There are a number of reasons to avoid taking Aspirin or Ibuprofen regularly. You may be seeking alternatives because you experience pain but like to stay away from conventional medicines, or you could be someone who just learned about the potential dangers these drugs pose and are ready for something different. Ibuprofen and Aspirin have been linked to anemia, DNA damage, heart disease, hearing loss, hypertension, miscarriage, and even influenza mortality — just 7 of the over 24 adverse health effects with which they have been connected.
As Reuters reports, “Long-term high-dose use of painkillers such as ibuprofen or diclofenac is ‘equally hazardous’ in terms of heart attack risk as use of the drug Vioxx, which was withdrawn due to its potential dangers.”
Although there are a number of adverse health effects that go along with Ibuprofen, we continue to take it in vast amounts because we are a society built upon quick fixes and short-term results. According to some previously recorded statistics, in 1998, over 500,000 pounds of acetyl-salicylic acid (the main component used in aspirin) were produced in the United States alone. That number is likely even greater now. Usage of such medicines can be linked back to cultural conditioning, which has caused us to forget the value of eating well and taking care of our mental and emotional states in addition to our physical bodies. When these things are out of balance, it is common to experience pain.
The Natural Approach
You might be surprised to learn that most conventional medicines are inspired by natural sources. Pharmaceutical companies will run tests and studies on the efficacy of a natural substance for any given ailment. Once they see positive results, they create a synthetic version of that same substance and patent it so that it can be sold. At times, the synthetic version may work faster, and depending on the quality of the natural substance, may even work better. But the health costs that come with using the synthetic versions are often not worth the potential trade-offs of speed and efficacy. Since nature already provides us with what we need to deal with ailments we might have, why not use what our bodies can process and recognize rather than turning to synthetic and potentially dangerous options out of impatience?
1. White willow bark: This herb was the original aspirin. It contains a substance called salicin which converts to salicylic acid when in the stomach. Salicylic acid is the main component of Aspirin and when its synthetic form is ingested, it irritates the stomach. White willow bark is effective in relieving pain, inflammation, and fever. A suggested dose is one to two dropperfuls of white willow bark tincture daily.
2. Capsaicin: This remedy is mainly used topically and is effective in relieving nerve, muscle, and joint pain by interfering with a chemical in the body known as substance P, which transmits pain signals to the brain. It is often found in gel or cream form and comes in a variety of potencies. This remedy can be used three to four times daily. Since Capsaicin comes from chlli peppers, some first time users have reported a light stinging pain upon initial application. This does subside and often disappears with further use.
3. Boswellia: This is also known as “Indian frankincense” and is available as a supplement and a topical cream. It contains anti-inflammatory properties that come from the boswellic acids extracted from the tree. They help improve blood flow to joints and prevent inflammatory white blood cells from entering damaged tissue. The suggested dose for pain is 450 – 750 mg daily for three to four weeks.
4. Cat’s claw: Also known as Uncaria tomentosa, or una de gato, cat’s claw grows in South America and is known for containing an anti-inflammatory agent that aids in blocking the production of the hormone prostaglandin, which contributes to inflammation and pain within the body. The suggested doses for cat’s claw are 250 to 1,000 mg capsules one to three times daily. Exceeding this amount can result in diarrhea.
5. Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have anti-inflammatory properties proven to be beneficial for people who suffer from arthritis, other inflammatory joint conditions, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Along with their pain and anti-inflammatory properties, they are also known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Not only is this helpful for people with rheumatoid arthritis, which carries an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, but it also helps to stop the number one killer in the world, heart disease. A suggested dose of omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil is 1,000 mg daily.
For vegans looking for dietary omega-3, you can try hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, various berries, seaweed, leafy greens, and more.
6. Curcumin: Also sometimes referred to as turmeric, since curcumin is a component of that herb, curcumin is a potent painkiller. Like capsaicin, it helps to block pain signals running to the brain. Studies have shown that curcumin is effective in receiving pain, even chronic pain, and can treat rheumatoid arthritis. One suggested dose is 400 to 600 mg of curcumin taken three times daily for pain and inflammation.
Curcumin has also been found to be as effective as Prozac in treating depression, but comes without the nasty side effects.
I feel it’s important to remember that sometimes when we are having the experience of physical pain, there can be a number of reasons why it is there. In our society we feel pain and immediately want to get rid of it, yet we don’t think to find out why we may have the pain or what it is telling us. Pain can exist in the body for a number of reasons, from simple physical ailments to emotional tensions. Next time you are feeling pain, remember to take a moment and relax. Get in touch with your body and feel out what is going on. The more we get in touch with our body’s own consciousness, the more we learn about it and what may be causing these ailments in the first place. Pain is like Mother Nature’s way of saying something might need to transform, whether it be strictly physical or something emotional. There is a lot we can learn from our experiences when we pay attention.