by Dr. Sarah Brewer
A Nutritionist and Doctor
If you experience headache, muscle or joint pains do you automatically reach for a painkilling drug? The days when aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen or codeine were the only options are long gone. If you prefer a natural alternative, there are several ways to beat common aches and pains.
Glucosamine stimulates the formation of proteoglycans, helping to strengthen joint cartilage so it can resist compressive forces. Research shows 36% of people taking glucosamine for joint pain reported significant relief after 4 weeks. Most improvements tended to occur after four to eight weeks of continuous treatment, so that by the end of the three month trial, 88% of those taking glucosamine said their knee pain was improved versus only 17% in the placebo group. As a bonus, a recent study found that people who use glucosamine (with or without chondroitin) had an 18% lower risk of dying over an 8 year follow-up period than those not using it. Current use of glucosamine was also associated with a significant 13% decreased risk of death from cancer, a massive 41% reduced risk of death from respiratory disease and a 33% reduction in risk of death from all other causes! Likely effect is due to the anti-inflammatory action which is similar to that of aspirin and other NSAIDs but without the side effects.
Bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme derived from pineapple, has an anti-inflammatory action, reducing the migration of white blood cells into areas of inflammation, and damping down their release of inflammatory chemicals. Bromelain has been shown to significantly reduce pain and swelling associated with arthritis, sprains and soft tissue injury.
Devils Claw is a natural herbal painkiller for low back pain and inflamed joints. Two clinical trials examining the effects of Devil's Claw found strong evidence that it was better than placebo for improving back pain, while another study found it was at least as effective as the NSAID rofecoxib (which has now been withdrawn).
Rosehip extracts contain a variety of anti-inflammatory compounds that can improve the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis. Some of this activity is related to an aspirin-like ability to inhibit enzymes (COX-1 and COX-2). Studies show that taking rosehip powder can significantly improve hip stiffness, flexion, and joint pain within 3 months. Overall, those taking rosehip powder were twice as likely to show a beneficial response than those taking inactive placebo.