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You’ve probably heard of aspirin and ibuprofen, but what exactly are these medications? Medical professionals turn to NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, to reduce pain, inflammation, and fever. They’re often used to treat headaches, symptoms of the common cold or flu, and other types of discomfort.

NSAIDs are one of the most commonly prescribed medications for pain and inflammation. (The use of these medicines in patients over 65 years old is even as high as 96%.) However, NSAIDs can cause a multitude of health risks.

Are there safer NSAIDs, and do natural alternatives to NSAIDs exist? Is there a better way to treat pain and inflammation? The answer is yes. Not only can you use cannabis as a natural NSAID alternative, but lifestyle changes and safer medications can also be beneficial. So it’s time to get educated.

Are NSAIDs Safe?

Over-the-counter or prescribed, NSAIDs can cause long-term and short-term unwanted side effects. And here’s where it gets a little complicated, but stick with us. NSAIDs act by inhibiting the synthesis and release of prostaglandins, hormones created during a chemical reaction at the site where an injury occurs. This process blocks the enzymes cyclooxygenases 1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenases 2 (COX-2).

But the process of blocking those enzymes can cause multiple adverse effects. NSAIDs are responsible for 30% of hospital admissions for adverse drug reactions, mainly due to bleeding, heart attack, stroke, and renal damage.

Risks of NSAIDs

Since NSAIDs block the enzyme that aids in blood clotting and protecting the stomach and intestines, the risk of bleeding, ulcers, kidney and liver failure is increased. Even after just the first day of use, all NSAIDs increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, myocardial infarction, and stroke. 

The short-term use of NSAIDs can also cause side effects. This includes allergic reactions, dizziness, stomach ache, headache, and heartburn. NSAIDs could also clash with other medications like antidepressants or corticosteroids, making these side effects more severe.

The Best Natural Alternatives to NSAIDs

So how can you implement safer, natural alternatives to NSAIDs to treat pain and inflammation? Helpful options include using cannabis as an NSAID alternative and integrating healthier habits into day-to-day life.

These natural NSAID alternatives (that may be the most effective treatments) are:

  • CBD
  • Cannabis and cannabis topicals
  • Yoga and exercise
  • Improved diet

You can also use safer medications as alternatives to NSAIDs for inflammation and pain, but it is still necessary to use them with caution:

  • Safer NSAIDs
  • Other medications such as acetaminophen 

CBD Products

CBD products are a great place to start when searching for natural alternatives to NSAIDs for inflammation. The CBD cannabinoid is non-psychoactive (doesn’t get you high) but exerts several beneficial pharmacological effects, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties

Working alongside our bodies’ endocannabinoid system, you can utilize CBD products as a natural alternative to NSAIDs for pain. CBD’s analgesic qualities demonstrate the ability to effectively relieve and manage pain, especially for patients with malignant diseases.

Consumers typically enjoy CBD under the tongue in oil form, but it can also be inhaled or eaten in the form of an edible. The daily dose of CBD to treat pain and inflammation may range between 5 and 25 mg. And if you are worried about CBD showing up on a drug test, it doesn’t – unless you are taking a CBD-specific drug test.

Cannabis and Cannabis Topicals

Consumers can use cannabis and cannabis topicals to reduce all types of discomfort. Finding the right cannabis products to use as alternatives to NSAIDs for inflammation and pain means looking at the terpenes the product contains

The terpene caryophyllene is the only terpene known to “bind directly to cannabinoid receptors in the human body,” making it an excellent option for treating inflammation. Other terpenes like myrcene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene are also beneficial in treating inflammation. These terpenes are found in cannabis as well as cannabis topicals.

Cannabis topicals, which you apply to the skin, do not cause any psychoactive effects. These topicals are fast-acting and produce localized relief. Types of cannabis topicals include salves and ointments, creams, lotions, and oils.

Cannabis topicals serve as effective alternatives to NSAIDs for back pain. Pair a topical of your choice with a back massage, and your muscles will thank you.

But, suppose you don’t mind the psychoactive effects or even find further relief in them. In that case, patients can use cannabis as an NSAID alternative by smoking it, consuming an edible, or using a few drops of a tincture under the tongue.

