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Inflammation Pain: NSAIDs & Steroids vs. Plant-Based Medicine

  • The long term use* of steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is still the mainstay of most classically taught clinicians for joint and spine related inflammatory pain, despite their commonly known side effects. Medical practitioners are well aware of these side effects, yet continue to recommend and even promote their use, perhaps thinking that side effects are the trade off to alleviate chronic pain.

Here is a list of some commonly known side effects with the long term use of steroidal and NSAID medication: increased risk of infection; dermatitis; fluid retention edema; fat deposits in the face, chest, upper back, and stomach; mood changes; hypertension; stomach ulcers; osteoporosis; impaired wound healing; increased appetite; weight gain, hyperglycemia, adrenal suppression, depression, and even cataracts. [1] Various studies have shown that NSAIDs can delay muscle regeneration and may reduce ligament, tendon, and cartilage healing. [2][3] NSAIDs are also known to have adverse effects on kidney function.[4]

Because of these significant side effects of steroidal and NSAID medications, there is a greater interest in natural compounds, such as dietary supplement and herbal remedies. Many of these natural compounds also work by inhibiting the inflammatory pathways in a similar manner as NSAIDs. In addition to the COX pathway, many natural compounds act to inhibit nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB) inflammatory pathways. [5]

JAPANESE KNOTWEED ROOT
Resveratrol is a plant-based polyphenol molecule that is found in various concentrations of many different plant sources and has been found to have significant anti-mutation, anti-inflammatory, antoxidant and DNA protective actions. Though the skin of red grapes does have a high concentration of resveratrol, Japanese Knotweed root (Polygonum cuspidatum) contains a higher concentration in tincture form, requiring a smaller volume for ingestion. Several studies are being reported on resveratrol’s use for arthritic joint pain. You can buy the tincture here at Beneficial Botanicals.

CAT’S CLAW
The bark of Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis) is used to treat arthritis, bursitis, and intestinal disorders. The polyphenols, alkaloids, and sterols are the active ingredients that have been noted in various studies to induce a generalized reduction in pro-inflammatory mediators. You can buy it in the tincture or dried form here at Beneficial Botanicals.

WILLOW BARK
used as an analgesic and antipyretic agent, Willow Bark acts similarly to aspirin without the gastro-intestinal side effects. You can buy this tincture at Beneficial Botanicals.

CURCUMIN (Turmeric) & BOSWELLIA
Several clinical trials have demonstrated Curcumin’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-neoplastic effects. Combined with Boswellia, used to treat degenerative and inflammatory joint disorders, the two herbs can be an effective natural alternative to non-steroidal agents for the treatment of inflammation.

*long term use is considered here as more than 7 days of consecutive dosing

References
[1] Sheng Y, Pero RW, Amiri A, Bryngelsson C. Induction of apoptosis and inhibition of proliferation in human tumor cells treated with extracts of Uncaria tomentosa. Anticancer Res. 1998;18:3363–8.
[2] Almekinders LC. Anti-inflammatory treatment of muscular injuries in sport. An update of recent studies. Sports Med. 1999;28:383–8.
[3] Burton TM. Monsanto arthritis-pain drug, Celebrex, surpasses Viagra’s early sales success. The Wall Street Journal B: New York. 1999.
[4] Farquhar B, Kenney WL. Anti-inflammatory drugs, kidney function, and exercise. Sports Science Exchange. 1997;SSE #67 11:Article 4.
[5] Maroon JC, Bost JW, Maroon A. Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief. PubMed. 2010 Dec 13.