Inflammation is the culprit of numerous types of pain—here’s how to help customers find blessed relief, spurring loyalty to your establishment.
“Ow!” This is one of the most universal exclamations understood immediately by all cultures across the globe. From the sharp pain of a shin hitting the edge of a desk (“That’s gonna leave a mark”), to joint and muscle throbbing, to recovery from more serious injury and all manners of discomfort-induced episodes and chronic aches, Americans are a hurting lot.
For example, pointed out Marci Clow, MS, RDN at California-based Rainbow Light, approximately 70 percent of patients who have tension headaches also exhibit muscular tightness and tension. “Consumers seek to address occasional aches and pains associated with general muscular stiffness, tension, spasm or strain, nighttime leg cramps, cramping related to premenstrual symptoms, and muscle stiffness related to nervous tension or anxiety,” she commented.
“I would say about two out of five of our customers who we see daily are complaining about some sort of pain from inflammation,” related NPA (Natural Products Association) Southwest Board Member Tim Hitt, supplement manager, Fiesta Nutrition Center (Monroe, LA). “There is a large part of the consumer base that really suffers from this. Most of the time it is a result from disease, sedentary lifestyle or deficiency of omega-3s. We live in a very dominant omega-6 world.”
Cheryl Myers, chief of scientific affairs and education of Wisconsin-based EuroPharma, Inc., cited three basic categories of pain, according to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
• Nociceptive: represents the normal response to injury of tissues (i.e., skin, muscles, visceral organs, joints, tendons or bones).
• Inflammatory: this results from a variety of mediators released at a site of tissue insult or injury. “The mediators are known as pro-inflammatory cytokines such interleukin-1-alpha, interleukin-1-beta, interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha; chemokines, reactive oxygen species, vasoactive amines, lipids, ATP, acid, and other factors released by infiltrating leukocytes, vascular endothelial cells, or tissue resident mast cells,” she described.
• Neuropathic: pain initiated or caused by a primary lesion or disease in the somatosensory nervous system where the individual feels sensations ranging from numbness to hypersensitivity and tingling.
Raina De Graaf, clinical nutritionist for Good Health Naturally USA, California, explained, “Pain, inflammation and inflammatory responses can invade a variety of areas in the body through various pathways and for many, that can be a tough pill to swallow. For decades, we have been told that the only way to fight inflammation and disease is by taking expensive prescription drugs that all too often come with a variety of unpleasant side effects. St. Louis University (Missouri) researchers confirmed that the long-term use of narcotic prescription painkillers can increase the risk of major depression, while statins, one of the most popular prescription drugs, can cause muscle pain, weakness, stiffness, and cramping in up to a quarter of patients—potentially by disrupting muscle mitochondria function.”
Pain sensation, said Carola Leuschner, partner at Avie Naturals in Louisiana, is a response to pain signals via the nervous system. These signals are generated after an injury occurs, such as getting a bruise or muscle soreness after strenuous exercise that is caused by microscopic damage of muscle fiber. “Chronic inflammation causes a pain sensation for example in the case of inflammation of the knee through arthritis,” she explained. “Temporary discomfort and pain to the knee can also occur as a result of injury to ligaments or tendons of the knee joint. Tissue damage coupled with inflammation causes pain that may last for a few days or can be long term if the injury persists.”
Additionally, she said, many customers may have GI (gastrointestinal) discomfort, often caused by stress and poor diet. The most common cause of temporary stomachaches, Leuschner noted, is indigestion and heartburn. “Curcumin promotes digestion and cause relief. Heartburn occurs, if cells in the epithelial gut lining are damaged. DGL licorice (the safe form of licorice) can counteract this process by increasing secretion of mucin that protects the gut lining and buffering over acid excess in the stomach,” she said.
Support for healthy inflammation response remains the nucleus of natural solutions for discomfort.
Inflammation is a mechanism the body uses to rid itself of foreign substances and pathogens. Clow explained that biochemicals released from white blood cells increase blood flow to the area affected, resulting in redness and sensation of heat; there may also be fluid leakage that creates swelling and pain.
