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10 Best Natural Painkillers

Updated on December 14, 2017

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 sacra
Boswellia sacra

4. Boswellia

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!

6. Arnica

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!

8. Serralysin

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.

9. Cloves

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.

10. Glucosamine

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.

Please leave a comment.

© 2013 Kelley Marks


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    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comment, Diana Lee. Of the anodynes on this list, I think fish oil may be the best. Later!

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 

      7 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      Natural remedies are safer treatment options. I especially like the ideas that don't require special stores or places to find them. Cherries would be easy to find and fresh ones are in the produce section now.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comment, seanorjohn. I haven't tried cloves for pain relief, but I've heard they work great. Oragel ain't bad either, and it won't make you drowsy. But you might give something like glucosamine a try, and give me a report. Later!

    • seanorjohn profile image


      7 years ago

      You are certainly right about cloves. They have got me through toothache whilst waiting to see the dentist. I will try out afew of these natural remedies when I next get backache. I am always reluctant to reach for the pills because they often leave me feeling drowsy. Voted up.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      7 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      An interesting and best way to go is the natural way thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comment, Jephiter S. Ondari. Hey, I'm sure all of these natural painkillers work just fine. Thanks for the tip about red onions. Later!

    • Jephiter S Ondari profile image

      Ondari S Jephiter 

      7 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      I grew to trust anything natural,. I have tried red onion and it works. this hub is useful.

      Thank you

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks, everyone, for your compliments and comments. The subject of natural remedies and painkillers certainly deserves much attention. Later!

    • Kenja profile image

      Ken Taub 

      8 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Good, solid, helpful information, Kosmo. More cherries and red onions it is.! I already take fish oil almost daily and love salmon, herring and even anchovies. Best regards, and good health to you. Ken

    • torrilynn profile image


      8 years ago

      hi kosmo,

      thanks for this article.

      i feel that natural painkillers are better than relying on store brough pain killers

      very interesting and useful

      thanks again and voted up

    • peachpurple profile image


      8 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      thanks for the natural pain killers. I just started taking fish oil and onions. having bad gum ache and had been relying on painkillers too much. Thanks. Voted useful

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comments, prairieprincess and birdalleter. Before I wrote this hub I had no idea there were so many natural painkillers, many of which are foods. The biggest problem with using these natural remedies is trying to discover the right dosage. Later!

    • bridalletter profile image

      Brenda Kyle 

      8 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you for a detailed list, most of them I was not familiar with. I do notice a difference when using fish oil, but the daily does has to be higher to accomplish pain relief. Very interesting hub. I hope it helps some individuals with pain. I know I hate prescription pain medications and in a short 3 years, already experiencing side effects.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      8 years ago from Canada

      I am a big believer in natural products, whenever possible. This is an excellent list for us to know about. Thanks!


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