Looking for natural pain relief? Look no further. Here are our top 10 herbal remedies for pain.
Pain is a common problem. We all experience it at some point in our lives, whether it be a headache after a long and stressful day, a strained muscle after working out, or the chronic pain of conditions like arthritis.
While many times pain will go away by itself after a few days, people suffering from chronic pain may need a little extra help to manage their condition. And with the media flooded with reports of the dangers of opioids, many would prefer a more natural alternative. Fortunately, there are countless options for natural pain relief available. Many of these are herbal remedies which have been tried and tested over thousands of years.
In this article, we discuss the best herbs for pain relief and how they could help you.
How Do Herbal Remedies for Pain Relief Work?
Before we get stuck in, let’s take a quick look at how herbal remedies can help to relieve pain.
The majority of the herbs in our top 10 work thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the body’s in-built response to injury or infection. It is a natural and healthy process, which lets us know that something is wrong in a particular area by causing redness, swelling, and pain.
Although inflammation can be uncomfortable, it is a normal part of the healing process and should shut off once the problem has been resolved. However, when inflammation fails to stop for any reason, this can lead to chronic pain.
Chronic inflammation has also been linked with other serious health issues such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and some forms of cancer. With all of this in mind, it seems that reducing inflammation is a very beneficial thing to do!
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in. Here are our top 10 herbal remedies for pain relief:
Top 10 Herbal Remedies for Pain Relief
There are a variety of herbs available that may offer pain relief, but not all are created equal. In our top 10, we have attempted to identify the herbs that have the most evidence supporting their use.
However, our list is not exhaustive, and not all of these herbs will be suitable for everyone. You are urged to perform your own research and talk to a medical professional before taking any of these natural remedies for pain.
#10. Maritime Pine Bark (Pycnogenol)
Pycnogenol is extracted from maritime pine bark. The tree is native to Mediterranean countries and has been used as an herbal remedy for over 2000 years. Pycnogenol contains many active ingredients, including catechin, taxifolin, procyanidins, and phenolic acid. It is thought to improve the circulation to promote healing as well as having anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Pycnogenol does not usually cause side effects, although some people experience mild stomach upsets. It should not be used by people who are taking immunosuppressive drugs or corticosteroids because it may enhance immune function.
#9. Evening Primrose
Evening Primrose is rich in gamma-linoleic acid, a fatty acid which is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Evening Primrose also contains other beneficial compounds, including phenols. Studies have found that Evening Primrose may help with pain associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA patients found that the herb helped to reduce both morning stiffness and pain.
Evening Primrose is considered safe for short-term use, although its long-term side effects are unknown. It may cause side effects, including headaches and stomach aches, and should not be taken by pregnant women.
#8. Cat’s Claw
Cat’s Claw is a plant which is native to Central and South America. It is named after the small, claw-like thorns that cover its stems. Cat’s Claw is rich in flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, tannins, alkaloids, and sterols. It is used for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Cat’s Claw does not appear to produce any serious side effects when taken in moderation. However, it should be avoided during pregnancy. Cat’s Claw is traditionally brewed as a tea, but it is also available in supplement form.
#7. Green Tea
Green tea is well-known for its antioxidant effects, but only recently have its anti-inflammatory properties come to light. Furthermore, green tea is believed to have a protective effect over cartilage, meaning it could be useful for people with osteoarthritis pain.
For green tea to be effective, it is recommended that you drink 3–4 cups every day. If this seems like too much, you can also buy green tea extract in supplement form. Although green tea is low in caffeine, you may want to avoid drinking it right before bed.
Frankincense, also known as olibanum, is a resin extracted from the Boswellia tree which is native to India, East Africa, and the Middle East. It has been used as an herbal remedy for pain for thousands of years and is believed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, and analgesic effects. Frankincense may be especially useful for degenerative joint conditions such as osteoarthritis.
Frankincense side effects are rare, but some people experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms after taking this herb.
#5. White Willow Bark
White Willow contains the chemical salicin, which is converted to salicylic acid in the liver. If this sounds familiar, it’s because salicylic acid is also a metabolite of aspirin. The use of White Willow for pain dates back to ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations. The herb has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
White Willow bark should be avoided by anybody who cannot take aspirin. This includes children and patients with gastrointestinal disorders, poorly controlled diabetes, and kidney or liver dysfunction. It can cause side effects, including stomach irritation, although these are usually mild.
#4. Chili Peppers (Capsaicin)
Capsaicin is a chemical produced by chili peppers and is a popular ingredient in many topical pain creams. It works by deactivating nerve endings in the area where it is applied for a local anesthetic effect. Capsaicin is useful for many types of pain, including musculoskeletal pain and neuropathy.
Side effects include a burning sensation in the local area. Therefore, creams containing capsaicin should be applied in moderation and tested on a small patch of skin first.
Ginger has been well-researched as an herbal remedy for pain. Although the evidence is somewhat inconsistent, one study showed that osteoarthritis patients experienced benefits equal to diclofenac (a popular anti-inflammatory drug). It may also be useful for musculoskeletal and rheumatic pain.
The reason that ginger ranks so highly on our list is the fact that it is so readily available and causes little in the way of side effects. Try adding ginger to your everyday meals or brewing yourself a cup of soothing ginger tea.
Turmeric has been a staple of Chinese and Indian traditional medicine for thousands of years. It is closely related to ginger and contains the active compound curcumin. Curcumin is known for its potent anti-inflammatory effects and has been well-studied as an herbal remedy for pain.
Curcumin may cause mild stomach upsets when taken in high doses. However, it should be safe to add to your everyday meals. To boost its absorption, try taking turmeric alongside a small amount of healthy fat and some black pepper. Black pepper may increase curcumin’s bioavailability by as much as 2000%!
Alright, we admit it, cannabis was always going to make it to the top of our list! However, this is not without good reason, as there is plenty of evidence that marijuana is effective for pain. The herb contains cannabinoids such as THC and CBD (among others), terpenes, and other beneficial compounds such as flavonoids. It is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and can increase relaxation for anyone struggling to sleep due to pain.
Of course, cannabis can potentially cause side effects, too. Aside from feeling high, these include dry mouth, dry eyes, dizziness, anxiety, and hunger. However, these effects are usually temporary and are more likely to occur when cannabis is used in excess.
If you would prefer to benefit from cannabis for pain relief without the high, or if you don’t live in a marijuana-friendly state, you can always try non-intoxicating CBD oil instead.
Top 10 Herbal Remedies for Pain Relief: Final Thoughts
So, there it is, our top 10 herbal remedies for pain relief. But before we wrap up, we have a couple of words of caution. Firstly, you should always ensure that you buy your herbs from a reputable source as the market is poorly regulated and some products could be low-quality, fake, or contaminated.
Secondly, just because a remedy is herbal, it does not necessarily mean it is safe. As you can see, many herbal remedies can cause side effects and should not be taken by certain people. You should be cautious of herbal remedies if you are:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
- Taking other medication
- Suffering from liver or kidney dysfunction, or another chronic illness
- About to undergo surgery
- Elderly or very young
Even if you are healthy, you should consult a medical professional before beginning any herbal treatment. Do your research and exercise caution, and you should be able to enjoy the benefits of these herbal remedies for pain relief without any adverse effects.