In cases of osteoarthritis, sciatica, tendonitis, headaches... anti-inflammatories are prescribed to reduce the symptoms linked to the inflammatory process (heat, redness, pain, edema) but they do not act on the cause. Whether they are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (the NSAID family such as aspirin) or steroids (corticosteroids), these medications also have the disadvantage of being responsible for numerous side effects. Hence a renewed interest in natural products as an alternative or to accompany treatment, particularly to reduce pain or prevent chronic inflammation. There are in fact several essential oils, plant extracts and different natural remedies with powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. In local application for rapid action or as a treatment for a deeper and more global action, here is a selection of the most effective natural anti-inflammatories.

This article was updated on 26/03/2024

Wintergreen and Lemon Eucalyptus: two powerful and essential essential oils

Essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties are very numerous, but Wintergreen and Lemon Eucalyptus are essential. The choice between the two will mainly be based on their contraindications. They can be used alone or together, but also mixed with other complementary essential oils.

Wintergreen: the reference anti-inflammatory in aromatherapy

Wintergreen essential oil (lying or fragrant) is the reference in aromatherapy for relieving most pain and inflammatory problems. Given its high methyl salicylate content (almost 100%), it will indeed act “like aspirin” by inhibiting the synthesis of several pro-inflammatory mediators, including prostaglandins E2. It is the anti-inflammatory essential oil par excellence, widely used by athletes and physiotherapists. Be careful, however, not to use it orally, take careful account of its precautions for use.

In what cases should it be used?

Wintergreen essential oil is the reflex to have for adults and adolescents in case of acute muscle pain and joint problems: aches, cramps, gout attacks, lumbago and back pain, tendinitis, tennis elbow, sprain, strain, strain, contracture, stiff neck, trigger finger, etc.

She is also effective against neuralgia, to relieve sciatica, arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatic pain in general. It is not used orally, but only cutaneously, always diluted in a vegetable oil.

How to use it ?
  • From 12 years old and for adults. Cutaneously, gently massage the affected area with 1 drop ofwintergreen essential oil diluted in 9 drops of vegetable oil such as Arnica macerate. No prolonged use without medical advice.
  • Its use is contraindicated : throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, in children under 6 years of age, in the event of coagulation disorders or anticoagulant treatment, allergy to aspirin and salicylates, in the event of hemorrhage, eczema, gastroesophageal reflux, ulcer, hiatal hernia, asthma. Do not use before surgical or dental procedures. Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil will then be preferred.

Lemon Eucalyptus: the anti-inflammatory essential oil for the whole family

More flexible to use than Wintergreen, Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil also has powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.. Studies have identified citronellal, one of its components which inhibits enzymes of the inflammatory process, with an additional central and peripheral analgesic effect.

In what cases should it be used?

Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil is recommended in the same indications as Wintergreen : osteoarthritis, arthritis, sciatica, all rheumatism pain, in case of sprain, strain, strain... In addition, its anti-inflammatory properties are also very useful in cases of itchy skin, insect bites, cystitis.

Presenting few health risks, it can be used during pregnancy (from the 2nd trimester) and breastfeeding, in children over 3 years old. The cutaneous route is preferred and, given its irritating power, it will always be necessary to dilute it in a vegetable oil. Note, however, that medical advice is necessary for people with blood pressure disorders or anti-hypertensive treatment, especially in the event of prolonged use.

How to use it ?
  • From 3 years. Dermal, 1 drop of Lemon Eucalyptus in at least 9 drops of vegetable oil. 3 to 4 times maximum per day on the painful area, until improvement. Take a break after 3 weeks of use.
  • From 6 years old. Dermal, 1 drop of Lemon Eucalyptus in 4 to 9 drops of vegetable oil depending on the extent of the painful area. 3 to 4 times a day until improvement. Take a break after 3 weeks of use.
  • Reserved for adults and adolescents (in the event of an inflammatory flare-up). Dermal, gently massage with 5 drops of essential oil in 5 drops of vegetable oil on the affected area.

