New Australian research into herbal medicine to treat osteoarthritis

8 October 2019 

A new Australian clinical trial is hoping to take the pain out of osteoarthritis for the 2.2 million Australians suffering from the condition.

Researchers from the NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University are currently recruiting for a clinical trial assessing the use of a herbal medicine for the management of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic and progressive condition that mostly affects joints in the hands, spine, hips, knees and ankles. It is the most common form of arthritis and the predominant condition leading to knee and hip replacement surgery in Australia.

One in five Australians over the age of 45 have osteoarthritis and this number is expected to increase as the population ages. The condition is more common in women, and the prevalence increases sharply from the age of 45.

The total economic cost of osteoarthritis, including indirect costs such as lost work productivity and loss of wellbeing, is estimated to be over $23 billion each year.

Speaking on World Arthritis day (October 12), lead researcher on the clinical trial, NICM-Blackmores Scholarship recipient Christine Murray said osteoarthritis is a leading cause of pain, disability and early retirement, and there is a need to find safe and effective forms of long-term pain management for the condition.

“Currently, there is no known cure or intervention to stop the progression of osteoarthritis, so the management of the symptoms such as pain and inflammation is necessary,” Ms Murray said.

“Common over the counter NSAIDS such as ibuprofen or prescribed medications cannot be used long-term by some patients due to safety issues, so around 70 per cent of people with osteoarthritis turn to natural therapies as an alternative.”

Previous research at NICM Health Research Institute identified three herbs commonly used as a traditional pain treatment for osteoarthritis – Turmeric, Indian Frankincense, and Ginger – as showing promising benefits in preclinical and clinical studies.

Ms Murray said their preclinical studies have demonstrated this herbal combination is able to reduce inflammatory factors in cells found in the knee that would lead to pain.

Her new research aims to examine the effectiveness and safety of this formulation to reduce pain from osteoarthritis of the knee and improve function, physical movement and wellbeing.

Rheumatologist and UNSW Professor Ric Day, who is also involved with the study, said osteoarthritis has an immense impact on people’s physical and mental health, our health system and the productivity of Australian workers, and there is an urgent need for more effective, cost-effective and accessible healthcare solutions to reduce this burden of disease.

“Osteoarthritis is a very painful, debilitating condition. One in 10 people with osteoarthritis 45 and over self-reported poor health – twice as much as people without the condition,” said Professor Day from St Vincent’s Hospital Medical School, UNSW Medicine, UNSW Sydney.

“With an ageing and increasingly obese population, the prevalence of osteoarthritis in Australia is projected to soar. The consequences for the economy, work productivity, health services and population health will be immense.

“This clinical trial could prove an important step toward a new clinically validated formulation for the management of osteoarthritis of the knee.”

If you are 40 to 75 and have a diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the knee and experiencing pain of the knee you may be eligible for this study.

To register your interest in this study contact Christine Murray on email at or call 0488 228 474.

This study has been approved by the Western Sydney University Human Research Ethics Committee (Approval Number H13062) and is supported by Western Sydney University, and NICM-Blackmores Institute Scholarship program.