Anti-Inflammatory Herbs

Withania (Withania somnifera)

Withania is a useful component of any musculoskeletal formula as both an adaptogen and an herb. It was traditionally recognized in Ayurvedic medicine for musculoskeletal disorders. Although the mechanism of action is not fully understood, it appears that Withania may involve cyclooxygenase inhibition and a direct musculotropic action that accounts for the antispasmodic effects of Withania.

Devil’s claw (Harpagophyturn procumbens)

Devil’s claw is a threatened plant species used in traditional African medicine for arthritis. In humans it has been investigated for the treatment of nonspecific lower back pain, arthritis, and rheumatism, and has been shown to be effective for pain relief when the extract provides more than 50 mg of harpagoside daily. However, the effects of Devil’s claw are not just due to the constituent harpagoside. In one in vitro study it was shown to suppress prostaglandin (PG)E2 synthesis and nitric oxide production by inhibiting lipopolysaccharide-stimulated enhancement of cox2 and inducible nitric oxide synthase mRNA expression. It has been included in a formula with Black currant (Ribes nigrum), Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), and White willow (Salix alba) and compared to phenylbutazone in a study conducted on 20 horses with bone spavin. The formula showed significant benefit for horses with bone spavin and scores for improvement were better for the formula over phenylbutazone.

Withania dose: Dried herb, 50 to 125 mg / kg divided daily if extracted and dried; triple or quadruple dose for unprocessed herb; tincture, 1:2 to 1:3 : 1 to 2.5 mL per 10 kg (20 pounds) divided daily.

Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)

Boswellia may act as an antiinflammatory and as an inhibitor of lipoxygenase activity. However, one study of 37 patients with rheumatoid arthritis showed no difference between treatment with Boswellia extract and the placebo in terms of reduced use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs and in subjective, clinical, or laboratory measures (Sander 1998). In a prospective, open, multicenter clinical trial (not placebo-controlled), 24 dogs with osteoarthritis of the joints or spine were treated with a standardized Boswellia resin extract (50% triterpenic acids) at a dose of 400 mg / 10 kg once daily in food for 6 weeks. Overall, 71% of the dogs were assessed with good or very good results at 2 and 6 weeks of treatment. The study claimed that 40% to 70% of the dogs were symptom-free after 6 weeks. While 11 of 29 dogs experienced adverse effects during the study, Boswellia was thought to be causative in only 1 dog.

Boswellia dose: Dried herb, 25 to 125 mg / kg divided daily if extracted and dried; triple or quadruple dose for unprocessed herb; tincture, 1:2 to 1:3 : 1.5 to 2.5 mL per 10 kg (20 pounds) divided daily.

Ginger (Zingiber offtcinalis)

Ginger is a common ingredient in natural antiarthritic products for humans. It has antiinflammatory effects as both a mild cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenase inhibitor and thromboxane synthase inhibitor. The potency was comparable to that of acetylsalicylic acid. A study of 113 patients with chronic lower back and rheumatic pain responded positively with full or partial relief of pain, reduced joint swelling, and improved joint function when injected with 5% to 10% Ginger extract into the painful areas. Powdered Ginger administered to patients with rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders has been shown to provide varying degrees of relief from pain and swelling.

Ginger dose: Dried herb, 15 to 50 mg / kg divided daily if extracted and dried; triple or quadruple dose for unprocessed herb; tincture, 1:2 to 1:3 : 0.25 to 0.5 mL per 10 kg (20 pounds) divided daily.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Turmeric may be beneficial in canine arthritis, although in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group clinical trial using an extract of related species of Turmeric (Curcuma domestica and Curcuma xanthorrhiza), owners saw no difference from a placebo as a treatment for osteoarthritis of the canine elbow or hip. The investigators’ assessment, however, showed a statistically significant treatment effect (Innes 2003). In a short-term double-blind, crossover study of 18 human patients with rheumatoid arthritis, treatment with Curcumin (1,200 mg / day) or phenylbutazone (30 mg / day) both produced significant improvement in morning stiffness, walking time, and joint swelling. Turmeric can be added to food daily to palatability tolerance.

Turmeric dose: Dried herb, 50 to 150 mg / kg divided daily; OR curcumin, canine — 50 to 250 mg TID, feline — 50 to 100 mg SID (Silver 1997); OR tincture, 1:2 to 1:3 : 1 to 3 mL per 10 kg (20 pounds) divided daily (Wynn 2006).

Other herbs with activity that supports their use as antiinflammatory agents include Celery (Apium graveolens), a traditional remedy for gout; Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria); Birch (Betula sp.); Willow bark (Salix alba and other salix sp.), which contains nonselective cox1 and cox2 inhibitor constituents; and Nettle (Urtica dioca) extracts, which were shown to suppress matrix metalloproteinase activity, thus reducing degradation of the extracellular matrix in joint cartilage. Other herbs used for musculoskeletal conditions include Angelica (Angelica arch angelica), Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Celery (Apium graveolens), Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum tbalictroides), Black cohosh (Actea racemosa), Guaiacum (Guaiacum officinale), Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), Bogbean (Menyantbes trifoliata), Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), Yarrow (Acbillea millefolium), and Arnica (Arnica Montana) topically.