Aspirin, ibuprofen, and other painkillers offer welcome relief when aches flare up. They’re usually caused by inflammation, the body’s immune response to any sensed danger to the body.
But if you prefer natural remedies for tackling inflammation, you’re in luck: Research suggests they can do an even better job of lowering inflammation — without the risk of negative 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. 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 (Buy on Amazon, $7.83) is brimming with rutin, a powerful anti- inflammatory also found in apples and figs.
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. According to UCLA scientists, 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 22 percent or more.
Add a Little Olive Oil
Research from the University of California, Davis shows that including one tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil in your daily meals can decrease body-wide inflammation 29 percent in one month. A tip: EVOO is delicious drizzled over cut-up juicy fruits (like pears) sprinkled with a little sea salt.
Spice It Up
Adding half of 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 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 three in your daily diet could reduce your day-long inflammation level by 25 percent (enough to cut your heart disease and stroke risk 50 percent). The compounds in them help the kidneys excrete inflammatory wastes. How much should you consume? A study suggests 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.