As interest in the field of natural medicine increases, more people are learning about the various pain killers produced by Mother Nature that can be used to treat pain symptoms over long periods of time—and may have fewer side effects than conventional medications.
This article outlines some of the natural options that can be used to reduce the inflammation that can cause pain. However, as with any treatment, it’s always important to make sure you do your homework and know what is in them. Some ingredients could have potential side effects, or if you have allergies to individual ingredients, certainly do not try them.
Nature’s Not-So-New but Improved Versions of Aspirin
Several natural pain remedies contain one or more compounds that are similar to or are converted into salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. Many report effective pain relief without the stomach irritation associated with aspirin from the following remedies:
- White Willow Bark – the biologically active compound in white willow bark is known as salicin, which converts to salicylic acid in the body. White willow bark is typically consumed as a tea and can reduce prostaglandin levels associated with inflammation, aches and pains. Because of its blood thinning properties, white willow bark is not completely free of side effects, so discuss any concerns with your doctor.
- Birch Leaf – the methyl salicylate in the leaves of the birch tree can be ingested in the form of a tea, as has properties similar to salicylic acid, making it a useful alternative medicine treatment in a wide variety of ailments. Birch leaves also mimic the pain relieving properties obtained from the steroidal drug cortisone.
- Wintergreen Essential Oil – the high levels of methyl salicylate present in this oil make it a good choice for pain relief when used in topical applications. Wintergreen can be mixed with a carrier oil and applied on the skin, but is not considered safe for internal use. Some people may experience allergic reactions to wintergreen, so use caution and talk with your healthcare provider before use.
Spices: a Natural Treasure Chest to Treat Inflammation
The herbs ginger, turmeric and Holy Basil have been used in some holistic medicine as natural pain killers for many years. The curcumins in turmeric, gingerols (among other compounds) in ginger, and eugenols in Holy Basil are all known to reduce inflammation. These spices are often taken as nutritional supplements or teas. However, some herbs may interact with certain medications, so be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider before using them.
- Capsaicin – a Class of its Own
One of the most powerful natural pain killers shown to produce lasting pain relief is capsaicin, the active ingredient found in hot peppers. When applied topically, capsaicin has the ability to “turn off” certain pain receptors in the body for long periods of time, and can be used to treat pain from a range of ailments from arthritis to headaches. Capsules are also available for internal use to aid in digestion and fight internal bacterial infections.
Communicate with Your Healthcare Provider
It’s important to discuss the details of your situation with your physician before self-medicating to minimize the risk of undesirable side effects. Although they are generally considered to have few side effects, natural pain killers are not without risk, and some are contraindicated for use with specific medications or physical conditions. Developing clear communication with a healthcare professional that can monitor and assist in your healing and pain relief is your best bet towards staying safe and comfortable.