Because soreness, pain and swelling are usually caused by inflammation, we naturally tend to think of inflammation as a bad thing. Actually, though, inflammation is an immune response designed to protect and heal the body.
If you hit your head on something and develop a painful bump, that's inflammation working to break down injured tissues so they can be replaced by healthy new tissues. Or when you get a fever, inflammation is busy creating an inhospitable environment for infection.
Those are examples of inflammation doing its job properly. But inflammation involves a delicate balancing act, and sometimes the body's inflammatory response becomes too intense. When that happens, healthy tissues may be destroyed.
Inflammation can also become chronic, accelerating the production of free radicals that are able to do significant damage. A few examples of chronic low-grade inflammation include autoimmune diseases, allergies, asthma and some types of arthritis. In these cases, the immune system has overreacted and inflammation begins damaging otherwise healthy tissues.
Key features of inflammation are warmth, redness, pain and/or swelling. If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms and think your inflammatory response could be overreacting, the following are safe and natural solutions.
Curcumin – Nature's Golden Gift
Curcumin, the primary component of the spice turmeric, has been employed in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 4,000 years – utilized for everything from cuts and sores to gastrointestinal pain, rheumatism and liver disorders.
More recently, Western scientists have begun taking a closer look at curcumin. The result has been more than 2,800 research papers published about the effects of curcumin.
Anti-inflammatory Properties of Curcumin
Curcumin is widely recognized by medical researchers as being a powerful anti-inflammatory.
In one significant study, a scientist from the University of California San Francisco conducted a systematic review of scientific papers on curcumin from 1966 to January 2002. The goal was to “summarize the literature on the safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin.” He concluded that “Curcumin has been demonstrated to be safe in six human trials and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity...” He also found that “the laboratory studies have identified a number of different molecules involved in inflammation that are inhibited by curcumin...”(1)
Other studies have found that curcumin shows great promise as an option for promoting healthy response to inflammation in specific inflammatory illnesses such as:
• Osteoarthritis (2)
• Rheumatoid arthritis (3)
• Uveitis – an inflammation within the eye (4)
All Curcumin Is Not Created Equal
Early curcumin research showed very positive results in test tubes and animals, but had less dramatic results in human clinical trials. The main reason was that most curcumin supplements are not absorbed well by the body. Therefore, it would take extremely large doses of generic curcumin to get the desired benefits. Unfortunately, those large doses could result in gastrointestinal irritation.
Now, however, an elite group of US university neuroscientists has developed Longvida™ Curcumin. This proprietary curcumin formula has been shown to speed its way to plasma and reach its target at concentrations at least 65 times higher than generic curcumin. This means greater benefits at much lower dosages.
Longvida™ Curcumin is reported to have an excellent safety profile, and showed no acute high-dose toxicity at the highest dose tested – a dose equivalent to 1000 times the recommended dose.
To read more about the additional benefits of curcumin, see “Curcumin - a Golden Gift of Nature with Benefits Still Untold.”
Zyflamend – A Natural COX-2 Inhibitor
Zyflamend by New Chapter is composed of multiple herbs that work synergistically to enhance its anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that one of the ways Zyflamend promotes the reduction of inflammation is by acting as a natural COX-2 inhibitor.
Cyclooxygenase (COX) is an enzyme that is involved in the inflammatory response. There are two different COX enzymes, known as COX-1 and COX-2. While COX-1 is considered to be desirable because of its work maintaining the normal lining in the stomach and its role in kidney and platelet function, COX-2 is thought to be undesirable because it tends to primarily result in pain and inflammation.
In an effort to reduce severe inflammation, a few years ago drug manufacturers developed powerful COX-2 inhibitors like Celebrex and Vioxx. Unfortunately, these had a nasty side effect of increasing the risk of blood clots, and a number of deaths were attributed to the medications. You may remember that Vioxx was removed from the market in 2004 for that very reason. Celebrex is still available but carries strong “black box” warnings about its cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks.
Zyflamend represents a scientific breakthrough in natural, herbal COX-2 inhibition to promote a healthy inflammation response without the dangerous side effects that accompany pharmaceutical drugs.
