Everyone hates pain whether it be a headache, toothache, muscle pain or a sore back and our usual response is to reach for a pill. But this is not your only choice; natural remedies have been used for thousands of years and are becoming increasingly popular to treat a wide range of ailments. Here are my top 10 natural alternatives to pain medication and why you should give them a go.
Why go natural?
Many medications cause dependency, side effects and interactions that most of us really don’t want. And sometimes our bodies really don’t need these drugs to heal. There are many ways to alleviate pain and not all of them involve downing a tablet. People have been using natural remedies for years and are still practicing them today. Although science isn’t completely up to date with natural remedies it is getting there and it is proving more and more that natural remedies may just be the answer to managing our pain.
- Willow bark
For centuries people have been using willow bark to treat inflammation (one of the main causes of pain). White willow bark contains the chemical silicin, which is very similar to the chemical found in aspirin. People used to chew the bark for pain relief but these days it comes in a dried form which can be made into a tea, it also comes in liquid and capsule form. Willow bark is quite good at treating headaches, lower back pain and other inflammatory related aches. Beware though, willow bark should only be used by adults as it is poisonous to children, it may also cause an upset stomach and prolonged bleeding just like aspirin does, so use minimally. It should also not be taken with other anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibroprofen.
Many of us know this spice as an additive to many Indian dishes. It contains the powerful antioxidant curcumin which is known to protect the body from free radicals. Turmeric is also used in treatments for ulcers, upset stomach and even cancer. Many people who suffer from osteoarthritis use turmeric because it is a powerful anti-inflammatory pain reliever. Turmeric can be used in cooking, brewed into a tea or bought in a capsule form.
Cloves can be used to treat a wide range of conditions from easing nausea and treating colds to relieving pain from arthritis, toothaches and headaches. The active ingredients in cloves in eugenol, which can be found in many OTC pain relive creams and rubs. Cloves can come in a capsule, powder or oil form and can even be used to rub on your gums when you have a toothache. Keep in mind though that too much clove oil on your gums may be harmful and people with bleeding disorders or who are on blood thinning medications should stay away.
Our own bodies are amazing machines and we actually have our own natural pain relievers called endorphins. Endorphins bind to the opioid receptors in our brains to block our perception of pain (like opioid pain relive such as morphine and oxycodone). When we increase our levels of endorphins we can actually decrease our pain and bring about feelings of pleasure and happiness. To release these endorphins into our system all you have to do is get your heart pumping for a period of time, exercise, dance, and jump around anything that gets that heart going. If you’re in too much pain to really get going, try something simpler like gentle water exercise.
- Heat and ice
Although most of us use heat and ice packs at home, many of us aren’t completely sure as to which one we are meant to use and when. Basically ice is initially used to reduce swelling at the location of the pain, a strained muscle. Once the inflammation and swelling has gone down then heat will ease any stiffness and aches left at the site. Using ice on a headache for a short period can reduce the severity and length of a headache. If the pain is from arthritis them moist heat, like a heat pack or war damp cloth can greatly release your pain. Another time to use heat is for tight muscles for example, the day after a good workout we are usually sore and a heat pack can help with this, same for tight muscles like our necks and backs. Another use for heat is when we expectance period pain and cramps, a heat pack laid across our lower abdomen can ease period cramping.
Ginger contains phytochemicals which can alleviate inflammation and pain especially in our joints and muscles. Like other herbal supplements ginger can help with other things too like easing nausea. Ginger can come as itself, a tea, lollies and a capsule.
- essential oils
Essential oils are made from plant products and are shown to be quite beneficial. The best way to use essential oils for pain relief is topically. These oils are quickly absorbed and detected in plasma after topical use. The best essential oil ointments for pain relief are ginger, frankenscience, turmeric, myrrh and orange. For pain relief while you sleep you can burn essential oils in an oil burner beside your bed at night.
Everyone loves a good massage, because they just make us feel better. A massage can have a tremendous effect on relieving pain from tension and tight muscles. You can choose an experienced massage therapist who can loo for the source of your muscle pain and effectively relieve it, or massage yourself with your hands, a foam roller or a massage ball. The heat and kneading will release tension in muscles and have you feeling mush better.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese pain reliving technique that involves the use of fine needles placed in certain areas of the body to balance the body’s natural energy pathways, and to release tension and pain. Acupuncture is becoming a very popular way to treat chronic pain, anxiety, stress, depression and more. Acupuncture may also release serotonin, which is one of our bodies chemicals that make us feel good and relieve us from pain.
These are the bacteria that live in your gut and keep you healthy. When we take antibiotics or are sick our gut flora can become out of whack and therefore we need to take supplements of probiotics to restore it. Probiotics help relive inflammation which in turn can ease chronic pain. It can also help with the pain and bloating that comes along with irritable bowel syndrome.
Even natural remedies can be harmful if not used correctly. Some natural products may interact with your existing medication, interact with each other, cause allergic reactions or have unwanted side effects. It is important to always read the label and use only as directed, and if you are on medication it’s a good idea to check with your DR to ensure there will be no harmful drug interactions.
Not all pain relief is created equally and you may be pleasantly surprised at what can actually ease your pain. From herbs and spices to massage and acupuncture there is a natural pain reliever for everybody. Give these a try and see for yourself, what have you got to loose?