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- Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP
Arthritis and other inflammatory conditions are common reasons for individuals to use anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and other non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs are effective at reducing pain and inflammation, but they can also produce serious side effects. In fact, up to 50% of long-term users of NSAIDs develop erosions of the stomach lining that can lead to stomach pain, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), ulcers and internal bleeding. In the United States 10,000 to 20,000 deaths are estimated to occur each year from internal bleeding arising from NSAID use. (J. Hayliyar et al, Drug Safety, 1992; P. Ament et al, Am Fam Phys, 1997) As well, the use of NSAIDs can cause damage liver and kidney damage. A growing number of individuals now require dialysis as a result of long-term use of anti- inflammatory and pain-killing drugs, especially acetaminophen. (L.Simon, Osteoarthritis, 1999).
Safe And Natural Alternative To Nsaids
In many parts of Europe, Asia and India, herbal medicine is included in formalized medical training. As such, Doctors in these countries are taught the scientific evidence pertaining to the safety and effectiveness of the natural anti-inflammatory herbs discussed below. Unfortunately, this information is not taught to any extent in North American medical schools. This is unfortunate, as many natural anti-inflammatory agents do not increase risk of bleeding or organ damage. In fact, anti-inflammatory herbal agents such as curcumin, ginger, and quercetin also show multi-faceted anti- cancer properties (not a bad side effect). My point is that supplement products that combine these herbal agents into a single formulation can help to reduce pain and inflammation for a multitude of conditions, and decrease, and sometimes eliminate, an individuals reliance on synthetic drugs that may do some harm in the long-term.
Some impressive natural anti-inflammatory agents studied to date include the following:
Curcumin - the active inflammatory agent found in the spice turmeric. It is a very powerful anti-inflammatory agent and has been shown to be as effective as the drug phenylbutazone in reducing pain swelling and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Boswellia - In clinical studies, the gum resin of the boswellia tree has been shown to improve symptoms in patients with osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Like Curcumin, its active ingredients block the production of inflammatory chemicals.
White Willow Bark Extract - provides anti-inflammatory phenolic glycosides, which have been shown to be effective in the treatment of arthritis, back pain, and other joint conditions .It also provides a natural pain relieving effect.
Ginger Root Extract - contains oleo-resins that have shown to be effective in the management of various arthritic and muscle inflammation problems.
How Do They Work?
In general, these agents work in a similar fashion to aspirin and other synthetic inflammatory drugs, blocking the enzymes that produce inflammation-promoting chemicals in our joints and soft tissues. Some of these agents also curtail the production of inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) released by immune cells in autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
However, to be effective the herbs must be standardized to yield the optimal amount of their medicinal constituents.
For instance, curcumin should be a 90-95% grade derived from the spice turmeric; boswellia should be a standardized to 70% boswellic acids; white willow bark should be standardized to 15% salacin, and ginger standardized to 5% gingerols.
Many natural health practitioners such as chiropractors, holistic nutritionists, naturopaths and homeopaths recommend herbal combinations of this type to their patients as part of the natural management of arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, joint inflammation, autoimmune diseases, and even spinal disc herniation. Most health food stores carry products that combine these herbs into a potent anti- inflammatory formula, for individuals seeking more natural solutions from chronic or acute inflammatory conditions.
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Pain and Inflammation Naturally
Dr. James Meschino,
DC, MS, ROHP
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