If you’re reading this post chances are, that you are in pain right now. And you probably know, that most of pharmaceutical pain medications, while effective at times, seriously damage your body causing many severe health problems. If you’ve ever read a label of any pain killing medications (prescription and over-the-counter drugs) you may have noticed a various terrifying side effects that may occur while taking them. If I’m being completely honest, personally it wasn’t convincing enough for me to stop popping Tylenol or Aspirin whenever I had a headache or monthly cramps. Why in the world would something that is not only commonly available but also widely advertised in public media as a safe and effective way of dealing with pain be that dangerous? Sounds a bit like a “hippie BS…” doesn’t it? That’s why I decided to do my own research and see how the painkillers actually work in my body from a purely physiological perspective. Here is what I learned:
Since I like logical explanations of things, that actually made me re-think using painkillers. But there was the problem – what do I do if I’m in pain then? Here is the good part: there are solutions to fight pain naturally, that actually work.
Painkillers – natural alternatives,
that actually work
“Almost always, if we find pharmaceuticals doing the trick, we’ll find a plant doing the same trick—and doing it more safely,” remarks botanist James A. Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods.
1) Fish Oil – active ingredients: eicosanoids. Indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, cramping, inflammatory bowel diseases? Many different studies confirmed that EPA and DHA – the fatty acids found in fish, significantly reduce intestinal inflammation, cramping and, in some cases, provide a similar pain relief as corticosteroids and other prescription drugs. “EPA and DHA are powerful, natural, side effect-free anti-inflammatories, that can dramatically improve the function of the entire gastrointestinal tract”, explains biological chemist Barry Sears, Ph.D., president of the Inflammation Research Foundation in Marblehead , MA. One downside of a fish oil is its fishy taste. That’s why I take a mango-peach flavored one like this one.
2) Turmeric – active ingredient: curcumin. In numerous studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown, that turmeric is actually up to three times more effective as a pain relief then potent drugs – aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen and comparable to hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone. It also shows a significant improvement for people struggling with arthritis and fibromyalgia, according to Cornell researchers. That’s because turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, naturally shuts down cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), an enzyme that churns out a stream of pain-producing hormones, explains nutrition researcher Julian Whitaker, M.D. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects (ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding), curcumin has no side effects.
3) Black seed oil – main active ingredients: Crystalline nigellone, Thymoquinone. One of the most researched medicinal plant on the planet – over 600 clinical studies proving its healing properties. Strong anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial properties. Proven in stimulating human body to kill cancer cells and the most resistant strains of bacteria and viruses including HIV, staphylococcal, tuberculosis, influenza (flu), gonorrhea, candida, and malaria (type of parasitic infection). These are just a few of many highlights of this truly amazing plant. This very potent oil works miracles on most types of mild to strong pain. Take 1 tsp 3 times a day. I like this one.
4) Pineapple – active substance: bromelain. This protein-digesting enzyme is a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling agent that has been proven to significantly help with many types of health problems including pain, cramps, infections, cancer, autoimmune diseases, arthritis etc. Interestingly, bromelain is commonly used as meat tenderizer, which as you can easily imagine has phenomenal healing properties as it relaxes tense, inflamed muscles and connective tissue. Additionally, pineapple is naturally loaded with many proteolytic enzymes, that help to speed the breakdown of pain-causing proteins in the stomach and small intestine. As researchers at California’s State University discovered – just one cup of fresh pineapple daily can take care of painful bloating.
5) Ginger – active ingredient: gingerol. Numerous studies have shown that ginger can actually naturally mimic anti-inflammatory effects of NSAID’s by inhibiting COX-2 and a nuclear factor κB which means it prevents the production of pain-triggering hormones. It’s very effective in treating joint and muscle pain, swelling, headaches and digestive issues. Speaking from my personal experience, the most effective way to use ginger as a painkiller is either juice it or drink it in a form of a tea (boil grated ginger with hot water for a few min.)
6) Willow Bark – active ingredient: salicin. White Willow Tree is a terrific plant well known as a potent pain reliever. It’s bark contains the highest concentration of salicin which in a human body it gets converted into salicylic acid – the chemical precursor to aspirin. In fact the chemical in aspirin was actually synthesized after analyzing willow. The salicylic acid lowers the body’s level of prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds that can cause aches, pain and inflammation. While you may have to wait for willow bark just a little longer then aspirin to start acting in your body, its effect will most likely last longer. And it definitely doesn’t cause stomach bleeding or have any other side effects.
