Natural Products as Alternative Treatments for Metabolic Bone Disorders and for Maintenance of Bone Health

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Abstract

Bone metabolism involves a complex balance between the deposition of matrix and mineralization and resorption. There is now good evidence that dietary components and herbal products can influence these processes, particularly by inhibiting bone resorption, thus having beneficial effects on the skeleton. For example, it has been reported that a number of common vegetables, including onion, garlic and parsley, can inhibit bone resorption in ovariectomized rats. Essential oils derived from sage, rosemary, thyme and other herbs inhibit osteoclast activityin vitroandin vitroand leading to an increase in bone mineral density. Soya, a rich source of isoflavones, has shown promising results and epidemiological evidence to support a use in maintaining bone health, and various traditional herbal formulae in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine also have demonstrable effects in pharmacological models of osteoporosis. Recently, cannabinoids have been described as having positive effects on osteoblast differentiation, and the presence of cannabinoid receptors in bone tissue indicates a more complex role in bone metabolism than previously thought. The first part of this review briefly discusses normal bone metabolism and disorders caused by its disruption, with particular reference to osteoporosis and current pharmacological treatments. The effects of natural products on bone and connective tissue are then discussed, to include items of diet, herbal extracts and food supplements, with evidence for their efficacy outlined.

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