“As long as you feel pain, you’re still alive.”
"As long as you feel pain, you’re still alive."
Many people think pain is a normal part of life. Some may even call it essential. Even if you disagree with that sentiment, the fact is that many people suffer from chronic pain for various reasons. But while we can't stop all sources of chronic pain, we can change the way it is managed.
Painkillers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and in increasing numbers, opioids, have become our go-to solutions for pain management. Opioids, in particular, are often hailed as the holy grail in pain relief. But they’ve come with significant costs — addiction, abuse, overdose, and death — and without the promised benefits. One 2018 study found that opioids were not more effective at treating moderate to severe chronic pain than non-opioids. Furthermore, they may raise risks for serious infections.
Non-opioid treatments like NSAIDs also have adverse reactions. So what can you do? Thankfully, there are many natural alternatives to prescription painkillers, many of which are much safer and gentler on your body.
Natural Pain Relievers
Many herbs, essential oils, and spices have anti-inflammatory properties that can provide pain relief. We’ll discuss a few options here.
Turmeric for Pain Relief & Inflammation
Turmeric is a commonly used spice in many ethnic cuisines, especially in Southeast Asian countries like India and Pakistan. It gives curry its yellow color, which is produced by a family of bioactive compounds in turmeric called curcuminoids.
The most well-known curcuminoid is curcumin, which research has shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In fact, some studies have indicated that curcumin may be a more potent than some anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin.3 The greatest advantage of curcumin is its high tolerability. Some clinical studies have shown that high doses (8–12 g) of curcumin cause some side effects like nausea and diarrhea, but it is not necessary to consume such high doses to experience the benefits of curcumin. Results from one 2016 study indicated that osteoarthritis symptoms improved with a dosage of less than 2 g/day of curcumin. Standard Process carries a product called Turmeric Forte that helps wonderfully well for inflammation & pain when combined with their Hemp Oil Complex (discussed later in this blog). Turmeric Forte not only has the anti-inflammatory property of turmeric but also contains Fenugreek seed 5.5:1 extract which helps with pain.
In addition to pain relief, turmeric has received much attention from the scientific and medical community for its potential as a therapeutic agent for:
Various types of cancer
Irritable bowel syndrome
Despite having such huge potential, curcumin has poor bioavailability, which refers to the proportion of an unchanged substance that is absorbed into the bloodstream, ready for use by the body. Curcumin degrades into various metabolites within 30 minutes. However, some research studies have shown that these metabolites — which are found in high concentrations in circulation after curcumin consumption — are responsible for the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities associated with curcumin.
Boswellia for Pain Relief
Boswellia (Frankincense) is an extract of Boswellia serrata, a moderate to large sized branching tree that grows in mountainous regions of India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. It is often referred to as Indian frankincense, and is one of the most valued Ayurvedic herbs. In traditional Ayurvedic and Unani texts, Boswellia is named as an effective remedy for a long list of conditions from diarrhea to sore throat to ringworm. In Western medicine, this gummy resin is known for its use as an:
Antihyperlipidemic (reduces lipid levels in blood)
Antiatheroscloertic (prevents or counteracts the buildup of fatty substances in and on artery walls)
Analgesic (relieves pain)
Hepatoprotective (protects the liver)
A clinical trial conducted in 2008 found that boswellia significantly improved arthritic pain and joint function in as little as seven days. Other studies have shown similar results, with some suggesting that the anti-inflammatory effect of boswellia is comparable to that of ibuprofen.
In general, boswellia can be taken as an oral supplement. Because products vary greatly, it has been difficult to come to a consensus on the optimal dose for safety and efficacy. The Arthritis Foundation recommends 300 mg to 400 mg three times a day of products that contain 60% boswellic acids.