White Willow bark: “vegetable aspirin”

The White Willow was used since Antiquity for its analgesic and antipyretic properties both among the Greeks and in traditional Chinese medicine. It was at the end of the 19th century that chemists isolated the salicylated derivatives present in the bark (including salicin), which will serve as a model for the synthesis of acetylsalicylic acid, better known as aspirin. Given the side effects of drugs based on synthetic salicylates and NSAIDs in general, Willow is experiencing renewed interest as are other plants that contain natural salicylates (Birch, Meadowsweet, wintergreen essential oil).

In what cases should it be used?

In the French Pharmacopoeia, Willow is one of the plants traditionally used in case of headaches, tendinitis, strains, joint or dental pain, but also in cases of mild fever and flu-like illness. Furthermore, based on various studies, the European Medicines Agency recognizes as “clinically well established” the use of white willow bark in “short-term treatment of lower back pain”.

As a precaution, the same contraindications are applied to it as for aspirin. : allergy to medications from the salicylates family, stomach or duodenal ulcer, in the event of anticoagulant treatment and risk of hemorrhage, etc.

How to use it ?
  • In herbal tea (since it is a bark, Willow is used as a decoction): put 2 teaspoons of finely chopped bark in ½ liter of cold water. Heat gently until boiling. Let boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and strain before drinking.
  • As a dietary supplement : White willow bark is also sold in the form of capsules, dry or liquid extracts. Favor food supplements titrated in salicin.
  • The European Medicines Agency recommends, before consulting a doctor, limit its use to four weeks in case of joint pain, to three days if it is a fever linked to a cold and to only one day in case of headaches. Its use is not recommended in children under 18 years of age, pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Turmeric: one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory plants

Turmeric is much more than a simple spice, it is a real medicinal plant from which we extract in particular the curcumin and an essential oil. Its anti-inflammatory power has been the subject of numerous scientific studies. both in osteoarthritis and in other chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or colitis. It is essentially based on curcumin which has the capacity to inhibit different molecules and enzymes involved in the inflammatory process: phospholipase, lipoxygenase, cyclooxygenase 2, leukotrienes, thromboxane, prostaglandins, nitric oxide, collagenase, elastase, hyaluronidase, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interleukin-12...

In what cases should it be used?

Turmeric is widely used to relieve pain and improve quality of life in case of joint inflammation, muscular or tendons (for example: osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, lumbago, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, tendonitis…).

However, it is important to take into account its precautions for use (doses not to be exceeded, drug interactions, contraindication in case of ulcers, biliary obstruction, allergies, etc.) because Turmeric can be potentially dangerous.

How to use it ?
  • It is recommended to take up to 6g of Turmeric powder per day (approximately 1 teaspoon), gradually increasing the daily doses. The addition of pepper helps improve the absorption and bioavailability of curcumin through the action of piperine. Otherwise, it can be consumed with edible vegetable oil or in the form of “golden milk”.
  • As a dietary supplement, it is recommended not to exceed 180 mg of curcumin. Be careful with new formulations which significantly increase the bioavailability of curcumin (phytosomal complex, nanoparticles, micellar form, encapsulation by cyclodextrins, in association with piperine, etc.). Some of these products can potentiate the risk of hepatotoxicity, especially in the event of misuse or overdose.

Blackcurrant: anti-inflammatory effects comparable to NSAIDs and cortisone

Blackcurrant leaves are listed in the French Pharmacopoeia and traditionally indicated for joint pain. Studies have even highlighted their anti-inflammatory properties, with effects comparable to certain reference NSAIDs such as indomethacin and niflumic acid, without however encouraging the appearance of ulcers.

Other research carried out with blackcurrant seed oil also showed improvement in symptoms, without adverse effects, in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. This action could be explained by the presence in its composition of alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3 of plant origin) and gamma-linolenic acid (particular omega 6, precursors of anti-inflammatory molecules). However, additional studies are still necessary to confirm its interest in this area.

Blackcurrant is also widely used in gemmotherapy with Blackcurrant bud macerate who is qualified as “cortison-like” given its action on the production of cortisol in the adrenal glands. Its anti-inflammatory activity is even greater than that of the leaves.

In what cases should it be used?

