Fibromyalgia Pain Herbal Remedies
Herbal therapies are becoming a more common alternative to pharmaceutical medicine in an attempt by many to reduce negative side effects seen in many common drugs, as well as to take a more natural approach to care and treatment. As is typical, there are hundreds if not thousands of web pages devoted to recommendations of which herbs work best for the treatment of Fibromyalgia symptoms. There are some areas of herbalism that are known to have an impact on areas such as pain, inflammation, gastric distress, mood and sleep that can be used as stand alone remedies or as part of combination therapies to assist with the management of these symptoms. In this posting I am focussing specifically on those supplements that can help with pain associated with Fibromyalgia
Turmeric is a known anti-inflammatory with pain management properties. Used as either an herbal supplement alone or as a culinary additive can benefit pain management in Fibromyalgia sufferers. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in the United States states that, while more studies are required to confirm the beneficial properties of Turmeric, the initial findings do show that there is a specific chemical found in it called curcumin, that may have anti-inflammatory properties. While this is still in its initial trials for full study, funding is now taking place to study basic research on turmeric for some benefits, the likes of which may in turn provide further proof for success towards Fibromyalgia. The key risk factor for Turmeric is gastric distress causing indigestion, nausea or diarrhea. The only high risk factor for Turmeric use is by those who have gallbladder disease as it can worsen that condition. For Fibromyalgia sufferers who do not have gallbladder disease as well, there are no high risk factors.
Cats Clawis a relatively unknown herb to the general public as unlike Ginger and Turmeric, it does not have culinary uses in the same way. Cats Claw is a Central and South American plant used as far back as the Inca population commonly used for a multitude of issues ranging from viral infections to arthritis. It is also thought to have factors in supporting the immune system. The main methods of use of this plant are as extracts, capsules or in the form of a tea. It can also be used in cases such as arthritis topically. Due to the similarities between arthritis and Fibromyalgia in pain and inflammation symptoms, Cats Claw is now being considered as a remedy for Fibromyalgia. The risks of Cats Claw correlate to the presence of additional diseases or disorders, as its immune stimulating properties can impact those with immunity conditions, and as it has proven impacts on pregnancy, those pregnant or trying to get pregnant should avoid this plant.
Capsicum is a topically applied extract from the red or chili pepper that provides relief from pain when applied to the skin. It must be noted that unlike most orally ingested herbal remedies, Capsicum as a topical benefit may take an extended period of use to display the full effect of its benefits. The longer term use however results in a desensitization towards pain in the local area of application. This desensitization is fully reversible, which leads to a need for ongoing use to maintain relief. The functioning of Capsicum is on the nervous system itself even with topical application, working to interact with the localized nerves in the area of application to deplete nerves of a molecule used to signal pain called substance P. This depletion reduces the amount of pain felt by those specific nerves. Once the body metabolizes the Capsicum, the effects towards substance P are removed, and the pain is able to recur. Unlike some treatments such as NSAIDS which can result in an increase in pain once use is stopped, Capsicum affected areas return to their original state, display no greater display of pain compared to prior to application.
White Willow Bark
White willow bark is a known alternative for most over the counter pain medications, being a historical precursor to Aspirin. White willow bark contains compounds similar to Aspirin, and is found to ease pain symptoms in a similar manner. It includes anti-inflammatory functionalities similar to Aspirin or other NSAID drugs, without many of the adverse side effects of those drugs. There have been studies indicating the effectiveness of White willow bark on chronic lower back pain, joint pain and osteoarthritis. White willow bark can be taken in a similar manner to Aspirin.
Devil’s claw has traditionally been used for rheumatoid arthritis, as well as for back and neck issues, as a form of pain relief. This plant, native to Africa, has its roots and tubers used to create a remedy. It is currently rated in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database as possibly effective for back pain and osteoarthritis, providing a possible link to usage for Fibromyalgia related pain management as well. The key compounds from the root and tubers contain chemicals known already to have potential anti-inflammatory properties as well as aiding with swelling and pain management. The impacts on rheumatoid arthritis, another condition that may have similar remedies to Fibromyalgia, Devil’s claw has a lower rating of insufficient evidence. One benefit of Devil’s claw is that it is rated as safe for long term use for up to a year, with the most common side effect being diarrhea. There are possible interactions with pregnancy, heart conditions, diabetes and gallstones, so care is needed in cases with patients displaying these additional factors with regards to the risk of this plant. Studies via the US National Library of Medicine do indicate that Devil’s claw may have similar properties to white willow bark for effectiveness, more studies are required to confirm.
Comfrey is another alternative to white willow bark with regards to pain management properties. Comfrey is again a well known remedy through time, though unlike other herbal supplements, it has been subjected to controlled trials to display its efficacy. Comfrey is a topical treatment, displaying short term gains in pain management through this method of use. Comfrey displays both anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects towards pain, and is thusly useful for the primary complaint of Fibromyalgia patients. With regards to possible risks and side effects, treatment is predominantly limited in cases of high concentrations of the extract in a topical base such as a cream. In general, most commercially available treatments are well within the required limits for long term use with regards to concentration. One key point to note is that Comfrey is safe to the level of being usable at ages as young as 3 years old. While Fibromyalgia typically manifests at a much older age, this lack of age limitation that is more typical of many herbal treatment lends credence to the minimized risk of use.