When you fall ill or sustain an injury, it’s far too easy to reach for an over-the-counter painkiller to help you manage your discomfort. These are fine in the short-term, but there are often health implications that limit how long you can take them for, and they can be expensive to buy in bulk.
If you’re looking to treat a longer-term injury or illness, or you simply want to benefit from a more natural approach to medication, you’ll want to look at switching to herbal supplements and remedies that have been proven to offer pain relief.
Natural painkillers are everywhere. In fact, it’s likely that you’re already consuming some natural pain-killing ingredients without even knowing it. But it’s often the case that you have to include a substantial amount of these ingredients in your diet for you to notice a real difference.
If you’re looking to treat illness or injury without medical drugs, listen out for the top natural painkillers that really work:
Top Natural Painkillers
Exercise might be the last thing you want to do when you’re in pain – and in some cases, it’s better to avoid exercise if it’s only going to aggravate an injury. But if you can, try to fit in up to an hour of light-to-moderate exercise a day.
When you work out, your body produces its own version of painkillers, called endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that increase your pain threshold by interacting with brain receptors and altering your perception of pain. Start slowly if you’re not used to exercise, and work your way up to something you feel comfortable with.
2. Spicy foods
You might not think that spicy foods can relieve pain – they don’t always make for the most comfortable culinary experience – but research has found that hot foods like wasabi and cayenne pepper can actually act as natural painkillers. Cayenne pepper has been found to reduce post-operative pain, including pain relief after a mastectomy.
It can kill a number of different fungal strains, including candida, which is often linked to joint pain. Cayenne also contains capsaicin, a natural painkiller that can be effective in treating muscle soreness, tension and skin infections. You can find it in natural painkilling creams, or if you like the hot stuff, simply add more of it to your diet.
3. Evening primrose oil
Of all the essential oils, evening primrose oil is one of the best for treating pain. It’s naturally rich in an essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid, and many people around the world use it as a natural PMS treatment.
You can use evening primrose oil to relieve premenstrual symptoms, including abdominal cramping, thanks to its ability to balance hormones. Give evening primrose oil a try by starting with a small dose every day. Evening primrose oil can occasionally interfere with other medications, like certain antidepressants and drugs for schizophrenia or high blood pressure, so always talk to your doctor before starting the oil if it’s relevant. You can buy primrose here
4. Epsom salt
Epsom salt has been a favourite amongst spa experts and sports stars alike for its ability to naturally reduce pain and relieve tension, especially in the muscles. Rich in magnesium, Epsom salt is a natural painkiller for bone and joint pain and muscle soreness, so it’s a great go-to if you’ve just finished a difficult workout.
Epsom salt can also be effective in alleviating post-childbirth soreness or drawing out splinters. Simply pour the required amount into a bath and relax. It’s not a case of “the more the merrier” here – too much Epsom salt can produce a number of unpleasant side effects, so make sure you’re careful with your portioning.
You might not go straight to grapes if you’re suffering from backache, but a recent study has found that by eating a cup of grapes a day, you’ll relax tight blood vessels, helping to improve blood flow to damaged back tissues after only a few hours. Your back’s vertebrae and shock-absorbing discs depend on nearby blood vessels to bring them healing nutrients and oxygen, so improving blood flow is essential for healing any damage to your back tissue.
Grapes have also proven effective in treating pain in other parts of the body, like the shoulders and the feet, for the same reason.
Muscle tightness and soreness is a common problem that can arise from anything from sitting with a poor posture, to working out intensely. Knots can stick around for months without proper treatment, so if you can’t afford a chiropractor, it’s time to look at naturally relieving your muscle pain yourself.
Get into a routine of taking a warm bath containing a few drops of peppermint oil. This will help you for two reasons: first, the hot water will relax your muscles, and second, the peppermint oil will naturally ease muscle cramping, and lower the risk of future flare-ups.
Suffering from an illness? It’s also thought that drinking peppermint tea can help to relieve sore throat and stomach pain, thanks to its menthol content, which inhibits the nerves that react to external causes of pain.
You might have heard more about flaxseed recently, as a relatively new health food that’s finally made it to the mainstream supermarkets. Studies show that just a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseeds per day is enough to ease sore and painful muscles, as well as pain associated with the menstrual cycle.
Research has uncovered a number of natural compounds in flaxseed that reduce spikes in oestrogen that can trigger menstrual pain. You can eat ground flaxseed with almost everything, but you might find it easiest to sprinkle it onto your oatmeal or yogurt, or add it to your smoothies and dips.