Blackcurrant leaves are still commonly used in herbal medicine in the form of herbal teas for relieve joint pain linked to osteoarthritis.

As for blackcurrant bud macerate, it is recommended to take it as a cure, whether for prevention or treatment. It is recommended as soon as there is an inflammatory problem, particularly at the osteoarticular level (e.g.: arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout attacks, rheumatism, sciatica, etc.) or allergic (cutaneous or respiratory). It is often combined with other macerates with complementary anti-inflammatory properties such as Vine bud macerate (against osteoarthritis pain) or Atlas Cedar bud macerate (in case of psoriasis, dry eczema and skin inflammation)…

How to use it ?
  • In infusion: pour the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of dry blackcurrant leaves per cup of hot water, then leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Drink 2 to 3 cups per day outside of meals. The European Medicines Agency does not recommend the use of blackcurrant leaves during pregnancy and breastfeeding, in children under 18 years of age. Otherwise, they do not present any particular precautions for use.
  • In mixture, blackcurrant leaves are part of the “five leaf herbal tea” (blackcurrant, birch, ash, Nettle, Meadowsweet) used in cases of osteoarthritis, in drainage treatments, in chronic joint pain.
  • In gemmotherapy, Blackcurrant bud macerate is used as a 3-week treatment, to be repeated if necessary after a week's break: 5 to 15 drops per day in a glass of water, 15 minutes before a meal. Start with 5 drops and increase gradually (for example: 5 drops the first week, 10 the second and 15 the last) avoiding taking them at the end of the day given its stimulating cortison-like effect. Authorized for the whole family, except babies under 3 years old and pregnant women (presence of alcohol), and in cases of hypertension.

Harpagophytum root: recognized effectiveness against osteoarthritis

Originally from southern Africa, Harpagophytum (also called “Devil’s Claw”) is included in the composition of many food supplements intended to relieve joint pain. Its anti-inflammatory properties have been validated by several clinical studies, with significant reduction in stiffness in the joints, particularly in cases of osteoarthritis in the large joints (hips and knees).

Victim of his own success, Harpagophytum procumbens even almost disappeared. Today it's Harpagophytum zeyheri, a species with similar properties, which is cultivated.

In what cases should it be used?

Like willow leaves, Harpagophytum is listed in the French and European Pharmacopoeias and is one of the plants traditionally used in the symptomatic treatment of painful joint manifestations, tendonitis, strains. Today, Harpagophytum root is mainly proposed for relieve joint pain linked to osteoarthritis (rheumatism), especially at the hip and knees.

Alternatively, it is possible to use another plant common in Europe, Scrofularia Noosa. It contains the same active molecules as Harpagophytum, anti-inflammatory iridoids (harpagoside and harpagide).

How to use it ?
  • As a dietary supplement : the quality of food supplements available on the market varies greatly, it is recommended to ensure that they contain at least 1 to 2% harpagoside (or approximately 3% iridoids).
  • Precautions for use : its use is not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under 18 years of age, people suffering from cardiovascular diseases, gastroesophageal reflux, stomach or duodenal ulcers. Medical advice is recommended in the event of gallstones.

Boswellia: for comfort and flexibility of the joints

In herbal medicine, Boswellia designates the gum-resin exuded from the trunk of Boswellia serrata, also called Indian incense. There is also Boswellia carterii or sacra, better known as real incense or Frankincense, which is used more in aromatherapy in the form of essential oil.

Whatever the species of Boswellia, only gum resin contains boswellic acids, molecules with powerful anti-inflammatory properties, capable of inhibiting the production or activation of certain inflammatory mediators (interleukins, leukotrienes, NFkappaB). Even if Frankincense essential oil is also anti-inflammatory, it is through the action of components other than boswellic acids. It is still little used in the field of inflammatory diseases.

In what cases should it be used?

Boswellia gum resin is known for millennia in traditional chinese and indian medicines to treat rheumatic or premenstrual pain, inflammation of the digestive tract and respiratory tract, and certain skin conditions. Its effects have been the subject of numerous research, including its effectiveness against osteoarthritis which was confirmed by a notable clinical study in 2003.

