If you suffer from osteoarthritis, you may be searching for alternative ways to manage pain now that studies have linked Vioxx—and similar drugs—to increased risk for heart attack and stroke. The following herbal supplements can safely relieve arthritis discomfort by modulating the production of prostaglandins—pain-producing substances triggered in the body by an enzyme called COX-2.

5 herbal supplements to try

Herb

What It Does

Dose

Precautions

Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)

Prevents inflammation by binding to the COX-2 enzyme.

300–500 mg, 3x/day

None known.

Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa)

Animal studies show the phytochemicals in cat’s claw can reduce inflammation.

500–1,000 mg/day

Do not take if you are pregnant or if you suffer from multiple sclerosis or tuberculosis.

Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)

Devil’s claw is rich in anti-inflammatory and analgesic compounds. Researchers credit the herb’s active ingredient, iridoid glycosides, for its joint-protective potential.

1,000–4,000 mg (of the root), 3x/day

Do not take if you suffer from ulcers or gallstones, or if you are taking warfarin.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Researchers have found that the gingerols in ginger are as effective as aspirin for relieving pain.

2,000–4,000 mg/day

Although ginger is extremely safe, consult with your doctor before taking with blood-thinning medications.

Turmeric (Curcuma domestica)

Curcumin, the pigment that gives turmeric its deep yellow color, inhibits the COX-2 enzyme and the formation of prostaglandins.

250–500 mg of a standard curcumin supplement, 3x/day

Do not take high doses during pregnancy. People with gallstones should check with their doctor before taking this herb.

—K.E.

Note: Consult your health care practitioner for specific instructions.