Herbal medicine has an important role in treating persistent or chronic pain. Before discussing specific herbs, the first thing we need to discuss is diet. To get the most out of any herbal preparation you need to reduce chemicals in your diet that may be counteracting the herb’s desired effect. For example, if you were going to use a medication to help you sleep, you probably wouldn’t drink a double shot of espresso after dinner, hoping the sleeping medicine would counteract the stimulating effect of caffeine.
In pain management, we are often trying to reduce inflammation. Following an anti-inflammatory diet will enhance the herbal medicines anti-inflammatory effect. It is true that most prescription medicines work regardless of your diet, but herbs have a more subtle effect and are gentle on your body. Herbs are most effective when combined with their healing allies such as diet, movement, relaxation, stress management, etc. Ibuprofen doesn’t need you to modify your diet for it to work, but this potency comes with a cost.
Each year non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), like ibuprofen, cause serious gastrointestinal complications leading to 100,000 hospitalizations and 1000s of deaths. As many as 81% of the patients who had serious gastrointestinal complications from NSAID’s, had no prior gastrointestinal symptoms.
This does not mean you can’t take a NSAID from time to time or under doctor supervision. If you want the most from herbal remedies it’s a better to reduce processed foods in your diet and increase fruits and vegetables. Try to get about 3 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. I prefer vegetables because they usually include more important nutrients that assist with the herbal remedies effect.