Can traditional Chinese medicine help prevent and treat rheumatoid arthritis?

Chinese medicine based on combinations of typically five to ten plants has a long tradition of use against rheumatoid arthritis, but few clinical trials have tested its potential. A review in the Journal of Internal Medicine outlines a strategy to analyze the ability of different mixtures of plants used in Chinese medicine to combat rheumatoid arthritis.

The strategy involves isolating the active components of individual plants and testing them alone or in combinations against key pathways of disease pathology, followed by experiments conducted in animal models of rheumatoid arthritis.

“A substantial number of our current drugs are natural products or derivatives thereof, and without doubt nature will continue to be a source of future discoveries,” the authors wrote. “Therefore continuous research based on the traditional use of plants is highly motivated. In our opinion, the strategy of starting from knowledge in traditional medicine, followed by the combination of in vivo evidence of efficacy and bioassay-guided isolation to understand the chemistry and pathways involved, is one effective way forward.”