Natural, Delicious Painkillers in Your Kitchen
As a holistic health coach, one of the most common complaints I hear about is pain. Knee pain, back pain, migraines — you name it, Americans suffer from it.
When confronted with chronic pain, many doctors recommend over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®), or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen (Aleve®).
Another popular option for relieving pain is a particular class of NSAID called Cox-2 inhibitors (such as Celebrex®). In certain cases, doctors and patients may even turn to oxycodone, an opioid painkiller in the same class as morphine and heroin.
All of these drugs have their place in modern medicine and can be useful in the right situation. However, the side effects of these drugs — including the ones readily available at your local pharmacy — can be severe, even life-threatening.
Acetaminophen, commonly taken by adults and children, can cause liver damage severe enough to necessitate a transplant, or to cause death.1 Liver damage can even occur when taken at the maximum recommended daily dosage, which most people would assume is safe.2 In addition, NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding,3 leading to thousands of deaths each year4 and have also been linked to major coronary events.5 Even selective NSAIDs like Cox-2 inhibitors – believed to be safer when first released in the 1990s — are linked to heart attack.6,7 Lastly, according to the CDC, in 2014 opioid poisoning took the lives of almost 19,000 Americans.8
Don't Risk Your Health for Minor Aches and Pains!
Your doctor probably won’t tell you this, but there are other options. In fact, spices you may have in your kitchen right now have been proven to be as effective against pain as some of the most commonly prescribed and used medications.
Two of my favourite pain-relieving spices are ginger and turmeric. Ginger is a potent anti-bacterial spice and one of the world’s oldest medicinal foods. It’s also one of your best defenses against pain due to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. One study showed ginger works in a similar fashion as NSAIDs but also inhibits another enzyme that makes it more effective, and with fewer side effects, than NSAIDs.9
(However, if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant soon, avoid ginger in high doses and speak with your doctor before using it.)10
Turmeric, a popular Indian spice, contains a compound called curcumin, which is a potent anti-inflammatory. A 2014 study showed curcumin extract is equally effective as ibuprofen against pain from knee osteoarthritis with fewer gastrointestinal issues.11
In addition to their pain-relieving properties, both ginger and turmeric have loads of other health benefits, including potentially preventing cancer. One study showed a compound in ginger known as -gingerol inhibits cell adhesion, invasion and motility of certain types of breast cancer cells.12 Curcumin was shown by MD Anderson Cancer Center researchers to reduce the expression of a particular molecule in breast cancer cells that causes the disease to spread to other parts of the body.13
Try incorporating these two spices into your diet every day. This delicious India-meets-the-Middle East sweet and spicy hummus can help you do just that. It includes curry, a popular spice mix that contains ginger and turmeric, as well as a bit of extra ginger for an added kick.
Recipe: Sweet & Spicy Ginger Curry Hummus
1 can organic chickpeas
½ cup tahini
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp powdered ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ - ⅓ cup unsweetened almond milk
Couple pinches of ground black pepper (increases the bioavailability of curcumin by 2,000%)14
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place in food processor with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides of the food processor occasionally. Serve as a dip for whole grain or seeded crackers, raw vegetables, apple slices, or strawberries, or use as a spread in a sandwich or wrap!