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Open Access Research article

Harpgophytum procumbens for osteoarthritis and low back pain: A systematic review

Joel J Gagnier12*, Sigrun Chrubasik34 and Eric Manheimer5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Policy Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine, Toronto, Canada

2 Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Academics, Toronto, Canada

3 Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany

4 Herbal Medicines Research and Education Center, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

5 Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Maryland, School of Medicine, USA

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2004, 4:13  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-4-13

Published: 15 September 2004

Abstract

Background

The objective of this review is to determine the effectiveness of Harpagophytum procumbens preparations in the treatment of various forms of musculoskeletal pain.

Methods

Several databases and other sources were searched to identify randomized controlled trials, quasi-randomized controlled trials, and controlled clinical trials testing Harpagophytum preparations in adults suffering from pain due to osteoarthritis or low back pain.

Results

Given the clinical heterogeneity and insufficient data for statistical pooling, trials were described in a narrative way, taking into consideration methodological quality scores. Twelve trials were included with six investigating osteoarthritis (two were identical trials), four low back pain, and three mixed-pain conditions.

Conclusions

There is limited evidence for an ethanolic Harpagophytum extract containing less than <30 mg harpagoside per day in the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. There is moderate evidence of effectiveness for (1) the use of a Harpagophytum powder at 60 mg harpagoside in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the spine, hip and knee; (2) the use of an aqueous Harpagophytum extract at a daily dose of 100 mg harpagoside in the treatment of acute exacerbations of chronic non-specific low back pain; and (3) the use of an aqueous extract of Harpagophytum procumbens at 60 mg harpagoside being non-inferior to 12.5 mg rofecoxib per day for chronic non-specific low-back pain (NSLBP) in the short term. Strong evidence exists for the use of an aqueous Harpagophytum extract at a daily dose equivalent of 50 mg harpagoside in the treatment of acute exacerbations of chronic NSLBP.