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When inflammation develops in your body, it often leads to unpleasant symptoms such as pain, fever and swelling, which can make everyday life difficult. To relieve these symptoms and make you feel better again, you can take anti-inflammatory medicines. There is a wide range of medicines that can help you depending on the type and severity of your inflammation - from ointments to tablets and solutions to plasters.
With our large anti-inflammatory medication test 2021, we want to help you find the best anti-inflammatory medication for you. To do this, we have taken a close look at different types of products and compared the respective advantages and disadvantages. We have also looked at frequently asked questions about anti-inflammatory medicines and provided clear answers. We hope that this will make your purchase decision easier.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 The most important
- 3 The Best Anti-inflammatory drugs: Our Picks
- 4 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying anti-inflammatory drugs
- 5 Decision: What types of anti-inflammatory medicines are there and which one is right for me?
- 5.1 What are the characteristics of anti-inflammatory ointments, creams and gels and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
- 5.2 What are anti-inflammatory tablets and capsules and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
- 5.3 What makes an anti-inflammatory solution and what are its advantages and disadvantages?
- 5.4 What is an anti-inflammatory patch and what are its advantages and disadvantages?
- 6 Buying criteria: These are some of the factors you can use to compare and evaluate anti-inflammatory medicines
- 7 Facts worth knowing about anti-inflammatory drugs
The most important
- Anti-inflammatory drugs are medicines that you can use to relieve symptoms of inflammation in your body once it has already started. They are mainly divided into steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- There are anti-inflammatory drugs for acute as well as chronic inflammation. They can either be localised (localised) or affect the whole body (generalised). Apart from the anti-inflammatory effect, they usually have an additional effect, such as pain-relieving, fever-reducing, decongestant and/or cooling.
- Anti-inflammatories are available in the form of ointments, creams and gels, tablets and capsules, solutions and plasters. Which form is best for you depends primarily on the type and extent of your inflammation.
The Best Anti-inflammatory drugs: Our Picks
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying anti-inflammatory drugs
What are anti-inflammatory medicines?
There are a variety of anti-inflammatory medications with different active ingredients and active ingredient compositions that are intended for either internal or external use. Which one is used depends on where the inflammation is, how severe it is and what symptoms need to be relieved.
Who are anti-inflammatory medicines for?
By the way, we speak of inflammation when a pathogen, a foreign body or other influences such as constant stress irritate or damage our tissues or organs and our body's own immune system intervenes to counteract the harmful stimulus. As a result, we typically experience symptoms such as redness of the skin, swelling, pain, increased sensation of warmth and/or impaired function of physical abilities as well as processes. Symptoms may occur in isolation or in combination. In some cases, inflammations even behave completely inconspicuously, without any complaints becoming apparent.
Based on the course and spread of an inflammation, a rough distinction can be made between acute and chronic as well as local and generalised inflammation.
Acute inflammation is an inflammation that starts suddenly and usually subsides after a short time. If you want to learn more about this type of inflammation, you might find this video interesting:
In contrast to "acute" and "chronic", the terms "local" and "generalised" describe the location of inflammation: localised inflammation is confined to one part of the body, while generalised inflammation affects the whole body.
If you show the signs described above, it is advisable to consult a doctor or pharmacist to discuss whether inflammation is actually present and whether it is necessary to take anti-inflammatory medication.
How do anti-inflammatory drugs work?
At the centre of the steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the glucocorticoids (alternative spelling: glucocorticoids). These are steroid hormones that occur naturally in our bodies, but can also be produced synthetically for medicinal purposes. They have an anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive, growth-inhibiting and vasoconstrictor effect (1).
The anti-inflammatory effect comes about as follows: the glucocorticoids bind to special glucocorticoid receptors within the cells and form a complex with them that prevents the production of proteins that promote inflammatory processes in the body (2). In addition, they activate anti-inflammatory proteins that block certain enzymes responsible for the production of pro-inflammatory substances (2). Accordingly, these anti-inflammatory effects are based on the principle of transrepression and expression of the body's own messenger substances, so-called mediators (1).
In the case of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, COX inhibitors are the main players, which have an anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and analgesic effect (3).
In contrast to steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do not affect all phases of inflammation, but only some: As the name implies, COX inhibitors inhibit the enzyme cyclooxygenase (abbreviated: COX) in our organism, which initiates the production of inflammatory mediators from the class of prostaglandins (3). Traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs aim to block both forms of the enzyme, while newer ones aim to inhibit only cyclooxygenase-2 (abbreviated: COX-2).
