Could Extra Virgin Olive Oil Be The New Ibuprofen?
If you experience joint pain and muscle stiffness then you’re probably familiar with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen. Often taken to relieve the pain and symptoms caused by inflammation, joint pain, and muscle stiffness. Though they provide immediate relief, there are unwanted side effects that can deteriorate your health even more.
Extra virgin olive oil might be the right choice for you!
It is consumed largely as part of the Mediterranean diet. It’s rich in antioxidants that protect against oxidative damage. They’re also rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients that are said to have the same beneficial effects as ibuprofen (1). Dr. Beauchamp discovered that olive oil has the same stinging sensation in the back of the throat the same way ibuprofen does. This poses the question of whether olive oil could act as an alternative to ibuprofen. In his research, he isolated a compound from olive oil called oleocanthal, which merely translated into “olive-sting-aldehyde”. Similar to ibuprofen, oleocanthal works as an inhibitor that limits an Cyclooxygenase, which is also called COX enzymes, that produces prostaglandins to promote inflammation and pain. When COX enzymes are inhibited, pain and inflammation will be lessened (1,2).
Another study reported, “Based on average consumption of extra-virgin olive oil in the traditional Mediterranean diet, a person on that diet would consume a daily anti-inflammatory dose roughly equivalent to that of a baby aspirin” (2).
So, can I replace my NSAIDs medications with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)?
Sadly, no, however, it is true that olive oil can reduce pain as ibuprofen does, but it’s recommended to take extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) as supplementation to NSAIDs rather than completely replacing your pain medications. Researchers say that patients with rheumatic arthritis (RA) were able to reduce the amount of ibuprofen they were taking while they were taking olive oil capsule supplements every day for 6 months (3). Not only that, but adequate intake of iron, calcium, vitamins D and B, and boosting intake of antioxidants as well as omega-3 fatty acids can also greatly alleviate joint pains. If you are bothered by stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints, maybe it’s time to try the Mediterranean diet. Or maybe start by taking 2-3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) daily as recommended by the Arthritis Foundation.
Written by Nitchamon Chuajedton
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.