mother nature: Alternative medicines can be a breath of fresh air
Propolis found in tree buds can shorten the duration of the common cold or flu
When pain strikes, who are you going to call: your GP, local chemist or Mother Nature? Despite being the oldest and arguably the wisest of all three, the latter doesn't often get the respect she deserves.
While serious illness and disease might require the help of all of the above, common ailments can be treated effectively with a more natural approach.
With the rising costs of healthcare and the nasty side effects associated with many traditional painkillers and prescription meds, it might be time to give Mother Earth a little more kudos. Certain medications compound health problems with other risks and ailments; narcotic painkillers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, for example, can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, heart attack, and stroke.
But the good news is alternative cures are readily available and researchers are discovering that not only can certain complementary remedies make a big difference, in some cases they can even replace over-the-counter drugs.
The pain: Arthritis
Nature's cure: Fish Oil
According to a study by a University of Bristol on osteoarthritis and cartilage, subjects who regularly took supplements rich in fish oils were able to reduce their use of pain meds by half.
The oil's omega-3s help to decrease the production of various chemicals that cause inflammation and pain in the joints. More importantly, the study showed that there was strong evidence to suggest that omega-3 not only helped prevent the disease, but can also slow its progression. Take four to six grammes of an omega-3 supplement that contains both EPA and DHA daily to see results.
The pain: Liver disease
Nature's cure:: Green tea
Green tea can help your immunity and your overall health, but more recent studies have confirmed that green tea can help mitigate the impact of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Commercial green tea beverages have come under fire recently for unsubstantiated health claims, yet studies have shown that antioxidants in green tea, called polyphenols, protect against liver disease, control blood-sugar levels and lower LDL cholesterol. Skip pre-packaged bottled versions or supplements and sip unflavoured loose-leaf green tea instead.
The pain: Type 2 Diabetes
Nature's cure: Coffee
Drinking three to four cups of coffee per day may help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes according to research highlighted in a session report published by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC).
The report outlines the epidemiological evidence linking coffee consumption to diabetes prevention, highlighting research that shows three to four cups of coffee per day is associated with an approximate 25pc lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to consuming none or less than two cups per day.
The pain: Head cold
Nature's cure: Propolis
Propolis is a resinous mixture that honey bees collect from tree buds and other botanical sources, often referred to as a natural antibiotic.
Recent studies have shown that propolis can greatly shorten the duration of a common cold or flu. Research has found that in children under 12 treated preventively with propolis, respiratory tract infections were reduced up to 55pc, with fewer days of fever. High levels of antioxidants are found in propolis which naturally boost the immune system. It can be taken in the form of capsules or as a tincture and is easy to obtain in your local healthfood store. Be aware that anyone with an allergic or hypersensitivity reaction to bee stings or bee products (including honey), could react to propolis in the same way.
The pain: Menstrual cramps
Nature's cure: chamomile tea
Sipping chamomile tea is known to help relax the muscle that lines the walls of the uterus by elevating the body's level of glycine, which is an amino acid that stops muscle spasms.
Try one to three cups a day of the caffeine-free tea during the menstrual cycle to help alleviate symptoms. Chamomile is a member of the daisy family and can cause allergic hay fever-like reactions in susceptible people.
The pain: Brittle bones
Nature's cure: Vitamin K
Move over vitamin D, it's K's turn to shine. Although vitamin K has long been associated with its well-established function in blood clotting, there is a consistent line of evidence to suggest that eating greens is good for your bones, too.
Vitamin K helps the body make a protein called osteocalcin, which can improve bone mass and reduce fractures. Other research has found that individuals getting 250 micrograms of vitamin K a day had fewer hip fractures than those who got only one-fifth of that amount (50 micrograms).
Vitamin K is found in a variety of foods, but the amounts tend to be small. The exception is dark, leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli – these are the real vitamin K stars.