The Pillars of Hercules is the ancient name given to the promontories that flank the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar. This portal or gate between Africa and Europe, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean or vice versa, has a wealth of historical significance. If we were to choose two remedies, or pillars of Herculean strength to show us the way out of pain (the Mediterranean) into the vast ocean (the Atlantic) of freedom and possibilities, what would those pillars be? In the quest to be pain-free using a holistic approach, it is necessary to understand why we have pain and how these remedies work so we can heal our bodies. As a Woman in Film, it is important for me to keep up my energy level and mobility so I can meet the demands of the job I love doing so much. But I am not willing to take NSAIDs or steroidal medications that bring on worse side effects and really do not heal my condition. So I set out to learn more about the holistic remedies we have at hand to understand how and why they work to alleviate the pain and stiffness of arthritis.
Among the pillars of holistic remedies that combat inflammation, the major cause of pain for 50 million Americans with any form of arthritis, we must top the list with the Herculean and ancestral Ginger. What we know as Ginger is the rhizome, or root, of Zingiber, a flowering plant about two feet high, originating in the tropical forests of Southern Asia, containing Gingerol, a bioactive compound known to have anti-inflammatory properties. According to an article published by the Journal of Medicinal Food, JMF (July 2005, 8(2): 125-132. doi:10.1089/jmf.2005.8.125)], “Ginger suppresses prostaglandyn synthesis by inhibiting cyclooxygenase- 1 and cyclooxygenase-2.” The cyclooxygenase enzyme, or COX, is responsible for the formation of prostanoids and prostaglandyns, the main developer of inflammation and is also involved in many normal cellular processes. NSAIDs, Anti-inflammatory non-steroidal drugs target COX but cause unwanted side effects that we sufferers of arthritis pain may be able to avoid by ingesting the right amounts of Ginger. However, “Do not take more than 4 grams of ginger per day as it may cause heartburn and interfere with blood-thinning medications,” posted Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, in an article reviewed by Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., March 28, 2014.
So, if Ginger is one of the Pillars of Holistic remedies guarding our bodies against inflammation, what would be the second one? Turmeric or Bromelain? These two holistic champions with Herculean attributes vie to protect us from soreness right next to Ginger.
Confirming Bromelain to be one of the bastions of nature’s pharmacy is an article published in May of 2008 by Life Extension Magazine, written by Steve Goodman. It makes a good case in favor of Bromelain stating it has been proven to be “as effective as Diclofenac, (an NSAID), in a blind study conducted in Germany of 90 patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the hip.” If you didn’t know, Bromelain is a mixture of proteolytic enzymes that digest proteins, derived from the edible Ananas comusus, commonly known as pineapple. For centuries, pineapple has been known to reduce inflammation by the people of the Americas and Asia. When ingested between meals is when pineapple is most helpful in combating inflammation. Although there is no standard dose, a range of 80 to 320 milligrams has been recommended. In another publication supporting Bromelain, “In vivo and in vitro Effects of Bromelain in the Inflammatory Exudate of Rats” by Leda Gaspani, Limirolli Elena and Ferrario Paolo, published by Karger Publishers May 3, 2002, the authors state that the effects of Bromelain were examined in rats with inflammation and that “the data indicate that bromelain reduces the production of two key mediators of inflammation.” That’s right, pineapple, which contains bromelain, has been found to increase serum fibrinolytic activity, reduce plasma fibrinogen levels and decrease bradykinin levels, the mediators of inflammation, thus reducing edema and pain. Unlike ginger, there is no limited dosage for this pillar. So you can eat all you want.
Ginger and Bromelain may well be considered the pillars of holistic remedies against the pain of inflammation caused by tissue swelling that presses on nerves by suppressing or increasing specific cellular functions and they are available in many forms, from supplements to straight from the farm. But the bottom line for many who suffer this debilitating disease, is simply whether or not we are willing to commit to natural food-derived remedies. I know I am, and I hope this article will help you in making an informed decision, too.