Herbs for pain relief have been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of medical conditions. Although there are many medications available in today’s modern world, many people still recognize the value and effectiveness of herbal remedies.
Herbs are often used to provide pain relief. Many herbs are considered effective pain relievers, however, they are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the same as conventional medications are regulated. Therefore, it’s important that the consumer do some research, to be aware of any potential side effects or drug interactions. Women who are pregnant or nursing should be very cautious about using herbal treatments.
The Best Herbs for Pain Relief
The following are effective herbs for pain relief:
1. Black Cohosh
Other Common Names: Actee noire, Baneberry, Black snakeroot, Rattleroot, Rattleweed, Bugbane, Bugwort
Black cohosh relieves muscle pain, painful menstruation, and pain from rheumatoid arthritis. Black cohosh is available in tea, capsules, and liquid extracts.
There have been some reports of hepatitis, as well as liver failure, in women taking black cohosh, but it’s not known if black cohosh was the cause of the liver problems. It’s not recommended for pregnant women to take black cohosh. Black Cohosh can have dangerous interactions with some medications, so check with your doctor if you are taking medication.
Other Common Names: Capsicum, Capsaicin
Cayenne is effective at relieving a toothache. Mix a little cayenne pepper in hot water; apply mixture to sore tooth with a cotton ball. Drinking cayenne mixed in warm water will relieve stomach pain. When applied to the skin, it can relieve pain from shingles, osteoarthritis, muscle cramps, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as nerve and back pain. Many commercial pain relief products list capsicum or capsaicin as an ingredient.
The FDA has approved the use of capsicum (or capsaicin) in topical, over-the-counter products. Capsicum taken by mouth is most likely safe, if used short-term, and not taken in large doses. It’s not recommended for pregnant women to take capsicum orally. Capsicum does have dangerous interactions with some medications, so check with your doctor if you are taking medication.
Other Name: German Chamomile
Chamomile is effective at relieving stomach pain.
Some people have serious allergic reactions to chamomile. People who are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds and daisies are the most likely to be allergic to chamomile.
4. Devil’s Claw
Other Common Names: Claw Root, Grapple Plant, Wood Spider
Devil’s Claw may be effective at relieving lower back pain, muscle pain, tendonitis, chest pain, heartburn, migraine headache pain, and pain from osteoarthritis. Devil’s Claw can be applied directly to the skin. Taking Devil’s Claw orally lessens back pain and pain from osteoarthritis.
Devil’s claw should not be used by pregnant women. Also, people with heart problems, diabetes, gallstones or ulcers should avoid Devil’s Claw. Devil’s Claw might decrease how quickly some medications are broken down by the liver, so talk to your doctor if you are taking any medications.
5. European Elder
Other Common Names: Elderberry, Elder Flower, Black Elder, Black Elderberry, Black-berried Alder, Boor Tree, Bountry, Ellhorn, Sambucus
European Elder is used to reduce sinus pain, neuralgia, and back and leg pain (sciatica).
People with autoimmune diseases should not take European Elder. It’s not clear if it’s safe for women who are pregnant or nursing. Do not use European Elder if you are taking immunosuppressants.
6. Evening Primrose
Other Common Names: EPO, Evening Primrose Oil, Evening Primrose Seed Oil, Fever Plant
Evening Primrose relieves breast pain and inflammation associated with the menstrual cycle, as well as leg pain due to blocked blood vessels, and pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis. Evening primrose contains fatty acids, which reduce inflammation.
Evening primrose should not be used if you are pregnant or nursing, have a bleeding disorder, have a seizure disorder or schizophrenia, or if you’re scheduled for surgery (due to possibility of increased bleeding). Evening primrose can have harmful reactions with some medications, so check with your doctor if you are taking medication.
Other Common Names: Altamisa, Bachelor’s Buttons, Featherfew, Featherfoil, Flirtwort, Midsummer Daisy
Feverfew has been used to treat headache pain, toothache, stomach aches, migraine and rheumatoid arthritis pain. For toothache, apply directly to the gums near the tooth.
Chewing feverfew leaves can cause canker sores, and swelling and irritation of the tongue and lips. This is less likely to happen if using a pill form. Pregnant women should not take feverfew because it can cause the uterus to contract, possibly resulting in miscarriage or premature labor. Feverfew can react with certain medications, so consult your health advisor if you are taking any medication.
