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Q&A: Pain relief from herbal products?

Consumer Reports News: June 03, 2008 06:19 PM

Are there any herbal products that help relieve pain and inflammation? —L.H., Reading , Mass.

Only two have enough evidence to consider using. Several studies have found that topical creams containing capsaicin (generic, Zostrix), an extract from the hot-pepper plant, can relieve minor aches and pains caused by back problems, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. And at least five small trials have found that oral doses of the herb devil's claw may reduce osteoarthritis or back pain. While the herb's side effects appear to be mild—mainly diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain—it can interact with numerous drugs, including those taken for diabetes and high cholesterol. Talk to your doctor before trying any herbal product, especially if you take medication.

Read our Natural Medicine Ratings for capsaicin and devil's claw (subscribers only), and find out the truths and myths behind alternative therapies (free).

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