Chinese herb thought to be helpful in knee arthritis, failed in an early trial

By ACSH Staff — Jul 05, 2015
Herb popular in China for knee arthritis failed to surpass placebo effect in randomized trial. Many OA patients will remain unconvinced, however, and stick with the soothing belief in its efficacy, as have generations gone by, science notwithstanding.

OA of the kneeThe herb Huo-Luo-Xiao-Ling (HLXL) is quite popular in China, especially among older women, with arthritis of the knee. Further, there is some animal study evidence that this herbal combination has some anti-inflammatory efficacy.

Therefore, researchers from the University of Hong Kong and the University of Maryland conducted a double-blind, randomized placebo controlled phase II trial of the herbs.

The results, published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, found that there was no measurable benefit of the 11-herb combination, HLXL, when compared to the placebo-control group. Ninety-two patients were studied in the trial, and improvement was recorded in both groups on standardized tests of pain and function. But there was no significant difference between the treatment/herb group and the placebo group.

Dr. Gil Ross, American Council on Science and Health Senior Director of Medicine and Public Health, had this comment: When I was in clinical practice, I saw many patients with OA of the knee (being a rheumatologist as well as an internist). It can be very hard to treat successfully with the panoply of NSAIDs, physical therapy, and steroid injections. Knee replacement surgery, which became widespread shortly after I started practice, was a godsend for many of these patients, when drugs and weight loss, etc., failed to get them back to their normal activities. On the road to some type of benefit, many of them tried a variety of complementary, alternative medicines. These included several so-called supplements, allowed to imply efficacy without actually claiming it thanks to the ill-advised DSHEA supplement law, foisted on the American public by Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Tom Harkin of Iowa. Of course, these had zero effect aside from the placebo effect, as did various magnets and crystal and herbs. Since over one-third of older Americans with arthritis do try some unapproved medication, good studies like this one albeit small are much needed to document or refute efficacy.