Saturday, April 13, 2024

Natural Alternatives to Cortisone

Everyone has had inflammation at one point in their lives. It is a normal process that is imperative so the body can begin healing, but chronic or long term inflammation is not a good thing and may eventually lead to serious medical conditions such as cancer.

Cortisone is a potent anti-inflammatory that is injected on inflamed areas, specifically on the joints, while pill forms are also available. It also targets other health problems that are caused by inflammation. Effective as it may be, cortisone poses certain health risks when used frequently.

Do not substitute this for actual advice from an expert as many cases require treatment that CAN NOT be remedied with natural options.  These natural options may only be helpful in addition to treatments, again consult with a medical professional before self treating or self diagnosing. 

1.) Boswellia Serrata

Boswellia Serrata

Grown in India and in other Middle Eastern countries, the resin of this plant has been used for many years as medicine and incense in cultural and religious ceremonies. In modern times it is available in cream, resin, and tablet form, is used to treat asthma, and osteoarthritis, and acts as a potent anti-inflammatory agent and painkiller. Aside from the inhibition of inflammatory agents, several studies revealed promising results in the prevention of cancer cell advancement. Boswellia serrata works by preventing the creation of leukotrienes, the compound responsible for triggering inflammation, and inhibiting 5-lipoxygenase, also known as the enzyme that creates leukotrienes. Other boswellic and pentacyclic acids are also found in the resin, and these acids also contribute to both the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

2.) Bromelain

Pineapples are one of the most well-known fruits worldwide. Aside from being delicious, and the myriad of ways it can be utilized, one important factor that most people don’t know about pineapple is its bromelain content. Bromelain is an enzyme that’s only naturally found in pineapple, with the richest amounts located on the fruit’s stems. The said enzyme is very effective in minimizing inflammation, and it is most effective in reducing sinusitis. It blocks kinins, or peptides that play a major role in inflammation. Bromelain is also used by athletes and weightlifters to relax the muscles and relieve pain. Research on the enzyme has revealed its potential in preventing the metastasis of tumors and in enhancing the immune system to protect the body from the risks of cancer. A cup of pineapple juice or consuming a couple of slices on a daily basis provides the body with an adequate amount of bromelain to make the most out of its benefits.

3.) Curcumin

Turmeric is a popular spice that is used primarily for curry, and it also boasts a plethora of health benefits thanks to its substance curcumin, which is also responsible for the spice’s golden color. For thousands of years, Indians have made good use of the spice because of its powerful anti-inflammatory property, along with being a potent antioxidant that fights off harmful free radicals that damage the body in many ways. Curcumin fights chronic inflammation by targeting molecules that travel to cells and activate inflammatory genes. It also stops enzymes that are known to mediate the process of inflammation in the body namely cyclooxygenase, inducible nitric oxide, and lipoxygenase. Topical applications of turmeric treat skin disorders, wounds, and infections that target the eye. A published study subjected half of 117 participants with a daily dose of curcuminoids, while the other half received placebo, for a span of eight weeks. The conclusion revealed significant improvements in the inflammatory status and blood sugar levels of the participants. Curcumin is widely available in capsule and tablet forms, while powder forms can be used as either tea or as a spice to add an incredibly healthy flavor to many dishes.

4.) Devil’s Claw

Devil's Claw

Primarily found in the southern regions of Africa, the plant was named as such due to the hooks that appear on its fruit. Folk medicine in Africa utilized the herb to treat digestive problems, disorders in the blood, and as relief for pains felt in pregnancy. In other parts of the globe, its dried roots are used to remedy inflammation and certain body pains wrought by exercise and aging. Iridoid glycosides, specifically harpagoside, are powerful anti-inflammatory agents and are found in devil’s claw. A Phytomedicine study published in 2002 showed the efficacy of devil’s claw in 227 participants who complained of osteoarthritis in either hip or knee, and back pain. After a period of eight weeks, the daily 60 mg dose of devil’s claw extract relieved the pains of 70 percent of the participants, along with significant improvements in flexibility and mobility. Dried roots for brewing tea are sold in health stores, while capsule and tablet forms are readily available for those who prefer a faster and portable approach.

5.) Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Maritime Pine

Olive oils are considered as one of the healthiest fats in existence. In fact, as it is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, the populations that consume such dishes as part of their regular diet are regarded to be in tip-top shape compared to those that do not eat food with the said oil. The most beneficial type of olive oil is the one considered “extra virgin” as it is extracted with only natural methods without any kind of chemical involvement. To be classified as “extra virgin”, the oil must have a distinct aroma and flavor, and must pass both sensory examination and chemical test as administered by a panel of experts with credentials from Europe’s International Olive Oil Council (IOOC). These rigorous methods of testing ensure that extra virgin olive oil is of high quality. This kind of olive oil is packed with vitamin E and vitamin K, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and monounsaturated and saturated fats. The most beneficial of all is its content of powerful antioxidants oleocanthal and oleuropein that fight C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker and a trigger for many cardiovascular diseases, and inflammatory enzymes COX-1 and COX-2. It also eliminates proteins and genes that facilitate inflammation. The oil’s efficacy in handling inflammation is so impressive that it is usually compared to ibuprofen, but without the possible side effects that may arise due to long term use. Extra virgin olive oil is better used as is or only with very low heat in cooking, as higher temperatures reduce its health benefits. Low temperature cooking like frying breaded food or sauteing vegetables are acceptable uses for the oil, along with being used as a dressing for salads or dips for certain snacks. The same goes for storage, keep it away from sources of heat and store it in a cool dark place. When shopping for extra virgin olive oil, always check the bottle if it contains a seal from the IOOC, and the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) seal for Western regions. These certified oils are usually more expensive than the ordinary virgin oil, but you do get what you pay for.

