Dealing with inflammation is a very painful and frustrating experience, and for those who have chronic inflammation the situation is that much worse. So what happens if you don’t want to use prescription or over the counter pain medication and you want to look for a natural way to deal with the pain?
In this story we’ll take a look at what exactly inflammation is, the common causes, the symptoms, and then the top natural remedies for inflammation so that you can start to experience relief without any unwanted or nasty side effects that medication can often cause.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is simply the body’s response to something harmful happening within it. Inflammation is in fact a way of the body trying to protect and then heal itself. It can be better described as an immune response within your body.
While it can be a very painful thing to go through, inflammation is actually a good thing because it shows the body is responding and trying to heal itself. It also alerts you that there is something happening in that area.
There are a number of reasons inflammation can occur such as:
- An infection of some sort
- A wound that is trying to heal itself
- A fungus
- A virus within your body
- Some diseases such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis
When talking about inflammation there are two main types, which are chronic and acute. A person dealing with chronic inflammation means they are dealing with it on a long-term basis, which can mean years in some cases.
Those who have acute inflammation are suffering from the inflammation on a short-term basis where it starts out quickly, gets severe fast, and then goes away after a few weeks tops.
The Common Symptoms
There are a number of common symptoms associated with inflammation, whether it is chronic or acute. In most cases you’ll be able to identify the inflammation rather quickly. Here’s a look at some of the top symptoms:
- A hard time using the affect joint
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Swelling of a joint
- Skin that feels warm when you touch it
- Redness of the affected area
It should be noted that sometimes inflammation can be confused for the flu because so many of the symptoms are similar. Those suffering from inflammation may also experience:
- Muscle stiffness and pain
- A loss of appetite
- Loss of energy and a general feeling of tiredness
- A headache
Traditional Treatment Methods
Traditionally inflammation is treated by using a variety of medications/drugs. They are meant to target not just the pain associated with inflammation but also the swelling and help to either bring it down or get rid of it all together. The most common drugs used are:
- Biologic drugs, which includes rituximab, etanercept, tocilizumab, golimumab, and more
- Oral drugs such as penicillamine, sulfasalazine, methotrexate, and more
- Antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine
- Corticosteroids like prednisone
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen, NSAIDs, and ibuprofen
Of course each of these medications can cause side effects especially if you are taking them in higher doses and over a long period of time. Some of these require a prescription while others are over-the-counter options.
Why Choose Natural Remedies?
So why would a person choose a natural remedy over the more traditional options? Well natural remedies typically don’t carry with them the side effects that the traditional ones do.
This becomes even more important if you have chronic pain and are looking for something to use on a more long-term and daily basis. The idea of taking prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications every day just doesn’t sit well with some people, yet they still want to be able to enjoy relief of their symptoms.
Some of the most common side effects of NSAIDs are:
- A stomach ulcer
- Problems with digestion
- An increase in blood pressure
- Chronic headaches
In very rare cases the side effects of NSAIDs can be more severe and can include:
- A stroke
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- A worsening of IBD symptoms
Some people also have pre-existing health issues and problems that prevent them from being able to safely use the more traditional remedies, and in those cases natural remedies can be a great option.
If you do decide to try the route of natural remedies it’s a good idea to speak to your health professional about any concerns you may have. They can help you choose the right treatment option and be sure it’s safe for you to use.
Natural remedies may not have the same serious side effects, but they can still have unwanted side effects in some cases. If you already take other medication on a daily basis, certain natural remedies can interfere with their effectiveness, so your doctor will be able to guide you in these cases.
Top 9 Natural Remedies
There is no reason a person should have to suffer through the discomfort and pain which inflammation causes, especially when there are a number of natural remedies that can help to reduce and even take the pain and inflammation away completely.
Here’s a look at some of the top natural remedies for inflammation. Many of them you may want to combine for extra benefits.
Harpagophytum procumbens (can be referred to as Grapple Plant, Wood Spider, or Devil’s Claw) – This is a common remedy for those suffering from pain associated with arthritis. It acts as a sedative, diuretic, and analgesic.
If you are suffering from pain and inflammation in the lower back this remedy can be useful, as well as helping to ease pain associated with headaches. It has also been shown to help with a fever. Additional benefits of Devil’s Claw in particular, is that it can help with heartburn and liver issues.
Turmeric – For those unfamiliar with this plant it is part of the same family as ginger. This plant has been showing some positive results when helping to deal with inflammatory illnesses such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, but it has also been shown to help with other illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric contains curcumins, which is an ingredient found in curry.
Ginger – Ginger is a wonderful spice to add to your food but did you know it also holds all kinds of wonderful health benefits? It’s one of those spices that you’ll want to keep on hand at all times thanks to its’ many cooking and medicinal uses.
There have been studies performed on ginger regarding its help in relieving pain, nausea, and inflammation including one that was done by the University of Miami, which concluded that ginger could in the future ginger could act as substitute over NSAIDs to treat inflammation.
Ginger has actually been shown to work at a cellular level when it comes to the inflammation process. If you’re using ginger to treat pain it is recommended you take it in capsule form to ensure you’re getting enough into your body.
Wintergreen Essential Oil – This essential oil falls into the category of an herb. It’s actually made from wintergreen leaves that have been water-soaked and then combined with oil. This one has a number of uses when it comes to pain and inflammation.
It can work on muscle/joint pain, help to relieve headaches, ovarian pain, arthritis, sciatica, menstrual cramps, swelling, excessive stomach gas, asthma, and more. An interesting fact about this essential oil is that it is made from 85-99% methyl salicylate, which is found in aspirin.
Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) – Here’s another natural remedy that has received a large amount of interest with multiple studies performed on it. This is an omega-6 fatty acid that can have anti-inflammatory results on a variety of medical conditions.
One condition that it shows benefits to is rheumatoid arthritis, as it can help to ease the swelling as well as the stiffness and pain associated with it. Keep in mind you’ll probably need to take this remedy for one to three months before you start to see the results.
Birch Leaf Bark – Just like wintergreen, birch leaf bark also contains salicylate, which means it is able to help with pain and inflammation of a number of medical conditions. In particular it shows to be helpful with muscle pain, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.
Part of the reason it helps with inflammation is that it works as a diuretic, this means it helps to get rid of the excess water that your body is storing, as well as any toxins. If you have a fever, this natural solution can also be of help.
It has been said that it can be almost as powerful as a cortisone, which also means it can be effective in dealing with autoimmune disorders, skin diseases, and lupus. The benefits keep coming too as this one can help with urinary tract infections as well as cystitis and has antibacterial properties to it.
There are different ways to use the birch leaf bark as you can get the essential oil form of it, you can apply the actual bark externally to affected areas, or you can infuse it in a tea.
Peppermint – If you’re a fan of peppermint then you’ll be happy to hear it’s more than just a tasty flavoring as it has a number of health benefits. It can help to numb and calm as well as reduce inflammation.
Common uses of peppermint are for helping with headaches, migraines, menstrual cramps, depression, skin disorders, upset stomach, bacterial, and viral infections. Where peppermint has some really interesting results is when helping with migraines.
Studies have been done that it can help with the symptoms of light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, vomiting, and nausea that goes along with migraines if it is applied on the forehead and temple. What’s more exciting is that results are almost immediate.
You can purchase peppermint in a variety of forms such as ointment, cream, extract, oil, capsules, and tinctures. Depending on what you’re using it for you’ll want to pick the best form for the job.
Cranberry Juice – Cranberry juice can help with a number of diseases and illnesses that result in inflammation, whether there are acute or chronic.
It’s made up of different items but the ones that stand-out for their anti-inflammatory properties are cytokines, magnesium, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C. While most people are aware of its beneficial properties when it comes to urinary tract infections it can also help with ulcers, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and more.
Bromelain – Bromelain is an all-natural enzyme that comes from pineapple stem and juice. It can be used for a variety of inflammation related illnesses, disorders, and diseases such as muscle pain, bowel issues such as ulcers, inflammation of the sinuses, hay fever, arthritis, and plenty more. There are also results with people who have musculoskeletal tension.
Other Top Treatment Options to Explore
Green Tea – Green tea is one of those things you can include in your normal everyday lifestyle thanks to its many different benefits. It can be used in combination with any of the remedies listed above and works well as a preventative measure for inflammation. Even though it is only a mild-inflammatory remedy, it can still be helpful in the long-term.
Omega-3 Fish Oil – Along the same lines as Gamma-Linolenic Acid this is also an omega fatty acid, and shows many of the same types of results when it comes to helping with pain, swelling, and general inflammation. This one also requires the person to take it for a period of a couple of months before results begin to happen.
Icing the Area – Ice can prove to be quite helpful when inflammation is acute. A good way to know if ice is the right solution is if the injury or damage has just happened, if the area is sensitive to the touch, is inflamed/swollen, and/or red.
If you opt for this route be sure to keep in mind you should never apply ice for more than 20 minutes at a time. Be sure to take time in between icing.
While you can certainly use a cold pack you can also substitute other items such as a bag of frozen vegetables since it is lightweight and flexible, a wet towel that you was in the freezer for at least 15 minutes, or even a bag of ice cubes if you don’t have anything else. Again this is a method you can use with other remedies. This one is great for immediate relief.
Tart Cherries – There has been some interest as of late regarding tart cherries that shows they can help with arthritis and joint pain. They have an anti-inflammatory effect which then helps with pain reduction. Tart cherries can be consumed in the form of juice and they tend to work fairly quickly, over the span of a couple of weeks.
Garlic – There has been plenty of results that show garlic is quite beneficial to fighting inflammation especially in terms of arthritis. You can just be more wary of adding garlic to your various cooked dishes, or you can even take it in capsule form if you prefer.
Cinnamon – Just like garlic, this spice is also helpful in dealing with inflammation. Again you can add this one to your baked and cooked goods, it’s also great sprinkled in warm drinks. You can purchase it already ground, you can grind it yourself, or even place a few cinnamon sticks in your stews, sauces, and drinks.
Diet Changes – It may be that you are eating and drinking items that aren’t good for your condition and that could mean elimination of certain foods. You can start keeping a food journal with what you eat and the effects it has and hopefully detect some patterns. It may be that an elimination diet is the best way to go instead.
Living Pain Free is Possible
While dealing with your pain and inflammation it’s hard to imagine there will ever be a time you’re pain free, but the fact of the matter is that it can happen and in a natural way if you choose. All of the methods listed above have shown different degrees of success, many of which have studies to back up the success.
Often it’s a matter of trial by error and actually giving different methods a fair shot for more than just a couple of days. These natural remedies can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months to start to have any effect, but at that point then you have the bonus of being pain and inflammation free in an all-natural way.
Remember that consulting your doctor beforehand is always a good idea and from there you can seek advice at natural health stores, and even through nutritionists.
I was unaware of Grapple Plant as a remedy for inflammation. The others do work. Due to old gymnastics injuries, my wrists get inflamed frequently. Ice, hydration, massage, peppermint, and Omega 3 are helpful. And of course staying active helps out a lot with preventing stiffness on top of the inflammation.