Joint pain is a growing epidemic that most people simply learn to live with. Over the years, you start to feel aches and pains in your shoulders or knees and just dismiss it as ‘growing older.’ If the discomfort worsens you look for a quick fix - popping a few Tylenol or Ibuprofen - to stop the pain and get through the day. Does this sound like a familiar pattern?
Over time, this can become a potentially dangerous cycle due to the harmful side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs. Botanical (herbal) medicines may hold some answers to help you reduce or eliminate your pain and improve your well-being.
Joint Pain, Arthritis & NSAIDs
Joint pain and arthritis is generally an imbalance between cartilage destruction and repair. The cartilage tissue is broken down more quickly than the body is able to heal and replace it. The type of drugs used for pain relief and inflammation are classified as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Advil, Motrin, and Aspirin are all examples of NSAIDs. These drugs accomplish their actions by blocking the enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2). By inhibiting COX-2, NSAIDs are able to decrease the body’s levels of chemicals called prostaglandins that cause inflammation.
Plants Medicines & Inflammation
This discovery was actually first observed in plants, as they too have the ability to block the COX-2 enzyme and therefore reduce pain and inflammation. Camelia sinensis, commonly known as green tea, is an example of a natural herbal COX-2 inhibiter. According to the Napralert Database of Pharmeucticals and Botanical medicines, green tea contains over 51 anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds work together synergistically to reduce pain and inflammation by directly inhibiting pro-inflammatory prostaglandin synthesis, the same chemical pathway used by NSAID drugs.
Natural COX-2 inhibiting herbs not only inhibit inflammation but they correct the arthritic imbalance by stimulating wound healing. Collagen is connective tissue made in the body to help build strong ligaments and tendons. It is an essential ingredient for strong ligaments and tendons. NSAIDs inhibit the production of cartilage and connective tissue, actually preventing your tissues from rebuilding themselves. Obviously, this is not ideal when you are recovering from injury. This is a very important point. Herbal COX-2 inhibitors block pain and stimulate tissues and collagen production to build healthy joints. Although NSAIDs may be a good treatment option with short-term acute pain, chronic use of NSAIDs inhibits collagen production and impairs your ability to heal in the long-term.
Dangers of Chronic NSAID Use
Chronic NSAID use also damages the lining of the stomach wall and intestinal tract leading to the formation of stomach ulcers and intestinal hyper-permeability or leaky gut. Good digestion is key to breaking down your food effectively, allowing you to fully absorb all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients needed to help build strong connective tissue and joints. The USDA Phytochemical Database reports that green tea provides anti-ulcer protection, containing fifteen anti-ulcer compounds that help inhibit and prevent ulcer formation. Recall that anti-inflammatory NSAID drugs actually cause ulcer formation with chronic use!
NSAID also damage the intestinal villi – small protrusion off the intestinal wall – and therefore compromise your ability to absorb and assimilate your food effectively. A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Sciences in the United Kingdom highlighted the fact that NSAIDs cause gastrointestinal injury leading to intestinal hyper-permeability or ‘leaky gut’. If cannot absorb your food properly then you cannot provide your ligaments and tendons with the nutrients necessary to build collagen and thus strong connective tissue. The chronic use of NSAIDs can cause a myriad of detrimental side effects that can put your long-term health at risk.
There are many natural and powerful anti-inflammatory herbs that can significantly reduce your joint pain and inflammation. They can provide you with an effective alternative to long-term anti-inflammatory use. The dosage, form, and combination of herbs used can be specific to site and nature of your pain.
Dr. Marc Bubbs N.D., CSCS
Note: Herbal medicines, although natural, should always be taken under the care of professional physician to avoid any drug interactions or contra-indications.
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