6.) Flaxseed

The health benefits of flaxseed span for more than a thousand years, and it was even mentioned by the father of medicine Hippocrates. The seed is full of essential fatty acids, with alpha-linoleic acid being the most abundant, and omega-3 fatty acids are also present in large quantities. Alpha-linoleic acid is turned into two other powerful fatty acids namely docosapentaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acid, both of which are noted for being very potent anti-inflammatory agents. Flaxseed can be eaten as a snack, added into food when ground, and flaxseed oil can be used as a healthier substitute to your everyday cooking oil. Other nutrients in flaxseed include:

a.) Fiber: 28 percent of flaxseed is comprised of fiber, important for relieving many digestive problems, and reducing cholesterol levels and cancer risks.

b.) Flavonoids: A compound that minimizes the number of bad cholesterols, or better known as low-density lipoproteins (LDL). The more LDL present in the body, the greater the risk of cardiovascular disease.

c.) Lignans: Present only in ground and whole flaxseed, and not in oils, lignans are converted into plant estrogen upon reaching the digestive tract. Some of its benefits include protection from cancer and heart problems, and remedying symptoms of menopause.

7.) Ginger

A very powerful anti-inflammatory agent can be easily found in your kitchen. Popularly used as a spice that boosts the flavor of hundreds of dishes, ginger is also an effective medicine for treating gastrointestinal problems. Its inflammation-fighting property stems from its rich antioxidant content such as gingerol, shogaol, and zingerone. Gingerol is the compound that stops the formation of nitric oxide, or the molecule that is responsible for creating unhealthy free radicals and triggering inflammation. Ginger’s effectiveness in relieving joint pains were further explored in a study published in 2001 at the Arthritis & Rheumatology journal wherein osteoarthritis patients were given ginger extract for six weeks. The end result showed a significant effect in alleviating symptoms of osteoarthritis, with a very rare occurrence of minor side effects. Another study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine last February 2005 revealed ginger’s suppression of chemokines and cytokines, the two compounds that trigger inflammation, that are produced by chondrocytes, leukocytes, and synoviocytes. Aside from eating dishes that make extensive use of ginger, another way to provide ginger’s benefits to the body is to eat raw slices of it (if taste is not an issue), boil it into tea, or take ginger supplements every day.

8.) Pycnogenol

An extract derived from the bark of the maritime pine, pycnogenol acts as an anti-inflammatory by preventing the enzymes that produce pro-inflammatory eicosanoids from creating too much of it. The extract also attacks the production of 5-LOX and COX-2, or better known as two inflammatory enzymes, leading to a reduction in instances of inflammation and pain. Other benefits in taking the extract include blood sugar control, lowering of cholesterol levels, treatment of erectile dysfunction, improvement of endothelial function, and boosting of physical performance and endurance. Pycnogenol is available as an ingredient of more than a thousand multivitamins, dietary supplements, and other health products in the market today.

9.) Serrapeptase

Silkworm cocoon

A protein destroying enzyme found in bacteria that reside in the digestive tract of silkworms. Serrapeptase is also responsible for breaking down the worm’s cocoon. Serrapeptase for human use is derived from the fermented enzymes that were extracted from the silkworms. Used in Asia and Europe for more than 30 years in treating narrowed arteries and body pains, the enzyme’s new use in recent times is to deal with inflammation and related diseases. Many studies are still trying to find out how exactly the enzyme works in fighting off inflammation, but so far what was uncovered is that serrapeptase contains properties that remove fluids that form around physical injuries. This enhances the repair of tissues and prevents the release of compounds that cause pain. Trials performed with the enzyme revealed its efficacy in treating sinusitis, and reducing symptoms associated with benign fibrocystic disease (formation of non-cancerous lumps in the breast tissue of women). Serrapeptase is available as a supplement, and 20 mg daily is the suggested dose in treating inflammation. It shouldn’t be taken along with blood thinners due to possible fibrolytic activity.

10.) Vitamins and Minerals

It is common knowledge that vitamins and minerals are very important in maintaining optimum health. In the case of inflammation, the following are the most effective in treating the said condition:

a.) Vitamin A: A published study in 2006 at The Journal of Nutrition linked consistent vitamin A supplementation with a significant reduction in monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), a chemokine that encourages inflammation. Carrots, cantaloupes, eggs, liver, milk, spinach, and sweet potatoes are among the best sources of vitamin A.

b.) Vitamin C: This vitamin works on minimizing the amount of C-reactive protein in the body, as its level is parallel to the body’s own level of inflammation. All citrus fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C, along with brocolli, kale, peppers, and Brussels sprouts.

c.) Vitamin E: Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin E reduces the amount of inflammatory cytokines on the body. Almonds, avocados, mangoes, olives, parsley, and tomatoes are rich in vitamin E.

d.) Selenium: Selenium is an antioxidant that shields the body against free radicals, and is also effective in alleviating inflammation on the joints. Foods that have selenium are beef, chicken, cheese, lamb, mushroom, mustard and sunflower seed, and turkey.

e.) Zinc: The mineral helps in the creation of cell membranes and proteins, and is also part of almost a hundred important chemical reactions in the body. It controls inflammation by modulating specific proteins that instigate the said condition. Zinc sources are chicken, clam, crab meat, nuts, pumpkin seeds, and salmon. Foods rich in protein also contain some amounts of zinc.

Bridget Rogers
Bridget Rogers
Bridget Rogers is an independent freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. Bridget's work can be found on a variety of sources in both online and print media.


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