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Protect Yourself from Pain Reliever Side Effects: Plant Medicine to the Rescue

Are you tired of relying on pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, only to worry about their harmful side effects on your stomach, kidney and liver?

pain medicine
the epidemic of OTC pain meds

I used to religiously take Advil, ibuprofen, especially for menstrual cramps. When I was diagnosed with lupus in 2017 and started suffering from chest pain and inflammation from pleurisy, pericarditis, and costochondritis, I popped Advil like candy. In fact, the doctor's recommendation was to take Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve the inflammation. 

Then, I was told the contrary by my current rheumatologist to avoid NSAIDs as they can damage the stomach and kidneys

In an article in the New York Times (NYT), researchers state that “taking ibuprofen can be dangerous for patients with kidney disease or failure; those with liver damage or cirrhosis; and people with conditions that put strain on their kidneys, like high blood pressure or heart failure. Those at high risk for these conditions — as well as for stomach ulcers, heart attacks, strokes or bleeding problems — should talk with their doctors before taking ibuprofen.” 

Welp, taking ibuprofen, or NSAIDs altogether, was a no for me, especially with lupus nephritis. 

How does taking ibuprofen cause stomach ulcers? 

Based on the NYT articleThe drug inhibits enzymes that, among other things, aid in the production of mucus that lines and protects the stomach lining — so without these enzymes, the stomach becomes vulnerable to irritation and damage.”

a black girl in pain
acute pain can have you curled up in a fetal position

Many individuals in the community have shared experiences of suffering from stomach ulcers from taking NSAIDs. Complaints include stomach pain, acid reflux, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation, to name a few. I believe it happens more often than we know. 

Tylenol, or acetaminophen, is the alternate pain reliever often recommended by my rheumatologist and doctors. I was told to take up to 3g while I was suffering from level 10/10 pain at the height of a severe lupus flare in early 2023. Generally speaking, Tylenol does not have anti-inflammatory action, but it can help shave off some of the pain. 

What’s the consequence of taking acetaminophen?  Well like with any pharmaceutical drug, even available at CVS, can pose risks, such as acute liver failure

Since learning these potentially harmful realities with widely available over the counter drugs, I try my best to avoid taking ibuprofen especially, and acetaminophen, only on an as needed basis.

I get it. Sometimes it is unavoidable to suffer with acute pain, because you have to work, be attentive to kids, or just be, so you want to nip it in the butt with these accessible pain relievers. 

But I asked myself, is there way to counteract the harmful effects of taking ibuprofen and acetaminophen? 

Now you know I had to do research, and I discovered that there may be natural alternatives to provide protection from the negative side effects of taking ibuprofen and acetaminophen without compromising your health.

Yes to plant medicine for the rescue!

TCM with jujube dates
plants are our allies

Guess what my friends?

Jujube Dates and Milk Thistle are two powerhouse ingredients that can help shield the body from the negative effects of pain relievers!

But before we proceed, this is NOT medical advice. I am not a doctor, just a lupus warrior and holistic nutritionist, who is eager to share my journey to help others reclaim vitality with lupus. Always do your own research. Try these alternatives at your own risk.

Now back to the fascinating research …

Discover Jujube Dates: The Stomach-Soothing Superfood

Jujube dates, scientifically known as Zizyphus jujuba”  are a rich source of saponins, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help reduce inflammation and protect the stomach lining from damage.


Studies have shown that jujube dates can prevent stomach ulcers and reduce the risk of bleeding. In fact, a study published in the Cleveland Clinic found that jujube date extracts exhibited anti-ulcer activity with gastric ulcers

jujube dates and effects against ibuprofen
Jujube Dates

On top of that, based on an article published in the National Institute of Health, Jujube Dates have the power to protect against kidney toxicity, too! Yes, wow! This made sense to me as Jujube Dates are a popular plant used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, especially in a Congee healing dish, to relieve digestive discomfort. 

Milk Thistle: The Liver's Best Friend

With taking any medication, it is processed through the liver. Therefore, the liver could always use some extra protection. 

Let me share with you one of my favorite plant allies.

It’s Milk Thistle! 

butterfly on thistle plant
butterfly on thistle plant

Milk Thistle contains silymarin, a flavonoid that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Silymarin can help protect the liver from toxicity and promote liver cell regeneration. Studies have shown that milk thistle can reduce liver damage and even reverse liver fibrosis. In fact, a study published in the Mount Sinai states “Several scientific studies suggest that substances in milk thistle protect the liver from toxins, including certain drugs, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), which can cause liver damage in high doses.” 

I know, fascinating. And I wish the doctors knew this and advised us on ways to protect our organs when taking pharmaceutical medications.

The Dynamic Duo: Jujube Dates and Milk Thistle

When taken together, jujube dates and milk thistle create a powerful synergy that can protect the stomach, liver and kidneys from the harmful effects of pain relievers. This dynamic duo can help you enjoy safer pain relief and maintain optimal health.

Here are links to purchase jujube dates and milk thistle.

Note: I receive a small commission from the purchase of these items in my Amazon storefront, which goes to fund interesting articles like these :) Thank you in advance. 

Well there you have it, folks. There is a safer way to ease pain.  I am really getting into plant medicine and using them as allies for holistic healing. I even decided to study herbalism! More to come.

genny mack's herbal apothecary
Genny's Herbal Apothecary

Did you enjoy this article? Let me know what you think.

In Love in Great Health,

Genny Mack


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