7) Feverfew – active ingredient: parthenolide. Feverfew, originally a plant native to the Balkan mountains of Eastern Europe, is a potent herb particularly effective against migraine and other types of headaches. The active chemical component of this plant helps relieve spasms in smooth muscle tissue and helps to reduce inflammation. Many researchers support the statement that parthenolide can also stop cancer cells from growing. For centuries, feverfew has been used as an aid with fevers, headaches, menstrual cramps and to ease labors during childbirth. Latest studies also show effectiveness of this amazing plant against rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, tinnitus (ringing sound in the ears), dizziness and nausea. Feverfew products are usually made out of dried leaves of the plant, but all parts that grow above the ground may be used.
8) Cloves – active ingredient: eugenol. Numerous studies on this substance show its unique antioxidant, anti-septic, local anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties.
In the US, eugenol extracts from clove have often been used in dentistry as a mild anesthetic and anti-bacterial agent associated with root canal therapy, general gum pain, temporary fillings etc. Cloves also contain a variety of flavonoids, including kaempferol and rhamnetin, which also adds to the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory properties. As UCLA researchers say, gently chewing on a clove can ease tooth pain and gum inflammation for two hours straight.
9) Chili Powder – active ingredient: capsaicin.
10) Water – Everybody knows, that most types of headaches come from dehydration, neck issues or toxicity. But did you know, that pure water has shown its effectiveness in treating not only headaches but also many other types of pain? Whether it’s your joints, your back or your stomach that are throbbing, experts at New York ’s Manhattan College, say you could kick-start your recovery in one week just by drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Why? Because water dilutes and flushes out a pain-triggering compounded called histamine, which is produced by injured tissues. Another crucial thing – “Water is a key building block of the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones, your joints’ lubricating fluid, and the soft discs in your spine,” adds Susan M. Kleiner, Ph.D., author of the book, The Good Mood Diet. “And when these tissues are well-hydrated, they can move and glide over each other without causing pain.”
11) Essential oils – depending on the type of your pain, essential oils can be much more powerful that you may think. Their condensed active ingredients can be so potent, that often just a few drops can work miracles for tense muscles, headaches etc. Some of them have strong anti-inflammatory properties while used internally, others tend to heal while used topically. For example, frankincense oil (sourced from the resin of Boswellia plant, also known for it’s healing properties) can inhibit the production of key inflammatory molecules associated with conditions like arthritis, asthma, painful bowel disorders like IBS, and many more conditions, it also works wonderfully against the pain associated with hormonal imbalances. Lavender has amazing antimicrobial and relaxing properties helping with any type of tension pain. Chamomile is an effective anti-inflammatory agent. You can find a suitable essential oil for any type of pain – do your research.
12) Oxygen – As a pretty brilliant doctor once said “Pain is a lack of oxygen on the cellular level” (dr. C. Samuel West, International Academy of Lymphology, in case you were wondering). In most cases pain is a normal response to tissue damage caused by some sort of irritation. When it happens, fluid and protein leave the blood stream and enter tissue spaces in order to heal it. This slows down the exchange of oxygen and nutrients at the cell level. With small injuries, it’s possible to literally squeeze the pain away as researcher Leo Ramos claims. By moving the excess fluid in the tissue spaces to the lymphatic system for 5-20 min, you can permanently get rid of the pain. By doing that, you are simply restoring the normal exchange of oxygen and nutrients levels in the tissue. You can try to use this technique with a strong type of pain, however in this case the most effective and safest way to restore the levels of oxygen is to deep breath with your diaphragm for 5-15 min (you can use 4-7-8 Technique). Flooding your body with oxygen by deep breathing neutralizes toxins and acid wastes in the tissue immediately alleviating pain as a side effect. I emphasize “deep”, because by using your diaphragm you actually pump the lymph which works much like physical rubbing an injured tissue. Another “side effect” of deep breathing is a significant reduction of stress and muscle tension, that increase pain. Important thing to remember – there is a variety of substances that help to oxygenate tissues contributing to the pain relieving effect of deep breathing like chlorophyll available in green leafy vegetables. Taken in a form of a liquid like a green juice or chlorophyl supplement will shorten time needed for the oxygen levels to restore.
