Supplements for osteoarthritis

Four supplements proven to be most effective at treating symptoms - and where to buy them

Living with Arthritis: Using Topical Pain Relievers

Some arthritis sufferers swear by Indian frankincense capsules, while others extoll the virtues of capsaicin. If you are considering taking a supplement to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, it's worth knowing which have been proven to work.

See also: How diet affects arthritis

See also: Arthritis - should you treat the pain with heat or cold?

Luckily, Arthritis Research UK has released a Complementary and Alternative Medicines report, which scores the effectiveness of some of the most widely-taken supplements.

1. Capsaicin: available from Boots on prescription
Capsaicin was named best supplement for the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms - scoring 5 out of 5 for effectiveness. Extracted from chilli peppers, it works by reducing Substance P (which plays a key role in transmitting pain signals from nerve endings to the brain) and reduces tenderness in affected joints. It's available to buy on prescription in the form of gels, creams and plasters.

2. SAMe: available from Amazon from £14.33
SAMe scored well – earning 4 out of 5 for effectiveness. The chemical compound is found naturally in the body and has been found to stimulate the production of cartilage and reduce the pain of osteoarthritis. Research suggests it may also have antidepressant properties.

3. Indian frankincense capsules: available from Amazon from £4.86
This Ayurvedic remedy scored 4 out of 5 for its ability to prevent the production of hormone-like substances in the body that act as triggers for joint inflammation. Studies suggest it might help people with osteoarthritis of the knee, and that the benefits last for a period of time after treatment is stopped.

4. Green-lipped mussel capsules: available from Holland & Barrett from £13.89
Green-lipped mussels scored 3 out of 5. The magic ingredient are omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory and joint-protecting properties. Studies suggest the supplement may be of benefit to people with osteoarthritis when taken with paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, it's worth noting that it's not effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Supplements also given 3 out of 5 include: FLEXISEQ, devil's claw, ginger, pine bark extracts and rosehip. Amongst those scoring 2 out of 5 were glucosamine, turmeric and willow bark.

You may find it helpful to read tips and advice from people who have tried different remedies. It's worth remembering that there are some 200 types of arthritis, and what may work for one may not be effective for another. Speak to your GP before taking any supplements.