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Inflammation is the body’s response to irritation, infection, and injury. Short term inflammation protects the body, while chronic inflammation can lead to long term pain and damage, such as in arthritis.
Anti-inflammatory medications help fight pain and chronic inflammation.
However, these drugs are not safe for everyone, and extended use can lead to complications and side effects.
Some natural supplements may help fight inflammation, although not all supplements work for every type of inflammation.
In this article, we describe some of the most effective anti-inflammatory supplements that people may wish to try, depending on the cause of their inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in fatty fish such as cod, are among the most potent anti-inflammatory supplements.
The right dosage varies with the potency of the supplement. Some products come in pill form, while other manufacturers sell omega-3s as an oil. When using these products, people should always follow the instructions on the packaging.
Like many prescription anti-inflammatory medications, omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil may increase the risk of bleeding. People with bleeding disorders and those taking blood thinners should not use this supplement.
Omega-3 fatty acids are available to purchase online.
Curcumin, which is an active ingredient in turmeric, is a plant in the ginger family. Animal studies have suggested that it may help reduce inflammation to speed up wound healing and even reduce cancer risk.
A 2011 study also found that curcumin may help reduce inflammation from obesity-related metabolic conditions. Curcumin altered several inflammatory pathways, reducing insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and hyperlipidemia.
A typical dosage of curcumin is 400–600 milligrams (mg) three times daily.
Although it is safe to take curcumin with low doses of NSAIDs, higher doses may increase the risk of bleeding. Curcumin also increases the risk of bleeding in people taking blood thinners and those with bleeding disorders.
Curcumin is available to purchase online.
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The right dosage depends on the condition a person has. For example:
- A person may take 200–800 mg twice per day for fibromyalgia.
- A person may take 800–1,600 mg twice per day for depression.
- A person may take 600–1,200 mg three times per day for osteoarthritis.
SAM-e may interact with a wide range of drugs, so people must not take it without first consulting a doctor.
At high doses, SAM-e may cause vomiting, diarrhea, gas, and nausea, so people must not exceed the recommended dose.
SAM-e supplements are available to purchase online.
Some research suggests that zinc is a potent anti-inflammatory that may support the immune system and reduce several markers of inflammation.
According to a 2014 paper, zinc decreased inflammation and oxidative stress among older adults. Oxidative stress triggers inflammation and may increase the risk of a host of conditions, including cancer.
Zinc also reduced the rate of infections by 66%.
People with zinc deficiency are more likely to have arthritis, suggesting a link between zinc deficiency, inflammation, and pain.
The usual daily dosage of zinc supplements is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Taking more than 40 mg per day can be dangerous.
Zinc supplements are available to purchase online.
Research suggests that green tea may inhibit the production of certain inflammatory chemicals. It may also help slow cartilage loss, reducing the symptoms of arthritis.
Most doctors recommend drinking three or four cups of green tea per day, or taking 300–400 mg of green tea extract daily.
Green tea contains caffeine, so it is not safe for those who are sensitive to caffeine. The caffeine may cause stomach problems such as diarrhea.
Some companies make decaffeinated green tea, but researchers do not yet know if this type of green tea is effective for reducing inflammation.
Green tea extract is available to purchase online.
Boswellia serrata resin, or frankincense, can ease both inflammation and pain.
It may also help reduce cartilage loss and reverse autoimmune symptoms. It is a fast acting supplement that may help with osteoarthritis pain in just 5 days.
The usual dosage is an extract containing 30–40% boswellic acids, which a person takes in 300–500 mg doses two to three times per day.
Combining frankincense with curcumin may increase its potency, and some research has found that people tolerate this combination better than the NSAID diclofenac.
Frankincense is typically safe, with few side effects. However, some people report stomach pain and gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea.
Frankincense supplements are available to purchase online.
Capsaicin is the ingredient that gives hot peppers their heat. Substance P, a key component of capsaicin, may reduce the body’s ability to feel and transmit pain.
Some research suggests that capsaicin may help with both nerve and muscular pain.
Several manufacturers offer capsaicin creams that people can apply directly to painful areas. Capsaicin supplements may also help. Again, people taking these should follow the directions on the packaging.
Capsaicin can irritate the skin and eyes, so it is essential to wash the hands thoroughly after use.
Capsaicin supplements are available to purchase online.
Cat’s claw comes from various uncaria plants, including Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis.
Research suggests that cat’s claw may reduce various forms of inflammation. It is especially effective at inhibiting TNF-alpha, an inflammatory chemical in the body.
If using cat’s claw tea, a person may drink a ratio of 1,000 mg of root bark to 8 ounces of water. It is also safe to consume as a powder in capsule form, in daily dosages of 20–60 mg.
Although cat’s claw is generally safe, two case reports suggest that it may cause kidney failure in people with lupus. It may also cause nausea, though some studies suggest that it may also help stomach pain from the NSAID indomethacin.
Cat’s claw supplements are available to purchase online.
Anti-inflammatory supplements do not work for everyone. In almost all cases, these supplements take time to reverse inflammation.
So, people who need immediate pain relief may want to try other options, either in addition to or instead of anti-inflammatory supplements. Some options include:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory drugs: Medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin can help with inflammation-related pain. They may also reduce the swelling of a recent injury.
- Prescription anti-inflammatory drugs: A wide range of prescription medications can help with inflammation and pain.
- Anti-inflammatory diet: Some people focus on eating foods that reduce inflammation, while others avoid those that may trigger inflammation. Fried foods, soda, refined carbohydrates, and red meat may cause inflammation, while nuts, blueberries, strawberries, olive oil, tomatoes, and leafy green vegetables may help fight it.
Natural anti-inflammatory supplements can help the body fight pain and inflammation. They may even prevent some of the long term complications of chronic inflammation, such as cancer.
Before trying a new anti-inflammatory treatment, even a natural one, it is important to consult a doctor. Natural remedies are often potent medicine that can cause side effects and interact with other drugs.
When they work, however, they may reduce the need to take prescription or OTC medications.