From the Journals

Turmeric-, frankincense-derived supplement shows OA benefit



A combination of curcumin extracted from the turmeric rhizome and boswellic acid extracted from Indian frankincense root beat placebo for reducing pain-related symptoms from knee osteoarthritis in a 12-week clinical trial from Armenia with 201 patients 40-70 years old.

The combination (Curamin) also beat a standalone curcumin preparation (CuraMed), according to a report in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

knee pain ©pixologicstudio/Thinkstock
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown before to help a bit in OA, but not as much as ibuprofen. One of the problems is its poor bioavailability; curcumin is not absorbed well in the gut and is quickly eliminated from the body. Boswellic acid – used in Ayurvedic medicine for rheumatism and other problems – has anti-inflammatory properties as well, but a chemical structure quite unlike curcumin, and so likely different targets.

It appears that combining the two “increases the efficacy of treatment of OA presumably due to synergistic effects of curcumin and boswellic acid”; it’s also possible that boswellic acid increases curcumin bioavailability, said investigators led by Armine Haroyan, PhD, head of rheumatology at Erebuni Medical Center in Yerevan, Armenia.

The subjects were randomized evenly to the combination, curcumin alone, or placebo, all in 500-mg capsules taken three times daily. They had been diagnosed with degenerative hypertrophic OA of knee bone joints.

At the end of 12 weeks, patients on the combination outperformed those on placebo in physical performance tests and joint pain scores; curcumin outperformed placebo in only a few of the physical tests.

For instance, patients on the combination were a mean of 2.03 seconds quicker than baseline in a stair-climbing exercise by the end of the study, versus 0.22 seconds in the placebo group and 1.66 seconds in the curcumin group. Combination patients had a mean 7.38-point improvement on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index, versus 2.26 points in the placebo arm and 6.34 points in the curcumin group. The differences versus placebo were statistically significant for the combination, but not for stand-alone curcumin.

The treatments were well tolerated, with only a few patients in each arm reporting nausea, gastroesophageal reflux, and similar problems.

The work was funded in part by EuroPharma USA, maker of the supplements. The authors said they had no competing interests.

SOURCE: Haroyan A et al. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018 Jan 9;18:7. doi: 10.1186/s12906-017-2062-z

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