Endorsed by Dr. Andrew Weil
In an article published on Prevention.com, Andrew Weil, MD, a leading proponent of complementary therapies, recommends Zyflamend as a way to support a healthy inflammation response:
"The hottest topic in medicine these days is inflammation...The most studied...herbs are ginger and turmeric...You could use ginger and turmeric in cooking, but it would mean consuming a lot of both herbs on a daily basis. That's not practical for most of us. So I usually recommend using them as supplements. A good supplement to try is Zyflamend from New Chapter...It combines ginger and turmeric with other...herbs and gives good results. "(5)
What's in Zyflamend and How It Works
New Chapter, the maker of Zyflamend™, has extensively researched the herbal pharmacopoeia and international medical databases, and discovered that the following time-tested herbs, properly extracted and blended in the correct proportions, contain at least eight phytonutrients that may safely and significantly support a healthy inflammation response:
Holy Basil: (Ocimum sanctum) Contains the powerful ursolic acid, which significantly enhances detoxification and helps support the inflammation response.
Turmeric: Unique curcumin phytonutrient complex, naturally works synergistically with green tea, significantly multiplying the healthy response to inflammation supported by green tea polyphenols.
Ginger: Ginger is known for its ability to increase absorption and utilization of other herbs. It has also been shown to play role in inhibiting lipoxygenase COX-2 enzyme activity.
Green Tea: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports green tea polyphenols contain 51 phytonutrients that support a healthy inflammatory response.
Rosemary: Dual extracts offer highly concentrated, full spectrum detoxification. Rosemary also has COX-2 inhibiting properties and promotes regulation of the inflammatory pathways at the cellular level.
Hu Zhang: (Polygonum cuspidatum) Richest known resveratrol source, shown scientifically to support a healthy inflammation response.
Chinese Goldthread and Barberry: Unique berberine phytonutrient complex, naturally supports the inflammation response system. Berberine also works as a COX-2 inhibitor.
Oregano: According to the USDA database, oregano contains 31 anti-inflammatory constituents.
Scutellaria: Unique baicalin phytonutrient complex, naturally supports healthy inflammatory responses.
According to an article published in Holistic Primary Care magazine, Dr. A.E. Katz of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons "said he was particularly interested in New Chapter's Zyflamend, because the company grows most of its own constituent herbs organically, and obtains its extracts using a supercritical CO2 process, meaning there are no toxic solvent residues such as acetone or hexane, as is the case with other extraction techniques."
SAM-e – Nature's Answer to NSAIDs
The first-line Western medical treatment generally used for pain and swelling due to inflammation is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen. While NSAIDs can be effective pain relievers, their regular use can result in some devastating side effects such as ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems, increased blood pressure and kidney damage.
By contrast, SAM-e seems to support an anti-inflammatory response equivalent to the effect of NSAIDs but without the toxic side effects. SAM-e does not harm the digestive tract, nor does it contribute to the breakdown of cartilage.
• A meta-analysis of 11 clinical trials involving 1,142 patients was done looking at SAM-e for support of osteoarthritis symptom relief. The study authors concluded, “SAM-e appears to be as effective as NSAIDs in reducing pain and improving functional limitation in patients with OA without the adverse effects often associated with NSAID therapies.”(6)
• A randomized double-blind cross-over study of 56 patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee compared SAM-e (1200 mg) with the prescription drug celecoxib (Celebrex 200 mg). The results showed no significant difference between the two – both patient cohorts demonstrated significant improvements in pain and joint function – leading the researchers to conclude that SAM-e was as effective as celecoxib in managing the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.(7)
To learn more about the additional benefits of SAM-e, read “SAM-e: A Hard-Working Molecule that May Help Ease Pain & Brighten Mood.”
OsteoTec™ UC·II® – Chicken Soup for Your Joints
Undenatured chicken collagen, the primary ingredient in OsteoTec™ UC·II®, has been shown in studies and trials to help the body repair and rebuild joint cartilage - reducing joint pain, increasing joint mobility and flexibility, and promoting long-term joint health.
Grandmothers around the world have been treating colds with chicken soup for generations; then a few years ago scientists confirmed that several ingredients in chicken soup do, indeed, affect the immune system.
What grandma didn't realize, though, is that one part of the chicken in particular may also help ameliorate the joint pain of arthritis. Taken from the chicken's sternum cartilage, OsteoTec UC·II is an innovative, patented form of undenatured type II collagen that works with the immune system to reduce inflammation and restore cartilage.
