Arthritis is a chronic condition that affects nearly a quarter of the United States population. Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are two major forms of arthritis associated with severe joint pain and reduced quality of life. Various pharmacological interventions may be utilized for arthritis treatment when non-pharmacological therapy is insufficient. However, pharmacological therapy can be associated with serious side effects and high costs. Therefore, alternative therapies have been under investigation. Herbal medications have shown the potential for safe and effective management of arthritis. For this review, we attempt to summarize the mechanisms, safety, and efficacy of herbal treatments for OA and RA. After searching electronic databases, we identified nine herbs among 23 clinical trials used for the treatment of OA or RA patients. Improvement of OA and RA symptoms, pain, and inflammation was demonstrated. The herbs exhibited strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activities, contributing to a reduction in inflammation and tissue damage. Several herbs elucidated new mechanisms for OA and RA treatment as well. Though these herbs have shown promise for OA and RA treatment, more studies and clinical trials are required for determining safety and efficacy, bioactivity, and optimal bioavailability.
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