Although it is fine to try these herbs while also taking a prescription arthritis or pain medication, if you go that route, Dr. Teitelbaum suggests using both the herb and medication for six weeks to reach the full effect of the herb. Then try tapering off the conventional pain medication to see if the herb alone can do the trick. Skip turmeric if you have gallstones.


Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications are fairly safe and somewhat effective in moderation and work in different ways, so do experiment cautiously. There are four kinds: acetaminophen/paracetamol (Tylenol, Panadol), plus three non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs): aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn). Don’t take any of them chronically — risks go up over time, and they can even backfire and cause nasty rebound headaches. They are all probably equally effective for acute injuries (Hung), but benefits vary with people and issues (chronic pain, headache, arthritis, etc). Acetaminophen is good for both fever and pain, and is one of the safest of all drugs at recommended dosages, but it may not work well for musculoskeletal pain (at all?) and overdose can badly hurt livers. The NSAIDs all reduce inflammation as well as pain and fever, but at any dose they can cause heart attacks and strokes and they are “gut burners” (they irritate the GI tract, even taken with food). Aspirin may be best for joint and muscle pain, but it’s the most gut-burning of them all. Voltaren® Gel Review is an ointment NSAID, effective for superficial pain and safer (Derry). Athletes, puh-lease don’t take “Vitamin I” to prevent soreness — it doesn’t work!
The human body’s natural response to injury results in inflammation-induced pain, swelling, and erythema. In order to reduce pain, anti-inflammatory agents such as NSAIDs act on the multiple inflammatory pathways, which, although often very effective, can have undesirable side effects such as gastric ulceration and, infrequently, myocardial infarction and stroke.
Deng ZH, Zeng C, Yang Y, et al. Topical diclofenac therapy for osteoarthritis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clin Rheumatol. 2016 May;35(5):1253–61. PubMed #26242469. “Topical diclofenac is effective in pain relief as a treatment of OA. It may also have a potential effect in function improvement, which needs further studies to be explored. Although, some adverse effects were observed in the application of topical diclofenac, none of them was serious.” BACK TO TEXT
Curcumin is the bioactive compound in turmeric that gives the herb its healing properties. It’s one of the safest anti-inflammatories you can take, and is an effective natural pain reliever too — even for severe pain. In fact, curcumin matches or outperforms ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and other over-the-counter painkillers without any side effects.[12]
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