Natural Pain Relief for Arthritis, Headaches, PMS and More

Over-the-counter painkillers can cause medical problems ranging from liver failure to internal bleeding. Forgo pharmaceuticals and find natural pain relief in these options.


| March/April 2013


A headache. Back pain. Menstrual cramps. A number of minor ailments send us reaching into the medicine cabinet for over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, such as ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen. But taking frequent doses of any over-the-counter painkiller, even small doses, is hard on the liver and can lead to long-term health problems such as stomach bleeding and increased risk of stroke. (For more on the risks of OTC painkillers, check out The Dangers of Over-the-Counter Painkillers.) Fortunately, many natural alternatives exist that can reduce your pain without risky side effects. Before you pop that pill, check the bottle for the list of active ingredients your painkiller contains, and consider these natural pain relief options to treat your pain.

Natural Pain Relief for Arthritis

More than 27 million Americans suffer from arthritis; osteoarthritis is the most common type. This degenerative joint disease is characterized by stiffness, loss of movement, and pain caused by inflammation and a breakdown of cartilage around joints, which results in bones scraping against each other. Although arthritis can’t be cured, herbal and home remedies can help reduce the inflammation, stiffness and pain associated with this disease.

Bromelain: Derived from pineapple, this enzyme fights the compounds that cause pain and inflammation. Bromelain may also break down proteins that hinder blood circulation and cause blood clots, which can help relieve pain. A common dose is 500 milligrams (mg) three times a day between meals.

Capsaicin: Capsaicin creams won’t prevent or restore lost cartilage, but they can help reduce pain. Found in cayenne peppers, this compound interferes with transmission of pain signals between brain and body. Pain relief usually occurs within 14 days of beginning application but may take as long as six weeks. Your physician can advise which concentration is best for you—nonprescription topical products contain 0.025 percent to 0.075 percent capsaicin, but ointments with higher concentrations are available with a prescription.

Devil’s claw: This herb from southern Africa is prized for its anti-inflammatory properties. Early in the 20th century, devil’s claw was introduced into German phytomedicinal practice, where it is primarily valued for reducing arthritis inflammation and pain. Today, the popularity of devil’s claw as a medicine has put it at risk of extinction, so purchase the herb from a sustainable source. A common recommendation for dosage is 1,500 to 2,500 mg of powdered herb or 1 to 2 milliliters of the tinctured herb three times a day.

Fish oil: The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements may help reduce joint inflammation. Choose a supplement with at least 30 percent EPA/DHA. For rheumatoid arthritis, aim for up to 2.6 grams twice daily. (Although flax seed oil is a common alternative, it doesn’t provide the same benefits.)

Ginger: Ginger decreases pain and inflammation. In one study, 250 mg of ginger extract taken four times a day diminished pain from knee osteoarthritis after three months of use.

Glucosamine sulfate: Found naturally in the fluid around joints, glucosamine sulfate can help prevent the breakdown of cartilage and fluid around joints and rebuild lost cartilage. Research has shown glucosamine sulfate to effectively treat osteoarthritis, especially of the knee. Take 1,500 mg daily.

Turmeric: The curcumin in turmeric contains potent anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce joint pain and swelling. Curcumin is often combined with bromelain or piperine (found in peppers) to help increase its absorption by the body. Two long-term studies show that a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex (Meriva) improves arthritis symptoms and reduces blood levels of inflammatory chemicals.

Exercise for Arthritis

While overuse can cause acute joint pain, exercise doesn’t exacerbate arthritis pain. In fact, physical activity helps maintain joint health and is an essential part of the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, according to the American College of Rheumatology. Obesity poses a much greater threat to joint degeneration than exercise. The Arthritis Foundation recommends sufferers practice three types of exercise: at least 15 minutes a day of flexibility exercises; strengthening exercises every other day (see examples of arthritis exercises); and aerobic exercise such as jogging, swimming or bicycling three to four times a week for at least 30 minutes. If a particular activity seems to cause pain, consult your physician.



Natural PMS Relief

Hormone fluctuations the few days before a woman’s period can wreak havoc on her physical and mental well-being. Painful cramps, uncomfortable bloating and ever-changing mood swings can leave us feeling less-than-human and wishing for our normal lives back. If you’re sick of the suffering, make a few changes to better your life. No matter the degree of your symptoms, you can reduce your suffering by identifying simple, natural solutions.

Cramps: Painful abdominal cramps are one of the most common—and uncomfortable—PMS symptoms. Acupressure and applying heat or essential oils, such as lavender, to your abdomen can all help alleviate these paralyzing pains.

Mood swings: Intensified feelings of anger and sadness not only leave us feeling drained, but they can also affect our relationships. Banishing bad moods can be as simple as changing a few habits. Start by eating a healthy breakfast to stabilize blood sugar, and be sure to get enough omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins to boost brain function.

Lack of energy: Some women feel exhausted the week before their period. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat iron-rich foods. For an extra spurt of energy, ditch the coffee and try natural energy boosters such as citrus or peppermint aromatherapy, coenzyme Q10 or B vitamin supplements, and herbs such as ashwagandha, astragalus, ginseng and licorice.

3 Steps to Relieve PMS

Reduce symptoms with healthy everyday choices.

carole
2/6/2014 2:38:35 PM

I have achy knees.When I eat a plateful of brussel sprouts a day it keeps the pain away.


Jeff Schwersinske
4/2/2013 9:14:18 PM

I use coffee,head ache keep me,going,works for me.Jeff








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