Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. Whether it’s acute or chronic, many of us deal with pain on a daily basis. Luckily, pharmaceutical drugs don’t have to be your only option for pain relief.
There are many natural ways to control pain, such as exercise and eating well. You can also take advantage of a variety of natural pain remedies, most of which have been used for thousands of years. The natural remedies given below are all supported by science as safe and effective remedies for pain.
Before starting a new natural remedy, always speak to a doctor or trained herbalist to make sure it’s right for you, particularly if you take pharmaceutical drugs.
1. BAY LEAVES
You’ve likely used bay leaves for cooking, but they’re also known for their pain-fighting ability. Bay leaves contain natural compounds, such as eugenol and myrcene, that are shown to effectively reduce pain. An Iranian study even found that bay leaf essential oil was as effective as morphine for pain control.
Bay leaves make an excellent tea that can help relieve pain. Bay leaf essential oil can be used topically for pain, such as applying to your forehead for a headache. You can also prepare a poultice to apply to a painful area. Inhaling bay leaf oil or putting it in a diffuser can also help.
Related: 9 Uses for Bay Laurel
Resin taken from the bark of the Boswellia serrata tree is shown to have strong anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving compounds. A 2015 scientific review found that boswellia extracts helped reduce pain in those with osteoarthritis. Boswellia may also be able to reduce cartilage loss, as well as relieve joint and muscle pain, bursitis and tendonitis.
Boswellia is sold as a supplement or mixed in formulations with other herbs. Boswellia may also be found in a cream or ointment for external application.
Capsaicin is the compound in hot chili peppers that make them spicy. Although it may not feel like it when you eat spicy food, capsaicin is able to block pain messages to your nerves when it’s put on your skin. This is why capsaicin skin creams and patches are the most common use of capsaicin. Research has shown they can be effective for back pain, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and muscle pain. And dabbing a bit of capsaicin cream inside your nostrils is proven to help relieve headache and migraine pain.
Although, perhaps not surprisingly, capsaicin creams can cause redness, burning or swelling in some people. If you try a capsaicin cream, start with a very small amount at first to see how your body reacts.
This tasty spice that you may know from gingerbread or pumpkin pie also has a host of medicinal uses, including combatting pain. The main active ingredient in cloves is eugenol. A British study found that a eugenol-based paste was more effective than chlorhexidine, a standard antiseptic gel, for reducing pain, inflammation and infection following a tooth extraction. Cloves are also shown to help relieve headaches and arthritic pain.
You can buy topical creams that contain clove oil, as well as tooth care products. Cloves are also available in supplements, tinctures and teas.
Cannabidiol, usually called CBD, is a derivative of the cannabis plant. It is completely non-psychoactive, which means it won’t make you high. CBD has been getting a lot of attention lately for a variety of health benefits, including pain control. Remedy Review recently conducted two different surveys of CBD users, one for adults over age 54, and another for adult women of any age. In both groups, they found that the main reason people try CBD is to relieve pain. And overall, 55 percent of respondents felt that CBD was effective for pain control.
Remedy Review also found that tinctures are the most common way people consume CBD. You can also get CBD capsules, smokable pens and sprays, as well as various edible products that contain CBD.
One of ginger’s traditional uses is to combat pain. The gingerols found in ginger are potent anti-inflammatory compounds, which research suggests is their key to reducing pain. In one study, researchers gave arthritic patients 5 grams of fresh ginger, or 1 teaspoon of dried ginger, in divided doses throughout the day for three months. With this small amount of daily ginger, the majority of the participants had significant improvements in pain, swelling and morning stiffness.
You can easily include fresh or dried ginger in your diet by adding it to stir fries, curries and other main dishes. Ginger tea or juice is another great way to get a daily dose of ginger. Also, a ginger poultice can be applied to a painful area for relief.
Related: How to Grow Your Own Ginger
Scientists believe most of turmeric’s health benefits come from its high curcumin content. One of curcumin’s proven abilities is helping to combat pain, such as muscle pain and post-surgical pain. In an Indian study, curcumin was shown to be more effective for relieving rheumatoid arthritis pain than standard drug treatment.
You can buy prepared turmeric and curcumin supplements. Fresh or dried turmeric is also easy to incorporate into many different dishes and include in your daily diet. The curcumin in turmeric can be difficult to digest, but research has shown that curcumin is much more easily absorbed when it’s eaten with black pepper and fats. So, add a dash of pepper and a dab of olive, coconut or other healthy oil in your meals to get the most pain-fighting action out of your turmeric.
8. WHITE WILLOW BARK
White willow bark, taken from the Salix alba tree, has been used to relieve headaches, back pain and other general body pains for over two thousand years in its native China and Europe. The active ingredient in white willow bark is salicin, the botanical compound that aspirin was derived from. Salicin is a potent anti-inflammatory that’s been shown to help relieve pain, particularly arthritis and low back pain.
White willow bark is available in a variety of supplements, powders or liquid extracts. White willow bark is also sometimes included in pain-relieving topical creams and ointments. In addition, you can buy the raw form of white willow bark chips or powder to use to make your own teas or tinctures.