To help you understand which drugs belong to which type of anti-inflammatory drug and what the specific anti-inflammatory drugs are used for, we have created the following table:
|Group of active substances||Examples of active substances||Examples of use|
|Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs||betamethasone, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, paramethasone, prednisolone||
|Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs||acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, indometacin, phenylbutazone, meloxicam, piroxicam, tenoxicam, celecoxib, etoricoxib, parecoxib||
You should ask your doctor or pharmacist which drug is best for your circumstances.
What are the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs?
In the case of steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, these can include the following:
- Increased risk of infection (4)
- Non-responsiveness and resistance (5)
- increased risk of thrombosis (6)
- Impaired memory and attention deficits (7)
- Weakening and reduction of muscle mass and its recovery (8)
- Immunodeficiency (9)
- Cushing's syndrome (10)
If you use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, these side effects are possible:
- Nausea, indigestion, diarrhoea (11)
- increased risk of heart attack and promotion of heart failure (12, 13)
- increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and perforation (13)
- Damage to kidney function (14)
- Lesions of the small and large intestine (14)
- Impairment of bone healing (15)
Whether and which side effects occur depends on various factors, such as the dosage, the form of administration, the method and duration of use and your own physical conditions. It is also important to pay attention to which other medications you are taking, as interactions can occur. For this reason, we recommend that you talk to a doctor or pharmacist and read the package leaflet before buying any medicine.
What are the alternatives to anti-inflammatory drugs?
|Turmeric||Turmeric is a root plant whose processed rhizome is popularly used as a spice in cooking. The colouring agent curcumin contained in the plant has an anti-inflammatory effect. When taken, it lowers the inflammation levels in the blood and is therefore well suited for the treatment of pain caused by inflammation. You can take the curcumin either in the form of capsules or by means of the turmeric spice.|
|Clove||Cloves are a type of plant that was originally native to the Moluccas (Spice Islands). They are commonly used in the kitchen as a spice in small doses. Their ingredient eugenol has a germicidal effect and can restrict the formation of tissue hormones, which are partly responsible for the emergence of inflammation in our body. The ingredient can be consumed, for example, in spice mixtures and clove oil.|
|Omega-3 fatty acids||Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential - or in other words vital - for our body. Because our body cannot produce them itself, we depend on getting them from food or supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids counteract inflammation by curbing the formation of pro-inflammatory tissue hormones. They are found in foods such as fish or flaxseed and can be purchased as dietary supplements in the form of capsules or oil.|
Sources (16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
Decision: What types of anti-inflammatory medicines are there and which one is right for me?
In case you want to buy an anti-inflammatory medicine, you have the choice between four types of products:
- Anti-inflammatory ointments, creams and gels
- Anti-inflammatory tablets and capsules
- Anti-inflammatory solution
- Anti-inflammatory plaster
Each of the product types mentioned here has certain advantages and disadvantages, depending on the active ingredient and the effect. Depending on your personal situation and individual needs, a different type may be suitable for you. To help you decide which product is best for you, we have summarised the advantages and disadvantages of each product type in the following sections.
What are the characteristics of anti-inflammatory ointments, creams and gels and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
Anti-inflammatory ointments, creams and gels are preparations of different consistencies that you can apply externally to small or large areas of your body to reduce the symptoms of inflammation in certain areas. The active ingredients penetrate the skin to the site of the problem and usually have an analgesic, cooling and/or decongestant effect.
Ointments, creams and gels are best suited for the inflammation-related therapy of joints, muscles, ligaments as well as tendons. As they are applied locally, they cause fewer side effects and interactions than medicines affecting the whole organism.
One disadvantage of these products, however, is that they cannot be used for deep-seated, internal treatment. Instead, you have to apply them externally to your body and rub them in, which may be laborious depending on the size of the affected area. You should be careful not to get the medicines on open wounds and mucous membranes, as this can lead to additional inflammation.
What are anti-inflammatory tablets and capsules and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
Anti-inflammatory tablets and capsules are solid, portioned medicines that you simply take orally. Their active ingredients are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and then distributed in the bloodstream. Accordingly, these medicines are intended for internal, systemic use.
Due to the portioned form and the predefined amount of active ingredients, an exact dosage of the tablets and capsules is possible. Another positive aspect is that they are easy to store and can be used for a long time because of their shelf life.
What speaks against anti-inflammatory tablets and capsules, however, is that they can cause side effects and interactions more often than locally applied medicines. In addition, their helpful effect is delayed due to the long dispersal route and you usually have to be meticulous about taking them regularly and at certain times so that they can work properly.
What makes an anti-inflammatory solution and what are its advantages and disadvantages?
