PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Some drugs for conditions like gout, irregular heart rhythms, even coughing, come from plants. So, it’s not so far-fetched that plants, and food in general, could have medicinal properties — for instance, for pain. Below are a few being studied.
Hot peppers may sting your mouth, but ironically, they could be a pain fighter. Hot peppers contain chemicals called capsaicinoids that can reduce inflammation. Creams for joint pain already use these ingredients. And hot peppers are full of vitamin C, which can help with wound healing. In some studies, eating hot peppers also helps people with reflux.
Cherries, especially tart cherries, contain chemicals called anthocyanins, which are similar to aspirin. “It helps for arthritis. And especially if you eat the whole fruit, would be preferable to even the juice,” says St. Clair Hospital dietician Jean Lewis.
Ginger contains several antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. “They’ve used it for years for stomach problems, for stomach pain,” Lewis says. In a study of vigorous exercisers, ginger helped to reduce pain of muscle injury. But it had to be eaten daily, and it didn’t work after the injury already occurred.
Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the pain of arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, menstrual cramps and neuropathy.
The key is filling your diet with healthy foods, instead of going overboard on a few specific ones. “Increasing your fruits and vegetables, increasing your good fats, whether that be like your olive oil, your walnuts,” advises Lewis. “If you have a junkie diet, and you’re just going to drink that tart cherry juice, that’s not going to help your inflammation.”
Many people take prescription and over-the-counter pills to control pain. Studies are ongoing to see if eating these foods can help, too.