One of the simplest ways to treat intense earache pain is by using garlic. A popular natural remedy involves placing two drops of warm garlic oil into your aching ear twice daily for five days straight, which should actually clear up ear infections faster than prescription medications.
Research has found that garlic’s active ingredients, including germanium, selenium, and sulphur compound, can naturally kill off a whole host of pain-causing bacteria. Make your own garlic oil by simmering three cloves of crushed garlic in a half a cup of extra virgin olive oil for two minutes, then straining and refrigerating for up to fourteen days.
Turmeric, the vibrant orange East Indian spice, has proved itself time and time again for its impressive health and wellness properties, with some experts citing it as the healthiest spice in the world. Scientists say that turmeric is three times more effective at easing pain than common pain-relieving medications, and can alleviate chronic pain for over half of people living with arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, naturally inhibits cyclooxygenase 2, an enzyme that produces pain hormones. Try adding half a teaspoon of turmeric powder daily onto your rice, chicken, meat or vegetable dishes.
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10. Bone broth
Bone broth might sound slightly unpleasant to you, but there was once a time when it was a staple in nearly everyone’s diet. It usually consists of bones, marrow, skin, feet, tendons and ligaments, making it a fantastic source of collagen, glycine and glutamine, most of which we don’t get enough of in our daily diets.
Bone broths contain minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, as well as chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine, which you can buy in supplement form (natural pain killer) for reducing inflammation and joint pain. It’s thought that bone broth is a potent natural painkiller because of its gelatine content, which helps it to provide a soft cushion for enabling bones to glide without friction.
Ginger has been known and used for its health benefits for years now, with many people swearing by the Christmas spice for relieving muscle and joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Experts say that ginger’s rich compounds, known as gingerols, are to thank: they directly work to prevent the production of pain-triggering hormones.
It’s recommended that you add a minimum of one teaspoon of dried ginger or 2 teaspoons of chopped ginger to your sweet or savoury dishes on a daily basis.
12. Apple cider vinegar
Heartburn is one of the most common health complaints that doctors see, and ultimately, if you want to get rid of it for good, you need to ditch the drugs and treat it naturally. Apple cider vinegar is a fantastic source of malic and tartaric acids, which are essential for digestion.
These acids speed up the breakdown of fats and proteins so your stomach can empty quickly, preventing gases and acids from food from rising up your oesophagus, causing heartburn pain. Mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with eight ounces of water and drink it before every meal for the best results.
Apple cider vinegar can also help to relieve arthritis and muscle pain, and improve joint mobility, when applied topically to the skin.
13. Lavender and peppermint oil
Peppermint oil is one of the best natural painkillers and muscle-relaxants, and some studies have proved its effectiveness in alleviating chronic fibromyalgia and myofascial pain. Lavender works similarly to relieve muscle tension, and the two oils together can quickly ease headache pain.
Try placing a few drops of peppermint or lavender oil into your hands and then rubbing the blend on your forehead and temples for fast pain relief.
Remember when your mum would tell you to take a teaspoon of honey when you had a sore throat? Honey for treating cold and flu symptoms isn’t just a myth – scientific evidence cites raw honey as incredibly beneficial for treating sore throat and mouth sores.
It’s the natural enzymes in honey that work to get rid of inflammation, helping to ward off viruses and heal symptoms faster. Bonus points if you mix honey with cinnamon for the ultimate natural healing paste.
To treat muscle pain, apply this paste to an affected area and massage it into your skin. You can also drink honey and cinnamon with warm water as a natural remedy for arthritis pain.
While more serious illness or injury is always worth a trip to the doctor, natural painkillers can help you to stay happier and healthier in the long run. They can also boost your metabolism and make you stronger, putting you at a lower risk of getting sick or injured in the first place.
As many of the natural painkillers in this video are healthy diet options, you’ll find that eating more of these will improve your overall physical health, helping you to live longer and avoid chronic disease.
You can purchase most natural painkillers from your local supermarket or pharmacy, but for some of the more specialist supplements, you might be best looking online for a larger selection. Make sure to read reviews and research a company so that you know they’re trusted before you buy one of their products.
Finding the best natural painkiller for treating an illness or injury may boil down to what it is you’re wanting to treat. Some of the natural painkillers mentioned in this video are generally better for injuries, while others are best for treating specific illnesses.
You’ll benefit the most from trying out a combination of a select few, and working out which one is the most effective for you.