How many people do you know that turn to ibuprofen to relieve inflammation and pain? This nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), available both over the counter and by prescription, is commonly used a number of painful conditions such as arthritis, menstrual symptoms, headaches, and various inflammatory conditions. However it is also linked to anemia, DNA damage, hearing loss, hypertension, miscarriage and even influenza mortality. So why not use natural alternatives that have no side effects and are just as effective?
Many studies have been done on various natural pain killers and anti-inflammatories that can be used as alternatives to ibuprofen and NSAIDs. They generally have no side effects.
1) Boswellia: This anti-inflammatory remedy comes from the Boswellia serrata tree that grows in India. The anti-inflammatory properties of boswellia are attributed to the boswellic acids that it contains. These acids improve blood flow to the joints and prevent inflammatory white cells from entering damaged tissue. Also known as “Indian frankincense,” boswellia is available as a supplement and a topical cream. For pain and inflammation, a suggested dose is 450 to 750 mg daily for three to four weeks. In one study, this decreased arthritis pain by over 80%. Use 900-1,000 mg a day.
2) Devil's Claw is a South African herb that has active in Europe for hundreds of years. It is very effective against inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and muscle pain.
Some evidence suggests that devil’s claw works about as well as pain relieving drugs for improving osteoarthritis pain in the hip and knee. Some people taking devil’s claw seem to be able to lower their dose of NSAIDs or eliminate them completely. This evidence comes from a study that used a specific powdered devil’s claw root product (Harpadol, Arkopharma) containing 2% of the devil’s claw ingredient harpagoside (9.5 mg/capsule) and 3% total iridoid glycosides (14.5 mg per capsule). Another specific devil’s claw extract (Doloteffin, Ardeypharm) 2400 mg/day providing 60 mg/day of the harpagoside ingredient has also been used.
3) Capsaicin: The active component of chili peppers, capsaicin is often used topically to nerve, muscle, and joint pain. It works by interfering with substance P, a chemical that helps transmit pain signals to the brain. It is available as a topical cream or gels in several different potencies (most often, 0.025% to 0.075%) and is usually applied three to four times daily. It can cause some stinging and burning initially, but it typically subsides with use.
4) Cat’s claw: Uncaria tomentosa, or cat’s claw, also known as una de gato, grows in South America. It contains an anti-inflammatory agent that blocks the production of the hormone prostaglandin, which contributes to inflammation and pain. Suggested doses are 250 to 1,000 mg capsules one to three times daily. Taking too high a dose may cause diarrhea.
5) DMSO and Sweet Relief cream combined is a completely natural way to deal with chronic pain. DMSO has many uses, but it is known mostly as a natural pain killer and transporter. First synthesized in 1866, DMSO is a sulfur-containing organic compound that is derived from MSM, and can be used internally or externally. DMSO can aid injuries such as sprained ankles, sore muscles and joints, and even fractures. It is very effective in treating joint pain when combined with capsaicin which dramatically increases effectiveness.
6) Curcumin: Curcumin is a component of the herb turmeric, and it is a potent painkiller that can block proteins in the body that cause inflammation and also stops the neurotransmitter called substance P from sending pain message to the brain. Studies show that curcumin is effective in easing the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis. A suggested dose is 400 to 600 mg of curcumin taken three times daily for pain and inflammation.
7) Omega-3 fatty acids: The omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that have proven beneficial for people who suffer with arthritis, other inflammatory joint conditions, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Omega-3s also reduce cardiovascular risk, which is especially helpful for people with rheumatoid arthritis, which carries an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. A suggested dose of omega-3 fatty acids as fish oil is 1,000 mg daily.
8) Cannabis: An investigational cannabinoid therapy helped provide effective analgesia when used as an adjuvant medication for cancer patients with pain that responded poorly to opioids, according to results of a multicenter trial reported in The Journal of Pain, published by the American Pain Society.
When patients begin to consume cannabis, there is a notable decline in the amount of prescribed medications taken, such as antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and pain relievers. These drugs have severe side effects. There is not one clinical study which examined the use of cannabis for pain relief where subjects were not able to reduce their drug intake.
9) White willow bark: This herb is the predecessor of aspirin. White willow bark contains salicin, which converts to salicylic acid in the stomach. White willow bark is much less irritating to the stomach than the synthetic drug, aspirin, while it works to relieve pain, inflammation, and fever. A suggested dose is 1 to 2 dropperfuls of white willow bark tincture daily.
Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.