Arthritis is an ailment where the joints in the body (knees, ankles, wrist, fingers, elbows, etc.) are affected by inflammation, thereby causing swelling, redness, pain, and stiffness.
Not only does this disease cause discomfort, but it also affects the routine life of the affected individual by limiting the joint function.
Moreover, some of the types of this disease may also give rise to complications like heart diseases, lung disorders, osteoporosis, etc.
Arthritis is conventionally treated using the medications like analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antirheumatic drugs, etc. In some cases, surgery may be needed as well.
However, these treatment options are often accompanied by many serious side effects (liver damage, kidney damage, nausea, stomach ulcers, etc.) and may not even be as effective in treating the disease.
Therefore, there is an ever-growing requirement for natural alternatives that can serve as an efficacious measure against arthritis. Moringa can be such an alternative.
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What is Moringa?
Moringa, better known as drumstick tree, is a source of a popular vegetable called the drumsticks (immature pods). Drumsticks are grown widely in many Indian states and South-east Asian countries like Philippines, Thailand, etc.
Besides the pods of Moringa, its leaves, seeds, roots, and flowers are also edible. The oil from the seeds is used for cooking and is thought to have biofuel potential.
The different parts of Moringa oleifera have an enormous and diverse nutrient content. These are rich in various bioactive compounds such as glucosinolates, flavonoids, carotenoids, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), folate, minerals (Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, etc.), fatty acids, tocopherols (Vitamin E), etc.
Traditionally, it has been used to combat problems like iron-deficiency, hysteria, paralysis, skin infections, diabetes, and other such ailments.
The nutritional profile of Moringa oleifera makes it highly therapeutic. It has been found to exhibit several properties of medicinal value like anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antihypertensive, diuretic, antitumor, etc.
3 Proven Benefits of Moringa in Arthritis
Moringa can prove to be very useful in arthritis owing to the strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and analgesic properties of its bioactive components. These properties can tackle some of the key biological processes involved in the arthritis development.
let us understand these benefits in more detail.
1. Moringa can suppress inflammation in arthritis
Inflammation plays a key role in the development and manifestation of the symptoms of most of the arthritis types such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, etc. The inflammatory conditions are brought about by various risk factors for the disease such as physical inactivity, old age, obesity, and others.
The pro-inflammatory (NF-kappa B, STAT3, etc.) pathways and molecules (TNF-α, interleukins, cytokines, etc.) act as a mediator of the inflammation. These attack the tissues in the joints leading to their dysfunction.
Suppression of the inflammation is, therefore, adopted as a primary treatment response in arthritis.
Moringa oleifera (leaves, fruit, seeds, and root) is known for a strong anti-inflammatory action and can be very useful against inflammation in this disease.
The leaf-extract of Moringa has been found to markedly suppress the pro-inflammatory molecules such as TNF-α, interleukins (IL-10, IL-1β), cyclooxygenase-2, prostaglandin-2, etc. and the inflammatory pathway, NF-kappa B.
Moreover, the root extracts of Moringa have shown a significant anti-inflammatory activity in an animal model of arthritis. Also, the results were comparable to a popular anti-inflammatory drug, indomethacin.
In arthritis, the seed extract of Moringa has been found to be effective as well. In an animal model, it could decrease various inflammatory mediators which resulted in an improvement in the joint tissues in the form of a reduced synovial lining (tissue padding the joints) thickening.
What does it mean?
It means Moringa oleifera can be effective in suppressing the inflammation in arthritis and ameliorating it. The different parts (leaves, fruit, seeds, roots) of this plant have a significant anti-inflammatory action which is comparable to some commonly used drugs in the arthritis treatment.
2. Moringa can reduce arthritis pain
Pain is one of the most common and most distressing aspects of arthritis. It results from the effect of inflammation in the joint tissues.
The inflammation leads to an increased nociception, i.e., an increased sensitivity of the neurons that transmit pain-signals, thus causing the pain.
Moringa leaves have been found to have a pain-relieving potential. It acts against the nociceptive stimulus, i.e., it inhibits the pain-signals.
The roots of this plant have also shown a significant analgesic activity.
In a study involving an arthritis model, the injection of leaf and root extracts respectively of Moringa oleifera led to marked reductions in the pain.