Extensive research and clinical studies have shown UC·II to be both safe and effective in reducing inflammation and supporting joint health.
How OsteoTec UC·II Works for Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is characterized by an inflammatory synovial response that leads to joint wear and tear and is usually attributed to aging. Many of the biochemical markers associated with osteoarthritis inflammation are also associated with rheumatoid arthritis inflammation; therefore similar therapies are usually used. Research has shown that OsteoTec UC·II suppresses the T-cell-mediated inflammation in both forms of arthritis.
Numerous studies have shown that OsteoTec UC·II reduced joint pain for both people and their pets. Here are just a few examples:
• In a 90-day, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 60 patients with severe, active rheumatoid arthritis were split into two groups. In the half taking UC·II, 28 showed considerable improvement compared to the placebo group. Four patients recovered completely.(8)
• Ten children (8 to 14 years old) with active juvenile rheumatoid arthritis were given UC·II for three months. Eight of the 10 experienced a reduction in swollen and tender joints and one experienced a complete remission.(9)
• Osteoarthritic dogs were given either 40 mg of UC·II or a placebo for 120 days. The dogs given the UC·II exhibited significant improvements as measured by detailed observation of pain-related behaviors and responses: 77% less evidence of overall pain, 83% less evidence of pain after limb manipulation, and 84% less pain after exercise. The dogs receiving the placebo exhibited no significant change in observed pain behaviors/responses.(10)
For more information about OsteoTec UC•II, including additional research, read “Undenatured Type II Collagen – Chicken Soup for Your Joints.”
Ultra EPA Fish Oil and Krill Oil Fight Pain by Quelling Inflammation
Obtained from fish, Ultra EPA is an excellent source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids. It provides the body with a direct source of both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA helps maintain healthy circulation and supports the inflammatory response systems, while DHA supports normal brain and nerve function.
What Do Essential Fatty Acids Have to Do With Pain?
Essential fatty acids are the main structural components of the body’s cell membranes. Therefore, a balanced intake of fatty acids is necessary for healthy cell function.
There are two primary types of essential fatty acids – Omega 3 and Omega 6. They are the precursors of gamma-linolenic acid, a fatty acid that the body converts to hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins promote a healthy immune system and inflammatory response by maintaining the release of lymphokines, a substance known to activate immune system cells.
Omega-3s are particularly good at controlling inflammation because they reduce the production of compounds that stimulate inflammation and increase the production of biochemicals that limit inflammation.
Since essential fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the body, they must be provided through diet and supplementation. Because it is very difficult to get adequate amounts through diet alone, many people choose to use supplements to ensure their bodies are getting sufficient amounts of Omega-3 essential fatty acids.
With all the news about industrial pollution of the environment and the contamination of fish with toxic substances and heavy metals such as mercury, it is understandable that many people are concerned about consuming fish and fish oil supplements. You can rest assured that the Natural Fish Oil Concentrate used in Ultra EPA is manufactured under strict quality control standards. It has been tested to be free of potentially harmful levels of contaminants (i.e., mercury, heavy metals, PCB's, dioxins, and other contaminants).
Elasto-Gel™ Therapy Wraps for Heat or Cold Therapy
Elasto-Gel Therapy Products were developed to provide moist heat therapy or soothing cold therapy for relief of minor muscular and joint aches and pains. The wraps are filled with a patented gel that has exceptional properties for transferring heat or soothing cold. If punctured, it will not leak and will remain usable. The unique combination of specially selected fabric and tough yet flexible gel provides an amazingly durable product.
The Elasto-Gel Therapy Wraps are specially designed to wrap around specific parts of the body where heat and/or cold therapy may be needed. Available products include:
Cervical Collar: Designed to provide neck relief, it also reaches down between the shoulder blades.
Each of the therapy wraps is held in place with hook and loop type closures, which allow the user to move about during therapy.
How to Use Elasto-Gel Therapy Wraps
Elasto-Gel Therapy Wraps can be used for either heat or cold therapy. The heat or cold will last from 20 to 40 minutes per application.
Cold Therapy: Put the wrap in a plastic bag and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours. It may be left in the freezer indefinitely and will remain flexible and conform to contours even at -20° F (-30° C).
