Pain and inflammation have afflicted people for millennia, and even when our diets are in order, we might still need help managing occasional or chronic pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen, ibuprofen and aspirin can cause more pain than they relieve and should be used rarely and sparingly. People taking NSAIDs increase the risk for illness in many different parts of the body, and they can interfere with the body’s natural healing process. Overuse can trigger a downward spiral of inflammation that results in autoimmune disease. People suffering chronic pain should try natural alternatives to these drugs since NSAIDs are not recommended for long periods.
- Turmeric: A golden spice, ground from the rhizomes of a plant related to ginger, is a staple of Ayurvedic medicine; its active ingredient is curcumin. Turmeric has been cited in more than 2,500 published studies on numerous conditions, including asthma and cancer. In 2009, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that curcumin is as effective as ibuprofen in reducing the pain of osteoarthritis of the knee.
- Ginger: A hot spice, ground from the underground stem (rhizome) of the ginger plant can be consumed fresh, powdered, dried as a spice, in oil form, or as juice. Taking ginger can reduce exercise-induced pain by up to 25 percent. Turmeric and ginger are often mixed together into one compound along with black pepper, which aids absorption.
- Capsaicin: The active compound that gives cayenne peppers their heat, and is used to treat both muscle aches and arthritic joint pain. It interferes with something called substance P, which is involved in both inflammation and sending pain signals to the brain.