Some cannabis strains used as alternatives to NSAIDs for pain are:

  • ACDC: With a high concentration of CBD and THC, patients say ACDC “zaps all kinds of pain away.”
  • Harlequin: This sativa-dominant strain “relaxes without sedation and relieves without intoxication.” Alternatives to NSAIDs for arthritis include strains like Harlequin and Pennywise.
  • Cannatonic: Cannatonic contains high CBD and low THC, making it ideal for patients who want to experience minimal psychoactive effects.
  • Jack Herer: This hybrid strain treats general pain symptoms, as well as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more.

LEARN MORE: Medical Marijuana for Inflammation | What are the Benefits of Marijuana?

Yoga and Exercise 

We cannot discuss alternatives to NSAIDs for pain without mentioning the benefits of yoga and exercise. If you have the means, finding a personal trainer could be an excellent way to begin your fitness journey. Otherwise, you can absolutely find ways to utilize yoga and exercise as NSAID alternatives on your own. 

Yoga, or stretching out the body and building strength, is something you can easily do from the comfort of your home and has the potential to greatly decrease pain (along with other benefits.) You can begin by searching yoga practices on YouTube, like Yoga With Adriene’s videos. After all, yogis specifically designed these practices to treat pain.

Exercising your muscles and building strength is a surefire way to decrease pain over time. Search the internet for exercises that target your area of pain. For example, back exercises using a resistance band, like resistance band pull-apart, will build back muscles and create more support.

Implementing a new habit can be difficult, so it is important to start small and build up from there. The most crucial aspect is consistently showing up for yourself.

Improved Diet

The foods that we consume make up a massive portion of our health, so positive diet changes are a crucial habit to implement. Using foods as alternatives to NSAIDs for inflammation is an effective way to heal the body from the inside out and can be much more effective than any medicine.

Foods that fight inflammation: 

  • Ginger: Ginger is widely used in traditional medicine and relieves menstrual pain, arthritis, and more.
  • Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, and other types of berries contain phytonutrients that may fight inflammation and lessen pain.
  • Turmeric: Turmeric fights pain in the body and can effectively combat arthritis pain.
  • Nuts: Nuts high in fat, like pecans and walnuts, contain omega-3s and fight against inflammation.
  • Fatty fish: Also high in omega-3s, fatty fish like salmon combats inflammation, high blood pressure, and more.
  • Virgin olive oil: Olive oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It contains oleocanthal, which works like ibuprofen, and lubricin, which benefits joints.

Foods that cause inflammation:

  • Refined carbs: Foods like white bread and pastries 
  • Fried food: French fries, fried chicken, etc.
  • Sugar: Sodas, sweet tea, desserts. Use natural alternatives like Stevia and Erythritol.
  • Red meat and processed meat: Beef, hot dogs, sausage

Safer NSAIDs

Natural alternatives to NSAIDs for inflammation also include medications that are still considered NSAIDs, but that don’t impact COX-1 enzymes as much as the typical NSAID. These safer NSAIDs are called COX-2 inhibitors. A couple of the most common COX-2 inhibitors are Celebrex and Bextra, which doctors usually prescribe to treat arthritis. 

This type of alternative anti-inflammatory poses fewer health risks than the typical NSAID, but can still be dangerous.


You can use other medications as NSAID alternatives, but you should still take them infrequently and with caution. Alternatives to NSAIDs for pain include non-NSAID pain relievers like acetaminophen. This class of drugs does not fight inflammation, but simply heightens the patient’s pain threshold.

Finding Your Ideal Natural Alternative to NSAIDs with Elevate Holistics

Natural alternatives to NSAIDs are plentiful, so it is essential to consider these options when seeking treatment for pain and inflammation. Are you considering using cannabis as a natural NSAID alternative? Elevate Holistics dedicates itself to providing you with precisely what you need to receive a medical marijuana card. 

Connecting you with a trusted MMJ doctor for a telehealth appointment, Elevate Holistics will guide you through the process, making it as simple as possible. And the best part – it can all be done from the comfort of your home.

Book a safe and secure appointment now, right here on our website, and enjoy the benefits of having your very own MMJ card.

Get Your MMJ Card Right From Home

Elevate Holistics’ process is quick, affordable, and done entirely online. It’s never been so easy.

About the author

Michael Lawal is a seasoned content writer with specialized expertise in the medical cannabis industry. With a background that blends journalism and health sciences, Michael has a knack for translating complex medical cannabis research into accessible and engaging content. His writing portfolio showcases a range of work from informative articles and research summaries to patient education materials. Committed to raising awareness about the benefits and responsible use of medical cannabis, Michael's work is a valuable resource for both consumers and professionals in the field.
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