Moreover, the combination of both the extracts had a synergistic effect on the pain reduction.
What does it mean?
It means utilizing Moringa can reduce pain in arthritis. It is capable of inhibiting the pain-signals and thus shows the analgesic effect in arthritis.
3. Moringa can decrease heart risks in arthritis
The risk of heart disease is prevalent in many types of arthritis, especially in the ones where inflammation has a crucial role in the disease development.
The inflammation promotes the process of atherosclerosis (deposition of plaque in the arteries) and harms the endothelium (inner lining of the blood vessels), which eventually impedes the cardiovascular function.
It further increases the risk of heart diseases such as hypertension, strokes, heart attack, etc.
Moringa oleifera has anti-atherosclerotic potential due to the presence of flavonoids like kaempferol, myricetin, etc. These compounds reduce the risk of developing heart diseases by preventing endothelial damage, and atherosclerosis.
The administration of seed powder of Moringa in a hypertension model has shown heart-protective effects. The upregulation of PPAR-γ pathway (a biochemical pathway that can be regulated to deliver anti-inflammatory effect) improved various aspects of the heart function.
The leaf powder of Moringa has also shown to improve the lipid profile to decrease the risk of heart diseases through the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions of its constituents.
What does it mean?
It means Moringa oleifera can reduce the risk of heart problems in arthritis. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities of its components help in the prevention of atherosclerosis and endothelial damage that eventually cause heart diseases.
Dosage of Moringa for Arthritis
The dosage of Moringa in arthritis has not been specified.
However, most of the studies have been conducted in the animal models. The dosages up to 1000 mg/ kg body weight of different extracts (leaves, roots, & seeds) of the plant have shown to be efficacious and safe.
500-1000mg of standardized leaf extract can help.
A dose of 150-200mg per kg body weight is deemed to be safe by authority resources.
However, due to toxicity issues at the very high dosage, it is better to restrict the dosage at around 2000-3000 mg of the bioactive extracts depending on the body weight.15
This plant is versatile in terms of the utility. There are many options available for its intake.
There is a variety of supplements available in the form of powders, extracts or tablets (of leaves, roots, seeds, fruit, and flowers separately or mixed).
Almost all the plant part of Moringa is edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. The immature fruits or pods and flowers are used in many South-east Asian dishes. The seeds can be roasted, or its oil may be added to dishes.
The powder may be used in soups, milkshakes, or used to make tea. The leaves can also be cooked or added to stews, etc.
Precautions while using Moringa
Moringa plant parts as food are regarded as safe for daily consumption. However, it is advisable to practice certain precautions to avoid any adversity associated with the user.
Moringa can cause allergy and gastric side effects.
Being a natural food product, it may contain some components that can trigger allergic reactions in prone individuals. If upon its consumption any allergy symptoms and gastric side effects are seen a medical expert must be consulted.
A high dose of Moringa oleifera products should be avoided for a long duration.
The consumption of the products of this plant over a long period may lead to the accumulation of different elements in the body. It may result in abnormalities in the different organs of the body.17
Moringa oleifera may cause genotoxicity at a very high dose.
The intake of this plant’s products in very high amounts has been found to cause genotoxicity, i.e., alterations in the DNA. It may further result in genetic diseases such as cancer.
Moringa oleifera may interact with certain drugs.
The consumption of Moringa oleifera products has been found to reduce the efficacy of certain drugs used in the treatment of diseases like HIV/AIDS. It is therefore important to consult a medical expert before using the plant in such conditions.
It is better to avoid Moringa oleifera supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Moringa oleifera’s consumption as food is considered safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, enough is not known regarding the use of its supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Therefore, supplements are better avoided during this time by women.
Moringa oleifera has a vast potential in arthritis, and it lives up to its reputation in the traditional medicine.
The anti-inflammatory effect of the different parts of this plant is remarkable against arthritis. It is capable of suppressing the inflammation and ameliorating the symptoms of this disease.
One of the most impressive activities of Moringa oleifera is its analgesic effect that can help to relieve the arthritis pain.
Additionally, this plant can also prove to be very useful in tackling the increased risk of developing heart diseases in arthritis patients due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions against the cardiovascular anomalies.
However further research especially in human studies is required to further corroborate the therapeutic effects of Moringa oleifera for arthritis.