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Shea nut oil, turmeric, ginger, others top list of local plants for joint pains

By CHUKWUMA MUANYA   |   30 April 2015   |   3:30 am  
Ginger. Photo: herbalscienceresearch

Ginger. Photo: herbalscienceresearch

SCIENTISTS have found that extracts of Shea nut oil, ginger and turmeric top lists of local herbs for joint pains.

Taiwanese and Nigerian researchers have validated the efficacy of Shea nut oil extract in knee osteoarthritis (OA) patients.

The scientists from China Medical University, Taichung and Asia University, Taichung, Taiwan, concluded: “The effectiveness of treatment of knee OA using Shea nut oil, an extract from the indigenous African Vitellaria paradoxa tree, is proven. After sufficient dosage and intervention, its effects include decreased inflammation, increased collagen, amelioration of pain, and improved muscle function.

Although improved muscle function was observed, including greater control and an increase in muscle strength to achieve a functional goal, the subjective feeling of improvement in the activities of daily living was not significant.

“The findings have proven the efficacy of shea nut oil extract as a complementary option to improve the symptoms and function in relation to knee OA.”

The study was published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Commonly called Shea butter in Nigeria, okwuma in Igbo and ori in Yoruba, Vitellaria paradoxa, is a tree of Sapotaceae family, indigenous to Africa. The shea fruit consists of a thin, tart, nutritious pulp, surrounding a relatively large, oil-rich seed, from which “shea butter” is extracted.

The butter has been used locally as food, providing a major source of dietary fat. In the West, shea butter is most commonly used in cosmetics. Extracts from the seed have also been used for the treatment of arthritic conditions.

OA, also known as degenerative arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and osteoarthrosis, is a group of mechanical abnormalities involving degradation of joints, including articular cartilage and subchondral bone. OA is the most common form of arthritis and the leading cause of chronic disability.

It most commonly affects the knee and has an impact on the health-related quality of life of the elderly. Symptoms may include joint pain, tenderness over the inside of knee, stiffness, locking, reduced mobility, atrophy of lower extremities, and decreased walking speed.

These functional impairments may reduce a sufferer’s general level of exercise and increase the risk of consequent injuries, such as those that might result from a fall.

Thirty-three patients with knee OA were recruited. Real-time ultrasound imaging and surface electromyography were used to objectively assess the morphological changes and the activity of vastus medialis oblique (VMO) muscles during a 16-week intervention of SheaFlex75.

The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) was calculated to examine the reliability of the interscans. A paired-sample -test was used to compare the findings in different stages.

The Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient was used to examine the relationship between the relevant variables of OA and percentage of thickness change of VMO at different contraction levels.

The baseline findings showed strong correlation, suggesting that the reliability of interscans at pretest was high. The ability to contract the muscles of the knee to a 30 per cent contraction level showed significant change between the baseline and after 16-week testing, both in terms of morphological changes and muscle activity. Pain scale reported a significant decrease at the 16th week.

The results suggest that SheaFlex75 can relieve the symptoms of knee OA and can result in improvement of muscle control of the knee.

Also, United States (U.S.) research suggests extract of a spice used in curry, turmeric, could help prevent rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.

Turmeric has been used for centuries in Asian medicine to treat inflammatory disorders and its extract can be found in western dietary supplements.

Now laboratory work by University of Arizona researchers, in Arthritis & Rheumatism, shows just how the spice’s curcuminoid extracts have a therapeutic effect.

Experts say new drugs may be found, but eating more spices is unlikely to work. The researchers said clinical trials were needed before turmeric supplements could be recommended for medicinal use.

Earlier work by the University of Arizona team showed turmeric could prevent joint inflammation in rats. In their latest study, they set out to find exactly what ingredient in turmeric was having the anti-inflammatory effect.

They prepared extracts from the rhizome, or root of the turmeric plant, and compared them against the commercially available products that contain turmeric extracts.

