Spring is here! And with it, the return to more activities outdoors and additional demands placed on our bodies that for many have been in hibernation mode for some time…
And whether its pain and inflammation from injuries, stress, overuse of muscles and joints, you’re a casual athlete or a professional one 😉 it’s always good practice to know a few natural options to deal with the increased demands on our bodies that happen at this time of year!
Here are a few key natural anti-inflammatories that you might find helpful…
Ginger root – Zingiber officinale
The health benefits of ginger are largely due to its antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and therapeutic compounds. It is great for arthritis related joint pain, muscle pain and nausea. Chronic inflammation, as see in arthritic conditions, is a major contributor to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
Gingerol (one of the many anti-inflammatory compounds found in this herb) can ease inflammation while also inhibiting the synthesis of certain inflammatory markers in the body. Ginger is also effective on reducing the symptoms of vertigo.
It is generally well tolerated, but people with bleeding disorders, diabetes or heart conditions should take ginger with caution because it may increase their risk of bleeding, cause hypoglycemia, and decrease heart rate and muscle contraction.
Turmeric/Curcumin – Curcuma longa
A member of the ginger family, turmeric (which contains the active compound, curcumin) has been touted as one of the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds in the world. It is also known for its powerful pain-reducing characteristics, useful for bothosteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, wound healing, neuropathic and sciatic nerve pain, and joint pain. It can be enjoyed in a tea or taken in capsule form.
Although it is generally well tolerated, people with gallstones, bleeding disorders, diabetes or hormone sensitive cancers should take curcumin with caution because it might cause gall bladder contractions, decrease blood sugar, and have mild estrogenic effects.
Okay while not an herb, bromelain is an enzyme derived from pineapple fruit and stem extract with an impressive ability to reduce pain due to inflammation, as well as swelling from injury. Studies have shown it is useful in soothing and relaxing tense, inflamed muscles and connective tissue. Bromelain’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties make it a great natural alternative to taking aspirin or ibuprofen. While most enzymes are broken down in the digestive tract, bromelain is absorbed whole and has system-wide effects. For best effects, take on an empty stomach.
Those who are allergic to latex or pineapple should not use bromelain. Pineapple juice blended with both ginger and turmeric is a powerful pain relief remedy.
Green Tea extract – Camellia sinensis
Green, black and oolong teas all come from the same plant. Green tea consists of leaves that haven’t been fermented, so they contain the highest level of antioxidants. Many studies have found the benefits of green tea are due to the number of healing compounds it contains, far more than many other fruits, vegetables, or herbs, giving it its title as a ‘superfood’.
Green tea promotes bone health, protects heart health and is great for reducing inflammation.
Did you know… Gargling green tea is also great for the change of seasons and can be used to help prevent colds and flus. And lastly, topically it can be used as a poultice to help reduce bags under the eyes from all those new found late nights on the patio 😉
Take this with caution if you have iron deficiency, anxiety, cardiac arrhythmias, diabetes, glaucoma or osteoporosis – because this extract can promote cardiac arrhythmias, impair glucose metabolism, increase intraocular pressure, and may also increase urinary excretion of calcium.
Holy basil – Ocimum tenuiflorium.
Otherwise known as Tulsi, Holy Basil is considered an adaptogen.
This herb is great for arthritis, inflammation, and immunomodulation (regulatory adjustment of the immune system). You can tackle the stress and anxiety of completing all those backyard projects while lowering inflammation all with a relaxing antioxidant rich cup of tulsi tea.
Holy basil contains powerful essential oil compounds that inhibit the enzymes that contribute to inflammation. Did you know… it can also be used topically for the treatment of ringworm.
It may cause prolonged bleeding time, so those on anticoagulant supplements, medications, or herbs should take holy basil with caution.
Comfrey – Symphytum officinale
Comfrey has been used for centuries and contains two beneficial compounds, allantoin and rosmarinic acid, that provides its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. These compounds work by aiding in the repair of damaged tissue, leading to reduced pain and inflammation.
Comfrey stimulates healing, and can be used in an infusion or as a poultice.
Stinging nettle – Urtica dioica
Best known for its stinging reaction when it comes in contact with your skin, it is high in potassium, calcium and magnesium, making stinging nettle great for inflammatory conditions.
It has antioxidant, antimicrobial and analgesic capabilities useful in relieving painful muscles and joints, arthritis and gout. It is also a potent natural allergy relief remedy (when prepared as a tea or infusion) against symptoms that bothers many people in spring.
Stinging nettle is generally well-tolerated, but those with diabetes, hypotension and renal insufficiency should take this with caution because it is a diuretic and can cause hypoglycemia and low blood pressure.
Finally, these last three herbs have a powerful combined effect (and I have them all on hand in my garden!). Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is one of the oldest herbs used for effective pain relief and its ability to relieve tension, especially headaches. Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) has both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that is also calming and relaxing to tense and sore muscles. And finally, Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinialis) that both reduces inflammation and stimulates circulation, working well topically for pain relief. They are most effective as essential oils.
Whatever your adventurous plans are this Spring, you have the option of going natural for pain relief when you need it!