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Natural Pain Relief Herbs: 15 Science-Backed Options That Help Ease Pain

14 March 2023

Various herbs and spices in bowls

Key Points

  • Pharmaceutical options for pain relief are many and varied, but they also have various side effects.
  • Herbal medicine for pain relief can be used to treat a variety of ailments. They are generally more accessible and safer to use than their drug-based counterparts.
  • Among the many natural analgesic options, medical cannabis is one of the most well-studied. THC and CBD – both found in the herb – have been shown to help pain relief, particularly those caused by inflammation.
  • Despite the increasing interest in herbal remedies, it is still best to consult a doctor before taking any herbal medicine. Herbal pain relief can cause unwanted side effects or unwanted drug interactions.

Introduction

At Lyphe, we’re committed to helping patients find the best option for their pain. We specialise in providing patients with cannabis-based therapies that can provide effective and natural pain relief. If you’re looking for cannabis-based remedies to use for your pain, our team can help you find out if you’re eligible. Make an appointment with a doctor now and start your journey with Lyphe Clinic. 

If you’ve ever felt the all-too-familiar ache of a sore muscle or the throbbing of a headache, then you know how much pain can interfere with your life. That’s where prescription medications (e.g., NSAIDs. opioids) come in. They might be able to stop your pain, but they can also cause serious side effects like damage to your stomach lining or addiction.

Natural pain medicine may be an effective alternative for these medications. Herbal remedies have been used since ancient times to relieve painful conditions. While some do not hold water in today’s medical standards, many others are now backed by both scientific and clinical data.

In this article, we will look at fifteen of the most common natural pain relievers. We’ll also take a look at some tips for taking them and provide some information on their potential side effects. Always consult with and follow the advice of your doctor before starting a course of treatment with alternative medicines. 

1. Medical cannabis

Chemical formulas of natural cannabinoids on green background

Cannabis is one of the most commonly used pain relievers in natural medicine. It’s also one of the oldest, its use dating back to ancient China and India. Evidence shows that cannabis has been used as a treatment since at least 2700 B.C., with some reports indicating it may have been used even earlier.

The cannabis plant contains more than 100 different chemical compounds called cannabinoids. These cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates many important functions, such as appetite, immune function, memory and pain perception.

In terms of pain relief, the most important cannabinoids are THC and CBD:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – is the most well known psychoactive component of cannabis. While high levels of THC can cause euphoria and relaxation, it’s also shown to have pain-relieving properties.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) – CBD is a non-intoxicating compound in cannabis that has significant medical benefits. It’s been shown to treat seizures, pain and inflammation.

A 2021 systematic review suggests that cannabis shows promise in treating pain caused by various conditions such as inflammation, neuropathy, and even cancer.

In a 2019 clinical study published in Pain Medicine, researchers found that medical cannabis provided chronic pain relief and improved quality of life in the 19 participants.

 

At Lyphe, we are dedicated to helping patients find appropriate and effective solutions for their pain treatment. If you are looking for alternative options to manage your pain, contact us today to find you if you’re eligible for medical cannabis treatment. Take the first step towards a pain-free life by scheduling a consultation with one of our doctors.

2. Ginger

Ginger is an antioxidant, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory. It’s been used both traditionally and clinically for the following:

  • muscle pain and stiffness
  • nausea
  • blood circulation (great for those with arthritis)
  • indigestion and gas pains caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • colds/flu symptoms and sore throats.

A 2020 review published in Phytotherapy Research suggests that certain antioxidants in ginger may effectively lower chronic inflammatory disease symptoms, including pain. The same study also found promising evidence that oral ginger intake may be useful in treating the pain associated with dysmenorrhoea.

3. Boswellia

Boswellia (also known as Indian frankincense) is a herb used in Ayurvedic medicine. It comes from the resin of Boswellia serrata trees native to India. This herbal remedy is known for  reducing inflammation and pain, particularly for osteoarthritis (OA).

A 2020 meta-analysis published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies found that treatment with frankincense improved pain, stiffness and mobility in patients with OA. The study’s researchers noted that treatment with Boswellia and its extract should last at least four weeks for significant improvements to be seen.

4. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that’s used in curries and other foods. The active compound in turmeric is curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A 2021 review published in Phytotherapy Research suggests that curcumin can be used as supplemental therapy for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriasis, dermatitis, and even neuropathic pain.

There is also evidence that curcumin can help patients deal with postoperative pain. In a 2011 clinical study, researchers found that curcumin reduced the pain that patients experienced after a procedure known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC).

