Aspirin, ibuprofen and other painkillers offer welcome relief when aches flare up, largely by reducing pain-triggering inflammation. But if you prefer natural remedies, you’re in luck: research suggests they can do an even better job of lowering inflammation — without the risk of side effects.
Massage joints with patchouli.
Massaging diluted patchouli oil into tender joints twice daily helps relieve inflammation, swelling and stiffness in as little as one week, studies suggest. Patchouli contains gentle, natural anti-inflammatories that are readily absorbed through skin, says Josh Axe, C.N.S., author of The Real Food Diet. To dilute: Simply mix two drops of patchouli oil (Buy on Amazon, $6.80) into a small dollop of unscented lotion.
Take a time out.
Pausing to relax for five minutes three times a day can decrease inflammation and cut pain 30 percent (or more) in just 14 days, University of Wisconsin-Madison research reveals. Serenity breaks inhibit the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which is a major inflammation trigger.
Drink elderflower tea.
Drinking three cups of this naturally sweet, fruity tea every day can tame even chronic tissue inflammation and pain in as little as seven days, suggests a study in the Czech Journal of Food Sciences. Elderflower tea is brimming with rutin, a powerful anti- inflammatory also found in apples and figs. Try this one from Good Nature (Buy on Amazon, $7.83).
Eat tomatoes and bell peppers.
Tomatoes and bell peppers are loaded with salicylates, plant compounds that ease painful inflammation as effectively as aspirin without side effects, say UCLA researchers. Eat one heaping cup daily for best results.
Try hemp seeds.
They taste like a cross between sunflower seeds and pine nuts and are packed with the same healing fats as fish. According to Harvard researchers, consuming two tablespoons of hemp seeds daily (sprinkled over cereal, salads and rice dishes or added to smoothies) could lower your inflammation levels 29 percent.
Make some eggs.
It’s normal for your blood sugar to be quite low when you wake up in the morning after you’ve spent many hours without food. But if your first meal of the day makes your blood sugar rise too quickly, that sudden sugar spike can irritate your arteries, triggering damaging inflammation.
An easy way to avoid this? Eat at least one egg for breakfast. The protein and choline in eggs slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, helping steady your blood sugar for four hours and reducing morning inflammation by 22 percent or more, say UCLA scientists.
Add a little olive oil.
Including one tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil in your daily meals can dampen body-wide inflammation 29 percent in one month, reveals research done at the University of California, Davis. This healthy plant fat switches on enzymes that help minimize the inflammation formed in your digestive tract, says Fred Pescatore, MD.
Tip: EVOO is delicious drizzled over cut-up juicy fruits (like pears) sprinkled with a little sea salt.
Spice it up.
Adding half a teaspoon black pepper, turmeric, paprika, or ginger to your daily diet could reduce your production of pain-triggering (and tissue-aging!) inflammation within a week. Research shows that these flavor-boosters contain compounds that turn off COX-2, an enzyme linked to chronic inflammation.
Indulge in dark chocolate, red wine, or tea.
If you love dark chocolate, red or white wine, or tea (black, green, or white), you’re in luck: Closing your day with one of these treats could lower your inflammation level for 12 hours!
Including all in your daily diet could reduce your day-long inflammation level 25 percent (enough to cut your heart disease and stroke risk 50 percent). Thanks goes to compounds in them that help the kidneys excrete inflammatory wastes. The study- proven dose: one ounce of dark chocolate, four ounces of wine, and/or 10 ounces of tea daily.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Reverse Aging.