20 of the Best Proven Natural Pain Killers
Chronic pain is an unfortunate condition that affects millions of people every year. It can be caused by a number of underlying issues, but is commonly the result of lifestyle choices, acute injuries or degenerative diseases.
As well as the obvious physical discomfort, chronic pain also brings with it a whole host of psychological side effects, including anxiety and depression.
Although there are many over the counter and prescription medications available to help manage chronic pain, and they can indeed be useful in some cases, more and more people are realising the potential negative consequences of using these drugs, and are instead in search of more natural alternatives to help keep their symptoms under control.
In this article, we’ll share with you some of the best natural remedies for chronic pain, so you can get back to normal and carry on with doing the things that you love.
20 of the Best Proven Natural Pain Killers
Ginger has long been used in many cultures across the world as a natural pain remedy and anti-inflammatory.
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A study published in the journal Arthritis compared ginger to commonly used anti-inflammatory medications cortisone and ibuprofen for the treatment of arthritis.
The results showed that the natural remedy stood up against the pharmaceutical medications.
The researchers concluded that ginger extract was as effective an anti-inflammatory agent as betamethasone.
Due to its anti-inflammatory benefits, some athletes choose to consume ginger after their workouts to improve recovery.
Aside from bringing down inflammation, as the guys at Care2 explain, ginger has also been proven useful in reducing symptoms of pain:
“Dr. Krishna C. Srivastava, a world-renowned researcher on the therapeutic effects of spices, at Odense University in Denmark, found that ginger is an effective and superior anti-pain remedy. In one study, Dr. Srivastava gave arthritic patients small amounts of ginger daily for three months. The majority of people had significant improvements in pain, swelling, and morning stiffness by eating ginger daily.”
Ginger goes well in many Indian and East Asian dishes, but can also be added to smoothies, juices and teas.
Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory and pain reliever which has been used for thousands of years in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine systems to promote health and ward off certain illnesses, including joint pains. It is often used in conjunction with ginger and other spices for an added boost.
Although the mechanism is not fully understood, it is believed that the compound curcumin is responsible for turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effectiveness. Aside from giving the spice its vibrant yellow colour, curcumin has been proven time and time again to be a powerful medicinal compound.
Like ginger, turmeric has been shown to be just as effect as over the counter medications in bringing down levels of inflammation.
Like the guys at Healthline explain:
"Turmeric is used for the treatment of many conditions, including indigestion, ulcers, stomach upset, psoriasis, and even cancer. Some people with osteoarthritis turn to turmeric as a natural pain reliever because it helps relieve inflammation."
Turmeric can be consumed fresh, in a powdered form, in teas and even in capsules.
Over at Time, Dr.Haig retails a fascinating story of how one of his elderly patients who took 8 turmeric capsules a day avoided all pain, even though he suffered from chronic arthritis in the hip (to the point where he had no cartilage left and bones were rubbing against bones).
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The Story is a powerful example of how effective the simple yellow spice can be!
Feverfew is an interesting plant that belongs to the daisy family. It has been used for many years to treat a variety of pain related issues.
As noted on the Herb Wisdom website:
“Used for the prevention of migraines & headaches, arthritis, fevers, muscle tension and pain, Feverfew is also used to lower blood pressure, lessen stomach irritation, stimulate the appetite and to improve digestion and kidney function. It has been indicated for colitis, dizziness, tinnitus and menstrual problems.”
Out of all the conditions that feverfew is beneficial for, it has shown to be particularly useful where migraines are concerned.
A survey of 270 people with migraines in the UK found that more than 70% of them felt much better after taking an average of 2 to 3 fresh feverfew leaves daily.
As well as being available fresh, there are an increasing number of feverfew supplements available in health food stores.
Basil is an herb commonly used in Italian dishes. As well as providing an aromatic flavour, basil has numerous healing properties, similar to those of marijuana.
The Underground Health Reporter explains:
“Western scientists have caught on to the herb’s natural anti-inflammatory properties. Chemically speaking, basil (in numerous tested varieties) contains compounds similar to those found in cannabis (also known as marijuana) and oregano.”
Much like many of the natural foods and herbs already mentioned, basil has been shown to be as strong as many traditional anti-inflammatory medications when it comes to bringing down inflammation levels and the pain associated with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Research has shown that when taken orally, concentrated basil extracts can reduce joint swelling by up to 73 per cent within 24 hours. This makes it of particular interest to sports people and those suffering with arthritis.
5. Manuka Honey
Manuka Honey is a product of New Zealand, produced when bees pollinate the native Manuka plant.
In the nineteenth century it was discovered that aside from its great taste, Manuka honey has natural antibacterial properties. It has also shown promising results when it comes to bringing down levels of inflammation and pain.
Over on the aptly named Benefits of Honey site, they explain that:
“[Manuka honey] is also gaining popularity in treating arthritis pain due to its natural anti-inflammatory properties and healing power. It reduces joint inflammation and provides a natural form of pain relief.”
There are plenty of real world examples to back that claim up. Take yoga instructor and popular blog Candace, who writes at her site Yoga By Candace.
