Boswellia serrata (Indian Frankincense, Boswellin, Salai Guggal)
Frankincense, or boswellia serrata, is derived from the bark of the Boswellia tree native to Arabia and India. Boswellia serrata extracts are used in Ayurvedic for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Studies in OA have found that patients taking boswellia reported less knee pain, better mobility, and an ability to walk longer distances. It has also been shown to slow cartilage damage. A British review (Ernst 2008) found boswellia extracts to be safe and effective for both OA and RA, however results of studies in RA were not statistically significant.
Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
Uncaria tomentosa, known as Cat’s Claw, comes from a woody vine that grows in parts of South and Central America. It has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect against tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, the same inflammatory target as a number biological drugs for RA. One study found that people with RA who took cat’s claw in conjunction with sulfasalazine or hydroxychloroquine experienced a 53% reduction in painful joints compared to 24% reduction with placebo (Mur 2002). Cat’s claw is believed to stimulate the immune system, so theoretically it may interfere with immunosuppressant medications such as azathioprine, cyclosporine, prednisone, and other corticosteroids (Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database).
Curcumin (Turmeric, Curcuma longa, Curcuma domestica)
Turmeric, the yellow-colored spice used in Indian curries, is derived from the root of the Turmeric plant native to India and Indonesia which is related to the ginger plant. Curcumin, a component of tumeric, has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can reduce the pain, inflammation, and stiffness associated with RA. It has been shown to regulate inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6, IL-12, TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma and associated JAK-STAT pathways in immune cells (Bright 2007), as well as certain enzymes including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) (Bengmark 2006), the target of the pain medication Celebrex. In a small pilot study, a curcumin product called BCM-95 reduced joint pain and swelling in patients with active RA better than the NSAID diclofenac sodium (50 mg) (Chandran 2012).
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