Ginger is one of the most recognized anti-inflammatory spices on the planet. This tangy spice contains potent compounds called gingerols that can help to prevent the production of chemicals and hormones that trigger pain. Studies show that ginger, whether eaten raw or cooked, can work as well as or even better than several common NSAIDs, including ibuprofen.
A 2012 study found that ginger extract can ease the muscle and joint pain, swelling and stiffness associated with arthritis within two months for 63 percent of the participants (8).
Another 2009 study shows that taking 250 mg of ginger, four times daily, is as effective as taking mefenamic acid and/or ibuprofen, the conventional treatments for relieving menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea) (9).
A quick, easy, and highly effective way to take advantage of ginger’s anti-inflammatory benefits is in tea. Simply add 4 or 5 pieces of fresh ginger root to boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes, then enjoy. You can even chew on a peeled piece of raw ginger for quick pain relief.
2. Hot Peppers
If you have ever eaten hot peppers, you know how quickly they can affect your body. Hot peppers like cayenne peppers contain capsaicin, the active ingredient that triggers your body to release endorphins (“happy hormones”).
These chemicals can not only make you feel good by elevating your mood, but they can also help to lessen or even relieve chronic pain.
Capsaicin can further reduce the amount of substance P in your body, the chemical that carries pain messages to your brain. By reducing this substance, it also reduces the pain messages so they can no longer reach your brain, which essentially relieves any pain sensation (10).
You can eat hot peppers cooked or raw. Just add a few to your meals or add a half teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper to a glass of water, tea, juice or even milk, and drink daily. You can also take capsaicin in capsule form or use it in a cream for external use, although you should find a cream that contains at least 0.075 percent capsaicin.
This sweet, yet tangy fruit contains a slew of anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants that also give cherries their rich, red color. Anthocyanins block inflammation and inhibit pain enzymes in the same way as NSAIDs. A 2004 study at Johns Hopkins University shows that tart cherries can significantly reduce pain sensitivity and are even as effective as many conventional anti-inflammatory drugs (11).
Other studies reveal that the powerful anthocyanins in cherries are as effective as two of the most common NSAIDs used for inflammation. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University even state that tart cherry juice may be a safer way to treat muscle pain and inflammation than OTC pain relievers (12). According to their study, athletes who drink 10½ ounces of cherry juice twice a day for seven days prior to a race have less muscle pain compared to those who do not.
Garlic is a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been used for centuries to help ease a number of health conditions, including the pain and swelling of arthritis. Garlic contains antioxidants and a particularly potent sulphur-containing compound known as alliin. When raw garlic cloves are crushed, chopped, or chewed, they release alliinase, another powerful enzyme that converts the alliin into allicin, which is responsible for garlic’s characteristic odor, taste and powerful healing properties (13).
Studies show that allicin can help relieve the painful symptoms of arthritis. In fact, one study shows that taking 600-1200 mg of garlic extract that contains a minimum of 1-3 percent allicin, can effectively relieve arthritis pain when taken three times daily (14).
You can also simply add fresh garlic to your meals as much as possible. Eating just one clove of fresh garlic daily is enough to experience the multitude of health benefits it affords. Typically, fresh garlic contains 4 percent allicin. If using topically, look for a cream that contains 0.4- 0.6 percent allicin.