The Best Plant-Based Pain-Relievers

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Plants have provided people with herbal medicine since time immemorial. Is there some legitimacy to the healing powers of herbs?

Definitely. 

From headaches to arthritis to PMS, we know how debilitating pain can be. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the seven best plant-based pain-relievers around. 

Remember, as always, it’s essential to consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any new herbs, vitamins or supplements. Still, we’re here to empower you to learn about how plants can soothe your body. 

Willow Bark

Have you ever heard of a little thing called aspirin? Willow bark is the plant-based alternative for this common over-the-counter drug. 

Willow bark contains a compound called salicin which your body converts to something called salicylic acid, a precursor to aspirin. These days, scientists have discovered a way to create salicylic acid synthetically, which is now sold in pharmacies worldwide. 

While one may be a big-name pharmaceutical and the other a lesser-known plant medicine, these two pain relievers come from the same roots. 

Next time you need to buy a bottle of aspirin, why not grab willow bark instead? 

Devil’s Claw

Don’t let the name deter you—devil’s claw is much less daunting than it seems. 

This herbal medicine is a member of the sesame family whose roots are hosts to several beneficial compounds. 

Some studies show that one of these natural chemicals may have antioxidant effects that could defend against inflammation. In turn, devil’s claw may be used as an alternative treatment for arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other forms of pain. 

Related Article: Herbal Medicine 101

Turmeric

No one is shocked that turmeric made this list. From turmeric lattes to face masks, this powerful superfood is everywhere these days, but is it worth the hype?

Yes! When taken correctly.

Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, has mighty anti-inflammatory properties, and here does most pain come from? You guessed it—inflammation. 

The thing is, curcumin is notoriously difficult for your body to absorb. That’s why you’ll often see turmeric products sold in mega-high doses or paired with black pepper. Piperine, a component of black pepper, supports curcumin absorption. Alternatively, check for a supplement processed to make the curcumin more readily available. Otherwise, it might be a waste. 

Magnesium

Did you know this essential mineral has pain-relieving properties? You better believe it! 

We know this mineral isn’t plant-based by nature, but tons of plant foods are magnesium-rich, so that counts, right?

Low magnesium is tied to chronic inflammation, a.k.a. chronic pain and even disease. Foods high in magnesium, including dark chocolate, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, can reduce inflammation.  

Consuming more magnesium can also prevent migraines, relieve PMS symptoms and decrease fibromyalgia effects. 

See? There’s a reason we need chocolate while PMSing! 

Related Article: 5 of Nature’s Most Powerful Medicinal Plants and Their Benefits

Cannabis

There’s no way we were going to skip this mighty pain-reliever. Cannabis may be the ultimate plant medicine, but we completely understand if this isn’t your vibe. Even if it’s not, keep reading. You might learn a thing or two. 

Not all cannabis components will get you high. That’s only THC. The other part, CBD, is non-intoxicating and non-euphoric

Both THC and CBD are major players in pain relief. However, the latter is more popularized by the natural health community. CBD can also help reduce inflammation, IBS, migraines and mental disorders, among other conditions.

On the other hand, THC can help fight muscle spasticity, anxiety, nausea, insomnia and even glaucoma, alongside others. 

Despite cannabis’ range of medicinal properties, recreational THC remains illegal in some places. Be sure to know your local laws before consuming this plant. 

Boswellia

If you suffer from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease, Boswellia might be the answer for you.

This natural painkiller is a resin extracted from Indian frankincense (which you may be more familiar with as an essential oil). One fascinating aspect of Boswellia is its effect on cartilage. It can prevent cartilage loss!

This is a huge win in the pain management department. As cartilage erodes due to health conditions like osteoarthritis, the bone begins to rub against bone. If you’re cringing thinking about that, you already know preventative measures are essential for pain treatment. 

Better yet, supplementing with Boswellia may increase mobility. It’s nothing but wins all around. 

Related Article: 10 Superfoods to Get You Through the Winter

Capsaicin

You know that numb feeling you experience while eating spicy food? That’s capsaicin at work. 

Capsaicin is an oily substance found in chili peppers responsible for all that heat. Before you ask, no, you don’t have to eat any spicy food to reap the pain management benefits from this plant-based compound.

Although, that numb tongue sensation demonstrates precisely how capsaicin works. 

When we eat spicy foods, pain receptors in our mouth fire as a reaction to the heat. The thing is, there’s a relapse period. Those receptors take a break before they’re able to fire again. 

So, topical capsaicin creams have the same effect: they stimulate those pain receptors, which reduces your pain sensitivity. Cool, right?

Beware that you may experience a burning sensation when you first apply capsaicin cream. As such, you may want to start with small amounts when you first try it out. 

Final Thoughts

Plants are incredibly-powerful healing alternatives. If you’re experiencing pain, there are a ton of herbal medicines that may alleviate your discomfort and improve your quality of life. From migraines to fibromyalgia to inflammatory bowel disease, it’s impressive how many ailments plants can ease. 

Don’t forget to demonstrate caution when adding new herbs, vitamins and supplements to your diet. Always consult a healthcare professional before incorporating alternative healing products into your lifestyle. 

Sources

  • Meixner, Makayla. “Devil’s Claw: Benefits, Side Effects and Dosage.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 27 Aug. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/devils-claw.
  • Moncivaiz, Aaron. “Boswellia: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, and More.” Edited by Debra Rose Wilson, Healthline, Healthline Media, 6 Oct. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/boswellia.
  • Omoigui, Sota. “The Biochemical Origin of Pain: the Origin of All Pain Is Inflammation and the Inflammatory Response. Part 2 of 3 – Inflammatory Profile of Pain Syndromes.” Medical Hypotheses, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 28 Aug. 2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17728071.
  • Preiato, Daniel. “What Are Capsaicin Supplements, and Do They Aid Weight Loss?” Edited by Grant Tinsley, Healthline, Healthline Media, 6 Aug. 2020, www.healthline.com/nutrition/capsaicin-supplement#benefits.
  • Spritzler, Franziska. “10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Magnesium.” Healthline, Healthline  Media, 3 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-magnesium-benefits.
  • Holland, Kimberly. “CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?” Edited by Eloise Theisen, Healthline, Healthline Media, 20 July 2020, www.healthline.com/health/cbd-vs-thc.
  • Wong, Cathy. “Can Willow Bark Relieve Pain?” Edited by Lana Butner, Verywell Health, Dotdash, 29 Aug. 2020, www.verywellhealth.com/white-willow-bark-89085.

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