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Baicalin for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Clinician's Brief (Capsule)

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the synovial membranes and proliferation that leads to bone destruction and joint malformation. Biologic agents (eg, tumor necrosis factor inhibitors, interleukin [IL]-1 antagonists, NSAIDs) are clinically effective in RA patients but have toxic side effects. Nuclear factor (NF)-kB is highly activated in the pathogenesis of RA and may enhance recruitment of inflammatory cells and production of proinflammatory mediators. NF-kB also controls the expression of gene products that influence inflammation, immunity, cell proliferation, and apoptosis. Baicalin is a flavonoid found in the dry root of the medicinal plant Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi.

It is used in Asia to treat brain, hepatic, and inflammatory diseases. Evidence shows that baicalin has antiinflammatory, antioxidant, antiapoptotic, and immune regulation properties. It may have a role in anti-inflammation and immune regulation. This study investigated the effect of baicalin in a collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) model of human RA in rats.

Rats with confirmed CIA were divided into groups; each received daily intraperitoneal injections of 50, 100, or 200 mg/kg baicalin, 1 mg/kg methotrexate, or physiological saline for 30 days. Significant suppression of collagen-induced joint inflammation injury was noted in a dose-dependent manner in rats receiving baicalin. This improvement was assessed by observing decreased redness and swelling of the ankle and decreased secretion of key cytokines in pathologic synovia.

Commentary

Medicinal plants used in herbal medicine are controversial because of a lack of substantial evidence in the literature of their efficacy. Studies such as this one help support our understanding of a molecular pathway for efficacy, which is important in understanding ancient therapies and creating buy in from skeptical practitioners. Further studies are needed to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of compounds such as baicalin in animals, especially to compare the effectiveness of the whole herb vs its molecular constituent and when using alternate routes of administration.—Heather Troyer, DVM, DABVP, CVA

References

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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