Nutrition • 27 May 2020

Two Natural Treatments for Pain and Inflammation

By uci_admin

Two Natural Treatments for Pain and Inflammation

By Maggie Quinn, ND

Naturopathic Doctor

Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute

UCI Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences

Fish oils and turmeric (Curcuma Longa) are two of the most widely studied natural supplements for pain and inflammation. These natural alternatives may be a safer option when compared to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such aspirin and ibuprofen. Long-term use of NSAIDS have potential side effects, including gastric ulcers, heartburn, bleeding, and liver and kidney problems.

Fish oils are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Fish oil is made from tissues of fatty fish like sardines, sprat, salmon, and mackerel. When the body breaks down EPA and DHA, it forms SPM’s (Specialized Proresolving Mediators). SPM’s have an effect on the white blood cells and inflammatory response of the body, resulting in the reduction of inflammation. Additionally, studies show that fish oils may be equivalent to ibuprofen in pain reduction in arthritis (Marroon 2006).  Evidence suggests that fish oils are generally well-tolerated, with minimal side effects, and may decrease joint pain, swelling, stiffness and the need for painkillers. Typically 1-3 grams are used for anti-inflammatory effects.

Turmeric has been in the spotlight for its medicinal and culinary applications.  Curcumin, the main component of turmeric, has shown promising results in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions such as blood sugar dysregulation, arthritis, and hyperlipidemia (Daily 2016, Gao 2017, Shezhad 2013, Panahi 2018). A study evaluated the use of curcumin for osteoarthritic pain, and 94% of patients who took curcumin 500mg three times per day reported a 50% reduction in pain (Shep 2019). Other studies show that curcumin may also alleviate exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, improving recovery and athletic performance (Helwings 2017).

Talk to your doctor to see if fish oils and/or curcumin are recommended for you. They can advise you on an appropriate dose and brand to ensure safety and efficacy of the treatment. Fish oils and turmeric are contraindicated while taking blood thinners and for people with certain blood disorders. Do not take fish oils if you have a fish allergy. Do not take curcumin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Consult with your doctor prior to initiating treatment with these supplements.


Daily J W, Yang M, & Park S. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2016;19(8):717-729

Gao H, Geng T, Huang T, & Zhao Q. Fish oil supplementation and insulin sensitivity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2017;16(1):131-131.

Hewlings, Susan, and Douglans Kalman. “Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health.” Foods, vol.6, no. 10, 2017, p.92., doi10.3390/foods6100092.

Maroon, Joseph Charles, and Jeffrey W. Bost. “ω-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil) as an Anti-Inflammatory: an Alternative to Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs for Discogenic Pain.” Surgical Neurology, vol. 65, no. 4, 2006, pp. 326–331., doi:10.1016/j.surneu.2005.10.023.

Panahi Y, Ahmadi Y, Teymouri M, Johnston T P, & Sahebkar A. Curcumin as a potential candidate for treating hyperlipidemia: A review of cellular and metabolic mechanisms. Journal of Cellular Physiology. 2018;233(1):141-152.

Shep, D., Khanwelkar, C., Gade, P. et al. Safety and efficacy of curcumin versus diclofenac in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized open-label parallel-arm study. Trials 20, 214 (2019).

Shehzad A, Rehman G, Lee YS (2013) Curcumin in inflammatory diseases. BioFactors





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