However, in joints, she said, “the increased number of damaged cells and inflammatory substances in response to wear and tear (or years of inactivity and lack of joint movement) can cause irritation, leading to cartilage degradation, swelling of the joint lining, leading to arthritis. Inflammation can also affect internal organs; in the heart (myocarditis) may cause shortness of breath or leg swelling, in the kidneys (nephritis) may cause high blood pressure or kidney failure, and inflammation of the large intestine (colitis) may cause cramps and diarrhea.”
Allopathic or pharmaceutical interventions to reduce discomfort include over-the-counter NSAID, and prescription painkillers, which are now being more tightly monitored so as to reduce risk of dependency. Undeniably, it’s a good bet to believe that most customers have tried either or both in their lifetimes, and would be primed to learn about natural options.
Capsaicin, said Carlos Kessaris, sales and marketing director, Earth’s Care Natural Products, California, is a potent treatment for minor aches and pains of the joints and muscles emanating from strains, sprains and bruises, as well as arthritis. “It works by penetrating deeply and disrupting the body’s neurotransmitters, which produce the sensation of pain in the affected area,” he said.
Other botanicals Kessaris pointed to are natural camphor, extracted from an evergreen species, natural menthol, typically found in peppermint and other mint oils, as well as natural wintergreen.
The proteolytic enzyme serrapeptase, according to De Graaf has been used for more than 40 years throughout Europe and Asia as a safer alternative to prescription and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin and NSAIDs. Serrapeptase has decades of clinical backing, she noted, adding that it has potential to become widely and frequently relied upon by consumers seeking relief.
Earth’s Care therapeutic products, said Kessaris, are formulated to provide an effective alternative to conventional OTC drugs for temporary relief of minor muscle and joint discomfort. Another form of discomfort, he noted, is intense itching, from insect bite, allergies or dry skin conditions, and Earth’s Care also offers a natural itch relief product.
Earth’s Care Pain Relieving Ointment is crafted to provide soothing, penetrating temporary relief from sore muscles, joint ache and backache. This proprietary formula features camphor, menthol and wintergreen oil that “together work as an effective analgesic without petrolatum, preservatives or phthalates,” Kessaris said.
Earth’s Care Muscle & Joint Rub contains natural camphor as its active ingredient and provides relief from the minor pains of bruises, muscle aches, strains and sprains. This unique formula quickly relieves these painful conditions while also soothing the skin with natural moisturizers like vitamin E, beeswax and shea butter. It is ideal for use on minor injuries, is especially good for sore muscles after sports activity, and is effective for minor backaches and arthritis. The formula also contains Arnica montana flower extract.
Earth’s Care Anti-Itch Cream (in two sizes) is a topical for the temporary relief of pain and itching associated with minor skin irritations such as poison ivy/oak/sumac, sunburn, insect bites, and minor cuts and scrapes. It contains camphor and menthol as active ingredients.
Avie Naturals’s Ultramicronized Curcumin is a proprietary water-soluble ultramicronized turmeric curcumin designed for maximum absorption, potency, stability and bioactivity. The supplement contains natural turmeric at a dose of 5 percent per capsule—25 mg turmeric per 500 mg capsule.
Avie Joint Balance is a proprietary formulation of water-soluble ultramicronized turmeric curcumin with Boswellia serrata. According to Leuschner, the formulation has potent anti-inflammatory effect and helps to promote optimal and healthy joint function, improves flexibility and reduces muscle soreness after strenuous exercise.
Avie Gastrointestinal Balance is a proprietary formulation of water-soluble ultramicronized turmeric curcumin and DGL licorice. The formulation, said Leuschner, has superior effects on digestive discomfort and relief from occasional heartburn and indigestion.
Rainbow Light’s Pain-Eze is an herbal formula with meadowsweet, California poppy and magnesium to ease muscular tension and cramping, plus herbs traditionally used for mild to moderate pain, including corydalis and Chinese peony. Pain-Eze was formulated to ease occasional aches and pains associated with minor discomforts, such as muscle soreness, temporary tissue irritation, and cramping.
