What Are the Most Common Alternatives to Corticosteroids?

Witch hazel can be used to treat inflammatory conditions.
Ibuprofen may be used as a corticosteroid alternative.
Warm compresses can be used to help ease the pain and soothe inflammation.
Article Details
  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 03 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Corticosteroids are synthetic forms of a naturally occurring hormone known as cortisol and are used to treat pain and inflammation. Potential side effects of these drugs, such as high blood pressure, weight gain, and diabetes, lead many people to consider alternatives to corticosteroids. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen are frequently used as substitutes for corticosteroids. Herbal supplements such as calendula, dong quai, and witch hazel may be used in the place of corticosteroids in many cases. Physical therapy, cold compresses, or heat therapy may also be used instead of corticosteroids.

Non-prescription pain medications may be used as short-term alternatives to corticosteroids in some situations. Medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen contain anti-inflammatory properties and may be particularly useful for those with conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Excessive or prolonged use of these drugs may lead to kidney damage or circulatory system disorders. Acetaminophen is easier on the kidneys but may cause liver damage when used for extended periods of time.

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Calendula and witch hazel may be used as alternatives to corticosteroids when topical medications are needed. Witch hazel can be used full strength to treat inflammatory conditions such as eczema and hemorrhoids, while calendula is often added to skin creams and may be used to treat inflammation caused by insect bites, bee stings, or other skin disorders. While witch hazel is considered safe for most people, minor skin irritation may occur at the application site. Calendula side effects are rare but may include allergic reactions among those sensitive to this herb.

Dong quai is among the most popular oral alternatives to corticosteroids. This supplement is thought to reduce inflammation in the blood and digestive tract and may be used to treat circulatory disorders or inflammatory bowel disease. Increased sensitivity to the sun or hormonal fluctuations may occur when taking dong quai, especially in high doses. Blood clotting disorders have also been reported among some people who use this herbal remedy.

Ice packs or warm compresses may be used to treat pain and inflammation in some cases, depending on instructions given by the supervising physician. Physical therapy may also be recommended so that an individualized exercise program can be developed based on specific needs. While alternatives to corticosteroids can be beneficial for many people, these methods of treatment should not be used as substitutes for proper medical care. A doctor or other health care professional should be consulted before beginning any new treatment program.

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Rotergirl
Post 2

I'm diabetic so I have to be super careful about taking steroids. They run my blood sugar into the stratosphere. I don't know why they have that effect, but they do.

The bad part about that is I feel great when I'm taking them. My hair and skin just glow when I'm on prednisone. Isn't that the way it goes?

I'm glad I can take Naproxen. It works very, very well for me, and is my pain reliever of choice for just about everything. I'm glad it's available over the counter now.

Pippinwhite
Post 1

My pastor's wife developed asthma as an adult, and she's on steroids. She's tried to come off them any number of times, without luck. She has gained a lot of weight because of them, and also has had skin problems.

She takes ibuprofen whenever she can, but that's tough on her stomach too, so she has to be really careful. She said she's glad steroids exist, because they help her breathe, but she wishes there were other alternatives that worked as well. So far, none have for her. She's hopeful some non-steroidal, effective asthma medications will come on the market in the near future.

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