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Psst! Can I interest you in……

A Headache, or some Diarrhoea? How about high blood pressure?

What about a bit of kidney or liver damage?


Hmm maybe bleeding ulcers or increased risk of gastrointestinal injury are more your style?

Perhaps an increase in your arthritic joint degradation.

Oh, I know rectal irritation!

Geez OK want to take it to the next level - What about an increased chance of a cardiac event including stroke or heart attack (even in health people) and possible death? [1]

What if I told you that this list is the well documented side effects associated with a common, everyday over the counter medication?

You most likely have this in your medicine cabinet.

In fact, you may have even taken it today! You might pop this guy if you have a headache, backache, toothache or even use long term if you have a chronic ache or pain caused by conditions such as arthritis, it may even be prescribe from you GP for just that! This seemingly innocent little drug is also used in creams and lotions. Rubbed on to painful joints and muscles to help soothe aches away.

So, what is this miraculous wonder drug you ask? Non Steroid Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAID)! NSAID - What? You might recognise these guys more from their street names of Ibuprofen, Voltaren or Advil to name a few.

Ironically you may pop a NSAID for a headache only to find…. it actually gives you a headache - or in the case of arthritis, NSAID have been shown to be further aggravate the condition with prolonged use, whether in pill or cream form. Studies indicate that people with arthritis who regularly take NSAIDs experience increased joint degradation [2] of up to 50% or more in just 24 months[3]. It is also estimated that there over 400,000 hospitalisation and over 16,000 deaths in the US annually [4]are linked to this seemingly harmless drug that is able to be purchased from chemist, supermarkets and even the local servo!

Before you pop a pill for your ill, it is always worthwhile asking if there is something else you can be doing to help – treating the cause of the pain, not the symptom.

As naturopaths we are trained to do just this. Yes, you may have a headache and taking a painkiller may help in the short term but what is causing the headache? Stress? Hormones? Dehydration? - if you don’t address the cause then when the meds wear off, you’re back to square one and may need to pop some more pills.

In the case of chronic conditions, seeking advice from a Qualified Naturopath can be the key to maintaining the condition or even improving the quality of your life whilst living with the condition. Your Naturopath will look at all areas of your wellbeing including the main drivers of disease: lifestyle, nutrition and environmental factors and work with you to help identify and reduce factors that may be contributing to the symptom of your condition or illness. Helping slow progression and manage everyday life.

Additional herbal supplements may also be prescribed to help manage both short term and long-term complaints.

For pain and arthritic management such herbs may include:

Indian Frankincense otherwise known as Boswellia, Boswellia Serrata – anti-inflammatory, analgesic

  • Indicated for arthritic or joint conditions as helps inhibiting the breakdown of connective tissue and helps increase blood supply to joints [5]

  • Used for chronic inflammatory digestive conditions such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease

Turmeric, Curcuma Longa - Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-ulcer, wound healing, antimicrobial, anti-viral, anti-fungal.

  • Specifically indicated with inflammatory conditions such as chronic inflammation, arthritis, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, eczema, psoriasis, lupus, nephritis [6]

Willow Bark, Salix Alba - Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-pyretic, astringent.

  • Helps support connective tissue health including, muscles and joints and may provide relief of arthritic conditions.[7]

Other herbs which may also benefit as an alternative to NSAID’s are Californian Poppy, Jamaican Dogwood, Cats Claw or Devils Claw.

So, before popping your next pill, ask yourself is it worth the risk? Is there something simpler or healthier and that can be done? And is the treatment really worth the risk?




[3] Daniel Roytas: Ultima Health Care CMA Presentation: Managing Osteoarthritis


[5] McIntyre, Anne: The Complete Herbal Tutor: The ideal companion for study and practice (Octopus Books, 2010)


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