13) Movement – Every time you are in pain, you should remember that your body has more mechanoreceptors than pain receptors in your joints. That means, that healthy joint movement will actually decrease pain in that area and throughout the whole body. In order for this to happen the joint must be moving properly. Of course the most effective way is through exercise, even a simple walk can help you significantly decrease your pain. Another crucial factor is understanding how your lymphatic system work. Think of lymph as your body’s ocean – it doesn’t use a pomp like blood, but it carries all the cells nourishment and release their waste products and flushing the toxins back into it. This is why it must be constantly kept flowing. Moving your body by exercising increases lymph flow anywhere from 5 to 15 times! Lack of movement causes fluid with all it’s content accumulate in the spaces around cells and therefore makes it much harder for oxygen and nutrients to properly exchange, so the cells begin to “complain” by sending mild pain signals. You can simply observe this process when you get the feeling of soreness and stiffness while sitting for too long in one position. Your body then will respond with the urge of stretching, yawning or rubbing the sore part of your body – all these things actually pump the lymph and increase the proper oxygen and nutrient exchange. As a result, your cells stop “complaining”. Smart, huh?
14) Chiropractic – I like to think of chiropractic as a tool to take your body’s natural movement mechanism to the next level. You already know how important movement is to get rid of the toxins and what role it plays in decreasing pain. Now imagine, if there was a way to speed up this process. It has been proven, that chiropractic care can help to decrease back pain, neck issues and in general improve the quality of life. But did you know, that it is possible to reverse arthritis through certain type of chiropractic? or completely get rid of migraines and other types of massive headaches for good within 90 days on average? Not even mention all kinds of organ issues chiropractic care can help you with. There is so many nerves coming through and out of your spinal cord – each of them supplies different organs and different parts of your body. If you have a subluxation in your spine, those nerves are pinched and simply can’t supply your body the proper way. You can experience all sorts of issues with your bowls, heart, liver, kidneys etc., and not even realize, that the source of your pain and discomfort is coming from your nerves not being able to give your organs enough movement to function properly. Here is the thing though. Unfortunately, not every chiropractor knows what they’re doing. After researching this interesting field for about six years now, I can tell you honestly that there may be a handful of really good corrective chiropractors in each state. But they are out there, and that’s great news! You want to find a doctor who doesn’t just “crack your back”, you want to find one who works with a nervous system and who’s goal is to restore a natural shape of your spine. Here is a fantastic video on how to find a good corrective chiropractor in your area:
My final thoughts
Those are my top choices, personally tested and researched. But there are others that I haven’t tried yet but I heard really good things about: Boswellia, Devil’s claw, cherries (for migraines), almonds, or extremely potent (and still legal) herbs – Red Kratom, Opium Lettuce, Blue Lotus, Kava Kava etc., that are definitely worth a try. While doing your research on natural painkillers, make sure you suit your choice to a specific condition and a type of pain you’re experiencing. One last but probably the most important thing. Painkillers – whether natural or not can not fix your pain permanently. They are a temporary solution that intends to keep you comfortable at the time but in order to really get rid of your pain you need to reach to the source. I’m not all against pharmaceutical painkillers – if you’re ever in a critical situation, accident with deep wounds, shattered body parts etc – I’d be the first one to get you the morphine asap! Or can you imagine any type of surgery without anesthesia? But this article is not about critical situations. It’s about dealing with different types of pain naturally from headaches, back and joint pain, stomach to toe pain and more.
Enjoy pain-free life!
Author: Karolina Krauz-Bergman
Tjendraputra E, Tran VH, Biu-Brennan D, Roufogalis BD, Duke CC. Effect of ginger constituents and synthetic analogues on cyclooxygenase-2 enzyme in intact cells.Bioorg Chem. 2001;29:156–163.[PubMed]Grzanna R, Lindmark L, Frondoza CG. Ginger—an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. J Med Food. 2005;8:125–132. [PubMed]
Infographic References (“What painkillers do to your body”):