7 Tips: What You Need to Know About Natural Products for Musculoskeletal Inflammation

There are many natural products sold as dietary supplements that are marketed for inflammatory conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and tendinitis. Some of these natural products have a long history of use for treating musculoskeletal inflammation and the pain associated with inflammation. There is some limited evidence that a few natural products may provide modest benefits for these conditions; however, in general, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of many of these natural products for inflammatory disorders. Here are 7 things to know if you are considering using a natural product for inflammation:

  1. There is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may provide a modest benefit for symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

  2. Turmeric and willow bark have been used for many years as remedies for the treatment of inflammatory conditions. However, there have only been a few trials of turmeric conducted in people, and there isn't enough evidence to support the use of turmeric supplementation for inflammatory disorders. Research suggests that willow bark is effective as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory and there is moderate evidence of effectiveness for use of willow bark extract for treating low-back pain.

  3. Bromelain, which is a mixture of enzymes found in the pineapple plant, is often used as a dietary supplement for nasal swelling and inflammation, osteoarthritis, and muscle soreness. There is some evidence that bromelain may be helpful along with conventional medicine to help improve acute nasal and sinus inflammation, but there isn't enough evidence as to whether bromelain has any beneficial effects on other inflammatory conditions.

  4. There is some moderate evidence that devil's claw, an herb native to Africa, is beneficial for osteoarthritis of the spine, hip, and knee.

  5. Based on current evidence, it is unclear whether taking ginger supplements is beneficial in treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or joint and muscle pain.

  6. There is some evidence that thunder god vine—a vine native to China, Japan, and Korea—may reduce some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis; however, thunder god vine may be associated with some serious adverse side effects.

  7. Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.