Other Common Names: African Ginger, Black Ginger, Cochin Ginger, Ginger Essential Oil, Ginger Root
Phytochemicals in ginger help stop inflammation, and relieve pain from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Ginger also relieves stomach pain; and a paste of ginger and water can relieve a toothache.
Few side effects are linked to ginger, if used in small doses.
Other Common Names: Gingko Biloba, Fossil Tree, Maidenhair Tree, Japanese Silver Apricot
Gingko relieves pain caused by narrowing of the arteries, known as intermittent claudication.
Gingko can increase bleeding risk, so avoid if you have a bleeding disorder or are scheduled for surgery or dental work. Some people have allergic reactions to gingko. Gingko seeds should not be taken. They can cause serious adverse reactions, including seizures and death. Products made with ginkgo leaf extracts are usually safe when taken orally and not in large doses. Ginkgo interacts with many medicines. Before taking it, you should talk with your healthcare provider if you are taking any other medication.
Other Common Names: Yellowroot, Chinese Goldenseal, Eye Balm, Eye Root, Ground Raspberry, Indian Dye, Indian Plant, Indian Tumeric, Jaundice Root, Orange Root
Goldenseal relieves stomach pain, earache, pain of canker sores, sore gums, mouth and throat.
Goldenseal is generally safe for short-term use in adults at recommended dosages. Babies should never be given goldenseal. It can cause brain damage (kernicterus). Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use goldenseal. Goldenseal can cause reactions with other drugs, so check with your doctor being using goldenseal if you take any medication.
11. Horse Chestnut
Other Common Names: Aescin, Aesculus hippocastanum, Buckeye, Chestnut, Escine, Spanish Chestnut
Horse Chestnut reduces pain and swelling of varicose veins, relieves menstrual pain, arthritis and joint pain.
Horse Chestnut is safe for most people when using a standardized seed extract for short term use. Raw or unprocessed horse chestnut seeds, bark, leaf or flowers contain, esculin, a poisonous substance. People who are allergic to latex are often allergic to horse chestnut. Pregnant women should not use horse chestnut. Horse chestnut can have reactions with certain medications.
12. White Horehound
Other Common Names: Common Horehound, Horehound, Houndsbane
White horehound relieves inflammation and pain of a sore throat, indigestion, and menstrual pain.
White horehound is not safe to take during pregnancy and may cause irregular heartbeat in people with heart conditions.
Other Common Names: Common Lavender, English Lavender, French Lavender, Garden Lavender, Lavandula, Lavender Essential Oil, Spanish Lavender, Spike Lavender, True Lavender
Lavender relieves stomach pain, joint pain, nerve pain, toothache, and migraine headache pain.
You should avoid using lavender 2 weeks prior to any scheduled surgery. Lavender can have reactions with certain medications, so check with your doctor if you take medication.
14. Peppermint oil
Other Common Names:
Peppermint, Brandy Mint, Chinese Peppermint, Corn Mint, Extract of Peppermint
Peppermint oil, when applied to the skin, reduces muscle and nerve pain, toothache, headache and joint pain.
Peppermint can have reactions with other medications.
15. St. John’s Wort
Other Common Names: Goatweed, Hypericum, Klamath weed
St. John’s Wort treats nerve pain, arthritis, sciatica, and, when used as a balm, relieves pain from burns and wounds.
St. John’s Wort can cause increased sensitivity to sunlight, dry mouth, anxiety, dizziness, fatigue, headache, or sexual dysfunction. Also, St. John’s Wort interacts with many medications, and may interfere with their effects. Discuss the use of St. John’s Wort with your doctor if you are taking any medication.
16. White Willow Bark
Other Common Names: Basket Willow, Bay Willow, Black Willow, Black Willow Extract, Brittle Willow, European Willow, European Willow Bark
White willow bark contains salicin and works much like aspirin. It relieves headaches, muscle pain, menstrual cramps, toothache, joint pain, and arthritis pain.
Willow bark is not safe for use in children, people with kidney disorders, or those with sensitivity to aspirin. It’s not recommend for pregnant or nursing women. Do not take with anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs.
Many of these herbs for pain relief can be just as effective, possibly even more effective, than traditional medicines. It’s important to remember, however, that herbs do have side effects and can also have interactions with other medications. Before beginning an herbal remedy for pain, talk it over with your doctor.
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