5. Lavender

Lavender is a classic herb used for centuries to treat pain. It can be applied topically, ingested, or inhaled. As an aromatherapy oil, lavender has been shown to promote relaxation and anxiety relief.

There is promising evidence for the use of lavender in helping women with labour pain. A clinical study published in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences found that inhaled lavender essence significantly reduced post-cesarean (CS) pain. Another 2016 randomised trial found that aromatherapy with lavender lessened the duration of labour pain among first-time (primiparous) mothers.

It’s unclear whether the analgesic effects of lavender are due to the volatile oils in the plant or some other aspect of the treatment. Nonetheless, it has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for pain relief.

6. White Willow Bark

White willow bark (Salix alba) is an old-school remedy used since the time of Hippocrates, who recommended it to relieve pain and fever. It contains salicin, a chemical similar to acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), better known as aspirin.

White willow bark extracts have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. As such, it’s seen in various clinical applications in pain treatment.

One study suggests that white willow bark is effective in treating musculoskeletal pain. In another double-blind clinical trial, researchers found that white willow bark extract significantly improved outcomes in patients with osteoarthritis.

7. Chili Peppers

A bunch of different colourful chillies arranged

Those looking for a herbal remedy that can sometimes be used in conjunction with other pain relief options may find chilli peppers a suitable choice. Chilli peppers contain capsaicin, a natural ingredient that helps reduce inflammation and pain in the body. Capsaicin works by blocking pain signals from reaching the brain.

Topically-applied capsaicin has been shown to significantly reduce pain in cases involving diabetic neuropathy, osteoarthritis, post-herpetic neuralgia, and psoriasis. In a meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers found that a capsaicin cream significantly reduced pains in treatment groups

8. Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a popular herb in the kitchen, but it also has some medicinal uses. Rosemary has been used for centuries to treat headaches and muscle pain. The herbal remedy has been shown to have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties.

A 2017 study found that applying rosemary oil topically reduced hemodialysis patients’ musculoskeletal pain. The same study compared rosemary to another popular herbal remedy, menthol. Rosemary was found to be more effective in alleviating the severity and frequency of the recurrence of pain.

9. Cloves

Cloves are a natural pain reliever; people have been using them for centuries to treat toothache, gum pain and sore throat. They can also be used to relieve muscle and joint pain. Additionally, clove shows promise as an analgesic that might help with digestive issues like stomach aches.

A 2015 study published in the Asian Journal of Nursing Education and Research found that massaging with clove oil helped reduce lower back pain among post-natal mothers. The study included 40 pregnant women who were experiencing lower back pain.

They were divided into two groups—one that received a massage with clove oil and one that received a placebo massage without clove oil. All of the participants reported significant improvements in their lower back discomfort after receiving massages.

10. Devil’s Claw

Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a plant native to Africa. It has a long history as traditional medicine, and it was first used by the San people and later by European settlers. Devil’s claw is used to treat stomach and intestinal problems, including flatulence (gas), bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation.

While evidence for devil’s claw viability in treating pain is limited, a review published in Holistic Nursing Practice found that it may be effective for treating degenerative musculoskeletal diseases, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and even spinal stenosis.

11. Ginseng

Fresh and dry slices of ginseng on a wooden board

Ginseng is a plant that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of health issues. It’s a popular herbal remedy for pain relief because it contains chemical compounds called saponins, which may help improve circulation by dilating blood vessels. While many people use ginseng as a herbal supplement, others believe it boosts energy and lowers stress levels.

A study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology suggests that ginseng, particularly Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), may have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. The researchers noted that ginseng induced a suppressive effect similar to ibuprofen in animal models. Still, more research is needed to determine the safety and efficacy of ginseng for humans.

12. Maritime Pine Bark

Maritime pine bark is an anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic. Its most common medical use is in treating pain caused by dysmenorrhoea. A study published in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine suggests found that administering maritime pine bark extract led to a lesser need for analgesic medication in women suffering from dysmenorrhoea.

Maritime pine bark extract is an antioxidant as well. It has been shown to help reduce oxidative stress in the body by slowing down the process of free radical damage.

13. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is a natural pain reliever. Most people use eucalyptus oil for muscle and joint pain. Eucalyptus oil can also be inhaled to relieve congestion or used topically to treat skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.

Eucalyptus oil inhalation has been shown to help with pain and inflammation response. A 2013 clinical trial found that eucalyptus oil inhalation effectively decreased the participants’ pain and blood pressure following total knee replacement (TKR) surgery.

