Reaching for drugs like ibuprofen in case of a headache or aching joints is a knee-jerk reaction for many people. But healthcare professionals find that the long-term use of ibuprofen heightens the risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke. In high doses, it can also place a person at a greater risk of heart disease and its complications.
Because of the disconcerting side effects and health risks linked to ibuprofen use, more and more people are turning to natural painkillers, including medicinal spices and healing herbs. Natural health practitioners might recommend using different substances for different conditions depending on the nature and degree of the pain.
But in general, there are some tried-and-tested natural medicines out there that are just as potent against painful chronic conditions as ibuprofen. Here are six of them:
Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian and a certified health coach, states that turmeric has been linked to a number of beneficial properties, including pain relief, and disease-fighting potential. For the most part, these benefits can be attributed to curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric.
On top of its potent analgesic properties, curcumin can also suppress inflammation. For this reason, natural health practitioners often recommend curcumin capsules or supplements to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis patients suffering from painful and inflamed joints.
For fast-acting relief from pain, drink turmeric tea made from fresh, ground turmeric. Some people also like to make golden turmeric milk using ground turmeric and a plant-based milk substitute like almond milk or coconut milk. (Related: 10 Turmeric recipes that can help relieve arthritis symptoms.)
Ginger, a root related to turmeric, has also been used to treat painful ailments for millennia in China and India. There are more than 100 organic compounds found in ginger, but the most potent ones for pain relief are gingerols.
In particular, gingerols inhibit inflammation and block molecules that signal to the brain it is in pain. For pain relief, some people find that ingesting fresh ginger slices confers relief the fastest. Others like to create turmeric and ginger tea for a more potent painkilling combination.
In 2018, researchers found that the consumption of cinnamon can help reduce inflammation and joint pain due to rheumatoid arthritis. Their findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, indicated that cinnamon’s analgesic properties can be attributed to cinnamic acid.
Omega-3s in fish oil can inhibit the production of molecules linked to inflammation. Fishes like salmon and tuna are abundant in these nutrients, so people prone to painful flare-ups due to chronic conditions like colitis or arthritis might fare better consuming these foods as part of a balanced diet in the long run.
Potent phenolic compounds in thyme, such as thymol, tannins and saponins, can confer fast-acting relief from pain. The herb can be consumed fresh to treat sore throat, stomach pain, arthritis and bronchitis.
Recent studies also confirm that the herb’s essential oil is potent against pain and inflammation. In particular, the oil is often used to treat menstrual cramps and to ease painful periods.
This perennial plant is endemic to the mountains of Europe and Siberia. It is a medicinal herb used in homeopathic medicine to treat general bruising and joint pain due to osteoarthritis. Note that arnica is not meant to be ingested as it is toxic. Instead, natural health practitioners use arnica as a topical medicine.
People prone to chronic inflammation or painful flare-ups due to preexisting conditions should consider these foods as part of a balanced diet for better pain management in the long run.
Read more articles about natural painkillers and other medicinal foods at FoodIsMedicine.com.