10 natural pain relievers and what the science says

No one wants to live with chronic pain. In fact, if given a choice, no one wants to live with pain even for a short time.

But standard methods of pain relief can be risky.

Acetaminophen, the painkilling ingredient in Tylenol, Excedrin and Midol, has come under scrutiny, especially when taken in high doses or for ongoing pain relief. Under certain circumstances, it can increase your risk of liver and kidney damage.

As for ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, the risks are multiple and well-known.

NSAIDs have been found to increase antibiotic resistance, elevate your risk for heart attack and stroke, and cause gastrointestinal bleeding.

Opioid painkillers can be prescribed by your doctor, but they can be highly addictive and may actually make your pain last longer!

Luckily, there are plenty of safe and effective alternatives to these dangerous drugs.

Here are ten natural choices for natural pain relievers…

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10 natural pain relievers

  • Willow bark. The active pain-relieving ingredient in willow bark is salicin. It converts to salicylic acid, the same compound found in store-bought aspirin, only much gentler on your stomach. The natural salicin in willow bark reduces inflammation as it enters your bloodstream, and so may be especially effective in relieving joint pain.
  • Turmeric. Turmeric is the yellow spice used in curry. Its main active ingredient is curcumin. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a potential treatment for a number of health conditions, including reduced pain and increased ease of movement in people with osteoarthritis. One study found that taking turmeric extract three times daily was comparable to taking a 1,200-milligram dose of ibuprofen daily.” It may also lessen some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as joint swelling and morning stiffness. Studies in 2019 and 2020 have shown curcumin to be an alternative treatment option for knee osteoarthritis.
  • Ginger. Ginger is a spice that’s been valued for thousands of years for its healing properties. The 50 different antioxidants in ginger fight free radicals that cause inflammatory joint disease and other conditions. In one study ginger extract had a statistically significant effect on reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee. In fact, a review of the last 10-year of randomized controlled trials in which ginger was traditionally used as a pain reliever for dysmenorrhea, delayed onset muscle soreness, osteoarthritis, chronic low back pain, and migraine determined that the use of ginger for lowering pain is safe and promising. The authors suggest more studies on the best dosage for long-term therapy. Compounds in ginger also fight nausea and stomach upset.
  • Cloves. The active ingredient in cloves is eugenol, a natural pain reliever that’s also used in some over-the-counter pain rubs. Rubbing a tiny amount of clove oil on your gums may temporarily ease the pain of a toothache (don’t overdo it, though, or you may actually harm your gums).
  • Vitamin D. Research has shown that vitamin D affects the body’s inflammation response in a way that lowers the sensation of pain. In fact, a vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of migraines and other pain-related conditions like fibromyalgia.

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  • Black cumin seed. Thymoquinone, a highly active molecule in black cumin seed oil, has anti-inflammatory properties on a par with salicylic acid (the pain-killing chemical in aspirin). And studies have shown that black cumin seed oil relieves pain as well as diclofenac sodium, a drug commonly prescribed for arthritis pain.
  • Capsaicin. Capsaicin is a natural compound found in spicy peppers. It activates receptors on our neurons called TRPV1 receptors, which then release a neurotransmitter that blocks pain sensation. TRPV1 receptors are extremely sensitive to capsaicin.
  • Devil’s claw root. Devil’s claw is a plant native to South Africa. It contains a compound called harpagoside, which in animal studies has suppressed the action of inflammation-producing cytokines. In clinical studies, devil’s claw root has been as effective as NSAIDs at relieving back pain, as well as pain from osteoarthritis and gout.
  • Magnesium. The excessive stimulation of a brain chemical called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) is behind the sensation of pain, particularly nerve pain, which can be devastating. Magnesium helps reduce NMDA without the negative side effects of NSAIDs. Research has shown that people who get migraines often have lower levels of magnesium than those who don’t. One study showed that taking magnesium regularly decreased the frequency of migraines by 41.6 percent.
  • Glucosamine. Glucosamine is probably the most popular supplement for the relief of joint pain. It’s actually a chemical in your body that helps maintain healthy cartilage. Glucosamine levels fall as we age, which can lead to joint pain and injuries. Glucosamine supplements help replace what’s been lost. If you are allergic to shellfish, you may not be able to take glucosamine.

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Safety and efficacy of curcumin versus diclofenac in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized open-label parallel-arm study Trials

Magnesium for pain relief Psychology Today

Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties may relive arthritis pain — Mayo Clinic

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.