Small molecules of herbal origin for osteoarthritis treatment: in vitro and in vivo evidence

Arthritis Res Ther. 2022 May 11;24(1):105. doi: 10.1186/s13075-022-02785-y.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common musculoskeletal degenerative diseases and contributes to heavy socioeconomic burden. Current pharmacological and conventional non-pharmacological therapies aim at relieving the symptoms like pain and disability rather than modifying the underlying disease. Surgical treatment and ultimately joint replacement arthroplasty are indicated in advanced stages of OA. Since the underlying mechanisms of OA onset and progression have not been fully elucidated yet, the development of novel therapeutics to prevent, halt, or reverse the disease is laborious. Recently, small molecules of herbal origin have been reported to show potent anti-inflammatory, anti-catabolic, and anabolic effects, implying their potential for treatment of OA. Herein, the molecular mechanisms of these small molecules, their effect on physiological or pathological signaling pathways, the advancement of the extraction methods, and their potential clinical translation based on in vitro and in vivo evidence are comprehensively reviewed.

Keywords: Anabolic; Anti-catabolic; Anti-inflammatory; Compound delivery; Herbal extraction; Herbal medicine; Inflammation; Therapeutic target; Traditional Chinese medicine.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement*
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis* / drug therapy
  • Osteoarthritis* / metabolism
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Signal Transduction


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents