Many of us experience pain. We usually go for aspirin, acetaminophen, Advil or Tylenol. But did you know many of these NSAIDs have dangerous side effects? Let’s take a look at some effective natural alternatives to pain relievers!
***Note, I am not a medical professional. In this article, I simply share research I found, as well as holistic alternatives to pain killers that may be good to try (after discussion with your doctor). These alternatives are especially good for those with acute problems (i.e. headache, pain from minor, acute injury, arthritis, aches and pains). BUT, be sure to speak to your doctor when considering using natural remedies as they may have dangerous interactions with other medications.***
NSAIDS-Not Always the Best Choice?
NSAIDS, which include Advil, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and Tylenol can effectively reduce your pain, but could also cause multiple effects on the body. Especially with long term use.
Such effects include GI tract problems. In a large study including 8 medical colleges across the country, researchers found that NSAID use was associated with gastric mucosal legions or GI complications; especially for those who had GI complications in the past.
Other possible side effects include kidney problems. Another large study by the FDA found NSAIDs are associated with disruption of kidney blood flow and acute kidney injury in high risk people.
Knowing these side effects, its important to consider them, and do your own research before taking these medicines. And, perhaps if its in your best interest, consider some natural alternatives.
This is my favorite pain reliever to use when I have lower back pain and other muscle pain. It contains camphor oil which relieves pain by stimulating circulation which can further reduce pain by causing healing. Tiger balm also includes menthol which reduces pain by its cooling action. This product is cheap, effective, and reminds me of Vaporrub. You can buy it on Amazon for $9.99.
Harpagophytum procumbens (Devil’s Claw)
Devil’s claw is a South African herb typically used for pain relief, allergies, and fever relief. A large review of research articles examining Devil’s claw for pain relief found the herb to be just as effective at reducing pain. Many studies found that taking this herb for 8-12 weeks can reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis.
Ask your doctor what dose is right for you. Be sure to discuss with your doctor about use because there are possible interactions with medications (i.e. blood thinners, diabetes meds, antacids, etc.).
White Willow Bark
This herb actually contains the active ingredient in aspirin. Many research studies found White willow bark is just as effective at reducing lower back, and musculoskeletal pain as other NSAIDs.
White willow bark is found to have adverse effects including gastrointestinal problems and some allergic reactions. So, its important to talk to your doctor about dosage and possible interactions with medications.
Lavender Essential Oil
This was a shocker for me. Research has found this wonderful-smelling oil is great at reducing headaches/migraines, and other aches and pains. Inhaling this oil is also effective at reducing pain in premature babies!
I definitely recommend buying organic essential oils as they are in my opinion the safest. Check out some options below!
I just want to reiterate that although natural remedies are wonderful (in my opinion sometimes better than medications) they should always be used with caution! You never know how your body will react to an herb, or an essential oil.
But, for those like me who are searching for natural pain relievers for minor aches, and pains, these herbs may be the way to go! Especially, considering the potential side effects of NSAIDs.
I know how hard it is to believe that there are 5 cool benefits of taking cold showers. Especially for those like me whose guilty pleasure is a long, steamy showers. Take a look at the following 5 cool benefits of taking a short cold shower.
1. Stronger Immunity
Taking cold showers can possibly keep you from getting sick! According to a 2013 study, taking cold showers could could strengthen your immunity. Reducing your chances of sickness by 29%. The following cool benefit of taking cold showers is another reason to cool down your showers. For more ways to improve your immunity, check out my posthere.
2. Help with Depression
Who would’ve thought that a few minutes of brisk suffering could make you happier? According to a 2013 study, taking a two to three minute shower could help with depression by raising endorphins (the happiness brain hormones) in the body. Moreover, researchers also found that taking cold showers could cause a pain-relieving effect-explained in the next point.
3. Reduce Pain
A study done in 2017 found that taking cold showers every day could be a great home treatment for treating arthritis. Additionally, this treatment could be great after exercise (no need to dunk yourself in a tub full of ice). It makes sense, when you have swelling you use an ice pack to reduce the swelling.
Furthermore, cold water can also better blood circulation which is great for people with hypertension or atherosclerosis. Better circulation contributes to the following cool benefit of taking cold showers.
4. Mellow You Out
This next point is surprising, as I would never guess that taking a cold shower would relax you, but apparently it does. Researchers found that taking cold showers could lower your cortisol levels (stress levels).
This lowered-stress level effects are found to improve your sleep. Which, come on, who doesn’t need to sleep better? You’ll sleep even better after viewing the next cool benefit of taking cold showers: bad chemicals.
5. Reduce Exposure to Bad Chemicals in Shower Water
Tap water sucks. Our governments adds all kinds of chemicals in our water sources that are known to be toxic (i.e. chlorine, fluoride). According to the CDC, chlorine is used as a disinfectant to destroy disease-causing germs like salmonella, campylobacter, and norovirus.
But, chlorine gas is a known respiratory irritant. Moreover, it can damage your lungs, and is associated with bladder and rectal cancer. When we take hot showers, chlorine quickly vaporizes and gets into your body through inhalation and absorption.
To conclude, taking cold showers are not comfortable. But, you could still reap the benefits of cold showers by starting the shower with warm water then slowly transitioning to cold water and ending with 30 seconds to one minute of cold water.
All this is coming from a woman who finds her “me time” at the end of the day taking a long, hot shower. But, knowing now these 5 cool benefits of cold showers-I’ve turned down the heat.
Your immune system is one player in a wonderful team that is your body. On a team, each player must do their job in order to to be successful. If one player is slacking, the whole team is slacking. In this article, I’ll detail some practical things to add to your lifestyle that contribute to a healthy immune system. I want to preface this to say, I am no doctor, dietician, or nurse. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in biology and have done extensive personal research on the immune system. I am no expert in any form! Now, onto the article!
The Heroes of Your Immune System
First, lets talk about the main heroes in the immune system: The White Blood Cells
B cells: these cells produce antibodies that mark invading bad germs (i.e bacteria, viruses, fungi) that make their way into your body. Antibodies (immunoglobulins) are unique to whichever germ infects your body. So you can have an antibody for the flu virus, or an antibody for yeast infections.
Memory B cells: they keep a “memory” of previous germs and remain in you body for life. So if you were to get infected again, your body will already know how to mount up a defense and use the same strategy that worked the first time to defeat the invader. This is why usually when you get sick with the same virus or bacteria a second time, usually its not as severe. For example, my husband caught COVID twice: the first time he was sick for around a week and recovered. The second time, he was sick for one night and recovered.
T cells: killer cells who destroy invading germs that are marked for destruction by the antibodies.
Memory T cells: work similarly to memory B cells in that they retain a memory of the strategy to defeat an invading germ.
Natural Killer cells: kill invading germs in acute infections (i.e. a splinter infected with germs would be killed first by natural killer cells).
Macrophages: large immune cells that literally eat invading germs (phagocytosis).
This is a basic sampling of the many workers in your immune system. I’ve included this list because some of the research I talk about mention these guys. These guys require help to maintain their function and strength. That help comes from a variety of things starting with the food you eat.
“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food”-Hippocrates, Ancient Greek physician
The following is a list of some foods, supplements and practices you can incorporate in your diet that help your immune system stay healthy and work properly. I’ve also provided suggested quantity per day and some links to where you can buy these products!
This lovely little bulb is fantastic for the immune system! According to a large review of garlic research, garlic is shown to stimulate immune cells like natural killer cells, and other white blood cells. Garlic also regulates antibody production.
Garlic can be incorporated into many different recipes from breakfast to dinner! Chop up a few cloves and place in pasta, sprinkle garlic powder on your eggs or avocado toast! The possibilities are endless with this lovely bud.
Loved by Pooh bears and people althrough history! Honey is a wonder product with many benefits for the immune system.
According to a large scientific review of the benefits of honey, scientists found honey works as a virucide, and has proven its effectiveness on many viruses including HIV, Flu virus, herpes simplex virus, and varicella-zoster virus.
Honey acts as an antimicrobial, the antibacterial properties of honey can speed up the healing process and directly kill bacteria. Honey also acts as a fungicide and antiviral. Honey can suppress viral growth by inhibiting viral replication and/or viral activity. Honey has proved its potency against several RNA and DNA viruses i.e. influenza virus, varicella-zoster virus (VZV), rubella, herpes simplex virus.
Simply substituting Manuka or clover coney for sugar in tea or coffee, or substituting for sugar in recipes can be a great way to incorporate this into your everyday life. Check out the honey below!
Green tea is another great immune booster. In an article at Science Daily, scientists detail how green tea contains powerful compounds that increase the number of T cells that play a key role in immune function and suppression of autoimmune disease.
