Athletes often joke about relying on “vitamin I,” aka ibuprofen, to get through the aches and pains of training. But they’re not the only ones who depend on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief.
- Every day, more than 30 million Americans take NSAIDs like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen for everything from headaches, muscle cramps, and sport injuries to chronic conditions like arthritis, neuropathy, and back pain.
The main cause of this pain is the inflammation, a defensive response which leads to swelling in the tissues. NSAIDs reduce pain by inhibiting inflammation-causing enzymes. However, the problem with these drugs is that they cause some serious side effects, such as bleeding in the stomach, kidney damage, heart attack, strokes, increased risk of ulcers, and hormonal imbalance.
- “I wouldn’t take them on a regular basis for more than a few months, if at all,” says Jonathan Wright, MD, medical director of the Tahoma Clinic in Washington. “Some individuals might even see adverse effects after just a few days.”
Well, the good news is that because there are home remedies that have the same effects, as the chemicals mentioned above.
Here are they:
1. White Willow Bark and Feverfew
White willow bark contains salicin, which has the same effect as aspirin. Therefore, it is good when you have headaches.
Feverfew has the effect for relaxing blood vessels and in that way avoids migraine. According to a recent study on migraines, 16-week treatment with feverfew extract decreases migraine attacks from five a month to fewer than three a month. This herb prevents migraines rather than treating ones that have already developed. It is recommended to take 100-200 mg on a daily basis. Make sure the standardized form contains at least 0.2% of parthenolide, its active ingredient. Note that it takes 1-2 months to see the benefits.
This plant is also called frankincense, and it alleviates both chronic and minor pains. Its active compounds are the boswellic acids, which reduce the production of inflammatory compounds implicated in numerous chronic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. Try to find a formula standardized to 60 percent boswellic acids and consume 750 mg of it daily, divided in three doses. This year even a 90 percent formula has come out, and you should follow the dosage on the label of this formula.
This thing is contained in turmeric. It is an active ingredient which inhibits inflammatory properties and improves body`s ability to fight inflammation. It has been scientifically shown that curcumin soothes chronic pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis and many studies done on animals have shown that it helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer`s disease. Take 400-600 mg of curcumin three times on a daily basis. It is recommended to take it along with bromelain in order to increase its bioavailability. Bromelain is an anti-inflammatory enzyme which is naturally found in pineapples.
This is a root with an interesting and strong flavor that contains enzymes which slow down the production of inflammatory compounds. As Paul Anderson, ND, at Bastyr University in Seattle says, the amount of ginger in a spice, tea or candy is not going to give the best results, no matter how good it tastes. When it comes to acute pain, you should consume 2 grams of ground and dehydrated ginger every day, in three separate doses. When it comes to chronic conditions, one gram a day, divided in three doses will do the trick.
5. Devil’s claw
This prickly plant originates from South Africa. It is a hard fruit covered with tiny sharp hooks that rip onto fur and flesh and cause pain. Nevertheless, when used as an herbal remedy, this plant relieves pain. Some studies have shown that this plant considerably alleviates arthritis and back pain.
In a research that lasted for four months, over 120 people suffering from knee and hip osteoarthritis were examined and it was discovered that devil’s claw reduced pain and increased function just as well as a common osteoarthritis medication, with the difference that this plant has far fewer side effects. Similar results are got for pain in the low back from other studies.
According to Wright, the active ingredients are these compounds known as iridoid glycosides, especially the one known as harpagoside, and these ingredients have potent pain-relieving and inflammation fighting properties. It is recommended that you consume 50 to 100 mg of harpagoside a day or 400 mg of dried devil’s claw. However, stomach ulcer patients should consult their doctor first, as the devil’s claw triggers the production of gastric acid.
6. Omega-3 fatty acids
These are critical for long-term pain reduction,” says Wright, “because your body breaks omega-3 fatty acids down into anti-inflammatory compounds.” Moreover, lack of omega-3 fats in your diet will make you more prone to pain and greater inflammation in cases of sickness and injuries.
Omega-3s are naturally found in hempseed, flaxseed and cold-water fish like sardines, mackerel, and salmon. They also come in the form of supplement. For maintenance, take 1,000-2,000 mg on a daily basis. For chronic pain, increase the intake to 2,000-4,000 mg daily. You should take 400 IU of vitamin E daily too, as it prevents oxidization of omega-3s in the body and attacks on the healthy cells.
This centuries-old remedy comes from the bright yellow arnica flower, which grows in the alpine meadows of Europe. Compounds in arnica called sesquiterpene lactones decrease inflammation and boost the immune system.
In a 2007 Swiss study involving more than 200 people with osteoarthritis, a topical arnica gel soothed pain and restored joint function just as well as ibuprofen. Also ideal for acute injuries, such as sprains, strains, bruises, and postoperative healing, arnica cream or gel should be applied three to four times a day. For a one-two punch, take arnica homeopathically at the same time, using remedies of 6c, 12c, or 30c potency—three pellets under the tongue, three times a day.