Since April 2023, the DGCCRF and the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) have made it possible to indicate on food supplements that Boswellia helps with maintaining joint health and flexibility, maintaining the health of the digestive system and lung function.

How to use it ?
  • Boswellia is today marketed as food supplement in different forms (capsules, capsules, drops) containing raw gum-resin powder or standardized extracts. Favor products that are titrated in boswellic acids.
  • Whether sold alone or in combination with other anti-inflammatory ingredients (e.g. Hargagophytum, Turmeric or Curcumin, etc.), it is recommended to follow the instructions for use and precautions for use specific to each product.

Nettle: favor the leaves for joint health

Nettle leaves (Urtica dioica or Urtica urens) are traditionally used for joint health due to many synergistic properties : a diuretic effect which will facilitate the elimination of uric acid; a remineralizing action which supports the regeneration of cartilage; anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties which have been confirmed by in vitro and in vivo studies.
In what cases should it be used?

Nettle leaves are recommended in herbal medicine to relieve joint pain, tendonitis, strains. They are not among the most powerful anti-inflammatories, but their draining power is a major asset, particularly in case of hyperuricemia, gout attacks, rheumatism, arthritis.

Be careful, however, to choose the leaves and not the roots.. The use of the roots is in fact reserved for the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy.

How to use them?
  • In herbal tea : pour 3 to 4 level teaspoons of dry leaves, or approximately 4 g, into a 150 mL cup of hot water. Leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Drink 3 to 4 cups per day. Favor its use in the form of a treatment of 3 weeks maximum, followed by a week's break before repeating if necessary.
  • In compresses: pour 2 tablespoons of dry leaves per 50 cl of hot water and infuse for 10 minutes. Leave to cool then soak a compress or a clean cloth in the preparation. To apply to the painful area.
  • In powder, extracts and hydroalcoholic tinctures : take into account the instructions for use specific to each product.

Green or white clay: much more than grandmother's remedies

Its mechanism of action on inflammation is still unknown, but clay is used since the dawn of time in numerous inflammatory problems joints, muscles or skin, whether to relieve pain or reduce edema. Even today, the majority of spa treatment centers offer clay-based treatments (in poultices, baths, mud, etc.).

In what cases should it be used?

The uses of clay are very broad in the field of inflammatory disorders. In local applications, it is mainly green clay which is used to relieve rheumatism, arthritis, sprains, back pain, tendonitis, period pain... to reduce bruises, bumps and hematomas.

White clay, softer than green clay, is preferred when it comes to calming certain skin irritations (bites, sunburns and superficial burns, acne, eczema, etc.), inflamed gums or even diaper rash in infants.

How to use it ?
  • As a poultice: make a homogeneous clay paste (water + clay) to distribute as a thick poultice over the area to be treated. Leave on for 1 hour before rinsing. Favor green clay for rheumatism, back pain, acne... and rather white clay for dry and sensitive skin, applied to the gums.
  • As a mouthwash: realize clayey water and perform mouthwashes twice a day for the duration of the inflammation while waiting to consult a dentist.
  • In powder coating : use superfine white clay powder like talc, to apply directly to the baby's irritated buttocks.

Peppermint essential oil: an effective and rapid painkiller

Peppermint essential oil is not a major anti-inflammatory, but it is recognized for its very powerful local analgesic properties. It is its majority component, menthol, which specifically activates cold receptors (TRPM8) involved in the perception of pain. From where this so characteristic “cold effect” which provides almost instantaneous relief. 

In what cases should it be used?

Peppermint is the reference essential oil, widely used against headaches. Studies have actually confirmed its ability to effectively calm migraines. This action is also appreciated in cases of joint inflammation relieved by cold, while ginger essential oil will be better when the pain is improved by heat.

How to use it ?
  • For adults and adolescents (in case of headache and migraine). Dermal, 1 to 2 drops of Peppermint in a vegetable oil massage on the temples and forehead, as soon as necessary. For sensitive skin, dilute 1 drop of essential oil in at least 4 drops of vegetable oil. (Watch your eyes!)
  • From 6 years old (in case of muscle pain). Dermal, dilute 1 drop of essential oil in at least 9 drops of vegetable oil (Arnica oily macerate for example). Apply to the painful area.
  • Be careful to follow the precautions for use and diluting it in vegetable oil before applying it. It should not be used on damaged or irritated skin, and contact with the eyes should be absolutely avoided.

