If you’re an athlete, chances are you’ve experienced joint pain. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The thousands of steps taken running. The powerful, repetitive pedal strokes on your bike. All the reps you’ve done in the gym. The jumping up and down and side to side while on the field.
All these activities put a tremendous amount of stress on your joints, ligaments, and muscles. Like a machine, your body can break down when you don’t give it the love it deserves.
Traditionally, there have been a handful of ways to reduce the risk of joint pain. These are:
- Take recovery days
- Strength train
- Eat a healthy diet that contains an adequate amount of protein
- Train of softer surfaces
- Make sure your footwear is good
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stay hydrated
While I fully endorse these recommendations, sometimes they are still not enough to prevent joint flare-ups when you’re busting your ass week in and week out. That’s why I also recommend trying supplements that can help with joint pain.
Now before you roll your eyes at me, I fully admit most joint supplements don’t work (these 9 do). To boot, the ones that do usually only have research on them in elderly or osteoarthritic populations. As athletes, more than likely we are neither of these.
BUT there is one supplement that has been shown to be effective at reducing joint pain in athletes. This supplement is cissus quadrangularis. In this article, we will discuss what it is, how it works, benefits, how much to take, and if there are any negative side effects.
What Is cissus?
What cissus quadrangularis is, is a very long and hard to pronounce supplement (sis-see-us qua dran-gularis). With that being said, and at the expense of my fingers, for the remainder of this article, we will refer to it cissus.
Cissus is a vine that is found in parts of Africa, Asia, and Thailand. In these countries, it is THE MOST used medicinal plants. Case in point, all parts of the cissus vine are used to treat various medical conditions. To put it another way, it’s the buffalo of the plant world. Nothing goes to waste.
Where does cissus supplement come from?
As a supplement, an extract is taken from the cissus plant that contains high amounts of ketosteroids, a compound that has antioxidant, analgesic (pain reducing), and anti-inflammatory properties.
How does cissus work?
Hang on tight for a little geek-speak that I’ll break down in an easy to understand way.
When you consume cissus in the supplemental form it increases IGF (insulin-like growth factor) signaling. This badass hormone main role in the body is to stimulate growth and repair but it also:
- Promotes mineral retention and growth in the bones
- Produces endocrine, paracrine, and autocrine effects
- Acts as a pain killer
- Can reduce inflammation
At this point, I hope it is becoming clear to you how cissus can help with your joint pain. Let’s move on to what you really want to know. The benefits of cissus.
Cissus quadrangularis benefits
First, we’ll look at the benefits of cissus as it relates to joint, muscle, and bone health. Then we will briefly discuss some of the other benefits.
Joints and Muscles
Cissus quadrangularis can benefit the musculoskeletal system in a few ways. These are:
- It is an anti-inflammatory agent. It has been shown to reduce both acute and chronic joint flare-ups.
- It is a quick-acting pain killer.
- It has sedative and muscle relaxing properties that happen within 30 minutes of supplementation.
Because of cissus’s sedative effects, it should never be taken pre-workout.
Remember before I mentioned cissus can increase IGF? This is a very good thing for your aching bones. That’s because cissus promotes bone growth, mineral density, and increases the bone’s ability to withstand hard impacts and force from activities like running and jumping.
Research has also demonstrated that cissus may:
- Enhance sleep
- Act as a fat loss agent
- Improve the healing rate of bone fractures
- Help control blood glucose
- Decrease cortisol
- Combat allergies
- Increase libido
How much cissus per day?
The recommended dose of cissus per day to improve joint pain is 300mg extract standardized to 2.5% ketosteroids. This amount has been shown to be biologically active in humans.
When to take cissus
Cissus can be taken anytime EXCEPT before working out as it may have a mild sedative effect.
How long does it take for cissus to work
For joint pain, cissus can reduce inflammation in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion. Cissus also works better the more you take it especially for chronic joint pain. At minimum, you should take cissus every day for 6-10 weeks.
Research on cissus
Cissus has been used by athletes for a while, but recent research has surfaced that solidifies what a lot of runners, cyclists, and other endurance athletes already know. Cissus helps their joints.
Case in point. A 2013 study conducted by Bloomer et. al discovered athletes who had pain due to excessive exercise and who supplemented with cissus daily for 8 weeks were able to reduce joint pain by a whopping 31% relative to baseline.
Is cissus safe
Yes! Multiple studies have demonstrated that individuals (including athletes) who took 300mg of cissus daily for 8-30 weeks experienced no adverse effects.
Cissus side effects
No known side effects have been demonstrated by the available research.
Cissus may have negative interactions with drugs that treat diabetes. This is because cissus may lower blood sugar.
Where to buy cissus
Cissus can be purchased as a stand-alone supplement at places like Amazon or other supplement sites for $30 - $50 OR it can be found in a comprehensive joint supplement like EndurElite JointElite which contains 300mg of cissus plus five other joint support ingredients.
Matt Mosman (MS, CISSN, CSCS) is a research scientist, endurance athlete, and the founder and Chief Endurance Officer at EndurElite. Matt holds his B.S. in Exercise Science from Creighton University and his M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of California. Matt and his family reside in Spearfish South Dakota, where they enjoy running, mountain biking, camping, and all the outdoor adventures Spearfish has to offer.
- Bloomer, R. J., Farney, T. M., McCarthy, C. G., & Lee, S. R. (2013). Cissus quadrangularis reduces joint pain in exercise-trained men: a pilot study. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 41(3), 29-35.
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- Hasani-Ranjbar, S., Nayebi, N., Larijani, B., and Abdollahi, M. A systematic review of the efficacy and safety of herbal medicines used in the treatment of obesity. World J Gastroenterol. 7-7-2009;15(25):3073-3085.
- Jainu, M. and Mohan, K. V. Protective role of ascorbic acid isolated from Cissus quadrangularis on NSAID induced toxicity through immunomodulating response and growth factors expression. Int.Immunopharmacol. 12-20-2008;8(13-14):1721-1727.
- Jainu, M. and Shyamala Devi, C. S. Attenuation of neutrophil infiltration and proinflammatory cytokines by Cissus quadrangularis: a possible prevention against gastric ulcerogenesis. J Herb.Pharmacother. 2005;5(3):33-42.