Even though the knowledge we currently have about inflammation and all its side effects — such as joint pain, digestive issues, and muscle aches — is relatively new, people have been aware of ways to fight inflammation for centuries. Old wives' tales have been passed down for generations, offering tips and remedies for feeling better. And yet, however old-fashioned they may sound, they really can make a difference.
"A lot of old-fashioned remedies were borne from a little bit of intuition and a whole lot of necessity, and if they worked, they got passed down to the next generation," alternative healthcare practitioner, Lindsea Willon, MS, NTP, tells Bustle. "The fascinating thing now is that science is finally catching up and actually able to explain why these home remedies have stood the test of time."
They're time-tested and now backed by science, and therefore totally worth a try. Of course, it's always a good idea to also speak with your doctor if you have symptoms of inflammation, so they can help you figure out what's going on.
But if you happen to be experience symptoms like the ones listed below, these remedies might be just what you need. Read on for a few old wives' tales about fighting inflammation that have turned out to be true, according to experts.
1. Take Turmeric To Fight Off Joint Pain
Joint pain is one of the most noticeable signs of inflammation that stems from arthritis, or the swelling of the joints. One way to ease this type of pain is with the spice turmeric, which has been around for centuries.
"Traditionally used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric reduces pain, inflammation, and stiffness related to joint pain," certified wellness coach Karina Hammer, tells Bustle. "It is a strong and natural anti-inflammatory agent with activity comparable to NSAIDs. It is a natural painkiller that relieves joint pain, fibromyalgia, and other disorders characterized by pain and inflammation."
We know it works thanks to many published studies on its use, Hammer says. And even better, it's something you can easily add to your lifestyle. "Apart from cooking with turmeric," Hammer says, "you can take a supplement if you need it to be more concentrated or a quick and simple option."
2. Eat Ginger To Ease Digestive Issues
If you have stomach pain or other digestive issues, there's a good chance inflammation of the gut is to blame. "Abdominal pain can be crampy, achy, dull, intermittent, or sharp," Hammer says. But there's one remedy that has the potential to help with it all.
"Since ancient times, people have turned to ginger as a cure-all for everything from pain to nausea," Hammer says. "It’s not just an old wives’ tale, either. Studies have shown that ginger can be a very effective treatment for stomach pain and even nausea."
Adding ginger to your lifestyle can cool the inflammation, and ease digestive issues. "A natural anti-inflammatory and broad-spectrum digestive enzyme, ginger is available in many forms, all of which can help," Hammer says. "Ginger chews and supplements are easy to take, while other people prefer their ginger in beverage form."
3. Try Nasal Saline Irrigation To Cure Sinus Inflammation
There are many symptoms of sinus inflammation, including a runny nose, seasonal allergies, frequent sinus infections, and chronic post-nasal drip, Willon says. And when you have any of the the above, nasal saline irrigation — more commonly known as using a Neti pot — can come in handy.
"This old-fashioned trick hasn't changed much over the years, as evidenced by the medieval look of the device," Willon says. "Not actually a weird teapot, the Neti pot is your best friend for breathing easy and is how one performs a nasal lavage."
While they may look weird, they're not too difficult to use. "Bring purified water to body temperature and add a tiny pinch of sea salt and baking soda and use the Neti pot to guide the solution up one nostril and out the other, effectively rinsing out your sinus cavity," Willon says. "This clears out the irritants that lead to congestion and allergic reactions, and the added salt and baking soda normalize the pH of your sinuses to help prevent future infection."
4. Drink More Water To Relieve Headaches
Headaches are symptom that can stem from inflammation, including sinus inflammation. And one of the best — and simplest — ways to deal with them is by drinking more water.
"In fact, studies have demonstrated that chronic dehydration is a common cause of tension headaches and migraines," Hammer says. "Thankfully, something as simple as drinking water has been shown to relieve headache symptoms in as little as 30 minutes."
Seems like there's a reason we're always being told to drink more water.
5. Take An Epsom Salt Bath To Ease Muscle Aches
If you wake up feeling achy for seemingly no reason, it's highly likely inflammation is to blame. And the same is true if you're sore after a workout. This type of exercise-induced muscle pain is thought to be caused by tiny tears in your muscles, which leads to inflammation.
To feel better, "draw yourself an old-fashioned Epsom salt bath," Willon says. "The salt solution not only helps to draw out the toxins that contribute to pain and inflammation, [but] the magnesium your body absorbs is crucial for relaxing your overworked muscles."
Castor oil can also be a big help for more localized pain. "Most inflammation in the musculoskeletal system is caused by a build up of metabolic toxins (think lactic acid) or damaged cells (from an injury)," Willon says. "Castor oil when applied topically under a warm compress will support the lymphatic system to clear out those toxins and alleviate the pain and inflammation they are causing."
6. Relieve Common Cold Symptoms With Garlic
When you have a cold, inflammation symptoms are everywhere, from your stuffed up nose to your sore throat. One way to make it all a lot less painful, is to consume more garlic, which has long been known for its many health benefits.
"Garlic is something that has multiple medicinal properties," Hammer says. "It is antibacterial and antiviral," and also helps boost your immune system, opens your respiratory system, and even flushes toxins out of the body.
It also has the added benefit of being something you can easily add to food. "Garlic has the most antibacterial and antiviral properties when consumed freshly crushed, chopped, or chewed," Hammer says. "There are several ways to take garlic for a common cold. Mix one crushed garlic clove, two teaspoons lemon juice, one teaspoon honey, and [a half] teaspoon cayenne pepper. Consume until your symptoms decrease."
If you don't like the taste, however, don't count it out. "If consuming garlic isn’t your cup [of] tea, garlic supplements are available at most stores," Hammer says. "It makes taking garlic just a bit easier!"
7. Try Yoga To Ward Of Inflammation-Related Chronic Disease
Chronic inflammation is a common factor in the formation of many diseases — such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, and even cancer. So the more you can do to lower inflammation in your body, the better.
And one of the best ways to do so is with a yoga practice. "Ancient yogis claimed that yoga would ward off inflammation-related chronic diseases," Ann Swanson, MS, certified yoga therapist and author of Science of Yoga, tells Bustle. "Now, modern science is beginning to support these claims."
So if you'd like to add yoga to your routine, you'll likely see all sorts of health benefits. "Recent research shows that yoga and meditation actually fight inflammation," Swanson says. "The body-wide effect of this is seen in a reduction of inflammatory markers in the blood."
But that's not the only benefit. "Joint swelling and local inflammation has also been seen to go down through yoga practice for those with arthritis as measured by a rheumatologist," Swanson says.
While you should always see your doctor if inflammation symptoms are severe, tips like these for lowering inflammation that have been around for forever can offers some help.