Treatments for those who have arthritis problem or suffer from the debilitating pain of inflammation usually involve conventional anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical agents, in addition to other natural treatments like muscle therapy, acupuncture and exercise. But as we know, chemical drugs have adverse side effects which may contribute to other health problems. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), for example, can cause intestinal tract ulcers (with potential internal bleeding) and erosions of the stomach lining. Long term use of NSAIDs also increases the possibility of liver and kidney damage. Hence, patients need safer alternatives to manage arthritis and other joint inflammatory conditions, at least to reduce their reliance on chemical drugs. The ASA/NSAID therapy can be implemented only when strictly necessary.
Natural anti-inflammatory supplements or herbal agents play important role in the management of inflammatory diseases and become excellent alternatives to chemical drugs. These natural substances offer effective and safer interventions to reduce inflammation associated with various types of arthritis and other joint problems, without causing adverse side effects as found in conventional anti-inflammatory drugs. The active ingredients of anti-inflammatory herbs have the ability to block the activity of enzymes (cyclooxygenase and/or 5-lipoxygenase) which contribute to the inflammatory process. Sometimes, people are reluctant to take natural anti-inflammatory because it can’t work instantly. The body may need some time to adjust to the ingredients. It is always easier to swallow a chemical pain reliever (which works faster to relieve pain), but at what cost? The risks can be too serious, especially over the long term.
The list below shows some of the best natural anti-inflammatory agents. But remember, no matter how good these supplements are, it is always better to consult with your doctor before taking any of them.
- Bromelain – is an extract derived from the stems of pineapples. It has the ability to inhibit the production of inflammatory prostaglandin compounds. It can suppress the inflammation and pain of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, and other joint inflammatory conditions. It also helps to break down fibrin (fibrinolytic), thereby minimizing local swelling. Note that it shouldn’t be taken with iron or copper.
- Curcumin – is the active anti-inflammatory agent found in the spice turmeric. Turmeric is a natural anti-bacterial and antiseptic agent with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used historically as a component of Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Curcumin helps to reduce pain, swelling and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis patients. It can also be used in the treatment of tendonitis and post-surgical inflammation.
- White Willow Bark Extract – works fine to relieve pain and inflammation. It provides salicin, a substance which converts into salicylate when metabolized. Salicylates block the formation of prostaglandins which triggers arthritis inflammation. White willow bark is also known as natural aspirin. It has nearly the same indications as its synthetic counterpart, but tends to be milder on the stomach lining. White willow bark can take longer time to begin reacting in the body, but its positive effects might last longer than typical aspirin.
- Devil’s Claw – is a plant native to southern Africa. It contains the anti-inflammatory agent called harpagoside and has demonstrated efficacy in the management of low back pain. It is also used in the treatment of atherosclerosis, arthritis, gout, tendonitis, gastrointestinal (GI) upset, fever, and migraine headache. Some evidence suggests that devil’s claw works about as well as diacerhein (a slow-acting drug for osteoarthritis that is not available in the U.S.) for improving osteoarthritis pain in the hip and knee after 16 weeks of treatment. Some people taking devil’s claw seem to be able to lower the dose of NSAIDs they need for pain relief (Source: webmd.com).
- Boswellia − can reduce pain and inflammation without gastric upset. The gum resin of the boswellia tree (yielding 70% boswellic acids) can improve symptoms in patients with osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Research indicates that boswellic acids inhibit the 5-lipoxygenase enzyme in white blood cells.
- Ginger Root Extract – can ease the pain and inflammation caused by arthritis, muscle aches, and rheumatism. It contains oleo-resins that have shown clinical benefit in the management of various arthritic and muscle inflammation problems. There are many other benefits of ginger root including a remedy for travel sickness, nausea, indigestion, colic, irritable bowel, loss of appetite, chills, cold, flu, poor circulation, menstrual cramps, and gastrointestinal problems such as gas and stomach cramps.
- Olive Leaf Extract – has a wide range of health benefits. It is as an amazing antibacterial and antiviral plant, powerful antioxidant, immune enhancer, and natural anti-inflammatory agent. It has demonstrated the potency as a natural NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) similar to ibuprofen. Oleuropein and flavonoids are some of the active ingredients that give olive leaf its therapeutic benefits.
- Fish oil – It’s not herb but we should mention it due to its importance. Fish oil contains the most nutritionally important omega-3 fatty acids, Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), which have the natural ability to reduce the symptoms and incidence of various types of inflammatory disease.