Research skyrockets on natural ingredients for joint health

Published on: 
Nutritional Outlook, Volume 26, Issue 7

As consumers embrace active lifestyles, especially post-pandemic, clinical research on joint health ingredients is hopping.

Natural ingredients for joint health are rapidly growing in popularity as both younger and older consumers look to stay active longer. One market report by Grand View Research estimates that the joint health market will grow at a 7.1% CAGR from 2023 to 2030, attracting not only aging Baby Boomers but also Generation Z.1

Consumers are increasingly looking for scientifically validated ingredients that can ease their joint pain. Here are some of the most recent supplement studies on joint health.

Hyaluronic Acid Matrix Ingredient for Joint and Muscle Health

Joint health and muscle health are closely intertwined. Healthy muscles help support the joints and maintain strong ligaments. New research is showing that a novel hyaluronic acid matrix ingredient can also bring benefits for muscle health.

One 2023 in vitro study examined the effects of Bioiberica’s (Barcelona, Spain) branded Mobilee ingredient, a blend of hyaluronic acid, collagen, and polysaccharides, on protection against atrophy and damage in a cell culture of muscle cells. Muscle damage was measured by determining the proliferation of myocytes, a type of cell found in muscle tissue. The cells were treated with 6 mcg per ml of Mobilee for 24 hours. After 24 hours, the existing muscle cells grew by 7%, while the overall culture grew more than 20% of its size with new cells. Mobilee also demonstrated an anti-atrophic effect, indicating it could help prevent muscle damage and cell death.

Botanicals Offer Diverse Benefits

The world of botanicals is full of promising joint health ingredients, with each one bringing something slightly different to the table.

One July 2023 clinical trial examined the effects of TamaFlex, a branded Tamarindus indica and Curcuma longa blend produced by NXT USA (Edison, NJ), on knee pain and musculoskeletal function in older adults.2 Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 250 mg of TamaFlex or 1 g of a C. longa and Boswellia serrata extract, or a placebo, once per day for 30 days. The subjects were assessed for Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) scores, joint pain, musculoskeletal function, and C-reactive protein measures at baseline and after 30 days.

After 30 days, the subjects receiving TamaFlex reported significantly reduced WOMAC scores and demonstrated significantly improved musculoskeletal function. TamaFlex also reduced knee pain quickly, within five days of starting supplementation.

While curcumin has shown efficacy in addressing joint pain in a blend, it’s also demonstrating an effect on its own.

One recent clinical trial examined the efficacy of OmniActive Health Technologies’ (Bridgewater, NJ) branded curcumin (Curcuma longa) ingredient, Curcuwin Ultra+, on joint discomfort and stiffness, cartilage integrity, and inflammation in 135 healthy adults with mild knee osteoarthritis.3 Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 250 mg or 500 mg of Curcuwin Ultra+, or a placebo, once per day for 84 days. Subjects were assessed for visual analog scale (VAS) pain, WOMAC scores, walking performance, and knee range of motion on days 0, 5, 28, 56, and 84.

The study found that curcumin was associated with a significant reduction in joint discomfort, cartilage degradation, inflammation, and use of rescue medication for pain. Curcumin also improved joint flexibility and mobility as well as knee muscle strength.

Meanwhile, a unique botanical blend is showing promise in reducing exercise-induced knee discomfort. In June 2023, ENovate Biolife (Wilmington, DE) announced the results of a recent clinical trial on its branded Muvz ingredient, a blend of Vitex negundo and Zingiber officinale.4 This study examined the effects of Muvz on exercise-induced self-reported joint pain in 40 physically active men and women aged 20 to 60 years. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either a capsule containing 200 mg of Muvz, or a matching placebo, twice per day for five days. After a washout period of 3 to 7 days, all of the subjects crossed over to the opposite group and repeated the experiment in the opposite condition.

During the trial, subjects’ knee pain was assessed using VAS scores following treadmill tests. The study found that Muvz reduced time to pain relief compared to placebo.The study authors concluded that supplementing with Muvz significantly improved exercise-induced knee pain, stating that Muvz “provided a statistically significant as well as clinically meaningful reduction in exercise- induced knee joint discomfort within four hours of administration.” The authors also noted that Muvz was found to be “safer than conventional treatments compared to results obtained in similar studies.”

In addition to these more exotic botanicals, new joint health research is uncovering the benefits of ingredients that consumers already have in their kitchens. One 2023 clinical trial assessed the effects of Q-actin, a branded cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) extract produced by IminoTech (Carson City, NV), on joint health in 91 subjects with knee osteoarthritis.5 Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 20 mg or 100 mg of Q-actin, or a placebo, once per day for 180 days. Subjects were assessed for WOMAC, VAS, and Lequesne Functional Index (LFI) scores at baseline and on study completion. Some of the subjects were prescribed 400 mg of ibuprofen tablets as rescue medication at study baseline; subjects were instructed not to take the rescue medication for more than three days.

