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OA and garcinia kola

May 21, 2013

Herbal supplements like garcinia kola are used to treat a broad range of symptoms. While many are promising, their classification as herbal supplements frees them from many FDA approval requirements and may allow contaminated pills to reach the market.


Most drugs designed to treat osteoarthritis do so only by addressing the primary symptoms of the disease: joint pain and inflammation.  Reducing swelling is highly effective at reducing the friction within the joint space, and can slow the deterioration of the cartilage.  This delays the progression of the osteoarthritis and, theoretically, could speed the healing process.  Unfortunately, since cartilage heals so slowly, non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) are often prescribed in large doses over long periods of time.  For some individuals, large quantities of NSAID’s can lead to bad reactions.  These individuals often turn to herbal supplements to replace the NSAID’s in their daily routines.

Recent research in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research found that garcinia kola, a common African herbal supplement, is effective in treating osteoarthritis of the knee.  Garcinia kola, like most western osteoarthritis medications, acts as a painkiller and antiinflammatory.  This article confirms that individuals taking garcinia kola did better than those with no treatment, but found that traditional NSAID’s were more effective in reducing knee pain and swelling.

The FDA examines herbal supplements like garcinia kola differently than it checks medications.  This directly leads to a reduction in quality control, and can allow impure products to reach the market.  Always be aware that herbal supplements are not part of the pharmaceutical industry, and so are subjected to less stringent inspections.

While many herbal supplements are promising, they are often less effective than their manufacturers suggest.  Herbal supplements are most appropriate as substitutes for western medications which cannot be taken for a specific reason.  If you hear about a promising herbal supplement, consult your doctor before taking it, and do not assume that it will perform as advertised.

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