Hemp Oil Complex for Pain and Inflammation
Hemp Oil Complex™ is a unique formulation of ingredients, combined to provide a 3-in-1 benefit for the whole body – supporting the endocannabinoid system, inflammation response resolution pathways, and endogenous anti-oxidant pathways.Hemp oil has been gaining popularity as an effective natural solution to support your endocannabinoid system or ECS. It is derived from nutrient-rich plant seeds and talks and contains compounds called phytocannabinoids. Hemp is legal in this country. Standard Process legally sources high-quality, non-genetically engineered hemp oil from Easter Europe. Standard Process's hemp oil contains a THC content of less than 0.3%, making it a legal product. Hemp Oil Complex from Standard Process is a safe, effective product that helps with pain and inflammatory processes. The ingredients in Hemp Oil Complex are: calamari oil, dimagnesium malate, hemp oil (stalk and seed), TrueBroc, and broccoli.
- Back Pain
- Inflammatory Issues
White Willow Bark for Pain Relief
The use of willow bark extract dates back to 400 BC13 when people chewed on the bark as an anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and a pain reliever. It continues to be used today for the treatment of various conditions, such as:
Low back pain
Inflammation (ex: bursitis, tendinitis)
Willow bark contains salicin which converts to salicylic acid in the stomach. Salicylic acid is a chemical similar to aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid. For this reason, many refer to willow bark as the “original aspirin.” However, willow species only contain a small amount of salicylic acid, and the dose is insufficient to produce pain relief. Fortunately, there are other components of the willow bark, such as flavonoids and polyphenols, that also contribute to the antioxidant, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects. This multi-component active principle allows willow bark to have a much broader mechanism of action and lower risk of adverse effects than aspirin.
Few research studies have been done on the safety and efficacy of white willow bark. Of those available, results suggest that white willow bark (standardized to 120 mg or 240 mg salicin) produce at least short-term pain relief.
One study used a supplement formulated with a combination of white willow bark extract, ginger root concentrate, glucosamine sulfate, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), boswellia serrata extract, turmeric root extract, cayenne, and hyaluronic acid. In this randomized, double-blind study, this combination significantly reduced joint pain severity of middle-aged and older adults.
There are several precautions to be aware of before you consume white willow bark supplements. Because salicin is similar to aspirin, it is possible for people who are allergic to aspirin to also be sensitive to salicin. White willow bark can also interact with other medications like blood thinners and beta-blockers. If you take any of these medications, consult your doctor before taking willow bark. Children, adolescents under the age of 16, and pregnant and breastfeeding women are also discouraged from taking willow bark supplements.
For a high-quality white willow bark supplement, White Willow Forte from Nutra Biogenesis is a great choice. This unique formula combines the potent powers of white willow bark, boswellia, turmeric, ginger, enzymes, and other nutritional factors to reduce inflammation and provide antioxidant support.
Essential Oils for Pain Relief
Other pain relievers come in the form of essential oils. We use and recommend the brand doTerra. Their essential oils are 100% oil with zero fillers AND they outsource their testing for purity versus being in-house. This is hugely important in that we know that when something is outsourced, there is no biased, unlike something tested in-house. Some Some of pain relieving essential oils that doTerra carries and we use are:
Deep Blue Oil & Rub
Natural Topical Pain Relievers
If you’re reluctant to pop another pill, you can consider a topical pain reliever like doTerra's Deep Blue. The ingredients include:
Wintergreen Leaf Oil
Camphor Bark Oil
The ingredients in Deep Blue reach the cellular level within 20 minutes and act to restore tissue homeostasis. That is, when tissues are inflamed and blood vessels are over-dilated, Deep Blue makes them contract, reducing swelling, redness, pain, and discomfort. On the other hand, when your muscles are in spasm, your blood vessels are constricted, which reduces the blood flow to the affected tissue. In this case, Deep Blue relaxes and dilates the blood vessels, improving microcirculation and tissue oxygen supply to promote healing.
Safe, Natural & Effective Pain Management is Possible
A good pain management strategy involves a multi-faceted approach that often requires patients to make a commitment to lifestyle changes. Instead of reaching for potentially dangerous and addictive drugs that simply mask pain, employing a holistic mindset to pain management can help you enjoy a pain-free life.
Of course, we haven’t covered all types of natural pain management strategies in this blog post. While we will certainly discuss other methods in the future, I emphasize the importance of thinking long-term for your health. Opioids may be appropriate in certain situations, they are never permanent solutions, and the current opioid crisis in this country is proof of that.
I have seen success with all of the products mentioned. Let us know if we can be of help with your pain or someone you know.