The clinical utility of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbs/roots extracts in osteoporosis (OP) and osteoarthritis (OA) has been described in multiple reports, but there have been few studies of TCM for preventing bone loss and cartilage degradation simultaneously. Six-month-old female Sprague-Dawley rats each were subjected to ovariectomized (OVX) or sham surgery and treated orally once daily with herbal extracts or vehicle. Body weight was recorded weekly, and blood samples were collected from fasting animals at different time points. Biochemical markers of bone resorption and cartilage degradation were analyzed. Changes in bone mineral density and calcium content were determined in the femoral center and femoral telocentric end of rats. Out of 56 TCM herbs/roots extracts, only kudzu root demonstrated consistent joint protective effects. OVX resulted in a marked increase in bone resorption and cartilage degradation, which could be significantly reversed by kudzu after three weeks of treatment. Compared to vehicle, kudzu induced a significant increase in bone mineral density in the femoral center and femoral telocentric end, and calcium content. The results show that kudzu exerts direct effects on articular cartilage in the OVX rat and can effectively prevent the acceleration of cartilage degradation induced by ovariectomy. Moreover, kudzu has demonstrated positive effects on metabolic health (cause a weight reduction) and may represent a possible treatment for OP and OA with high body mass index. Further studies are needed to investigate the potential effects of kudzu root in postmenopausal women.
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