After a long battle with Lyme’s Disease and resultant arthritis, Candace decided to give Manuka honey a try, taking two teaspoons in the morning with a little cinnamon on top. Her results were, well, astounding.
As she explains over on her blog:
“I no longer have to take the stairs one by one - I can bounce down like a kid because my knees feel perfect. My hands do not hurt the way they did a week prior (though they do still click the tiniest bit in the morning). Overall, the morning pain, on a scale of 1-10, has come down from about a 9 to a 3, and my days are virtually pain-free.”
So if you’re suffering from inflammation and joint pain of any kind, it may be worth giving a few teaspoons of Manuka honey a try.
Cloves are derived from the buds of the Syzygium Aromaticum tree, native to Indonesia. They are used in a variety of Asian, African and Middle Eastern dishes to flavour marinades, curries and teas.
As well as being useful in treating fungal infections, cloves have also been used to combat the common cold.
In addition, cloves have shown promising results with regards to bringing down pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, headaches, and even toothache.
As the guys at Everyday Roots explain:
“Cloves make an incredible (and inexpensive) home remedy for toothaches. Long before we had the dental care we have today, dentists used cloves to help pain because they contain eugenol, a powerful anaesthetic and antiseptic that stops pain in its tracks and wipes out germs.”
The active ingredient eugenol is commonly used in over-the-counter pain rubs because of it’s natural pain relieving properties.
Healthline points out that rubbing a small amount of clove oil on your gums may temporarily ease toothache pain until you can get to a dentist. Just be careful with your dosage, as too much undiluted clove oil may hurt your gums.
7. Valerian Root
Valerian Root is often referred to as “nature's tranquilizer”. It has been used for hundreds of years to help relieve the symptoms of a number of unwanted inflammatory conditions.
Doctor Oz explains how the root is often used to regulate the nervous system and relieve insomnia, tension, irritability, stress, and anxiety.
Not only that, valerian also has muscle relaxing properties, so can be a great remedy for pain associated with tight muscles, back injuries, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraines. Restlessness.
Valerian can also be used as a way to wean people off of traditional pain reliving medications. People who are on benzodiazepines for example can be eased off by taking valerian as an alternative.
8. Birch Leaf
The leaves of the common Birch tree act in a similar way to prescription drugs such has cortisone, helping to bring down inflammation. For that reason it is often used as a natural way to treat arthritis, autoimmune diseases and acute injuries.
One of the main chemical compounds found in birch leaves is something called methyl salicylate, which is similar to the salicylic acid found in aspirin.
The leaves can be consumed in supplement form, or used in a herbal tea.
9. Chilli Peppers
Hot chilli peppers are used to add spice to many Indian, African and East Asian dishes. They are of particular interest to us because of their capsaicin content, the compound that causes the burning sensation in your mouth. For most animals, capsaicin acts as an irritant and deterrent, but it seems that in humans it may have some benefits.
Over on his popular site, Dr.Mercola explains:
“Capsaicin helps alleviate pain in part by depleting your body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that is involved in transmitting pain signals to your brain. It also works by de-sensitizing sensory receptors in your skin.”
You can obtain capsaicin simply by eating dishes that contain chillies, or you can use a topical cream containing capsaicin extract.
Cherries, particularly the tart variety, are some of the most powerful antioxidant foods known to man. In fact, they have one of the highest recorded ORAC scores, a measure of a foods antioxidant potential. Cherries contain compounds called anthocyanins, which are pigments that give the cherries their deep purple colour. These same anthocyanins at as powerful antioxidants, reducing the free radical damage done to cells, slowing down the ageing process, battling inflammation and you guessed it - numbing pain.
In an article over on the Natural Society website, Muraleedharan Nair, PhD, says, “They block inflammation and they inhibit pain enzymes, just like aspirin, naproxen, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories.”
Cherries are a versatile fruit that can be eaten fresh, blended in smoothies, juiced or even consumed in a capsule form.
Grapes are classed as one of the World’s Healthiest foods, and have been linked to a whole range of health benefits, including reduced blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, and enhanced nitric oxide production.
Red grapes are also great pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. They’re of particular interest because of the compound resveratrol, which has been shown to bring down inflammation and increase the expression of genes related to longevity.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of resveratrol mean it is a great natural treatment for a number of inflammatory conditions, particularly back pain. As the guys over at Spine Health point out, “It's possible that foods high in resveratrol will slow down disc degradation. Further studies need to be done, but there's no doubt filling up on these fruits will boost your health.”
Peppermint is one of the oldest known medicinal plants utilised by human beings. A hybrid of watermint and spearmint, peppermint has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of ailments.
As the guys at the Natural Society point out:
“Peppermint is most often used as a natural remedy for toothaches, discomfort from bloating and gas, joint conditions, skin irritations, headaches and muscle pain.”
Peppermint can be taken orally in supplement form, and is commonly made into oil to apply to areas that are inflamed to reduce swelling and pain.
13. Devil’s Claw
Devil’s Claw is an herb native to Africa. It gets its name because of the hooks that cover the fruits of the plant and attach themselves to animals as a way to spread the seed. The roots of the plant have a wide range of medicinal uses, including the reduction of pain and inflammation. As stated on the University of Maryland Medical Centre site:
“Historically, devil's claw has been used to treat pain, liver and kidney problems, fever, and malaria. It has also been used in ointments applied to the skin to heal sores, boils, and other skin problems.”
