Three Botanical Medicines You Can Use As An Effective Alternative To NSAIDs

NSAID is an acronym for a class of drugs known as “Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs”. They include over the counter medications such as Aleve (Naproxen), Motrin, Advil (Ibuprofen) and Aspirin.

NSAIDs suppress inflammation and reduce pain. They are widely used for symptomatic relief of headaches,  joint pain and fever.

While NSAIDs can be effective at reducing symptoms, they can have serious adverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys and heart.

Taking NSAIDs on a daily basis for pain or inflammation can increase your risk for high blood pressure, ulcers, kidney failure, heart failure,  Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Fortunately,  there are evidence-based herbal alternatives that are equally as effective as NSAIDs,  but without the harmful side effects.

Three powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic herbs Include:

  1. Turmeric
  2. Ginger
  3. Boswellia

Turmeric is a yellow spice commonly used in Indian cuisine (e.g. Curry). It is readily available at the grocery store.

Turmeric has been used as a medicine for centuries to treat wounds, infections, colds, and liver disease.

Curcumin is the main constituent of turmeric that has been shown to be effective at reducing pain and inflammation.

Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been compared to cortisone in treating acute inflammation. Meriva is a supplement form of curcumin that is well absorbed

Ginger has been used for thousands of years as a traditional medicine to treat digestive problems (including nausea), menstrual pain, headaches, and infections.

Ginger inhibits the pro-inflammatory pathways and promotes the anti-inflammatory pathways while providing your body with potent anti-oxidants.

It also inhibits platelet aggregation, increases circulation and accelerates healing time.

Ginger can be added to smoothies and stir fry’s or be made into a tea. It is also available in capsule form at the health food store.

Boswellia  is an Ayurvedic herb with a long history of use for connective tissue and joint support.

It is comparable to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for pain relief and does not have any side effects.

Boswellia modulates the production of the pro-inflammatory enzyme 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX). Excess 5-lipoxygenase is common in joint pain, allergies, respiratory conditions, and cardiovascular problems.

Because of its ability to reduce this enzyme, it has been shown to be useful for relieving joint pain and reducing inflammation in many disease processes.

Boswellia can be taken in capsule form or can be applied topically to relieve inflammation.


Pain has 3 phases:

  1. Immediate- e.g. a bite, or burn
  2. Acute- e.g. inflammation (swelling, redness, heat, pain)
  3. Chronic- SEE BELOW
  • Ongoing inflammation (e.g. an autoimmune disease)
  • Psychological factors
  • Neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction (SEE PAIN INJURY CYCLE)

Image result for pain injury cycle NASM

Identifying the underlying cause of pain is the key to effective pain management.

Many people and practitioners assume that pain is inflammatory (tissue trauma) and focus on the symptoms.

Acute inflammatory pain is generally self-limiting and should not last more than 72 hours.

Chronic pain generally has multiple components that are ideally addressed holistically, e.g. diet, acupuncture, manual therapy and corrective exercise.


Davis, J. M., Murphy, E. A., Carmichael, M. D., Zielinski, M. R., Groschwitz, C. M., Brown, A. S., … & Mayer, E. P. (2007). Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 292(6), R2168-R2173.

Grzanna, R., Lindmark, L., & Frondoza, C. G. (2005). Ginger-an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. Journal of medicinal food, 8(2), 125-132.

Kimmatkar, N., Thawani, V., Hingorani, L., & Khiyani, R. (2003). Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee–a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine, 10(1), 3-7.


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284 Central Way, Kirkland, WA 98033  (Inside McCraken Chiropractic).  Same phone number.
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About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin