In modern day reality, natural pain relief or pain management isn’t classically taught, nor understood. For thousands of years, before pharmaceutical medications were here, people coped with pain in a wide variety of ways, like using particular plants or mental techniques to overcome aspects of either psychological or physical pain. It was only until recent history that ‘popping a pill’ for any kind of pain became an ordinary part of modern day reality.
Over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are effective pain relievers, but long-term use can cause serious side effects. Prescription medications may be addictive and have even more adverse effects. What are the best natural ways to relieve pain? Although researchers have not fully explored these options, some evidence suggests that certain remedies can help, and that many people have found them useful for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
An interesting tidbit on pain research:
(scroll below if you just want to read on herbs)
What is pain?The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as an experience. Pain is usually triggered by messages that are sent from the tissues of the body when those tissues are presented with something potentially dangerous.
The neurons that carry those messages are called ‘nociceptors’, or danger receptors. We call the system that detects and transmits noxious events “nociception”. Critically, nociception is neither sufficient nor necessary for pain. But most of the time, pain is associated with some nociception.
Pain scientists say that pain is more often in the mind, than the body.
One way to understand this is to consider that once a ‘danger’ message arrives at the brain, it has to answer a very important question: “How dangerous is this really?” In order to respond, the brain draws on every piece of credible information, such as previous exposure, cultural influences, knowledge, other sensory cues and the list goes on.
People often use the phrase “mind over matter” to describe situations where aches and pains in the body are overridden using the mind. A gardener comes in from gardening and is surprised to discover a nasty cut on her hand, something she wasn’t aware of while focused on her plants. Or a soldier in the battle field is often wounded by a bullet, but feels little pain until he is in a safe place. If pain was directly and entirely linked to bodily injury, these examples would be impossible.
The favorite theory amongst pain scientists relies on the complexity of the human brain. Pain scientists are careful to distinguish between a harmful (noxious) stimulus and pain. In the case of the soldier mentioned above, his stimulus (a bullet injury) is noxious but not painful. Research has shown the brain has the ability to tone down how intensely a harmful stimulus is experienced. This process is known as “pain modulation” and is how our body allows us to use mind over matter in some situations.
To understand pain modulation, we need to understand how thoughts and feelings influence pain. Pain scientists and psychologists have concluded that people hold views about pain – some of which they may not even be aware they hold – that influence how they experience pain and, perhaps more importantly, how they benefit from certain kinds of pain treatment.
Let’s Get Deep With Plants.
There are more than 100 plants known to have pain-relieving properties, but some are really outstanding. Below are just some of our personal favorites for internal and external uses, but there is certainly a lot more within our pharmacopeia that aren’t listed, or need more researched.
Herbal Rx: Pain Relieving Plants
1. DEVIL'S CLAW - "Garra del Diablo"
Devil's claw is a classic that eases muscular tension and pain in the back, shoulders and neck. A popular treatment for osteoarthritic pain, it may ease rheumatoid arthritic pain as well. This herb’s active ingredients are harpagide and harpagoside, both iridoid glycosides with analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory actions. Devil’s Claw extract has been shown to reduce osteoarthritic hip or knee pain by 25% and improve mobility within a few weeks. Rheumatoid arthritic pain may also be reduced and mobility enhanced within about two months.
Caution: It should not be taken with blood-thinning medications and may not be safe during pregnancy or nursing mothers, for young children, and individuals with liver or kidney disease, or digestive system ulcers.
2. CAPSAICIN - Spicy Ally
Capsaicin is what makes the heat in hot peppers. It has been studied to manipulate the body’s pain by hindering pain perception, triggering the release of pain-relieving endorphins and providing analgesic action. Commercial capsaicin-containing creams such as Zostrix, Heet and Capzasin-P are used topically for arthritic and nerve pain. Creams containing .025% capsaicin can significantly reduce osteoarthritic pain when applied to joints four times daily. A higher concentration of .075 percent works best for peripheral nerve pain—such as that from diabetic nerve damage, HIV and pain following cancer surgery.
Caution: When using topical capsaicin products, be sure to avoid touching your eyes and other sensitive areas.
