Most of us resort to pain-killers the moment we start experiencing the unbearable effects of aches and pains when in fact we can look for the cure at home, among everyday kitchen ingredients. Many painful conditions, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, and even muscle strains can be addressed with natural herbs and spices, from capsaicin to turmeric, minus the side effects of OTC medications.
Proper nutrition is the basis of good health, because food per se is the best medicine. Including a variety of foods, preferably from all the food groups, will provide your body with the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients your immune system depends on. According to a 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, prevention of weight gain as well as chronic diseases, including the painful arthritis, is much more dependent on carbohydrate quality than carbohydrate quantity.
The best way to prevent pain is to eat healthy, in the word of Marci Clow, a registered dietician and nutritionist at Rainbow Light. “Eat a well-balanced, mostly plant based diet and simply incorporate foods that help maintain weight and reduce inflammation, while cutting back on foods that induce inflammation such as fried and processed foods.”
There’s a variety of foods abundant in anti-inflammatory properties that offer natural pain relief.
Capsaicin: Arthritis, Migraine, and Diabetic Neuropathy
The medicinal properties in capsaicin, the active component in red chili peppers, can relieve pain from arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, and migraines. What happens is that capsaicin binds to a protein on neurons that trigger heat and pain in the body. This stimulates the neurons into releasing substance P, a neurotransmitter partially responsible for the feeling of pain. Long-term exposure to capsaicin reduces the substance P levels making them less able to conduct pain signals.
As found in a 2003 study published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, chronic migraines can be treated by inhaling capsaicin through the nose. The subjects in the study sprayed a jelly capsaicin formula once a day for seven days, applying the spray inside the nose on the same side as the migraine. Amazing 50-80% improvement in migraine symptoms were reported by all patients treated with capsaicin.
Bromelain: Nose, Sinuses, Osteoarthritis, and Muscle Soreness
This anti-inflammatory enzyme decreases inflammation by stimulating the production of substances in the body that reduce pain and swelling, especially of the nose and sinuses — after surgery or injury. High content of bromelain is found in pineapple juice and the pineapple stem. Plus, this enzyme prevents formation of blood clots in a number of ways – it stimulates the breakdown of the clotting protein fibrin. These medicinal properties make pineapple another health-beneficial food for those who suffer from inflammation.
Bromelain also speeds up the recovery process after an injury or surgery according to a 2011 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research.
Ginger: Aches, Nausea, Osteoarthritis
Ginger is another natural pain reliever due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties. It’s especially effective against nausea, arthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps, and muscle soreness. In fact, ginger inhibits the inflammatory pathways i.e. affects certain inflammatory processes at a cellular level , thus reducing pain. As said by Clow “One of the features of inflammation is increased oxygenation of arachidonic acid, which is metabolized by the COX-2 and LOX pathways. Ginger can inhibit these pathways.”
Ginger extract could be the potential substitute for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) according to a 2001 study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. The study investigated the effects of a ginger extract to a placebo in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee and found that the ginger extract decreased pain and stiffness in knee joints by 40% compared to the placebo.
Turmeric: Sprains, Strains, Bruises, and Joint Inflammation
Owing to its active ingredient, curcumin, this commonly used spice can naturally relieve pain inflicted by a number of conditions. It blocks COX-2 enzymes, responsible for inflammatory processes, in a natural way. Research has found that the effects of turmeric are as strong as those of ibuprofen.
In 2009 the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a study which compared curcumin with ibuprofen for pain relief in patients with knee osteoarthritis. The findings revealed that curcumin had the same effects as ibuprofen treatment. Plus, it was used as an alternative for those who couldn’t take medicine such as OTC pain relievers.
Aquamin (Red Seaweed): Osteoarthritis Inflammation and Pain
This natural multi-mineral supplement is made from the seaweed Lithothamnium calcareum which thrives off the coast of Ireland. Abundant in calcium and magnesium, it’s extremely beneficial against knee joint inflammation. Aquamin can actually reduce joint inflammation and stiffness triggered by osteoarthritis in the knee found a 2008 study published in the Nutrition Journal. Patients using Aquamin experienced a decrease in arthritis pain by 20% within a month, along with less stiffness when compared to the placebo group.
According to Clow, the seaweed’s abundant mineral content improves bone density, joint mobility and flexibility.
Always consult your physician before using any natural remedies.