5 great alternative pain relievers

October 9, 2015

Hesitant about using over-the-counter painkillers? Here are some natural remedies that you can try, most of them without the potential side affects of typical NSAIDs.

5 great alternative pain relievers

5 Alternative Pain Remedies

  • If you're discouraged about over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or concerned about side effects, there are alternatives.

1. Ginger

Research has found ginger to be an effective anti-inflammatory.

  • One study, for example, found that 6-gingerol, the anti-inflammatory ingredient in ginger, prevents the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemicals involved in inflammation.
  • Ginger is available as a fresh or dried root, as a tea, and in powder, tablet, capsule or extract form. Take one to five grams in capsule form (to prevent stomach upset) daily, spread through the day in smaller doses.

2. Fish oil

Fatty fish, like salmon, tuna and bluefish, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect. Although their heart benefits get the most press, studies have shown that this effect may reduce morning stiffness and joint tenderness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Fish oil may also boost the painkilling benefits of NSAIDs. It is recommended that you try eating fatty fish at least twice a week, or you can take fish oil capsules, available in health food stores.
  • A typical dose would be 1,200 to 2,400 milligrams twice a day of EPA and DHA, the fatty acids in fish oil. Check with your doctor before starting on fish oil.

3. Capsaicin creams

Capsaicin is the fiery ingredient in chili peppers. Sixteen studies have found it more effective at temporarily reducing pain than a placebo.

  • Wearing rubber gloves, apply a 0.025 percent mixture (capsaicin in a cream base) on the painful spot four times a day.
  • Do not apply on broken skin.
  • You may have to use it for several weeks before getting relief.

4. Bromelain

Several studies have shown that bromelain, an enzyme found in the stem and juice of pineapples, can relieve pain and inflammation, particularly pain due to sprains, muscle strains and sinusitis.

  • Some experts recommend 80 to 320 milligram tablets two to three times per day, though more (up to 2000 milligrams a day) may be used for certain conditions.
  • Bromelain tablets are available in health food stores.

5. Willow bark

One study showed that four willow-bark extract capsules per day, each containing 240 milligrams of the active ingredient salicin, was as effective as a COX-2 inhibitor in reducing low back pain.

  • Like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, willow bark used for a month or more may cause stomach ulcers.
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