Also from Rainbow Light is ArthX, which, says Clow, provides a powerful synergy of researched levels of glucosamine and chondroitin, plus MSM and targeted nutrients, to support maintenance of the structure and function of cartilage and connective tissue in joints in just two tablets per day. ArthX also includes a blend of turmeric and ginger to support a healthy inflammatory response and to ease common joint discomforts while promoting mobility and flexibility.
The company’s Theramend contains a patented curcumin extract with enhanced bioavailability, plus patented forms of both boswellia and hops extracts. “It was designed for daily long-term use to promote a healthy inflammatory response and ease associated pain and stiffness,” Clow asserted.
Good Health Naturally’s 250,000 IU SerraEnzyme provides 250,000 active units of serrapeptase in each capsule, De Graaf pointed out. She explained, “A maintenance does would be one to three capsules up to three times a day. For a more therapeutic dose we recommend double for more chronic health concerns. Serrapeptase is designed to be taken long term for chronic conditions, and our customers/patients have seen an optimal positive response.” EuroPharma’s Curamin family of products, according to Myers, contains BCM-95 Curcumin, “the most clinically studied, enhanced absorption in the world. This form of curcumin is not only better absorbed, it is more powerful after absorption due to the turmeric essential oil and turmerones that are part of its patented process. Curamin also contains a uniquely standardized boswellia called BosPure Boswellia, which has up to 10 times more AKBA than non-standardized boswellia, and is purified to remove pro-inflammatory compounds.” Curamin also contains the amino acid DLPA, which plays a role in keeping endorphins and enkephalins active longer, and a little nattokinase, an enzyme that promotes microcirculation for better nutrient delivery.
The line includes: Curamin Extra Strength, more concentrated relief with higher levels of BCM-95 curcumin and BosPure boswellia; Curamin PM for relief of discomfort that disrupts sleep, and contains vitamin B6, pyridoxal-5-phosphate or P-5-P and melatonin for promoting healthy sleep; Curamin Headache for occasional headaches due to stress and fatigue, and also contains vitamin B6, pyridoxal-5-phosphate or P-5-P and TRAACS amino acid chelated magnesium. Curamin Low Back Pain which also contains devil’s claw extract and white willow, both of which have unique properties for back support; and Curamin Athletic Pain for both pain relief and athletic recovery, and contains two post-athletic pain specific enzymes, bromelain and pancreatin.
At Fiesta Nutrition Center, said Hitt, “our most recommended products are the Terry Naturally line of curcumin products, especially Curamin. “We also are tremendous fans of Nordic Naturals’ omega-3 oils. Both of these companies are well established with proven track records and the clinical data to back it up. But the most important barometer is repeat sales and customer satisfaction,” he noted.
As the downsides of ingesting NSAIDs and fear of painkiller addiction continue to be discussed in media, natural products retailers are positioned well to fill in the gaps. De Graaf observed, “the market for pain relief supplements is growing for consumers as they are turning away from ingesting NSAIDs and potentially addictive painkillers, and nutritional companies are recognizing the benefit of safe and effective dietary supplement solutions such as proteolytic enzymes.”
According to National Institute of Health statistics, Americans suffer more from pain than have diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. “As a result,” stated Clow, “pain-relief products continue to represent one of the top growth categories in the natural channel. Although products containing glucosamine and chondroitin remain steady, the category seems to be evolving towards ingredients that are suggested to inhibit inflammation.”
Myers pointed out that “virtually every consumer has pain at some time, and many have chronic pain every day.” She believes that retailers still may have a tough time convincing his or her customer that the natural options are indeed viable, in place of NSAIDs or other pharmaceutical painkillers. “The biggest hurdle is to convince the consumer that a dietary supplement can have powerful benefits and actually relieve their pain,” she said. EuroPharma offers a money-back guarantee to encourage consumers to at least try a natural intervention without any real financial risk, she added.
Discomfort is a part of life—but suffering doesn’t have to be. VR
For More Information:
Earth’s Care, (888) 602-6380
EuroPharma Inc., (866) 598-5487
Good Health Naturally USA, (800) 455-9155
Rainbow Light, (800) 635-1233