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Five Herbs For Pain & Inflammation

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

Inflammation is the natural process of increasing blood flow to the area of injury, recruiting immune cells, and promoting healing.

How do herbal supplements differ from pharmaceuticals?

NSAID's (ex: tylenol, advil) "suppress the flame". They work via different physiological mechanisms to override the bodies inflammatory cascade and reduce molecules which promote inflammation. In doing this, they reduce pain often associated with inflammation.

Herbs however, don't suppress your body's physiological response. They work WITH the body. They improve natural waste drainage, repair damaged vessels, promote regeneration and resolution of tissue healing. Herbal anti-inflammatories act as a support system to aid your natural immune and inflammatory response.

The Herbs

1. Turmeric (i.e.: Curcuma longa)

Part of the plant used: Rhizome (which is similar to a root)

Constituents (I.e: The Ingredients)

Zingiberene, tumerone, curcumin, resins

Actions

  • Anti-inflammatory properties

  • Anti-oxidant

  • Stimulates circulation

  • Aids in digestion

  • Protects the cardiovascular system

  • Supports liver detoxification

Pharmacology (I.e "The science bit")

Volatile oils such as zingiberene and tumerone act as anti-inflammatories. Curcumin is another anti-inflammatory agent which reduces the activity of an enzyme called COX-2, lipoxygenase and nitric oxide synthase in addition to inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF, IL-1, IL-6). Curcumin also acts as an antioxidant which protects the liver via free radical scavenging & increasing glutathione levels.

Typical uses

Arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis & injury pain

It is not easily absorbed orally. Black pepper, bromelain (core of a pineapple) or in a lipid base improves absorption!

Note: Contraindicated in gallbladder disorders or stomach ulcers, possible skin rash, interacts with chemotherapeutic drugs.

2. Ginger (i.e. Zingiber officinalis)

Part used: Rhizome

Constituents (I.e: The Ingredients)

Volatile oils such as zingiberene (why it smells so dam good), oleo-resins (gingerols & shogaols) & sesquiterpes.

Actions

  • Antioxidant

  • Protects the liver

  • SUPER nutrient dense

  • Improves blood flow

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Anti-spasmodic

  • Digestive aid

Typical uses

Often used in inflammatory pain, arthritis, nausea, gas, bloating, cramping & other digestive complaints.

The Science Bit

Oleo-resins are substance P & Acetylcholine antagonists and modify NF-kB, TNF-a, COX-2 signalling to reduce inflammation and pain. Zingiberene inhibits leukotrienes, platelet aggregation, and prostaglandins thus reducing inflammation.

Note: Contraindicated in stomach ulcers, GERD, gallstones, bleeding disorders, before surgeries, may increase absorption of drugs & interacts with anti-coagulant drugs.

3. Arnica (I.e.: Arnica Montana)

Part used: Flowers

Constituents (I.e: The Ingredients)

Helenalin, phenols, coumarins & flavonoids

Actions

Topical anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain killer)

Typical Uses

  • Reduce arthritis symptoms & improve functioning

  • Muscle soreness/ stiffness

  • Bruises

The Science Bit

Helenalin is an analgesic, anti-inflammatory agent which inhibits the pro-inflammatory NF-kB pathway

Pharmacy

*External use only: Arnica oil, ointment or infused herbal bath

Contraindications

Possible adverse effect of allergic skin reaction

Toxic when used internally. Should only be used externally.

4. Frankincense (i.e.: Boswelia serrata)

Part used: Bark

Constituents (I.e: The Ingredients)

  • Volatile oils (again why it's a common essential oil)

  • Oleo-resins such as boswellic acids

  • Mucilage

Actions

Reduce pain, inflammation, and spams. A benefit in comparison to NSAID's is that long term use does not lead to irritation & ulceration of the stomach!

Typical uses

  • Arthritis: May improve range of motion, pain and quality of life

  • Asthma

  • Ulcerative colitis

The Science Bit

Boswellic acids inhibit 5-lipoxygenase which makes leukotrienes which cause inflammation.

Note: Contraindicated in pregnancy

5. Gingko (I.e.: Gingko biloba)

Photo Credit: Dr. Alex Dragan (@plantbasedmedicinegirl)

Part used: The leaf

Constituents (I.e: The Ingredients)

Flavonoids, amino acids, proanthocyanidins, and terpenoids.

Actions

  • Enhance energy

  • Reduce inflammation & spasms

  • Improve blood flow

  • Provides anti-oxidants and other nutrients!

Typical uses

Poor memory/ concentration, peripheral vascular diseases, age-related physical and mental decline.

The Science Bit

Flavonoids are anti-oxidant and protect the blood vessels from free radical damage. Ginkgolides inhibit platelet aggregation & the NF-kB pathway to reduce spasms and inflammation. Studies also showed Ginkgetin to inhibit phospholipase A2 reducing arthritis and pain in rats.


Note: Interacts with Warfarin, some anti-depressants, certain diuretics (thiazide), NSAID's, and aspirin. Used raw may cause complaints of the gut!

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Disclaimer: Always talk to your doctor before taking supplements & herbal medicine as they do have powerful acting constituents which may be contraindicated for you or interact with other herbs & medications!


Stay healthy,

Larissa

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