Pain supplements

  • Comfrey ( Symphytum spp.) is native to both Europe and Asia and has traditionally been used as both a food and forage crop. Three plant species in the genus Symphytum are medicinally relevant and include wild or common comfrey ( Symphytum officinale L.), prickly or rough comfrey [ Symphytum asperum Lepechin ( Symphytum asperrimum Donn)], and Caucasian, Quaker, Russian, or blue comfrey [ Symphytum × uplandicum Nyman ( Symphytum peregrinum Lebed.)], which originated as a natural hybrid of Symphytum officinale L. and Symphytum asperum Lepechin. Comfrey has traditionally been both applied to the skin (topically) for inflammation, pain and wound healing, and taken by mouth (orally) for gastrointestinal, respiratory and gynecological concerns. Although evidence supporting oral use of comfrey is lacking, clinical trials suggest topical comfrey may be advantageous for pain and inflammation associated with injuries. Although comfrey has been traditionally used both orally and topically, recent evidence suggesting carcinogenic and hepatotoxic effects has led to withdrawal of oral products from the market in many countries and warnings to avoid use on open wounds.
  • Shark cartilage is one of the most popular supplements in the United States, with over 40 brand name products sold in 1995 alone. Primarily used for cancer, its use became popular in the 1980s after several poor-quality studies reported "miracle" cancer cures. Laboratory research and animal studies of shark cartilage or the shark cartilage derivative product AE-941 (Neovastat®) have demonstrated some anti-cancer (anti-angiogenic) and anti-inflammatory properties. However, there is currently not enough reliable human evidence to recommend for or against shark cartilage for any condition. There are several ongoing cancer studies. Many trials are supported by manufacturers of shark cartilage products, which raises questions about impartiality. Commercial shark cartilage is primarily composed of chondroitin sulfate (a type of glycosaminoglycan), which is further broken down in the body into glucosamine and other end products. Although chondroitin and glucosamine have been extensively studied for osteoarthritis, there is a lack of evidence supporting the use of unprocessed shark cartilage preparations for this condition. Shark cartilage also contains calcium. Manufacturers sometimes promote its use for calcium supplementation. Shark cartilage supplements at common doses can cost as much as $700-1,000 per month.
  • Reishi mushroom ( Ganoderma lucidum ), also known as ling zhi in China, grows wild on decaying logs and tree stumps. Reishi occurs in six different colors, but the red variety is most commonly used and commercially cultivated in East Asia and North America. The reishi mushroom is a derivative of the Far East with its usage dating back to ancient China. Royalty would utilize this precious mushroom in the hopes of obtaining immortality and promoting calmness and thought. Chinese medicine now includes therapy with reishi for fatigue, asthma, insomnia, and cough. Ganoderma lucidum has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 4,000 years to treat liver disorders, high blood pressure, arthritis, and other ailments. In modern times, the available data from human trials together with evidence from animal studies suggest that Ganoderma lucidum may have some positive benefits for cancer and liver disease patients. However, the number and quality of trials is very limited. Other promising uses for which there is still inconclusive evidence include diabetes, heart disease, pain, Russula subnigricans poisoning, and proteinuria (protein in the urine). Reishi is also believed to reduce cholesterol levels and has an anticoagulant ("blood-thinning") effect, which may make it useful in coronary heart disease prevention. Some experts believe that Ganoderma lucidum promotes longevity and maintains vitality of the human body. Reishi's major benefit appears to be its immunomodulating action, improvement of liver function, and improvement and restoration of the normal functions of the respiratory system. Antioxidant effects, which contribute to the overall well-being of patients, have been proposed. In the 16th Century pharmacopeia Ben Cao Gang Mu, reishi was described as being able to affect the life energy, or qi, of the heart, repair the chest area, increase intellectual capacity, and banish forgetfulness. Reishi is currently regulated in the United States as a dietar...
  • Since ancient Egypt, white horehound ( Marrubium vulgare L.) has been used as an expectorant (to facilitate removal of mucus from the lungs or throat). Ayurvedic, Native American, and Australian Aboriginal medicines have traditionally used white horehound to treat respiratory (lung) conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned horehound from cough drops in 1989 due to insufficient evidence supporting its efficacy. However, horehound is currently widely used in Europe, and it can be found in European-made herbal cough remedies sold in the United States (for example, Ricola®). There is a lack of well-defined clinical evidence to support any therapeutic use of white horehound. The expert German panel, the Commission E, has approved white horehound for lack of appetite, dyspepsia (heartburn), and as a choleretic. There is promising early evidence favoring the use of white horehound as a hypoglycemic agent for diabetes mellitus and as a non-opioid pain reliever. There is limited evidence on the safety or toxicity in humans. White horehound has been reported to cause hypotension (low blood pressure), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) in animal studies
  • Arnica montana is commonly used in herbal ointments and oils applied on the skin as an anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving agent for aches, bruises, and sprains on unbroken skin. Highly diluted homeopathic preparations are considered safe and are widely used for the treatment of injuries. However, full doses of arnica may be toxic when taken by mouth. Arnica may also be damaging to the heart, resulting in high blood pressure. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared arnica an unsafe herb due to adverse effects reported when taken by mouth. In contrast, the German market offers over 100 preparations of arnica to its consumers. In Canada, arnica is not allowed for use as a non-medicinal ingredient for oral (by mouth) use products.
  • Lavender is native to the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, Russia, and Africa. It has been used cosmetically and medicinally throughout history. In modern times, lavender is cultivated around the world and the fragrant oils of its flowers are used in aromatherapy, baked goods, candles, cosmetics, detergents, jellies, massage oils, perfumes, powders, shampoo, soaps, and tea. English lavender ( Lavandula angustifolia ) is the most common species of lavender used, although other species are in use, including Lavandula burnamii , Lavandula dentate , Lavandula dhofarensis , Lavandula latifolia , and Lavandula stoechas . Many people find lavender aromatherapy to be relaxing and it has been reported to have anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. Overall, the evidence suggests a small positive effect, although additional data from well-designed studies are required before the evidence can be considered strong. Lavender aromatherapy is also used as a hypnotic, although there is insufficient evidence in support of this use. Small phase I human trials of the lavender constituent perillyl alcohol (POH) for cancer have suggested safety and tolerability, although efficacy has not been demonstrated.
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