In addition, devil’s claw is a potent anti-inflammatory. The guys at Medicine Hunter explain why:
“Devil’s claw root contains a group of compounds called the iridoid glucosides, which include harpagoside, and are anti-inflammatory. The root contains several other anti-inflammatory compounds as well. Other agents in devil’s claw root, including flavonoids and phytosterols, are antioxidant, choleretic (stimulate bile production) and antispasmodic.”
Moving away from the dietary options, we’ll now take a look at how other techniques and lifestyle factors can help to keep chronic pain at bay, starting with exercise and movement.
The natural state of the human body is one that contains plenty of low level movement. If we look from an evolutionary perspective at how we would have behaved in our natural environment, we would have been constantly moving in search of food and water.
Modern life however requires very little movement. You only have to turn the tap for instant water, and you can order your groceries online to be delivered straight to your door.
Our movement diet is not varied and nutritious – we’re spending more and more time completely static, and we’re suffering the consequences.
There are countless studies highlighting the dangers of sitting for long periods of times. As your body adapts to meet the demands of your environment, it distorts itself into an unnatural posture, after leading to back and joint problems, and resulting chronic pain.
Movement is so often the answer. By keeping mobile you can avoid a lot of the posture issues that lead to chronic pain. Exercise also releases feel good endorphins that have been shown to be beneficial.
As the guys at Medicine Net explain:
"Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce out perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine. In contrast to the opiate drugs, however, activation of the opiate receptors by the body's endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence."
So do your best to move whenever you can. That might mean a little stretching routine every morning, taking the stairs instead of walking, training in the gym, or all of the above.
15. Getting Outdoors
There are many benefits to getting outside in the fresh air. Not only does a nice walk release plenty of those feel good endorphins mentioned above, by being outside you’re exposing yourself to a healthy dose of Vitamin D.
Although Vitamin D is more well known for helping to improve bones density and supporting a healthy skeletal system, research shows that it may also help to reduce the occurrence of chronic pain.
Scientists have concluded that:
“The supplement may not be a cure for the pain, but the study in the SJPHC demonstrates that low levels of vitamin D are common in this group of patients. The treatment is cheap, relatively safe, and there is emerging evidence that vitamin D supplementation has positive effects on public health.”
16. Heat and Ice
The use of heat and cold therapy is one of the more well known and widely used natural pain relievers. There is however, some confusion as to which method to use at what time. Thankfully, the guys the The Arthritis Foundation have cleared things up”
“Heat treatments, such as heat pads or warm baths, tend to work best for soothing stiff joints and tired muscles. Heat is especially good for getting your body limber and ready for exercise or activity. Cold is best for acute pain, numbing painful areas and decreasing inflammation and swelling.”
So there you have it – heat for soothing muscles and prepping your body for exercise, and cold for acute pain and inflammation.
Acupuncture has gown in popularity in recent years in the West. Many people are now realising that Western medicine is not the only answer, and are more open to seeking alternative treatments.
According to the Web MD site, it can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including addiction, stroke, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, infertility, pregnancy problems, dental pain, and side effects from cancer treatment.
Although the exact mechanism is not quite clear, acupuncture is thought to stimulate the nervous system, which triggers the release of messenger molecules that can influence pain receptors and bring down inflammation.
18. TENS Units
TENS units are devices that send an electrical current at a specific frequency through the body via stick on pads.
According to the NHS:
“The electrical impulses can block or reduce the pain signals going to the spinal cord and brain, which can help reduce or relieve pain or muscle spasm. The electric currents can also stimulate the production of endorphins, which are the body's natural painkillers.”
TENS units are often used by athletes suffering from joint inflammation or acute injuries, but they can also be used to treat arthritis, period pain, back pain, and any chronic joint pain.
Meditation is an ancient technique that involves sitting or kneeling in a quiet place and focussing your attention inwards, typically on the breath.
Our minds are typically filled with thoughts and worries. Meditation is an effective way to improve or relationship with these thoughts, so that they don’t control our lives.
Similarly with pain and inflammation. Whilst meditation may not get rid of pain completely, it can improve the way you deal with it. The Arthritis Foundation point out:
“It’s important to note that arthritis pain will always be there. With mindfulness/meditation, as with any alternative therapy, it’s the perception of pain and the management of pain that makes the difference… The ability to deal with thoughts around pain is the important step to reduce and manage pain.”
If you’re not sure where to start out, the guys at Health Room have put together some of the best free guided meditations, to give you a helping hand. Some are even specifically meant for helping people deal with chronic pain, so it may be worth checking them out.
Sleep is another important part of the health puzzle, one that is often neglected. Without sleep, it is harder to concentrate on everyday tastes, and it is much easier to focus on any underlying issues such as chronic pain. Research has shown that getting enough good quality deep sleep can be an effective pain reliever. It is during sleep that the body undergoes the process of repair, rebuilding tissues and fixing injuries.