10 Best Natural Painkillers
Are natural substances the best pain relievers?
Some people prefer natural painkillers - and who could blame them? What’s better than natural? At the very least, natural painkillers are cheaper, if for no other reason than you don’t need a doctor’s prescription to obtain them.
But please be aware that natural remedies have potential side effects and/or may interfere with the medicinal properties of various prescription drugs such as warfarin or ticlopidine, as well as any OTC drugs you may be taking. Therefore, consulting a doctor before using natural supplements or foods to reduce pain may be a good idea - as long as you can afford to pay the doctor, that is.
So here’s the list of the 10 Best Natural Painkillers:
1. Fish Oil
Fish oil seems to have myriad uses as a health supplement and, for this reason, may be one of the most popular of such in the world. Fish oil’s main ingredients are the Omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both are known to reduce inflammation throughout the human body, and this is the primary reason fish oil can be a powerful pain reliever. Fish do not actually produce EPA or DHA, they absorb these substances when feeding on fish or other animals lower in the food chain. As a testament to the benefits of the regular consumption of fish oil, Greenland Eskimos eat massive amounts of it, and look how healthy they appear!
2. Tart Cherries
Native Americans such as the Cherokee Indians often used tart cherries - essentially those for making pies, jams and jellies - when relieving sore throats and laryngitis, as well as stomach pain. These cherries contain large amount of antioxidants, particularly beta carotene. Tart cherries also seem useful in treating the pain associated with arthritis and gout and may also slow the aging process and reduce memory loss. Tart cherries also contain melatonin, a natural sleep aid.
3. White Willow Bark
White Willow or Salix alba has been used as a pain reliever for thousands of years. Hippocrates, Galen and Pliny the Elder knew of its properties as a powerful, non-narcotic analgesic. Found in the bark of the white willow tree, the active ingredient is salicin, similar in composition to aspirin and first isolated in its crystalline form in 1828 by French chemist Henri Leroux. White Willow bark is primarily used to treat fever and aches and pains of all sorts. Along with ibuprofen, aspirin is another NSAID or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
Boswellia comes in four different species of trees, though it’s generally known in association with the tree that produces a resin used to make frankincense, a form of incense burned since biblical times. This species is known to scientists as Boswellia sacra, and its active ingredient has anti-inflammatory properties. In West Africa, the bark of the species known as Boswellia dalzielii is used to treat fever, rheumatism and gastrointestinal problems, and may also be useful in the treatment of depression.
5. Devil’s Claw
Known to scientists as Harpagophytum procumbens, devil’s claw is a flowering plant found primarily in southern Africa. This plant’s tuberous roots yield iridoid glycosides, which have strong analgesic, sedative and diuretic properties, and are often used for treating arthritis. When treating lower back pain, devil’s claw appears comparable in effect to Vioxx. In 2006, a systematic review of herbal remedies showed that small dozes of harpagoside, 50 to 100 mg, appears effective in treating lower back pain. But, as a warning, be aware that devil’s claw promotes the secretion of stomach acid!
Arnica is a genus containing 30 different species of flowering plants, most of which are found in temperate regions of western North America. Arnica montana and other species of arnica produce a chemical known as helenalin, which has anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and anti-tumor properties. But anyone interested in taking any type of arnica should be aware that an overdose can result in gastroenteritis and internal bleeding of the gastrointestinal tract. Arnica has also been used in homeopathic remedies, which many scientists consider unethical and/or ridiculous.
7. Red Onion
Red onions are rich in quercetin, a flavonoid supposedly beneficial to gastrointestinal health. Red onions also have anti-inflammatory properties for the throat, bones and blood vessels, and because of this, may be effective in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Quercitin may also be effective in treating hypertension and other maladies, but there is no scientific proof it is effective in treating any particular disease or health condition. Nevertheless, red onions certainly taste good!
Although clinical trials for the use of serralysin (a.k.a. serrapeptase) are lacking, it is believed to have the ability to fight inflammation and pain. Serralysin is sometimes called a “super enzyme,” because of its reputed wide range of functions in the human body and for its lack of known side effects. Serralysin is also used as a treatment for the following diseases: arthritis; fibrocystic breast disease; ear, nose and throat infections; post surgical edema; carpel tunnel syndrome; and chronic airway disease. And, since serralysin may reduce the accumulation of mucus, it could be effective in fighting bronchial conditions.
Cloves have many uses, as many people who have eaten them could attest. But cloves also have medicinal properties, particularly as an emergency dental anodyne or anesthetic, because clove oil numbs parts of the mouth on contact, relieving the pain in a toothache, for instance. Cloves can also be used as an anthelmintic, that is, for expelling parasitic worms from the gastrointestinal tract. Cloves can also be used for fever reduction, as mosquito repellent, as a preventative for premature ejaculation and as a means to lower blood sugar, though the efficacy of these latter applications remains to be proven.
Glucosamine is not a pharmaceutical drug, herb, vitamin or mineral; it can be found in the shells of crustaceans, as well as animal bones and marrow and, because of this association, glucosamine sulfate, in particular, is often used in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Interestingly, glucosamine sulfate does appear to have some anti-inflammatory properties and adverse side effects are rare, unless people grow impatient and overdose. But clinical trials have not proven the effectiveness of glucosamine. Nevertheless, in most of Europe glucosamine sulfate is considered a medical drug.
Of course, plenty of over-the-counter painkillers are available - ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen are perhaps the most common ones. All are very effective and cheap and, by some stretch of the imagination, could be considered wonder drugs. Unless you’re allergic to such drugs, they may be the best ones to take when you need inexpensive, easy-to-obtain pain relief.
However, for many people, natural remedies are preferable, and people should do what they really want to do.
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© 2013 Kelley