Inflammation is characterized by pain, redness, tenderness and swelling of the body and is actually a natural response of our body's immune system to "cure" a problem. However, it can also become a problem in and of itself. If our immune system is overactive we can suffer from chronic inflammation. Many people are turning to alternative treatment to reduce inflammation as opposed to taking over the counter and prescription drugs. The following is a synopsis of six different natural alternatives for treating inflammation.
Herbs not only reduce inflammation but they can also quell pain. Another positive feature of herbs is that they do not have the dangerous side effects of prescription or over the counter medicines. It's imperative, however, to give herbs time to work. Sometimes people with inflammation will note improvement in a week's time; oftentimes it takes several months. Here is a list of herbs known to help reduce inflammation and reduce and/or preclude pain.
Willow Bark and Meadowsweet - Both herbs contain salicin which upon ingestion is converted into salicylic acid. You probably have heard of salicylic acid in aspirin, but what is derived from the herbs is natural and effective with less irritation to the stomach.
Ginger - Ginger serves a two-fold purpose. First it relieves pain and secondly, it also helps circulate blood to the inflamed areas in the body. Ginger has been used in India for hundreds of years for inflammation and pain. It is recommended that you take anywhere from 500-1000 milligrams a day.
Bupleurum, Ginseng and Licorice - These three herbs help to stimulate production of adrenal hormones by affecting the pituitary and adrenal glands.
Cat's Claw - This is an herb native to South America which helps the immune system and reduce inflammation. Cat's Claw has also been used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis as it contains anti-arthritic compounds.
Arnica - Arnica is typically used for inflammation that results from surgery or an acute injury. The herb is from a European flower and comes in ointment or in pellet form.
Heat & Cold Therapy
Both heat and cold therapy can be used to treat inflammation but heat therapy is the preferred method. Heat helps to decrease pain, muscle spasms and increases the blood flow to the inflamed area of the body. Most people will use a hot pack or infrared heat (from a lamp) for surface inflammation. A paraffin bath is also very helpful for the smaller joints such as in the hands, knees or elbows. Hydrotherapy is warm water that agitates in a large whirlpool and helps to stimulate blood flow and relax muscles and pain.
Cold therapy, which is also called cryotherapy, can help relieve muscle spasms, reduce low back pain and reduce inflammation. Most people will use cold packs but remember that excessive exposure to cold must be avoided in order to protect tissues and keep the body temperature safe.
It is thought that acupuncture may stimulate the brain to produce endorphins which in turn block pain and reduce inflammation. Acupuncture must be performed by a certified acupuncturist so it may not be a convenient or affordable method for those who suffer with inflammation.
Massage helps to relieve pain from aching muscles, spasms and cramps. It also helps to increase blood circulation as well as lymphatic circulation (which remove waste and toxins from muscles). If you choose to use massage as a method to treat inflammation, make sure to have it done by a professional massage therapist.
Finally, our diet plays a critical role in the health of our bodies. When you have inflammation you will want to avoid certain foods that contain trans fats such as those found in shortenings, margarines, baked goods and many processed foods. Also be sure to eat seed soil with the least amount of refinement.
Another good food decision is to eat dairy, meat and eggs from animals that have consumed a natural diet. This will help raise the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your body which has anti-inflammatory properties.
Some good food choices are fish, flax seeds, and walnuts.