Nature’s pharmacy offers a cornucopia of anti-inflammatory plants and herbs that research has shown can benefit people experiencing chronic pain.
Traditional medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID)—a class that includes aspirin and ibuprofen—are commonly used by chronic pain sufferers but these can lead to significant side effects including potential stomach ulcers and kidney damage. With that in mind, many people are looking for more natural remedies to reduce chronic pain.
Plants and herbs including turmeric, green tea, and ginger have been proven to reduce inflammation and pain without harmful side effects.
Although these herbs come from the soil and not the pharmacy, they “can be the cornerstone of good pain management,” says David Leopold, director of San Diego’s Integrative Medical Education program at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.
Turmeric in particular represents one of nature’s most potent anti-inflammatory spices, Leopold adds. This bright yellow spice commonly used in Indian cuisine comes from the same plant family as ginger, another powerful antioxidant. Turmeric’s active component, curcumin, reduces inflammation by inhibiting several inflammatory enzymes. Curcumin also gives turmeric its signature color.
Research published in the Italian internal medicine journal Panminerva Medica found osteoarthritis patients taking a turmeric supplement experienced a 58% drop in pain and stiffness and reduced their reliance on traditional drugs like NSAIDs.
Ginger, a relative of turmeric, is another proven inflammation buster. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that eating ginger daily reduced muscle pain among heavy exercisers. The spice can be drank as tea or used in fresh or powdered form to flavor meals. Research published in the journal Arthritis found ginger extract to be as effective as the anti-inflammatory medication betamethasone.
If adding exotic spices to food isn’t your style, sip green tea. This powerful beverage reduces inflammation and promotes health.
Green tea, used for centuries in Chinese and Indian medicine, has gained fame in Western societies for its catechins that reduce inflammation and the risk for many types of cancer.
The popular beverage has shown promise in reducing chronic pain, particularly for people with rheumatoid arthritis. A study completed at the University of Michigan found green tea’s anti-inflammatory benefits alleviated symptoms associated with the disorder. Michigan researchers found that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG)—an active compound in green tea—thwarted the production of molecules that lead to joint destruction and bone erosion in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Another herb integrative medicine that doctors recommend is rosemary. Research on rosemary’s pain-reducing benefits is limited, although rubbing the oil on affected areas may be more effective than eating the herb.
Have you tried any plants or herbs to alleviate chronic pain?
Image by A Girl With Tea via Flickr