BACKGROUND: Rhus toxicodendron (Rhus tox) is a homeopathic remedy with anti-inflammatory activities used for arthritis pain.
We studied the effects of 4×, 30×, 30c and 200c homeopathic dilutions of Rhus tox in primary cultured mouse chondrocytes. We examined the expression of collagen type II, a marker protein of chondrocytes, and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which is responsible for the biosynthesis of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and the regulation of the inflammatory response. We assessed the expression of collagen type II and COX-2 using biochemical and immunological methods, such as reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), quantitative (or real-time) RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) and immunoblot assays.
Stimulation with different concentrations of Rhus tox increased the mRNA expression of COX-2, and stimulation with 30× Rhus tox showed the most prominent mRNA expression in both RT-PCR and qRT-PCR analyses. We also observed that homeopathic dilutions of 4×, 30× and 30cRhus tox inhibited collagen type II expression, suggesting that Rhus tox induced the dedifferentiation of chondrocytes. In addition, treatment with 30× Rhus tox significantly increased PGE2 release compared with other homeopathic dilutions of Rhus tox.
Taken together, these results suggest that homeopathic treatment with Rhus tox induced chondrocyte dedifferentiation and inflammatory responses, such as COX-2 expression and PGE2 production, in primary cultured chondrocytes.