One of the most famous non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs is aspirin, which comes from the bark of white willow trees. One of it’s mechanisms of action in the body is by it’s ability to inhibit the cyclooxygenase enzymes COX-1 and 2. These enzymes are responsible for the synthesis of molecules called prostaglandins, which can cause inflammation and consequent pain.

However, due to adverse consequences such as Reye’s Syndrome in children, increased incidence of stomach ulcer formation, increased gout in those with kidney disease and the risk of bronchospasm in those with asthma, it is not always a good choice to relieve pain and inflammation. The good news is that there are other natural anti-inflammatories that don’t have these side effects and have been used in Chinese herbology for millennia.

The herbs Yu Jin or turmeric and Hu Zhang or Polygonum Cuspidatum, belong to a class of herbs that “invigorate the blood”. In Chinese medicine’s metaphorical terminology, when blood stagnates, it causes pain. This corresponds to what western medicine describes as inflammatory pain. Yu Jin and

Hu Zhang are herbs that contain Curcumin and Resveratrol respectively. These herbs, like aspirin, are also COX enzyme inhibitors that perform the same functions, albeit without most of aspirin’s side effects.

Yet, A word of caution would be warranted with these herbs. As with aspirin, if they are taken with alcohol or blood thinning medications, they can cause bleeding conditions to worsen, and in too high a dosage, can also cause stomach ulcers to form. Typical doses of Turmeric range from 500-3000mg per day in divided doses, and those for Polygonium Cuspidatum are between 50-500mg daily.

The conditions that these herbs treat include musculoskeletal pain and inflammation, colitis, arthritis, lung inflammation, cancer and even sunburn or bites if used topically.

Tune in next episode when we’ll talk about the nutritional treatment of depression.

Be Well and Be Zen

References:

Atkins R C, (1998), Dr. Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution, Nature’s answer to drugs., p. 293-94, Fireside Publishing, NY, ISBN: 0-684-81849-3.

Bensky D., Gamble A., (1993), Materia Medica: Chinese Herbal Medicine., p. 271-72, 276-77., Eastland Press Inc., Seattle, WA., ISBN: 0-939616-15-7.

Alternative Medicine Review, Monographs Vol. 1, (2002), Curcuma Longa, p.119-125., ISBN: 0-9725815-0-2.

Maroon J C, Bost J W, Maroon A, (2010), Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief., Surgical Neurology International (open access), PMC3011108, doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.73804.

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