3. MULUNGU - Amazonian Hypnotic
A very renowned tree and family of trees, for its strong anti-anxiety, sedative and musculo-skeletal relaxing properties. A quick review; skeletal muscles are those that you can generally move voluntarily and smooth muscles are those that are a part of your viscera and are involuntary, you don’t have to think about coordinating (ex: your gut). Although not common in the Western world, it is a beloved tree amongst many native cultures in Central and South America. Traditional folk medicine has used Mulungu for hundreds of years for pain relief, mental disorders (depression, anxiety, stress, panic, trauma, etc.), liver disorders, high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Modern scientific studies now demonstrate that it acts as an anti-nociceptive, a substance that reduces the body's sensitivity to painful stimuli, also used as an anti-convulsive, neuro-protective and anti-inflammatory actions.
Caution: Consuming in large amounts might cause drowsiness. Mulungu may be harmful to people with low blood pressure.
Our Dolores pain management tonic is here! Composed of wildcrafted Mulungu from the Amazon, wildcrafted Pedicularis from the rocky mountains, wild Blue lotus and more.
4. PEDICULARIS - Elephant's Head
Pedicularis is a nervine, nervous system decompressant, native to North America. It’s long been used as musculo-skeletal relaxant, commonly used for aches and pains, back shoulder and neck pain, sore muscles, and for deep recovery. Although it’s a muscle relaxant and antispasmodic, it’s not a narcotic, so it cannot remove all the pain associated with sore skeletal muscles, but by relaxing the tension it can decrease the need for stronger pain medicines. Depending on the pain, pedicularis spp. combines well with different plants, for example with other skeletal muscle relaxants include Black cohosh (would be excellent for menstrual cramps), or combined with arnica for muscle spasms, or with turmeric for deep seeded inflammation.
Another great advantage of Pedicularis is its general good safety record, negative side effects are uncommon. The most common is the medicine causing some ‘spaciness’ or mild disorientation, which can be useful for those suffering from anxiety.
The two in particular found in our formula are Pedicularis densiflora and Pedicularis groenlandica are my particular favorites and with the most research on well known pain relieving qualities in small doses, and at higher doses it can induce greater relaxation, sedation.
5. WILLOW BARK - Nature's Asprin
Known as “nature’s aspirin” as the original blueprint for aspirin was derived from the active compounds of white willow! Native people have been using willow bark for hundreds of years to ease pain and inflammation. The active ingredient in willow bark is said to be the chemical salicin, but the accompanying flavonoids and plant particles is what makes it an effective anti inflammatory and pain reliever.
When taken in moderation, willow bark does not have any known negative side effects. In high doses for extended periods of time might cause cramping. Some people use willow bark as an alternative to aspirin, particularly those that experience chronic headaches or back pain, and due to the salicylic acid, it it a lot gentler on the stomach than lab-created aspirin.
6. KRATOM - Nature's Opioid
According to FDA research, kratom is an agonist that binds to the mu-opioid receptors. This is the same part of the brain that is activated when you take opioids, like prescription painkillers or heroin. It’s thought that the active chemicals, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine may help control pain by attaching to proteins called opioid receptors and, in turn, reducing pain perception.
While kratom is traditionally used for stress stress relief, pain relief and as a mood and energy booster, in recent years, kratom has gained popularity as an alternative to opioid pain medications like Vicodin (hydrocodone) and OxyContin (oxycodone). In many cases, kratom is used as an alternative to manage chronic pain associated with conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. Kratom is also increasingly used as an herbal approach to alleviating symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal, such as muscle aches and mood disturbance.
Caution: Depending on dosage and use, it may cause dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal. Do not take with other pain killers as it might cause nausea and other side effects. Although case reports with people intaking large amounts reported drowsiness, palpitations, high blood pressure, poor concentration, insomnia, and mild psychosis and coma in people using kratom, it's unclear how much is directly attributable to kratom. Risks appear to be higher when it's taken in concentrated extracts, in combination to other psychoactive substances, drugs, or adulterants, or when it's taken by people with alcohol use disorders, a history of heroin use, or certain health conditions.