I personally love green tea. But I probably drink no more than 1 cup every other day or once a week. In the January 2016 review in the International Journal of Cardiology, people who didn’t consume green tea were at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke compared to regular green tea drinkers. Specifically, people who consumed 1 cup or more of green tea each day were at a reduced risk for heart attacks and stroke. While people who drank 10 cups or more had reduced cholesterol levels compared to moderate green tea drinkers who consumed 3 cups or less per day.
Ginger has long been known and used for its anti-inflammatory properties. An extensive review article demonstrated that ginger is an effective antimicrobial which can help in treating infectious diseases.
Ginger can be easily incorporated into recipes. You can use powdered ginger, or whole ginger. There are also ginger chews out there that are delicious. I personally enjoy sliced ginger with honey in tea for a quick immune boost!
Echinacea is an herb that can help you quickly recover from colds and the flu. Many clinical trials have shown that people who take Echinacea as soon as they feel sick reduce the severity of their cold and have fewer symptoms than those who do not take the herb.
A review of 14 clinical trials found that echinacea reduced the chance of developing a cold by 58% and the duration of a cold by 1 to 4 days.
When I had COVID, I drank elderberry tea with echinacea daily, and it greatly helped my recovery. Check out the tea below that helped me.
Essential oils are another great thing to add to your lifestyle. A study examining essential oils effects on the immune system found that pregnant women who used lavender essential oil every other week for ten weeks had higher antibody levels after the massage.
According to clinical dietician Cara Mars with the UC Yampa Valley, states that peppermint oil has antiviral properties and can help increase your immunity.
Essential oils like lavender, peppermint, and spearmint oil can be incorporated into your lifestyle through essential oil roll-ons, using a diffuser, or even adding a few drops to your favorite shampoo, conditioner or body wash. Be careful though! Some people experience allergic reactions from essential oils. So do a spot test on your skin before using. Even standing under a small boiling pot of water with 10-15 drops of essential oil in it works just as well. When I was sick with an upper respiratory infection, I had essential oils like peppermint and lavender going all day in my room. This greatly helped with my recovery. Check out the organic essential oils I use and love below!
Ahh, The sunshine vitamin! Vitamin D is created in the skin during sun exposure and contributes to a healthy immune system. Numerous research studies demonstrate that Vitamin D plays an important part in fighting antimicrobials like bacteria and viruses, and increases production of antibodies.
Simply going outside and getting 10-15 minutes of sunlight is sufficient. Unless you’re Black like me and need at least 30 minutes outside. But what if you work indoors most days? Well, I take 5000IU according to holistic women’s doctor Dr. Jolene Brighten’s suggestion. Some studies suggest a high daily intake of vitamin D (1000-5000 IU) is needed to maintain optimal blood levels. Definitely consult your doctor to see what’s best for you.
Best source of Vitamin D: Sunlight, egg yolks, red meat, salmon, herring.
Zinc used to treat the common cold has been well reported in research. Zinc works as an antioxidant and is anti-inflammatory. Research shows zinc is crucial for normal development and function of immune system cells including natural killer cells. Macrophages also are affected by zinc deficiency. Phagocytosis and antibody production all are affected by zinc deficiency. The researchers also found zinc deficiency adversely affects the growth and function of T and B cells.
Research suggests 10mg of highly absorbable zinc is recommended. Definitely consult your doctor to see what’s best for you.
Foods high in zinc: Red meat, shellfish, legumes, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and eggs.
Everyone knows vitamin C is worth its weight in gold for the immune system and the body in general. A large, extensive review demonstrated Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of the immune system. Vitamin C also supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens (i.e. mucus membranes, internal barrier in lining of intestines, and skin). The Mayo Clinic recommends a daily amount of vitamin C of 65 to 90 milligrams (mg) a day, and the upper limit is 2,000 mg a day. Definitely consult your doctor to see what’s best for you.
Foods high in Vitamin C: elderberry, oranges, lemons, limes, papaya, mango.
Exercise, Exercise. We hear it all the time. But exercise has so many wonderful benefits to the body. Research shows during and after physical exercise, pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines are released, and white blood cells circulation increases. This has an effect on the lower incidence, intensity of symptoms and mortality in viral infections observed in people who exercise regularly, and suggest a benefit in the response to viral communicable diseases.
The Mayo clinic suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of hard aerobic activity a week as well as strength training for all muscle groups two times a week.
While a healthy immune system is super important, its also important that your whole body is healthy as well. Yes, incorporate some of these foods or practices to your lifestyle, but don’t give too much attention to just your immune system. You wanna make sure the whole team is working together at its best.