An anti-inflammatory solution is a liquid in which active ingredients are dissolved and which you can easily drink. Accordingly, it is designed for internal use. After ingestion, the active ingredients are absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and then enter the bloodstream via a small diversions.
Since the active ingredients are present in liquid form in a solution, unlike in tablets and capsules, our body can absorb them more easily and the anti-inflammatory effect occurs more quickly. Another attractive feature of a solution is that you can dose it individually and adjust it to your needs.
On the other hand, solutions are more likely to have side effects and interactions than topical medicines, and you need to take them regularly - preferably at the same times - for their full effect to be felt. Furthermore, some people find the taste of certain solutions unpleasant.
What is an anti-inflammatory patch and what are its advantages and disadvantages?
An anti-inflammatory patch is an adhesive preparation that contains active ingredients in the form of a strip that you can simply apply to a specific part of your body. It thus helps with local inflammations from the outside.
Because they are applied locally, they cause fewer side effects and interactions than medicines that affect the whole organism.
It is possible to leave such patches on the skin for several days so that the active ingredients can be released constantly over a longer period of time. Because you use this form of medicine locally, there are usually fewer side effects and interactions than with systemic medicines.
On the other hand, with anti-inflammatory patches it is difficult to adjust the amount of active ingredient, which can lead to problems, especially when the disease changes quickly. If you want to continue to treat one area of the body, you will either have to buy a larger patch or use other forms of medicine. It can also be annoying if the patch keeps falling off.
Buying criteria: These are some of the factors you can use to compare and evaluate anti-inflammatory medicines
In the following sections, we will show you which aspects you can use to decide on a particular anti-inflammatory medicine.
The criteria you can use to compare different products are:
Below we explain what to look for in each criterion.
Area of application
When considering your purchase, you should always take into account the inflamed area for which you need the medication.
Some medicines are only intended for external use, while others can only be used internally. Furthermore, there are anti-inflammatory medicines that are suitable for almost the entire body, whereas others focus on relieving symptoms in one or more specific areas of the body.
The following table should give you a better idea of which areas can be affected:
|Scope||examples of inflammation|
|Skin||acne, eczema, sunburn|
|Mucous membranes||oralmucositis, gingivitis|
|Sensory organs and glandular tissues||eye inflammation|
|Upper and lower respiratory tract||pneumonia, tonsillitis, sinusitis|
|Musculoskeletalsystem||Joint inflammation, muscle inflammation, tendonitis, bone inflammation, inflammatory rheumatic diseases|
|Internal organs||heart muscle inflammation, liver inflammation, kidney inflammation, inflammation of the sexual organs|
|Digestive system||inflammation of the stomach lining, chronic inflammatory bowel diseases|
|Nerves||carpal tunnel syndrome|
Many parts of our body have special conditions for which some forms of administration and active substances are more suitable than others because they work better there and/or can cause less additional damage.
As we have already shown in the decision section of this topic page, anti-inflammatory medicines come in different forms. The best known are ointments, creams and gels, tablets and capsules, solutions and patches.
Which form is best for you depends, among other things, on the area of application and the desired type of effect. Tablets, capsules and solutions are mainly for internal, systemic treatment, while ointments, creams, gels and plasters are more for external, local treatment of inflammation.
Mode of action
Another criterion you should consider when making your purchase decision is the desired effect of your anti-inflammatory medication. You can basically distinguish between the following effects:
- promotes wound healing
Anti-inflammatory drugs usually have several effects at the same time, whereby the inhibition of inflammation is sometimes more, sometimes less important. Which effect your medicine should ultimately achieve can usually be determined by the symptoms.
The way an anti-inflammatory medicine works is based on what ingredients it is made up of. The right ingredients will suit the nature and extent of your inflammation, as well as your general physical conditions, and should be compatible with other medications you are taking.
Once you have decided on a medicine with certain ingredients, you should also consider the right dosage and possible side effects. It is best to discuss this with a doctor or pharmacist before taking the medicine to avoid any undesirable consequences.
Facts worth knowing about anti-inflammatory drugs
How long can I take anti-inflammatory medicines?
How long you can take an anti-inflammatory medicine depends on a number of factors, such as your inflammation, the ingredients and the dosage. To be sure, you should consult a doctor or pharmacist and read the package leaflet.
In general, however, it can be said that prolonged use is not advisable, as otherwise unpleasant side effects may become apparent. In addition, if you take certain substances for too long, your body may become accustomed to them, so that at some point you will need a higher dose to achieve the same effect as before. Here, too, you should find out in advance whether this applies to your medicine.
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