Cloves: THE reference against dental pain and oral inflammation

Inseparable from the smell of the dental office, Cloves are undoubtedly THE reference, known worldwide for treating oral and dental problems. Nowadays, it is mainly clove essential oil or its majority component, eugenol, which are used. Numerous studies have in fact confirmed their exceptional properties: local analgesic with effects superior to those of lidocaine and anti-infectious effective against dental plaque germs. Clove essential oil also contains beta-caryophyllene, a versatile anti-inflammatory molecule, which reinforces and complements the action of eugenol.

In what cases should they be used?

Infused Cloves or essential oil diluted in a vegetable oil are applied locally in all inflammatory and painful conditions of the oral cavity: gingivitis, alveolitis, cavities, abscesses, toothache, mouth ulcers, etc. Given its effectiveness against pain, Clove essential oil is also used to support childbirth, in case of neuralgia or headaches.

Do not forget that essential oil is irritating to the mucous membranes, with precautions for use and several contraindications to respect. Depending on the case, it may be replaced by peppermint essential oil against pain or noble Laurel hydrosol in oral hygiene

How to use them?
  • As an emergency gesture, from 6 years old. By local route, place 1 drop of Clove essential oil on a cotton swab soaked in edible vegetable oil and apply it directly or near the painful area (gum, tooth) while waiting for your appointment with the dentist. Up to 5 times a day depending on the intensity of the pain. Cloves themselves can also be applied directly to the painful area.
  • Gargling : bring 500 mL of water to the boil and pour in 4 to 5 cloves. Leave to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain and let cool. Use this infusion as gargles and mouthwashes up to 3 times a day.

Omega 3: essential and essential to avoid chronic inflammation

Remember that inflammation is first and foremost our main defense mechanism. It is a very complex process which, in its initial pro-inflammatory phase, involves omega 6. Once the “danger” has passed, it is then omega 3 which is mobilized to finish resolving the inflammation and repair possible damage. If omega 3 is not present in sufficient quantities, the inflammation cannot be completely resolved and risks becoming chronic.

This is the case, for example, when fibrosis develops at the level of an injury, instead of a beautiful scar. Whether it is noisy (marked by painful attacks) or silent (called “low grade”), chronic inflammation that sets in can also have consequences on our health in general. It indeed maintains close links with numerous skin, respiratory, joint or intestinal diseases, but also with those called "diseases of civilization" (e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, obesity...).

Why are they essential and indispensable?

Several studies show that our modern diet, too rich in omega 6 compared to omega 3, promotes the maintenance of an inflammatory environment. It is this imbalance that is problematic because omega 3s are the only precursors of molecules that stop and resolve the inflammatory process. Since our body is unable to produce alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the leader of omega 3, we say that it is “essential”. It is therefore essential to provide it through food. The other omega 3s, EPA and DHA, are also considered essential because we do not consume enough of them for our needs.

How can we cover our needs?
  • The contents of our plates will play a major role to restore a better omega 3/omega 6 balance by avoiding excessive consumption of omega 6 (e.g.: sunflower and peanut oil) while ensuring that you provide more omega 3 of plant origin (e.g.: rapeseed oil, nut, of camelina, oil or linseed crushed, hemp, of chia rich in ALA...) AND animal (eg: small fatty fish sources of EPA and DHA, eggs from the Bleu-Blanc-Cœur sector).
  • The WHO and ANSES have issued recommendations for omega 3 intakes and set daily doses around: 0.8 g to 1.1 g for ALA (i.e. the equivalent of ½ teaspoon oflinseed oil, 2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil, or a handful of walnuts) and 500 mg for EPA + DHA (i.e. less than 50g of canned mackerel or sardines).
  • In the event of inflammatory flare-ups, taking EPA and DHA in the form of food supplements may be necessary.

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