Natural NSAID Alternatives

Ground Turmeric
Turmeric is a remedy for pain caused by inflammation. (Image: Fudio/iStock/Getty Images)

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are medications that reduce inflammation and pain but do not contain steroids. NSAIDs are included in many over-the-counter and prescription pain medications and include drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen. Although they are effective, NSAIDs can cause serious side effects, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, heart attack and kidney damage. There are a variety of natural NSAID alternatives, some of which may pose fewer serious health risks than their pharmaceutical counterparts.

Turmeric

Valued as both a culinary and medicinal herb, turmeric is a remedy for inflammation. It has been used to treat inflammatory disorders ranging from ulcerative colitis to osteoarthritis and is widely used in both traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.

Curcumin--the active compound in turmeric--is responsible for the herb’s anti-inflammatory properties as well as its characteristic yellow color. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, curcumin fights inflammation by inhibiting production of the inflammatory compounds COX-2 and 5-LOX. Turmeric is also a blood thinner and may improve circulation and prevent blood clots.

Turmeric may increase the risk of bleeding, especially when taken with NSAIDs or other blood-thinning drugs. The average dose is 1 gram to 3 grams of root powder daily.

Willow Bark

Derived from the bark of the white willow tree, willow bark is a powerful remedy for inflammation. It is rich in salicylin, which is also the active ingredient in aspirin. According to the National Institutes of Health, willow bark may be effective in reducing pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis and is well-tolerated by most patients. It may also be useful for other inflammatory conditions, such as menstrual cramps, toothache, burns and minor injuries.

Like aspirin, willow bark should never be given to children with a fever because of the risk of developing Reye’s Syndrome. Common side effects include nausea, stomach irritation and decreased blood clotting. The average daily dose of salicylin is 60 milligrams to 120 milligrams.

Ginger

Ginger is a pungent herb with many medicinal effects. It has been used traditionally to treat nausea, motion sickness and poor circulation as well as pain caused by inflammation. Ginger contains compounds called gingerols, which have potent anti-inflammatory effects. According to ABC Science, ginger inhibits both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes and is less likely than NSAIDs to cause gastrointestinal irritation.

The typical dose of ginger for treating inflammation is 2 grams to 4 grams daily. Side effects include indigestion, increased bleeding risks and a burning sensation in the mouth.

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