If you are considering using natural anti inflammatories for osteoarthritis I think it is important is you realise that just because the substance is natural it does not mean there are no side effects.
Osteoarthritis is classified as a NON inflammatory type of arthritis. The inflammation that occurs is in the muscles, tendons and ligaments (the soft tissue) around the joint, not from the wearing of the cartilage.
In this article at About.com Cathy Wong, discusses white willow. This is just one of a range of natural anti inflammatories that can be helpful when this inflamed soft tissue. Like me, she appears to have some concerns when using these herbs and it is important you make sure you get the correct advice before taking them.
She describes white willow bark as having the following possible benefits:
“white willow bark contains salicin (a natural compound that is chemically similar to aspirin). White willow bark is thought to help treat osteoarthritis by curbing inflammation and reducing pain.”
So therein lies my problem. Although white willow is a herb and not an artificially produced chemical it actually works along the same pathways as aspirin which is classified as a non steroidal anti- inflammatory drug (NSAID). Many believe it carries the same risks as is pointed out in the article:
There’s some concern that white willow bark may be harmful to people with an aspirin allergy or sensitivity. White willow bark should also be avoided by people with peptic ulcers, kidney disease, gout, or asthma.
In addition, taking white willow bark in combination with ginkgo biloba, vitamin E, or garlic may increase your risk of bleeding. It’s also important to avoid use of white willow bark within two weeks of undergoing surgery.
When taken in excessive doses, white willow bark may cause ringing in the ears, ulcers, stomach burning, pain, cramping, nausea, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver toxicity, rash, dizziness, and/or kidney impairment.
There are problems with other herbs as well. For example, Devils Claw which for me works the best of all the natural anti inflammatories, is made from a southern African plant. It appears to work as an anti-inflammatory along the same pathway as Cox-2 anti-inflammatory drugs such as Celebrex. Therefore Devil’s Claw should not be used by people who have or with a history of ulcers, gall stones, diabetics and if you are pregnant. But for me, it will give relief very quickly.
Does that Mean You Shouldn’t Use Natural Anti Inflammatories?
Personally I believe natural ones are better than artificially manufactured ones but that care should be taken when using either of them.
Taking natural anti inflammatories if fine in the short term but should you stay on them for life? I don’t think so. The inflammation in the soft tissue in the long term should be dealt with by using ice, heat and exercises. These are all safe when done correctly.
So instead try
1. Using ice when you are in pain from over doing it.
2. Use heat when you feel stiff like first thing in the morning.
3. Get an individually designed exercise program to target the soft tissue around the joint and make it more comfortable which, over time, will reduce the inflammation.
4. Using self massage followed by ice. This will reduce the soft tissue inflammation very effectively.
If you want to use natural anti inflammatories I suggest using something like JointEase Plus for the first few months while you are making starting through your program of exercises and learning to self massage. I do not believe they should be used all the time. Then you can use them as a top up when you go through a bad patch (which we all do and that is when I use Devils Claw).