Tag Archive: natural


So this week I’m pleased to bring you some good news about natural treatments for pain and inflammation.

One of the most impressive herbs for this purpose is turmeric. In this video by Dr. Greger he presents the latest evidence that turmeric is useful for rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory illness, which even proved superior to a common drug in a clinical trial (a dosage of 500 mg curcumin was used in this study, which is the amount in 10 grams of turmeric, or about one and one half tablespoons). Furthermore, turmeric also proved effective in treating osteoarthritis, which is caused by chronic wear and tear on joints. In fact once again turmeric compared very favorably with pharmaceutical drugs in the treatment of osteoarthritis-induced knee pain (a dosage of 90 mg curcumin was used in this study, the amount in about 2/3 of a teaspoon of turmeric). Turmeric also reduces inflammation in general.

One of the compounds in turmeric responsible for much of these beneficial effects is called curcumin; it’s about 5% by weight of a given quantity of turmeric. One problem in using turmeric as a medicine is that the bioavailability – the amount of the substance that is actually usable by the body – of curcumin is relatively low. You can increase the bioavailability of curcumin by 2000% by adding some black pepper; even just 1/4 tsp of black pepper turns out to have this effect. Another strategy is to add oil; a healthy oil like coconut oil or avocado oil might be useful here. So to get the medicinal effects one strategy is to take the traditional route: have a curry made with turmeric and black pepper. A nouveau strategy might be to make a smoothie using coconut milk, a teaspoon or two of turmeric, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, a banana, and maybe a few dates for sweetness 🙂

Should everyone take turmeric? Dr. Greger cautions us that those who have gallstones, are prone to kidney stones, or are pregnant might want to avoid it or eat it only in moderation; it contains a fairly high concentration of oxalates (which are associated with kidney stone formation), can cause the gallbladder to contract, and in very high doses can cause DNA damage: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/who-shouldnt-consume-curcumin-or-turmeric/.

While we’re on the subject of osteoarthritis, there is also evidence that other natural approaches are effective in treating the pain it causes. Osteoarthritis (sometimes called progressive joint disease) is a disease caused by the gradual deterioration of the cartilage (connective tissue) of a joint, leading it to become stiff and painful. It turns out that ginger applied topically (daily for a week) appears to help. Unfortunately, that study didn’t include a control, but all the participants had previously had conventional medical treatment for their osteoarthritis and not been satisfied with the results. One of the effective methods of application used in the study is called a ginger compress. One simple method of applying a ginger compress that I like to use is this: I just take some very thin slices of fresh ginger, apply it to the painful area, place a thin towel over the ginger, and a hot water bottle or heating pad on top of the towel; I warm the area for about 15 minutes.

Tart cherries – in addition to the effects on blood pressure noted in my last post – also appear to help relieve osteoarthritis pain. Apparently, the effects can be achieved simply by drinking cherry juice. Note that this study is on tart cherries like the Montmorency, not sweet cherries like the Bing or Rainier varieties (although other studies show some benefits from those as well).

Eating sesame seeds, believe it or not, also help reduce osteoarthritis pain, and do so even better than Tylenol. The amount of sesame seeds used in the study to get this effect was 40 grams per day, which is less than two ounces; the seeds were powdered first (a coffee grinder can do this, or you can use a mortar and pestle). 5 tablespoons a day will get you 45 grams.

Finally on osteoarthritis, this study shows acupuncture beneficial for treating osteoarthritis of the knee: http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1233-osteoarthritiskneeub23

On the subject of Chinese medicine and pain, I’m excited by the news that researchers have found additional evidence that the herb corydalis (corydalis yanhusuo) is helpful for pain, including inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain (pain caused by nervous system damage). Corydalis has enough analgesic properties to relieve the intensity of pain of a broken ankle, and furthermore does so in way that prevents the body from developing resistance to the herb. It is also non-addictive. These factors, the researchers suggest, may make the herb a suitable treatment for chronic pain.

Traditionally, 3-9 grams of corydalis is cooked in about 3 cups of water for 45 minutes to an hour, and drunk half a cup or so at a time as a tea. It may cause drowsiness, dizziness, and abdominal distention, especially when taken in doses of 10 grams or more; high doses of more than 15 grams can cause serious side effects. See Dan Bensky’s Materia Medica for more information on the traditional use.

And last but not least, Dr. Greger reminds us that the potassium in foods like leafy greens and bananas is a good way to reduce inflammation.

As always, use caution when interpreting this information and in choosing whether to apply it to yourself. In particular, note that herbs can sometimes interact with medications or supplements, so be sure to consult your MD if you’re on any medications. Please take a look at the disclaimer at the top of this page once again 🙂

Having said all that, if you’ve tried any of these strategies or had any experience with them, please feel free to let me know your results here. Anything else you’d like to find out about? I’d love to hear from you!

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Keeping Your Heart Healthy

I’ve been a bit lax on writing my blog, but I’m happy to say I’ll be posting much more regularly from now on. This week’s topic turns out to be news on some foods that are especially beneficial for cardiovascular health.

I’m very happy to bring you this exciting news about pomegranate juice: It turns out that there’s good evidence that drinking as little as 50 ml (about one-fifth of a cup) of pomegranate juice daily can help to not only prevent the progression of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) but can actually reverse heart disease, by as much as 30% in three years. See the following articles:

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/how-clean-your-arteries-one-simple-fruit

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/pomegranate-reduces-intima-media-thickness-size-artery-while-also-reducing

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/pomegranate-juice-has-potent-antiatherogenic-effects-healthy-humans-and

Also on the subject of heart disease, it’s widely known that one of the most common class of drugs prescribed for this are statins, which are meant to reduce cholesterol. In fact, some doctors suggest that statins ought to be prescribed for children!. But are there any natural alternatives? This author argues that supplementation with niacin does as well or better than statins, with fewer side effects: http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v01n10.shtml.

Actos is a drug commonly prescribed for lowering blood pressure; however an unfortunate side effect (one of several) is that it often raises the risk of stroke. It turns out that there’s evidence that simply eating cherries or drinking cherry juice does just as well or better than Actos, without the dangerous side effects. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423102129.htm, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080407114647.htm. While these are studies on specially bred rats and not on humans, the results are encouraging.

And then we have hibiscus tea. I mentioned hibiscus in an earlier blog post, which referred to evidence that hibiscus is one of the most antioxidant-rich plants out there. It turns out that some studies show a positive connection between hibiscus tea consumption and successful management of metabolic syndrome (which includes diabetes), and that it also tends to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. See http://www.naturalnews.com/043393_hibiscus_herbal_tea_cardiovascular_health.html#ixzz2qL5KP8Pm. You can get hibiscus leaves in bulk from your local supermarket and make a tea by simply immersing a couple of tablespoons of it in a pitcher of water overnight (you can leave it in the fridge). With a squeeze of lemon and some mint it is really quite delicious, similar to fruit punch.

All this news about food and supplements is encouraging, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the most important and powerful ways you can help keep your heart healthy: be part of an active social community! It turns out that social isolation increases your risk of death from heart disease by up to 250%: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21492978, http://www.pnas.org/content/110/15/5797.full, http://eurjhf.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/7/748.abstract, and also increases your risk of heart failure, stroke, and other illnesses http://wellness.unl.edu/wellness_documents/lack_of_social_support_and_effects_of_coronary_heart_disease.pdf. This is true even when correcting for factors like body weight and so on. The good news in this, of course, is that by not being socially isolated – by cultivating a social network of people you regularly meet physically (Facebook doesn’t count, we need physical contact!) – you become healthier. Real human contact is not yet something one can put in a pill!