A version of turmeric extract that was free of essential oils was found to most closely match the composition of the commercial supplements. And it was this extract, containing curcumin, that was most effective at blocking the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in the rats.

The extract appears to work by preventing a protein that controls when genes are switched on or off from being activated in the joint. Once the protein known as NF-KB is activated, it binds to genes and increases the production of inflammatory proteins, which attack the joints.

Dr. Janet Funk and her colleagues believe their findings also suggest turmeric extract could treat other inflammatory disorders, including asthma, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.

The extract also blocked a pathway in the body linked to bone loss, suggesting it could treat osteoporosis as well.

Also, turmeric has been found to slow or limit the activity of the HPV virus, which causes oral and cervical cancers.

According to new research published in ecancermedicalscience, turmeric- the familiar yellow spice common in Indian and Asian cooking- may play a therapeutic role in oral cancers associated with human papillomavirus.

One of the herb’s key active ingredients — an antioxidant called curcumin- appears to have a quelling effect on the activity of human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV is a virus that promotes the development of cervical and oral cancer. There is no cure, but curcumin may offer a means of future control.

Scientists have also validated ginger for the treatment of joint pains including arthritis, OA and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). A study published in Research Spices & Arthritis, the chemical analysis of Zingiber officinale (ginger) has found it to contain over 400 active constituents.

It contains three per cent volatile oils and a number of pungent compounds, including gingerols and shogaols. It is also a source of antioxidant vitamins and minerals, poly phenols and flavonoids.

Research into these concluded that apart from its medicinal properties, ginger can be used effectively as an antioxidant supplement.

Many of ginger’s active constituents have been found to have anti-inflammatory and pain reducing effects and as such have been researched for their benefits in helping to treat arthritic conditions.

As with curcumin, research has found ginger’s ability to inhibit COX and LOX enzymes. A study of 56 patients (28 with RA, 18 with OA and 10 with muscular discomfort) used powdered ginger for their conditions. The study found that three-quarters of the arthritis patients experienced some relief in pain and swelling and all the patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief in pain.

Ginger consumption ranged from three months to 2.5 years. The study suggested that the mechanism by which ginger shows its benefits is in its effects on the COX and LOX enzymes, and the inhibition of prostaglandins and leukotrienes biosynthesis.

Research was also carried out on patients with OA of the knee. In this study 247 patients were either given ginger extract or a placebo for six weeks. The study found that those given the ginger extract had a significant reduction in knee pain after walking compared to the control group.

The only downside reported was a mild gastro-intestinal upset from some of the patients taking the ginger extract. The rationale behind the mild stomach upset may have been from the extract, where many of ginger’s beneficial constituents for the digestive system may have been removed during processing. Whole ginger is clinically proven to reduce nausea and other gastrointestinal problems.

Recent research compared the use of ginger to Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), in the treatment of OA. Whilst NSAIDs form a common part of the conventional treatment for arthritis, it is also recognised that they are a leading cause of gastro-intestinal problems.

Therefore, this study aimed to compare Gastro Intestinal (GI) health in OA patients either taking ginger or diclofenac.

The study found that there was no difference in the overall effectiveness in the treatment of OA but that the ginger had a protective effect on the stomach mucosa compared to the diclofenac.

Also, a recent ethnobotanical investigation revealed the use of ten medicinal plants in the management of arthritis in Ibadan, Oyo State.

The study published in African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology is titled “The mineral, proximate and phytochemical components of ten Nigerian medicinal plants used in the management of arthritis.”

The researchers include Gbadamosi, I. T. and Oloyede A. A. from the Department of Botany, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State.

The study screened the plants for mineral, proximate and phytochemical components that could be responsible for their therapeutic value in arthritis. The powdered plant samples were analysed for nutritional constituents and phytochemical compounds using standard laboratory protocols. The use value of plant-parts was 50 per cent leaves and 50 per cent roots.

Three out of the 10 plants had high calcium content: Oncoba spinosa (180.0 mg/100 g), Nymphaea lotus (160.0 mg/100 g) and Solenostemon monostachyus (125.0 mg/100 g).

