At Broadmoor Court in Colorado Springs, Colorado, we want our residents to live their best lives. That's why we offer restaurant-style dining, exercise programs and outings to local cultural attractions. To make the most of these offerings, it's important to stay healthy.
Although many people prefer natural remedies to prescription and over-the-counter medications that may cause side effects, it's tough to know which remedies work and which don't. In well-designed research studies, these seven forms of alternative medicine have been shown to produce desirable results.
Curcumin is helpful for easing inflammation associated with chronic disease, as it regulates cytokines, transcription factors and other substances involved in promoting inflammation within the human body. Multiple studies have demonstrated the benefits of curcumin in reducing inflammation. For example, Salh et al. found that curcumin helps reduce the intestinal damage caused by colitis, a condition that causes inflammation in the colon.
Eucalyptus oil comes from trees found in Malaysia, Australia and the Philippines. It has a pleasant scent, making it a common ingredient in aromatherapy preparations. Eucalyptus oil has also been shown to ease some of the symptoms of colds and other respiratory conditions, namely cough and congestion.
Smith and Matthews determined that ointments containing eucalyptus and other aromatics reduce congestion and cool the nasal passages, improving sleep quality and making it easier to recover from respiratory infections. Eucalyptus oil also helps break up phlegm, making it helpful for easing the symptoms of influenza and bronchitis.
Echinacea is an herb that grows in North America and has long been used in Native American traditional medicine practices. The plant contains glycoproteins, polysaccharides, flavonoids and other substances that help regulate the immune system. In a study led by Zili Zhai of Iowa State University, researchers observed that three species of echinacea increased percentages of lymphocytes involved in breaking down cells infected by viral organisms. Echinacea has also been shown to reduce the likelihood of catching a cold.
Lavender is a perennial plant with fragrant blossoms, making it a common ingredient in soaps, perfumes and bath products. The plant also contains coumarin and flavonoids, compounds that reduce inflammation and protect cells against the free radicals that form during certain chemical reactions.
Lavender also contains compounds that make it easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that inhaling lavender and practicing good sleep hygiene improved sleep quality better than practicing good sleep hygiene alone. Participants who inhaled lavender also reported feeling refreshed when they woke up the next morning.
If a headache has you staying inside your assisted living apartment instead of heading out to take advantage of everything Colorado Springs has to offer, peppermint may help. Researchers in Germany tested peppermint oil against acetaminophen and a placebo for the treatment of tension-type headaches. Compared with the placebo, peppermint oil significantly reduced headache intensity within 15 minutes of application.
Additionally, study participants reported that peppermint oil was just as effective as acetaminophen for reducing headache pain. Peppermint oil contains menthol, which is thought to relax the muscles in the head, relieving tension headaches.
Ginger is often used to flavor baked goods, but it also has some applications in alternative medicine. It's most commonly used in herbal remedies designed to ease nausea, upset stomach and other digestive symptoms. According to researchers from Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences in Iran, ginger reduces intestinal cramping, prevents indigestion and reduces pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter. Ginger may also prevent food from lingering in the stomach, reducing the symptoms associated with delayed gastric emptying.
Even if you don't like spicy foods, you may be able to benefit from using capsaicin — the substance that gives chili peppers their heat — topically. According to a study published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, capsaicin impairs the function of nociceptors, which are the sensory receptors that alert your nervous system to painful stimuli. This prevents the nociceptors from sending danger signals to the brain and the spinal cord, reducing pain. Capsaicin is found in many topical creams to relieve muscle aches and arthritis symptoms.
Before trying any alternative medicines, check with your doctor to find out if they're safe for you to use. Even when an herb or essential oil is safe for the general population, it may cause serious side effects if you have a chronic medical condition or take daily prescription medications. Alternative remedies may even interact with vitamins and other supplements.
If your doctor approves of using alternative medicine for your ailment, follow the safety precautions outlined on the product packaging. For example, if you decide to use peppermint oil to relieve a headache, you should dilute it to prevent skin irritation and rashes. Following all relevant safety precautions can help you enjoy the benefits of natural remedies without experiencing negative side effects.