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Review: some herbal medicines and plant extracts reduced pain and disability and improved function in osteoarthritis

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QUESTION: In patients with osteoarthritis, are herbal medicines and plant extracts effective and safe?

Data sources

Studies were identified by searching Medline, EMBASE/Excerpta Medica, Biosis, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library (all from inception to May 2000); scanning the bibliographies of relevant studies and reviews; and by contacting experts and manufacturers in the field.

Study selection

Studies were selected if they were randomised controlled trials comparing 1 herbal treatment with a placebo or another active drug in patients with osteoarthritis. Studies focusing on back pain, osteoarthritic conditions of the spine, or on parenterally applied herbal preparations were excluded, as were studies that lacked essential methodological detail such as dosage, baseline data, and clinical end points.

Data extraction

Data were extracted on patient characteristics, intervention type and duration, and outcomes.

Main results

12 trials and 2 systematic reviews met the selection criteria. …

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  • Source of funding: no external funding.

  • For correspondence: Dr L Long, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK. L.Long{at}

  • * Numbers calculated from data in article.