After 180 days, subjects in the low-dose Q-actin group reported a 32% reduction in WOMAC scores and a 39% reduction in VAS scores. Meanwhile, the high-dose Q-actin group reported 39.5% and 45% reductions, respectively. The low-dose Q-actin group reported a 40% improvement in LFI scores, while the high-dose group reported a 50% improvement. The study authors concluded that Q-actin reduced pain over time in both the low-dose and high-dose groups, with the higher dose being more effective.

Boswellia serrata is also demonstrating an effect as a single-ingredient joint health product. A 2022 study examined the effects of PLT Health Solutions’ (Morristown, NJ) branded ApresFlex B. serrata ingredient on knee osteoarthritis symptoms in 70 subjects.6

The subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 100 mg of ApresFlex, which is also sold under the brand name Aflapin, or a matching placebo, once per day for 30 days. All subjects were evaluated using the VAS, LFI, and WOMAC index at baseline and after 5 and 30 days of treatment. The subjects also had several inflammatory and cartilage biomarkers measured, including matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP-3), TNF-alpha, high-sensitive C-reactive protein, cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP), and collagen type II cleavage.

Sixty-seven subjects completed the study. After 30 days, the subjects in the ApresFlex group experienced a 45% decrease in VAS scores, 41% decrease in LFI scores, 44% reduced WOMAC pain, 66% improvement in WOMAC stiffness, 44% improvement in WOMAC function, and 48% improvement in total WOMAC scores relative to baseline.

HCM Reduces Joint Discomfort in Real-World Setting

Emerging research is demonstrating that hydrolyzed cartilage matrix (HCM) can serve as a highly effective joint health ingredient. One recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial examined the effects of Rousselot’s (Irving, TX) branded Colartix, a hydrolyzed cartilage matrix ingredient, on joint pain scores in 213 healthy, active adults with joint pain.7

Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 1 g of Colartix or 1 g of a maltodextrin placebo per day for 12 weeks. As the study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face interaction with researchers was not possible; thus, all of the subjects reported their joint pain on a VAS once per week through a mobile app. The subjects continued reporting their joint pain scores for an additional four weeks after ceasing supplementation.

After three weeks, the Colartix group reported significant reductions in joint pain scores; the group’s joint pain slowly returned to baseline during the 4-week washout period. The study authors concluded that Colartix demonstrated a long-lasting pain-alleviating effect.

Joint Health Toolbox Grows

The joint health market has traditionally been dominated by legacy ingredients like collagen and glucosamine. Now, though, emerging ingredients like polysaccharide blends, cartilage matrices, and a vast array of botanicals are shaking up this space. As more ingredients enter this niche and offer competition against legacy products, formulators will gain more options for creating effective and appealing products to capitalize on a rapidly growing demand.

Correction on October 12, 2023: This story was corrected to note that in the clinical study on ENovate Biolife’s Muvz formula, intervention subjects were given 200 mg of Muvz twice daily, not once daily. Nutritional Outlook apologies for the error.


  1. Grand View Research. Bone and joint health supplements market size, share & trends analysis report by product (vitamins, mineral, collagen, omega-3, glucosamine), by formulation, by consumer group, by sales channel, by region, and segment forecasts, 2023–2030. June 2023.
  2. Prasad, N.; Vinay, V.; Srivastava, A. Efficacy of a proprietary combination of Tamarindus indica seeds and Curcuma longa rhizome extracts in osteoarthritis: a clinical investigation. Food Nutr Res. Published online June 20, 2023. DOI: 10.29219/fnr.v67.9268
  3. Jagtap, N.; Shah, A.; Bedmutha, S.; Durairaj, S.K. Efficacy and safety of a highly bioavailable curcumin formulation in modulating outcomes of mild knee osteoarthritis: multi-centric, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Orthop Res Ther. May 26, 2023. DOI: 10.29011/2575-8241.001303
  4. Srivastava, S.; Girandola, R.N. Effect of E-PR-01 on activity-induced acute knee joint discomfort in healthy individuals: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over study. J Pain Res.June 23, 2023. DOI: 10.2147/JPR.S412018
  5. Nash, R.J.; Mafongang, A.; Singh, H.; et al. Standardized ido-BR1 cucumber extract improved parameters linked to moderate osteoarthritis in a placebo-controlled study. Curr Rheumatol Rev.2023, 19 (3), 345-351. DOI: 10.2174/1573397119666230206105703
  6. Karlapudi, V.; Sunkara, K.B.; Konda, P.R.; Sarma, K.V.; Rokkam, M.P. Efficacy and safety of Aflapin, a novel Boswellia serrata extract, in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: a short-term 30-day randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study. J Am Nutr Assoc.2023, 42 (2), 159-168. DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2021.2014370
  7. Newman, C.; Adriaens, E.; Virgilio, N.; et al. Development of a mobile app to monitor the effectiveness of a hydrolyzed cartilage matrix supplement on joint discomfort: real-world study. JMIR Form Res. April 3, 2023. DOI: 10.2196/42967