Another study published in Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications suggests that inhaling eucalyptus oil helps reduce pain responses in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers also found that the treatment method leads to an overall improvement in patients’ quality of life.

14. Peppermint

Peppermint is a popular herb that has been used for pain relief since ancient times. It is most commonly used to treat headaches, migraines and tension headaches. Peppermint can also be effective in treating dental pain.

When applied topically, peppermint oil can reduce muscle soreness and joint pain. The herbal remedy has also been shown to help alleviate abdominal pain caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). One 2016 review suggests that an oral dose of 2 to 0.4 mL three times a day leads to significant pain relief from IBS-related pain.

15. Ginkgo

Brown glass jar with pills and ginkgo leaves

Ginkgo is an antioxidant that has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. It is believed to be an effective treatment for memory loss and dementia, as well as tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

In pain management, there is promising data showing that ginkgo can help reduce inflammation. One study published in Behavioural Pharmacology found that ginkgo extract inhibited pain responses in animal models. The active ingredient in ginkgo, bilobalide, has been shown to be a potent anti-inflammatory agent with therapeutic effects.

Understanding herbal pain relief options

Herbal pain relief offers patients a variety of treatment options that can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments. In some cases, herbal pain relief may be a viable alternative to pharmaceuticals. Always check with your doctor before starting an alternative course of treatment, especially in conjunction with other prescriptions. 

Most herbal remedies have less side effects than prescription drugs. They can be effective but should not be used as substitutes for standard medical treatment. Some herbal remedies may interact with medication and cause dangerous interactions with other medicines. Patients may also react negatively to these natural options, such as in the case of allergies.

As such, patients need to consult with their doctor before beginning any herbal regimen. A licenced health professional can help ensure that patients are using the correct remedy, in the correct dosage, and for the right length of time.

Which herbal relief for pain should you choose?

There is no one-size-fits-all in pain relief, even with natural alternatives. A good rule of thumb is that herbs are always best taken as part of a holistic approach to pain management. This means practising good habits, such as:

  • taking a multivitamin
  • getting enough sleep
  • not smoking cigarettes drinking alcohol excessively (which can all increase your risk for chronic pain
  • getting regular exercise.

That said, some herbs can be very effective in relieving certain kinds of pain. Medical cannabis is one of the most popular options, particularly for chronic pain. It has been found to be effective in treating various pain conditions resistant to other treatment forms.

Conclusion

Consider these natural solutions if you’re looking for a herbal pain relief option. They can help manage aches, pains, and even inflammation. While they may not be as potent as many other painkillers, they are generally safe and have few side effects.

If you’ve been suffering from chronic pain and are looking for an alternative to prescription medication, explore our website to find out more about medical cannabis or get in touch with our team to see if you may be eligible for medical cannabis. Book a consultation with one of our expert doctors. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the strongest herbs for pain?

There’s no such thing as the “strongest” herb, but some have better clinical backing than others at relieving pain. For example, medical cannabis has been shown to relieve pain in patients with chronic pain conditions.

What herbs are good for nerve pain?

Some medicinal herbs used for the treatment of neuropathic pain include calamus (Acorus calamus), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), cannabis (Cannabis sativa/indica), and more.

How to use herbs and spices for pain relief?

Some herb relief options are infused in oils or teas to be taken orally. Depending on your needs, herbs can also be applied topically as a balm or salve.

How long does nerve pain herbal pain relief take to work?

Regeneration from nerve pain depends on various factors, like the degree of nerve damage and the type of injury sustained. Some herbal remedies have been reported to work after 6-12 weeks of constant use.

What herbs are good for arthritis pain?

Turmeric (curcumin), Boswellia or frankincense, and cannabis have been shown to be effective in reducing inflammation and pain associated with arthritis.