Heat Therapy: The easiest way to heat therapy wraps is in a microwave oven, but they can also be heated in a conventional oven. In a microwave, the suggested heating time is 60 – 90 seconds per side, depending on the wattage of your particular unit. In a conventional oven set at 250°, the wrap should be placed on a cookie sheet or baking dish and heated for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping it after 6 minutes for even heating.
Far-Infrared Heat Therapy
Far-infrared heat, like that emitted by ceramic heaters in the little one-person SeaMax home sauna, can penetrate deep into your body – as much as 2 to 3 inches below the skin. This heat is absorbed directly into the body rather than indirectly via hot air or steam. The deep penetrating far-infrared heat can provide the following benefits:
Pain Relief: Stimulates vasodilatation of peripheral blood vessels, bringing oxygen to joints and extremities, speeding the healing of sprains and strains, thus relieving pain and reducing the time it takes to recover from an injury.
Reduced Stress and Fatigue: Reduces stress by loosening the muscles and relaxing the body. The gentle warmth gives an overall massaging effect, soothing jagged nerves and knotted muscles, leaving the user feeling rejuvenated, renewed and restored in both body and mind.
Improved Blood Circulation: Deep penetrating heat is absorbed by cells, causing a physical phenomenon called "resonance" in which the cells are instantly invigorated, resulting in better local blood circulation.
Removal of Harmful Toxins: When toxins, which can cause inflammation, are present in our body, blood circulation is blocked and cellular energy is impaired. The body's immune system is inhibited, which makes it difficult for the body to fight disease. When far-infrared heat is applied, the large water molecules in our bodies that contain toxic gases like sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, lead, mercury and chlorine vibrate and are broken down. The encapsulated toxic materials and gases are then released.
When inflammation is causing soreness, pain and/or swelling, there are a number of natural products that may help bring relief, including supplements and heat/cold therapy options.
* Supplement research writer Karen Lee Richards is the Lead Expert specializing in Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, for HealthCentral's ChronicPainComnection). Karen is co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and was Executive Editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine for four years.
1. Chainani-Wu N. "Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: a component of turmeric (Curcuma longa)." J Altern Complement Med. 2003 Feb;9(1):161-8.
2. Shakibaei M, et al. "Suppression of NF-kappaB activation by curcumin leads to inhibition of expression of cyclo-oxygenase-2 and matrix metalloproteinase-9 in human articular chondrocytes: Implications for the treatment of osteoarthritis." Biochem Pharmacol. 2007 May 1;73(9):1434-45.
3. Park C, et al. "Curcumin induces apoptosis and inhibits prostaglandin E(2) production in synovial fibroblasts of patients with rheumatoid arthritis." Int J Mol Med. 2007 Sep;20(3):365-72.
4. Lal B, et al. "Efficacy of curcumin in the management of chronic anterior uveitis." Phytother Res. 1999 Jun;13(4):318-22.
5. Weil, Andrew. “Natural Medicine for Arthritis.” Prevention.com. March 7, 2006.
6. Soeken KL, et al. “Safety and efficacy of S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) for osteoarthritis.” J Fam Pract. 2002 May;51(5):425-30.
7. Wadie IN, et al. “S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe) versus celecoxib for the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms: A double-blind cross-over trial.” BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2004;5:6.
8. Trentham D, et al. “Effects of Oral Administration of Type-II Collagen on Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Science. 261:1727-1730, 1993.
9. Barnett, et al. “A Pilot Trial of Oral Type-II Collagen in the Treatment of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Arthritis & Rheumatism. 39:623-628, 1996.
10. Gupta RC, et al. “Pain reduction measured by ground force plate in arthritic dogs treated with type-II collagen.” Presented at: Society of Toxicology 48th Annual Meeting; March 2009. (See also: D’Altilio M, et al. "Therapeutic efficacy and safety of undenatured type II collagen singly or in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin in arthritic dogs." Toxicol Mech Methods. 17:189-196, 2007; and Deparle LA, et al. "Efficacy and safety of glycosylated undenatured type-II collagen (UC-II) in therapy of arthritic dogs." J Vet Pharmacol Therap. 28:385
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is general and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition, illness, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.