From headaches to backaches, we all experience annoying aches and pains, and many of us suffer on a daily basis. It’s a widespread problem that doesn’t get enough attention, especially considering that chronic pain affects 50 million Americans, according to the CDC.
Whether our pain is chronic or acute, when we feel it, we tend to readily reach for over-the-counter drugs to provide relief. However, regularly taking painkillers can lead to a whole laundry list of long-term side effects.
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Why should NSAIDs be avoided?
Let’s be honest — NSAIDs (think: aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen) can be useful. They do a great job at addressing pain, and if we’re recovering from a major surgery or injury, they’re often necessary. But it’s important to realize NSAIDs are far too powerful for everyday use.
Most readily accessible NSAIDs harm your gut. These drugs damage the gut’s lining — and when consumed for prolonged periods, they can even lead to ulcers or holes in your intestines.
They also harm the bacteria in your gut, which can lead to everything from a urinary tract infection to an acne breakout.
What’s more, NSAIDs are proven to put you at an increased risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Thankfully, there are tons of natural painkillers that can be used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and keep you thriving.
What are the best natural painkillers for pain relief?
Turmeric is well known for its numerous medicinal properties and is touted as one of the best natural herbs for pain. This herb contains a compound called curcumin, which is an active antioxidant that boosts the body’s capability to fight tissue damage.
In one study, it was discovered that when patients with knee osteoarthritis took curcumin extract supplements for 4 weeks, their pain relief from the curcumin was just as effective as when they would take ibuprofen.
Due to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties, it can be especially useful for managing arthritis, joint pain, and muscle soreness.
Related reading: Immunity Series: Reduce oxidative stress with liquid Curcumin
2. Fish oils
Fish oils are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and help relieve joint pain. Consuming just 1-3 grams of fish oil every day can help reduce symptoms like swelling, morning stiffness, and discomfort in joints.
3. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort is an herb named after St. John the Baptist. This wild yellow flower is highly effective in treating pain caused by gout and arthritis. In addition, it helps fight muscle aches and reduce inflammation in the cardiovascular system.
Ashwagandha is a plant found in India, and it is known for its stress-reducing and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also a natural analgesic that soothes the nervous system’s pain response. Ashwagandha can bring natural pain relief by preventing pain signals from being sent to the nervous system.
5. White willow bark
Willow bark has been associated with easing inflammation for centuries. The bark of the white willow contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to aspirin.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, this herb is highly effective in treating arthritis, menstrual cramps, and muscle pains. Its ability to reduce swelling and improve blood flow also makes it a useful post-surgery pain reliever.
Corydalis, a staple of traditional Chinese medicine, harbors a substance that combats pain. The herb is effective in treating back pain, inflammation, headaches, and menstrual cramps.
When a toothache hits you suddenly and you need a quick fix, clove could be the remedy you need. Cloves contain an active ingredient that numbs the nerves in your mouth, offering temporary relief.
Ginger not only makes your tea taste better, but it is also found to be effective in treating muscle and joint pain. Ginger contains potent compounds called gingerols, which limit the production of pain-triggering hormones.
9. Chili peppers
Capsaicin, the heat-producing compound in chili peppers, is widely available in pain-relieving creams, pills, and gels.
When you apply capsaicin to your skin, it helps by blocking pain messages to your nerves and thus reduces the pain you experience. Studies have found topical capsaicin creams and patches to relieve pain related to fibromyalgia, muscle sprains and strains, migraines and tension headaches, arthritis, and surgery.
In fact, one study found that a single 60-minute application of a high-concentration capsaicin patch provided neuropathic pain relief for up to 12 weeks.
Ear pain can be sharp and piercing, but luckily, Garlic is here to help. The presence of active ingredients like selenium, germanium, and sulfur compounds work to fight bacteria that causes ear pain.
Experts at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine suggest placing two drops of warm garlic oil in your ear twice a day for three to five days to relieve an earache.
Anthocyanin, the active compound that gives cherries their red color, helps block inflammation and inhibit pain enzymes. Some scientific evidence suggests drinking cherry juice or eating tart cherries relieve muscle pain, arthritis pain, and the pain of gout just as well as aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs.
12. Apple cider vinegar
If you frequently suffer from heartburn, drinking apple cider vinegar mixed with 8 ounces of water before every meal could prove to be advantageous. Rich in tartaric and malic acids, apple cider vinegar helps speed up digestive processes and breakdown fats and proteins in your stomach.
To boot, apple cider vinegar can also be helpful in treating muscle pain and arthritis.
Although research is still underway, it is believed that blueberries can help calm inflammation, all thanks to the high levels of antioxidants that they contain.
14. Epsom salt
Whether your joints are acting up or you’ve pulled a muscle at the gym, Epsom salt is one of the most effective and least expensive ways to find relief. Epsom salt breaks into sulfate and magnesium when it comes into contact with water, and soaking in these properties can help the body recover from joint and muscle pain.
The ideal amount of Epsom salt for a soak is approximately 2 cups in a warm bath water. Warm water can speed up blood flow and help relax muscles.
15. Valerian root
Valerian root is native to Europe and is known for its medicinal uses. In addition to treating anxiety and insomnia, it is also highly effective in reducing pain and relaxing muscles. This is because valerian root contains a volatile oil that relaxes muscles and relieves tension.
Also known as Indian Frankincense, Boswellia has been used for centuries in Indian and African medicine. This plant works in a similar manner as turmeric, and when used along with turmeric, it can drastically improve arthritis pain.
Coffee is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and a cup of joe can help relieve a headache. In addition, Caffeine can also help treat a rare condition called a hypnic headache.
18. Red grapes
If you have an achy back, red grapes can help soothe the pain. According to research by Ohio State University, eating a cup of red grapes helps to relax tight blood vessels. In turn, this enhances the blood flow to the damaged back tissues, which helps relax the back and soothe pain.
Cranberry juice has a long history as a remedy for bladder infections, but recent research has shown this juice can also help heal ulcers.
Stomach ulcers are generally caused by a group of pathogens called H.pylori, and compounds in Cranberry juice keep them from adhering to the lining in the stomach. Drinking two cups of cranberry juice every day can help prevent ulcers from forming and speed up recovery if you already have one.
Magnesium is an amazing mineral that can help reduce many types of chronic pain. As a matter of fact, people with magnesium deficiency are more prone to developing muscle spasms, twitches, and restlessness.
Magnesium provides natural pain relief by making muscles relax and decreasing nerve pain.
One study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that Magnesium supplements helped alleviate painful menstrual cramps in many women.
Related reading: What vitamins should I take for period pain?
Glucosamine is an amino sugar that’s become a popular supplement for lubricating joints and slowing the deterioration of cartilage, thus improving arthritis symptoms.
Glucosamine is often taken on conjunction with Collagen as they work together to protect and strengthen joints. Glucosamine acts like a lubricant for joints, connective tissue, and cartilage, while collagen promotes regeneration and repair of the joint tissue.
The bottom line
Plan to stock your pantry with these natural pain-relieving alternatives so you can be prepared the next time aches and pains come your way.
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