Natural Pain Relievers
Learn about alternatives to traditional medications for relieving arthritis pain
The pain-killing drugs commonly used for arthritis pain can cause more problems then they solve. If you have arthritis, here are three natural alternatives for easing pain and increasing mobility:
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a signature spice of Indian cooking, and curcumin is the active ingredient responsible for turmeric’s aroma and yellowish-orange color. However, curcumin is more than just a simple pigment. It is also a potent medicinal remedy.
Turmeric is a strong antioxidant and free-radical scavenger, but its anti-inflammatory properties make it particularly effective for relieving arthritis pain. (Alcohol extracts of curcumin have been found to be just as effective as cortisone in treating acute inflammation.) Taken orally, turmeric can stop arthritis pain throughout the body. Applied topically, it can be used to treat specific joints.
For arthritic joints, I use a paste made from 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder mixed with 1 or more tablespoons of a 70 percent DMSO solution. (To make a 70 percent DMSO solution, dilute some 99.9 percent DMSO with an amount of distilled water equal to 30 percent of the amount of DMSO.) You can rub the paste over the sore joint and simply let it dry, or you can apply the paste, wrap the joint in plastic food wrap, and cover it with a heating pad for 20 or 30 minutes. If the paste is irritating, add more water.
A successful folk remedy in India is made with a paste of turmeric, a little powdered lime, and saltpeter. The mixture is then applied to the painful area and held in place with either cheesecloth or plastic food wrap. Another recipe for topically applied paste calls for 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder and 1 tablespoon of lime juice. To this mixture, add a small amount of boiling water to help form a thick paste. This ancient practice is also useful for sprains and strains and muscle aches.
Capsaicin, the component in hot peppers that makes them spicy, is a clinically proven and safe topical therapy for relieving arthritis pain. The capsaicin binds to nerve receptors and initially causes a burning, tingling sensation, which is followed by an analgesic effect, or blocking of the pain.
There are several excellent over-the-counter (OTC) cream products that include capsaicin. I recommend a product called Zostrix, which has great clinical science to back up its pain relief claims for arthritis as well as diabetic neuropathy. You can also make capsaicin cream yourself. Simply mix one part cayenne powder with five parts warmed Vaseline, and apply the salve to your achy joints.
Note: Always wash your hands throughly after handling cayenne powder or any capsaicin-based cream. For some reason, it always seems like I inevitably always end up wiping or touching my eyes afterward. To put it mildly, it’s not a pleasant sensation!
An enzyme extracted from the pineapple plant, bromelain has been shown to be effective in treating inflammation. In fact, using 250 mg of bromelain twice daily between meals has even been effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis. In one study, more than 70 percent of patients taking bromelain experienced less joint swelling and pain, and more mobility.
Bromelain is sold in health food stores everywhere as a digestive aid. When used as a digestive aid it should be taken after meals, but when used for inflammation and pain, it is best taken between meals.
More Dr. Williams Advice on Arthritis
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Meet Dr. Williams
For more than 25 years, Dr. David Williams has traveled the world researching alternative therapies for our most common health problems—therapies that are inexpensive and easy to use, and therapies that treat the root cause of a problem rather than just its symptoms. More About Dr. Williams
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