If you’re seeking advice on this, or more information, contact us. We have excellent quality available, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information + instructions.
More pain relieving plants!
Topical formulas, or single herb applications can be done in a variety of ways. They can be extracted in other oils, made into a poultice, cream, steamed to apply onto the body into medicinal baths, as a foot bath, and more. Depending on the pain or injury itself it’s best to approach the type of application for best results. The herbs mentioned below are strictly for topical use, I do not recommend ingesting essential oils or herbs like arnica, unless with proper guidance and care of a professional.
Arnica (Arnica spp.) available in creams, homeopathic tablets and as an herb itself, relieves osteoarthritic pain in the knee and pain following carpal-tunnel release surgery. It contains helenin, an analgesic, as well as anti-inflammatory chemicals. Do not intake the herb internally or as a tea as it can be toxic. Please seek advice from a healthcare practitioner if looking to work deeper with the plant.
- Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic boswellic acids that can soothe pain from sports injuries and also can help osteoarthritic knee pain. Take 150- to 400-mg capsules or tablets (standardized to contain 30 percent to 65 percent boswellic acids) three times daily for two to three months.
- Cannabidol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid, a chemical found naturally in cannabis (marijuana) plants. CBD doesn’t cause the “high” feeling often associated with cannabis. That feeling is caused by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a different type of cannabinoid. Some people with chronic pain use CBD topically and internally to manage their symptoms. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat.
- Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerluea) since ancient Egypt, Blue Lotus was historically used to relieve pain and as an antianxiety. Due to the two main alkaloids studied, nuciferine and apomorphine, it has been used as a sedative-hypnotic, as well as a mood booster known to triggers feels of euphoria. It has been successfully used as a sedative-hypnotic since the late 1800s to treat insomnia, depression, and schizophrenia.
- Clove oil (Syzygium aromaticum) is a popular home remedy for a toothache. Apply a drop or two of this excellent anti-inflammatory directly to your aching tooth or tooth cavity.
- Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a remedy many people swear by for headaches, including migraines. Feverfew can reduce both the frequency and severity of headaches when taken regularly. It is classically available in capsules of powdered leaf, you can also make tea—steep 2 to 8 fresh leaves in boiling water, but do not boil them, since boiling breaks down the active parthenolides.
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate digestive cramps and mild pain from fibromyalgia.
- Lavender Essential Oil, (Lavandula Officinalis) Lavender essential oil may help relieve pain naturally. People use lavender oil for pain relief, to help sleep, and to ease anxiety. A small-scale 2012 study found that inhaling lavender oil may relieve pain associated with migraine headaches compared with a placebo. Some research also suggests that lavender oil has pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects in animals. Caution: Do not ingest essential oils, as they can be toxic. If applying an oil topically, always dilute it in a carrier oil.
- Oregano, Rosemary and Thyme are herbs you should be sprinkled generously onto your food, tea’s and broths, as they are not only immune protective and anti-inflammatory, they are replete with analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory compounds. (Oregano alone has 32 anti-inflammatories!) and thyme happens to be one of the highest vitamin C herbs out there!
- Wild Dagga (Leonotis leonurus) has extensive folk and pharmacological uses. Leonotis leo. Has shown to have diverse activities, some being that it’s a strong anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-oxidant, anticonvulsant, anthelmintic activities. The name wild dagga, relates to the indigenous South African tribal name for Cannabis dagga, however, no part of the plant is hallucinogenic. Although traditional the herb is smoked for its euphoric and calming effects, the tea or extract can greatly assist as an anti-anxiety and as a relaxant.
*Be careful when managing pain. The natural painkillers described above may only be effective for specific causes of pain. It’s possible that not all of the suggestions on this list will work for you. However, these natural alternatives to prescription or OTC medications may at least give you some decent options to try before you turn exclusively to pharmacological solutions. *Remember, pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong. It may be temporary, as with a strained muscle. But pain can also mean you have a serious health problem that needs professional medical evaluation. Don’t hesitate to seek out a healthcare provider to diagnose the source of your pain, and discuss some natural options for treating it.