Herbal Supplements in Recovery: a Reader Question Answered

Question:

Hi Brandi,

I’m a pickleball player and having issues with tennis elbow. My physical therapist suggested I order some supplements to help the healing process while we work on it together. He suggested Curcumin.

Do you have any trusted brands I should buy? Or maybe foods that I should add to my diet?
Thanks,
Dustin
 
Answer:

Thanks for your question, Dustin! I have some personal experience here because I recently recovered from tennis elbow myself. 

For reducing inflammation, I often recommend curcumin or the baby-sister food-form of it, ground turmeric spice, which can be found in your local grocery store.  I’ll get to my supplement recommendation soon, but since I’m a foodie first, here’s a smoothie recipe you can throw into your blender. Try adding this to your morning routine:

1 cup frozen pineapple 

¾ cup milk or milk substitute of choice (coconut, soy, almond beverage)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Tart cherry juice is something I also recommend. Its anti-inflammatory properties have also been well documented in research. I keep this in my refrigerator, and recommend 4-8oz daily to speed recovery from sore muscles and other inflammation.

For more cherry power (and because they’re delicious!), I sprinkle dried tart cherries into my oatmeal every morning. The best price I’ve found for these is the Kirkland brand at Costco.

Food is a good bet because it’s FDA regulated. Supplements are not, although smart consumers are finding ways to make sure their supplements are safe and pure by choosing products monitored by an independent third party like USP or NSF.  Third parties are expensive, so brands that carry these safety labels are more expensive. Why is this necessary? At this point in time, most supplement companies save money by outsourcing their ingredients from other countries, where standards don’t match ours. As a result, supplements/herbals/botanicals may be contaminated, may lack potency, or may not even be what the label claims.

That said, I do think good, scientifically-proven supplements are useful. Curcumin is the active, extracted ingredient in the whole spice turmeric; turmeric has only a fraction of the potency of the bottled supplement curcumin, aka turmeric extract. Curcumin has been shown to work as an anti-inflammatory in many diseases and ailments. Ask your doctor first if you’re taking any medications, as there are interactions with some meds including blood thinners. Here’s a USP-screened curcumin supplement that includes peperine, which increases absorption.

Regarding physical recovery from the elbow, the stretches my PT showed me were very beneficial and relieved the pain for me in the short term. To prevent it from happening again, I continue stretching, use a lighter paddle with a smaller grip, and now focus on strengthening my forearm. PTs are priceless!

Hope this is helpful! 

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