Millions today are in pain- if you’re one of them, you can know that you don’t have to reach for over-the -counter pain killers, or even the heavy pharmaceutical hitters prescribed by your doctor- there are literally hundreds of natural pain killers waiting for you in the abundance of nature. You can count on plants and herbs to alleviate everything from arthritis pain, to headaches, to burns – read on to find out more.
NOTE: This article is NOT a substitute for sound medical advice. Please consult your Primary Care Provider for all things health/wellness related.
Among the many pharmaceutical pain medications, while effective and useful at times, can be a case of “the cure being worse than the disease”, given the myriad of side effects, there is another solution to your pain problem. After all, people from time immemorial have found the healing power of herbs and spices. Literally, if you have meds that work great, chances are you will be able to find a plant-based/herbal counterpart to it.
It is well-known that meds don’t always cure, curb or blunt pain. This is an ongoing problem that the medical community wishes it could have solved. The modern Western diet comprised of highly refined foods, sugars, and refined carbohydrates, while devoid of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc., is going to block the ability of other non-pharmaceutical remedies to halt pain. Before you do anything else though, you have to quit the junk food that triggers the body’s pain system.
Once you’ve done that, you can turn to the many herbs that truly deliver. There are also over 60 different essential oils for pain that have analgesic properties. Analgesic means that a substance has shown to relieve or reduce pain. So many plants have pain-relieving properties.
This short list has some outstanding choices:
1., 2., and 3. Ginger, Turmeric, & Holy Basil – This set of herbs forms a sort of trinity in Ayurvedic medicine. All of them have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric (a curry ingredient) contains curcumins which ease inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, according to the Methodist Research Institute in Indianapolis. “Each herb has its own scientific database of evidence,” says James Dillard, MD, author of The Chronic Pain Solution.
- Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) – This ominous sounding herb is a godsend for treating numerous health conditions, among them are liver problems and heart burn. It also has anti-inflammatory effects and can reduce pain from arthritis, headaches, and low back discomfort. The University of Maryland Medical Center has published several studies that had great success treating Osteoarthritis with Devil’s Claw.
- Birch Leaf (Betula Lenta) – The leaves from the Birch tree act much like cortisone, a prescription drug used to treat endocrine disorders, arthritis, lupus, skin disease, autoimmune disorders, and more. A main chemical compound found in Birch leaves is methyl salicylate, similar to salicylic acid used in aspirin. It is anti-spasmodic, analgesic, astringent, antifungal, diuretic, detoxifying, reduces oxidative damage to skin (stopping wrinkles), and enhances circulation. It also promotes enzymatic secretions in the body. It is truly one of the first powerful pain-relievers ever used.
- Wintergreen Essential Oil – Also among natural pain relievers, Wintergreen Essential Oil contains 85-99% of methyl salicylate, the same component of aspirin.
- White Willow Bark (Salix alba) – The active ingredient in white willow is salicin, which the body converts into salicylic acid. This tree’s covering lowers the body’s levels of prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds that can cause aches, pain, and inflammation. What’s more, white willow bark doesn’t upset the stomach or cause internal bleeding like many over-the-counter aspirins. Turn to this herb for relief from menstrual cramps, muscle pains, arthritis, or after knee or hip surgery as it promotes blood flow and reduces swelling.
- Capsaicin (Capsicum) – Found in hot chile peppers, this natural remedy does wonders for pain. Capsaicin, the active pain-reducing ingredient, temporarily desensitizes nerve receptors called C-fibers which cause the pain response. Capsaicin also diminishes soreness for 3 to 5 weeks while the C-fibers regain sensation. A single 60-min application in patients with neuropathic pain produced effective pain relief for up to 12 weeks. Patients at the New England Center for Headache decreased their migraine and cluster headache intensity by applying capsaicin cream to their nasal passages.
- Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) – GLA can be found in numerous seed oils. According to University of Maryland, people who consume these essential fatty acids are able to reduce nerve pain associated with diabetic conditions.
- Cherries – Due to the presence of compounds called anthocyanins—the same phytonutrients that give cherries their rich ruby hue – you can count on cherries to tamp down pain. Muraleedharan Nair, PhD, says, “They block inflammation and they inhibit pain enzymes, just like aspirin, naproxen, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories.” Cherries are said to have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food, making them great for remedying issues such as arthritis.
- Aquamin – Derived from red seaweed, aquamin is a powerful pain reducer, too. In a study published in Nutrition Journal, of 70 volunteers, Aquamin users reduced arthritis pain by 20% in a month and had less stiffness than patients taking a placebo. Helping to diminish inflammation and helps to build bone, aquamin is rich in both calcium and magnesium, too.
- Arnica – An excellent herbal rub to use after intense sports, an acute injury, or even post surgery, arnica is a well-known natural pain killer among athletes and yogis. It is derived from a European flower, and has anti-inflammatory properties, although the true nature of its healing action is still unknown.
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita) – Peppermint is most often used as a natural remedy for toothaches, discomfort from bloating and gas, joint conditions, skin irritations, headaches and muscle pain.
- Boswellia – This herb is sourced from the frankincense tree. Its resin is used to thwart chemical reactions that cause inflammation, and thus pain. Ayurvedic scientists have used Boswellia for centuries to treat arthritic conditions, as well as inflammatory bowel disease.
- Bromelain – This natural pain-reducer comes from the enzymes present in pineapple stems. Research shows that it reduces levels of prostaglandins, which are hormones that induce inflammation. Bromelain may benefit people with arthritis and conditions marked by musculoskeletal tension (like TMJ syndrome), in addition to those suffering trauma-related inflammation. The enzyme also promotes healing in muscles and connective tissues.
- Cranberry Juice – Ulceritis giving you the blues? Ulcers usually result from a pathogen called H. pylori which attacks the lining of the stomach and small intestines, but cranberry juice can kill it – reducing pain. Instead of turning to antibiotics, destroy the bacteria causing your ulcers and urinary tract infections with cranberries.
As stated before, there are hundreds more, but this short list is a good start.
In closing, it is good to always seek alternative means of help. In our day and age, a more holistic approach can work wonders. This is a great way to really find out what works with your body and what doesn’t. As usual, knowledge is one of the “master keys” in winning- not just in our personal fitness goals, but in life in general. Knowledge is one of the “must haves” to having success in life. Knowledge is one of the essential basics. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN.
Dillard, James M.D. “The Chronic Pain Solution”. Penguin/Random House, 2003.