N. lotus had the highest iron content (8.0 mg/100 g).

Phosphorus content was highest in O. spinosa (150.0 mg/100 g). Magnesium was highest in Phyllanthus amarus (14.0 mg/100 g). Crude fibre was highest in Solanum aethiopicum (15.90 per cent) and the least in O. spinosa (14.00 per cent).

Oncoba spinosa, according to Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa, belongs to the plant family Flacourtiaceae. In Nigeria, the Birom call it epúnuŋ the fruit and tin púnúŋ the plant; kokochiko in Fula-Fulfulde; kóókóócikoo a rattle in Hausa; icákiricá in Idoma; okpoko in Igbo; amurikpa in Jukun; and kánkán dìká in Yoruba.

Nymphaea lotus (water lily) belongs to Nymphaeaceae family. It is a perennial plant that grows up to 45 cm in height; it is a herbaceous aquatic plant, whose leaves float or submerge in water.

Phyllanthus amarus is locally called Iyin-olobe (Yoruba, south-west Nigeria), or kidney stone plant.

Solanum aethiopicum (African eggplant), also called garden eggs (Hausa: dauta; Igbo: afufa or añara; Yoruba: igbagba)

The researchers wrote: “S. aethiopicum had the highest protein content (18.50 per cent) and O. spinosa the least (14.75 per cent). All the medicinal plants tested positive to alkaloids, carotenoids and flavonoids. The plants contained minerals and secondary metabolites that are implicated in arthritis viz. calcium, zinc, carotenoids and flavonoids. The presence of these compounds in the test plants might alleviate pains associated with arthritis.

“O. spinosa had high potential in the management of arthritis due to its highcalcium and phosphorus components.

“Lecaniodiscus cupanioides; Carpolobia lutea; Microdesmis puberula; Oncoba spinosa; Calliandra portoricensis; Phyllanthus amarus; Solenostemon monostachyus; Tetracera alnifolia; Solanum aethiopicum; and Nymphaea lotus are used for the management of arthritis in Ibadan, Nigeria.”

Lecaniodiscus cupanioides, Planch ex Benth, Fam. Sapindaceae, is a tropical plant widely distributed in Africa and Asia. It is identified by various names in Nigeria, such as Ukpo (in Igbo), Utantan (in Edo), Kafi-nama-zaki (in Hausa) and Akika (in Yoruba).

Carpolobia lutea, commonly called cattle stick or poor man’s candle belongs to the plant family polygalaceae. The common names, which the plant is known include cattle stick (English), Abekpok Ibuhu (Eket), Ikpafum, Ndiyan, Nyayanga (Ibibio), Agba or Angalagala (Igbo) and Egbo oshunshun (Yoruba).

Microdesmis puberula belongs to the plant family Pandaceae. In Nigeria, its local names include Mkpiri or Mbugbo in Igbo; Idi-apata in Yoruba and Ntabit in Ibibio language.

Calliandra portoricensis (C. portoricensis) is also known as snowflake acacia or powder-puff.

The researchers said although the plants are of therapeutic importance in managing arthritis, they are used for other health problems in folk medicine. The aqueous root extract of

Some medicinal plants have been reported to be useful in the management of rheumatoid arthritis.

Linum usitatissimum (flaxseed) oil can be an effective part of a rheumatoid arthritis treatment regimen. It is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like alpha-lipoic acid, which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Also useful is Tripterygium wilfordii (thunder god vine), which has unique immune suppressant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Other plants with anti- inflammatory properties are: Ageratum conyzoides, Artemisia copa, Bauhinia tarapotensis, Croton pullei and Maytenus ilicifolia.

Ageratum conyzoides belongs to the family and tribe of Asteraceae and Eupatoriae, respectively. It is traditionally called ufu opioko and otogo by the Igedes in Benue state, Nigeria. In Southwestern Nigeria, it is known as Imí esú.

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