Herbs Beat Pain Drug in Study
FOX News Health
by Chris Kilham
Pain“In various health categories, a number of comparative studies between herbal remedies and pharmaceutical drugs have shown better efficacy and safety with herbs. Both turmeric root and boswellia enjoy long histories of safe traditional use for the treatment of pain.” - Chris Kilham

In a recent study presented at the World Congress on Osteoarthritis in San Diego, a combination remedy of two herbal extracts called Rhulief™, demonstrated superior efficacy compared with the prescription drug celecoxib (the generic of the brand name Celebrex®) for relieving osteoarthritis pain of the knee. The Rhulief product contains an extract of turmeric root (Curcuma longa) called BCM-95, and an extract of boswellia (Boswellia serrata) called BosPure. Both turmeric root and boswellia have long histories of traditional use for the treatment of arthritis pain.

Twenty-eight patients completed the comparative study, which was conducted by physicians at the Anugraha Medical Center in Kochin, India. In the study, subjects of both sexes aged 18 to 65 years were randomized into two groups and were treated for a period of 12 weeks. The subjects were medically stable with moderate form of osteoarthritis evidenced by narrowing of the medial joint space with swelling. One group received celecoxib, 100 mg, twice daily and the second group received a 500 mg blend of the Rhulief combination of the herbal extracts BCM-95 curcumin and BosPure boswellia twice daily.

At the conclusion of the study, 93 percent of the herbal treated subjects could walk more than 1000 meters vs. 86 percent in the drug group. Approximately 93 percent of the herbal group reported improvement in or elimination of pain vs. 79 percent of the drug group. There were no serious adverse events in the study, and no significant changes in kidney or liver function, vital signs, or hemogram (complete blood count) measures. The statistical difference in improvement between the two groups is significant.

According to two of the authors of the study, Dr. B. Anthony and Dr. R. Kizhakedath, the herbal combination of curcumin derived from turmeric and boswellia out-performed celecoxib in pain relief, walking distance and joint line tenderness scores. The herbal formula was equally effective as celecoxib in alleviating crepitus (a crunching sensation in arthritis-damaged knees), and range of joint movements. Overall the herbal combination showed superior efficacy and tolerability as compared with celecoxib for treating active osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disorder, and is common among people over age 55. Caused by wear and tear of the joints, osteoarthritis is characterized by pain and stiffness in joints. Exercise and placing weight on joints generally increase the severity of discomfort. Overweight people have increased risk of osteoarthritis in hips, knees, ankles and foot joints. According the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, approximately 27 million Americans had osteoarthritis in 2005, and that number is climbing.

These health statistics mean that a lot of people experience regular pain. To relieve pain, most people turn to the NSAID’s, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac and Celebrex belong to this class of drugs. These drugs are designed to inhibit activity of what is known as the COX2 enzyme, a major factor in pain. This natural enzyme is created in all of us, and is responsible for the production of some of the agents called prostaglandins, which trigger pain and inflammation.

The NSAID’s relieve pain, but can also cause liver and kidney damage, and are shown to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. A recently published study reveals even greater risks to these drugs. In the study Danish researchers found that use of NSAID’s among heart attack survivors greatly increased their risk of a repeat heart attack. This risk persisted even six months after the heart attack, and even if the use of the drugs was brief. For those who have had a heart attack or stroke, the NSAID’s pose a real danger.

Commenting on the NSAID’s, co-author of the comparative study and orthopedic surgeon Kizhakkedath noted, “Long-term non-steroidal inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) use is associated with gastrointestinal, kidney, and cardiovascular risks. These drugs can be dangerous. Given the efficacy, safety and tolerability issues associated with NSAIDs, development of new agents to manage OA without adverse events is a major priority.”

In various health categories, a number of comparative studies between herbal remedies and pharmaceutical drugs have shown better efficacy and safety with herbs. Both turmeric root and boswellia enjoy long histories of safe traditional use for the treatment of pain. In toxicity studies, these herbs and their extracts show none of the health problems associated with the NSAID’s. Finding safer options to replace potentially harmful drugs is a major health priority, as both osteoarthritis and NSAID use are expected to increase. The Rhulief product, which is marketed in India, is sold in the U.S. under the name Healthy Knees and Joints, by Wisconsin-based EuroPharma.

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September 2011