References

Agarwal, K.A., Tripathi, C.D., Agarwal, B.B. et al. Efficacy of turmeric (curcumin) in pain and postoperative fatigue after laparoscopic cholecystectomy: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study. Surg Endosc 25, 3805–3810 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00464-011-1793-z

Denner, Sallie Stoltz BSN, CRNA. A Review of the Efficacy and Safety of Devil’s Claw for Pain Associated With Degenerative Musculoskeletal Diseases, Rheumatoid, and Osteoarthritis. Holistic Nursing Practice 21(4):p 203-207, July 2007. | DOI: 10.1097/01.HNP.0000280932.65581.72

Forouzanfar, F., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2018). Medicinal herbs in the treatment of neuropathic pain: a review. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences, 21(4), 347–358. https://doi.org/10.22038/IJBMS.2018.24026.6021

Goldie, Michelle; Dolan, Sharron. Bilobalide, a unique constituent of Ginkgo biloba, inhibits inflammatory pain in rats. Behavioural Pharmacology 24(4):p 298-306, August 2013. | DOI: 10.1097/FBP.0b013e32836360ab

Hadi N, Hanid AA. Lavender essence for post-cesarean pain. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences : PJBS. 2011 Jun;14(11):664-667. DOI: 10.3923/pjbs.2011.664.667. PMID: 22235509.

Keshavarzian, S., & Shahgholian, N. (2017). Comparison of the Effect of Topical Application of Rosemary and Menthol for Musculoskeletal Pain in Hemodialysis Patients. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research, 22(6), 436–441. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijnmr.IJNMR_163_16

Lindler BN, Long KE, Taylor NA, Lei W. Use of Herbal Medications for Treatment of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Medicines. 2020; 7(11):67. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicines7110067

Maya Lavie-Ajayi, PhD, Pesach Shvartzman, MD, Restored Self: A Phenomenological Study of Pain Relief by Cannabis, Pain Medicine, Volume 20, Issue 11, November 2019, Pages 2086–2093, https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pny176

Nethravathi, V., & Vijaitha, V. (2015). Effectiveness of Clove oil massage on Lower Back Pain among Post Natal Mothers at Selected Hospitals, Bangalore. Asian Journal of Nursing education and research, 5(4), 467.

Razavi, B. M., Ghasemzadeh Rahbardar, M., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2021). A review of therapeutic potentials of turmeric (Curcuma longa) and its active constituent, curcumin, on inflammatory disorders, pain, and their related patents. Phytotherapy Research, 35( 12), 6489– 6513. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.7224

Rondanelli, M., Fossari, F., Vecchio, V., Gasparri, C., Peroni, G., Spadaccini, D., Riva, A., Petrangolini, G., Iannello, G., Nichetti, M., Infantino, V., & Perna, S. (2020). Clinical trials on pain lowering effect of ginger: A narrative review. Phytotherapy Research, 34(11), 2843–2856. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6730

Schmid, B., Lüdtke, R., Selbmann, H.-K., Kötter, I., Tschirdewahn, B., Schaffner, W. and Heide, L. (2001), Efficacy and tolerability of a standardized willow bark extract in patients with osteoarthritis: randomized placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial. Phytother. Res., 15: 344-350. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.981

Stacy L. Haber, Pharm.D., Shareen Y. El-Ibiary, Pharm.D., FCCP, BCPS, Peppermint oil for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, Volume 73, Issue 2, 15 January 2016, Pages 22–31, https://doi.org/10.2146/ajhp140801

Suzuki N, Uebaba K, Kohama T, et al. French maritime pine bark extract significantly lowers the requirement for analgesic medication in dysmenorrhea: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The Journal of Reproductive Medicine. 2008 May;53(5):338-346. PMID: 18567279.

Varkaneh, Z. K., Karampourian, A., Oshvandi, K., Basiri, Z., & Mohammadi, Y. (2022). The effect of eucalyptus inhalation on pain and the quality of life in rheumatoid arthritis. Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications, 29, 100976. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conctc.2022.100976

Vlachojannis, J.E., Cameron, M. and Chrubasik, S. (2009), A systematic review on the effectiveness of willow bark for musculoskeletal pain. Phytother. Res., 23: 897-900. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.2747

Yazdkhasti, M., & Pirak, A. (2016). The effect of aromatherapy with lavender essence on severity of labor pain and duration of labor in primiparous women. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 25, 81–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.08.008

Yu, G., Xiang, W., Zhang, T. et al. Effectiveness of Boswellia and Boswellia extract for osteoarthritis patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Med Ther 20, 225 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-020-02985-6

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Author: Bojan
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Bojan Ambrus, Head of Marketing & Digital Product at Lyphe Group, is a data-driven growth marketing professional with over 15 years of rich experience. His background includes roles such as Head of Marketing at Vaping.com and growth marketing roles in various enterprises, startups, and scale-ups. His expertise in building and positioning businesses is particularly valuable in the cannabis sector, where he navigates its complexities and regulatory challenges. His strategic marketing insights make Bojan a key player in shaping Lyphe Group's marketing and digital product strategies.

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