But the spice rack in our kitchen cupboard is an equally useful natural pharmacy.
That’s because certain spices have potent anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing benefits and can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing if you’re living with pain associated with arthritis, a chronic condition associated with joint pain, swelling and stiffness.
To mark National Pain Week from July 25-31, here are three stand-out spices that can help tame the pain.
The ancient spice that gives Indian curries their vibrant golden hue, turmeric’s key component is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin.
According to a study from Kyoto Medical Centre in Japan, taking the spice is an effective way to combat arthritis-related pain and joint inflammation.
In the study, researchers found that people with knee osteoarthritis who took a highly bioavailable (easily absorbable) form of curcumin daily for eight weeks had a significant reduction in knee pain scores.
It also reduced their dependence on celecoxib, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat pain and inflammation.
To help your aching joints, cook up a curry, or add a little turmeric powder to other savoury dishes like soup or stews, just be sure to include a natural source of fat like coconut milk or ghee to optimise absorption.
For a little extra help, you may also want to add in a supplement – go for one that’s labelled ‘highly bioavailable’ for maximum benefits.
2. Ground ginger
Ginger has been shown to have inflammation-zapping properties similar to the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen.
What’s more, it suppresses leukotrienes (inflammatory molecules) and switches off certain inflammatory genes, giving it an edge on typical pain relievers.
In one study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, people with knee osteoarthritis who took a ginger extract for six weeks reported less knee pain when they stood up and after walking.
As well as adding the ground spice to baked treats, try using fresh ginger root to make your own herbal tea.
Simply grate a tablespoon of ginger, leave it to steep for about 10 minutes in a teapot (adding fresh mint leaves or a cinnamon stick if you like), then serve with a drizzle of honey.
A recent study from the University of Western Sydney concluded that taken in the right concentration, “cinnamon and its components may be useful in the treatment of age-related inflammatory conditions.”
In another study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, 115 different plants and mushrooms were compared for their anti-inflammatory activities, with cinnamon emerging as one of the biggest anti-inflammatory heavyweights. Adding to its health powers, cinnamon helps curb the rise in blood sugar levels after eating, plus it boosts brain function.
Try adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to your morning porridge or smoothie for relief from aching joints, or add a dash to curries or to the black beans used in Mexican nachos and burritos for a subtle flavour hit.
For more information on National Pain Week, click here.
Story by Corinne Bett – Technical Writer for BioCeuticals