated that chondroitin reduced pain lowered the need for taking painkillers, and increased joint mobility.
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Glucosamine and Chondroitin combinations are often sold together as a combination product. Research in 2006 found that a combination of these two effectively reduced moderate to severe knee joint pain. Another study in 2016 found Glucosamine and Chondroitin as effective as Celecoxib in relieving knee OA pain and swelling.
  • Ginger: It is another popular herbal plant that has been used widely in cooking and has plenty of benefits associated with it. Ginger has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce knee pain. A study conducted in 2000 demonstrated that ginger extract was as effective as ibuprofen. In a study conducted in 2001, it was found that ginger extract was effective in treating people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Another study in 2016 demonstrated that ginger supplement decreased inflammation and pain after surgery. A study conducted in 2015 where ginger-based ointment was applied on the knee demonstrated to improve osteoarthritis. The patients also reported reduced symptoms and pain.
  • Turmeric: It is widely used in cooking and has a long list of uses in Ayurveda. Curcumin, a chemical compound in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties and effectively treats symptoms of arthritis. A study published in the medical journal Trials compared the effectiveness of turmeric to diclofenac (a well-established anti-inflammatory medicine). It was shown that Curcumin (a chemical component in turmeric) had similar efficacy to diclofenac. The authors concluded that Curcumin could be an effective treatment option in patients with osteoarthritis who cannot take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Another study published in Annals of Internal medicine demonstrated beneficial effects on turmeric (1000 mg per day). The study found turmeric extract to be more effective in reducing the pain of osteoarthritis as compared to placebo. According to the standard questionnaire, the study participants reported less knee pain at the end of the study.

Action Of Herbs On Knee Pain

Let’s understand the action of a few herbs on the knee and how they may help in reducing knee pain.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin: The combination of these two is often sold as herbal supplements and is used as an alternative medicine for joint pain and arthritis. They are amongst the most popular supplements. When taken in combination or individually, they not only prevent joint pain but prevent joint disease.

Chondroitin is believed to reduce joint pain, decrease inflammation, improve joint function, and reduce the progression of osteoarthritis. It increases the shock-absorption properties of collagen and stops the enzyme that causes the breakdown of cartilage.

On the other hand, glucosamine slows the degeneration of the knee joint. World health organization review of evidence on glucosamine found that it improves the joint’s functionality and relieves knee joint pain. It helps to retain water, reverse the loss of cartilage, and keep joints lubricated.

When taken together, they protect chondrocytes that help maintain cartilage structure, slow deterioration of the cartilage in joints, and decrease knee pain.

Ginger: Ginger has been extensively used in culinary and Ayurveda for centuries. Ginger has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties. Hence, it is believed to boost overall immunity.

It is believed ginger has similar chemicals that function similarly to COX-2 inhibitors (COX-2 enzyme is mainly responsible for causing inflammation). COX-2 inhibitors are mainly used to treat inflammation and pain.

Depending on your convenience, ginger is available in various supplement forms such as topical cream, capsule, tincture. Concentrated forms and organic ginger usually give the best results.

Turmeric: Curcumin in turmeric has demonstrated high anti-inflammatory activity reducing arthritis, joint pain, stiffness related to arthritis. However, it only makes up three to five percent of turmeric. It is believed it also modifies the immune system. Researchers suggest a daily supplement of 200 to 1000 mg (containing 95% curcuminoids) help to reduce joint pain of arthritis.

Curcuminoids are a group of compounds that contains Curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, bidemethoxycurcumin. Curcumin possesses high antioxidant properties, and free radicals may cause inflammation. High-antioxidant foods combine with free radicals and may help reduce inflammation caused by them. Thus, helping in decreasing the joint pain. It is also assumed that Curcumin may decrease the body’s response to tumor necrosis factor (a chemical produced during the inflammation).

Curcumin also inhibits COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes (chemicals that influence inflammation and pain)

Final Thoughts

Yes, these medications have been effective in reducing knee pain. It would help if you kept an open mind before using these supplements. However, keep in mind that these are not to be replaced with your daily medications. Lastly, these supplements are not FDA regulated, so they are not approved for knee joint pain, unlike your medications.

You can purchase these supplements as they are readily available. However, it would be best to consult your doctor before using them. There may be a possibility of interaction with other medications that you are taking.
These popular supplements are widely marketed and used by many people for knee joint pain and to reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Despite research and studies showing their efficacy, more research needs to be conducted to establish these supplements’ long-term use and safety.

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