As your toes hit the floor for the first steps of the day, you’re instantly reminded of that epic workout you had two days before. The rush of endorphins that engulfed you the whole day after that badass session were well worth every ounce of sweat and grit you expended to get it done. But in the back of your mind you knew the time would come when you would have to pay the piper for being such a badass. Those endorphins have long since skipped town. They’ve been replaced this morning by a wave of paralytic soreness that oozes through your body like warm, sludgy concrete yearning to solidify in every one of your muscles and joints. Every step you take forces the venal sludge further around your body. If you don’t act soon, you’re sure to become an inanimate statue, forever frozen in time like one of the plaster citizens of Pompeii. 

Before you reach for that Ibuprofen as you’ve done countless times before, consider the following potential long-term implications of your current painkiller routine:

  • Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can cause life-threatening ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, a side effect that occurs more frequently and with greater severity as people age.
  • Some NSAIDs may increase the risk for heart attacks or strokes, and they don’t interact well with drugs used to treat heart failure.
  • They can make high blood pressure worse, even uncontrollable, and impair kidney function.

Now that you know this, hopefully you’re burying the ibuprofen bottle deep into the back of the medicine cabinet. But you must make it through your day, and you’ve already made your ice pack, heating pad, and foam roller your closest trio of friends. If your last practical option is some anti-inflammatory relief from a bottle, consider the following supplements:

  1. Ginger – The original discovery of ginger’s inhibitory effects on prostaglandin biosynthesis in the early 1970s has been repeatedly confirmed. This discovery identified ginger as an herbal medicinal product that shares pharmacological properties with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). (Journal of Medicinal Food, 2005)

Bonus: ginger has additional medicinal properties that have been proven to help with digestion and nausea as well as to treat various viral infections like the flu and common cold. Ginger beer is damn tasty as well, but much less practical and advisable than ingesting ginger via supplement form, especially first thing in the morning.

Practical Takeaway: I take a ginger pill supplement daily, and occasionally ingest raw ginger and ginger-based tea.

  1. Garlic – Garlic extract, taken consistently, has been proven to be beneficial in preventing the development of chronic diseases associated with low-grade inflammation. The medicinal effects of garlic are attributed to the presence of pharmacologically active sulfur compounds including diallyl sulfide, diallyl disulfide, allicin, and dipropyl sulfide.

Bonus: Garlic has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to prevent the development of cancer and cardiovascular diseases by modifying risk factors such as hypertension, high blood cholesterol and thrombosis, and preventing other chronic diseases associated with aging. It’s also been proven to be an effective repellent against COTN (creatures of the night…vampires).  

Practical Takeaway: I take a garlic pill supplement daily. I also mix crushed garlic into numerous foods that I prepare and consume daily (to my wife’s dismay).

  1. Cinnamon – loaded with polyphenols and antioxidants, cinnamon’s wide array of benefits on numerous physiological fronts is just starting to be fully realized. It has been proven to effectively minimize inflammation as well as, and possibly even better than, both ginger and garlic.

Bonus: Additionally, it has been shown to be an effective aid in combating heart disease, improving insulin sensitivity, and may even help to stave off certain neurogenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s (early studies have shown promise in this area but much more research is still needed to confirm its efficacy). Also, “Cinnamon Girl” is one of my favorite Neil Young songs; listening to pleasurable music most certainly has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Practical Takeaway: I take a Ceylon Cinnamon supplement daily (Ceylon is native to Sri Lanka and southern parts of India. It’s made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree. It’s a little more expensive compared to the more common cassia variety found in your average grocery store).

Ginger, garlic, and cinnamon are necessity supplements for me. I happen to enjoy the taste of all three as food ingredients, but I don’t always have the time to ingest them as such. I do have the time to take them all in supplement form daily, but still try to incorporate them as much as practically possible into my nutritional regimen. Long-term use of ibuprofen is risky, and ibuprofen provides no additional health benefits beyond short-term inflammation mitigation. Ginger, garlic, and cinnamon have all been shown to effectively address inflammation. All three have numerous additional health benefits that have been proven thus far as well as a myriad of other potential health benefits that the scientific community is just starting to fully grasp. The choice for me is a no-brainer – I ditched my ibuprofen bottle years ago in lieu of these natural anti-inflammatories. It should be for you too now that you’re armed with this knowledge.