Chronic pain is a debilitating thing to deal with and overcome.
For many people, doctors can’t seem to find a way to rid them of this pain, and for other people, they would just prefer not to take strong medications every day to be able to live a somewhat normal life. Because of these factors and many more, people turn to natural solutions to pain.
Chinese and Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine have been using herbs and spices for thousands of years for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help a great deal with pain relief.
Herbs and spices are powerful even in small doses, so you usually don’t need to consume much to get results. Half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon has the same amount of antioxidants as half a cup of blueberries and half a teaspoon of dried oregano has the same amount of antioxidants as three cups of spinach!
These herbs and spices won’t heal the root of the problem, but they can help deal with some of the symptoms.
Most of these spices can be used in several forms, but they’ve been categorized into sections based on their most common or most effective form to receive their benefits.
Topical herbs and spices
Arnica has been used since the 1500s as a popular ingredient of homeopathic remedies. Arnica can be used topically for muscle aches and pains, reducing inflammation and bruising, and healing wounds. It can also help with reducing pain after surgeries.
Be careful ingesting arnica. Only take it as a homeopathic solution in the suggested dosage, since it can be dangerous in larger doses.
You can put it on bruises twice a day, but do not apply it on broken skin.
It has been used for relief of pain from carpel tunnel and from a variety of surgeries.
Peppermint oil can be used as a painkiller, muscle relaxant, or from relief from headaches, especially when used together with lavender which helps reduce tension. This combination can also be used for muscle and joint aches and pains. Peppermint oil is best used with a carrier oil such as coconut oil.
Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which can help your body to not relay pain to the brain. It has a lot of antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory.
Cayenne can be used topically in creams and patches to help relieve pain, especially back and joint pain. Stop applying it if it causes any skin irritation.
Cayenne pills can help with digestive pain and cramps.
Cayenne can help to deplete nerve cells of substance P, which is a chemical that transmits pain signals to the brain. This can make it useful in preventing and treating migraines.
Native Americans used cayenne as a medicine for thousands of years.
Studies are being done to see if it can slow or prevent cancer, since this is something there has been some evidence of.
Be careful it you’re on blood thinners or any blood pressure medication
Some people are sensitive to cayenne. It is part of the nightshade family, so it can be dangerous in large quantities, or if stored incorrectly can easily grow mold.
Comfey contains allantoin, which can reduce inflammation and stimulate cell growth and repair. It can help a great deal with pain, especially back pain.
It can be used as a skin cream or you can make a compress to apply to your skin.
Comfrey shouldn’t be taken orally, since it can be harmful to your liver. Also avoid applying it to any broken skin.
Limit the amount you use topically as well, and you may want to consult with a doctor to see for how long you should be using it.
Mustard seeds can deplete nerve cells of substance P, which transmits pain to the brain (similar to cayenne pepper does).
Mustard seeds can be used to make a compress that has analgesic properties and can help with muscle pain, arthritis, and skin issues.
Azadirachta indica is also known as neem, nimtree, and Indian lilac, and has been used in India for skin issues for centuries.
Neem is a strong analgesic and can provide quick relief from itching and pain when you apply it to the skin. It can heal cold sores and help with herpes. It can also be used for worms, eye disorders, gum disease, stomach issues, and healing wounds.
Urtica dioica is called common nettle, nettle leaf, or stinging nettle.
You can use it to make a compress with a good inversion table and it can relieve some pain related to gout, arthritis, and muscle and joint pain. It can also be made into a cream.
Nettle leaf can also be make into a tea for and used to treat kidneys, gout, arthritis, joint pain, skin issues, stomach issues, and more.
Herbs and spices for cooking
Cinnamon bark has been used in China and India for centuries to make powders and teas for health purposes.
Cinnamon has lots of antioxidants and can fight inflammation and help with aches and pains.
Don’t ingest too much cinnamon, especially if you’re pregnant or on blood clotting or thinning medications.
Cloves have also been used in Indian and Chinese medicine for centuries. Cloves contain an anti-inflammatory chemical called eugenol that inhibits COX-2, a protein that leads to inflammation. Cloves also contain lots of antioxidants.
Cloves can helps slow damage to bones and cartilage in people with arthritis.
You can use whole cloves for tooth pain by leting them soften in your mouth, then biting gently with molars (not any molar that hurts) to release the oil. Then move them to the tooth that hurts, and keep them on the gums by that tooth for several minutes.
Clove oil can be applied topically, but it is strong, so you shouldn’t use too much of it.
Ginger has long been used as a remedy for nausea. It also helps with muscle pain, inflammation, and menstrual cramps.
Ginger has antioxidant 6-gingerol that inhibits production of peroxynitrite, which is a free radical that produces pain and inflammation
You can eat ginger, make a compress with it, or use it to make a tea.
Be careful not to let ginger mold, since it develops mold quite easily when it’s fresh. Be sure to keep it in a cool, dark, dry place.
Nutmeg can be used to help with inflammation and abdominal pain, wounds, injuries, strains, and arthritis.
You can use it in your cooking and baking, or it can be applied topically for joint and muscle pain and for arthritis.
Oregano has huge antioxidant power and has great anti-inflammatory abilities.
Oregano oil is used for a wide variety of health issues including bacterial or fungal infections, colds, stomach problems, intestinal worms, respiratory problems, skin problems, menstrual problems.
Huge quantities of oregano are not required to feel its effect. A teaspoon a day is enough to benefit from its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Rosemary has great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Rosemary increases the activity of superoxide dismutase, which is an enzyme that promotes inflammation. This process works best with cooked rosemary, but rosemary can still be beneficial when it’s not cooked. It also stops inflammation by inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglanins, which trigger inflammation.
Rosemary can help with heartburn, gout, headaches and migraines, toothaches, stomach pain, eczema, joint and muscle pain, and even works as an insect repellent.
Thyme is a great painkiller. It has been shown to work better than ibuprofen in some situations, especially with menstrual pain.
Thyme can be consumed in your food or it can be made into a tea to clear your lungs of congestion, to relieve aches and pains, to soothe your throat, and to settle your stomach.
Historically, thyme’s antibiotic properties meant that it was used to medicate bandages.
Thymol is found in thyme and is an antiseptic still used as the active ingredient in some mouthwashes.
Turmeric is a root in the ginger family that has seemingly endless health benefits.
Turmeric has curcumin in it, which is a very powerful antioxidant, and also gives it its yellow color.
Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for a wide variety of health issues including liver disease, arthritis, diabetes, allergies, Alzheimer’s and much more.
It reduces inflammation, especially in the joints, and improves circulation and slows blood clotting. It has been found to help slow tumor growth and to clear inflammation that leads to cancer growth. It also acts as a painkiller.
You can cook with it, make it into a tea, or take it in capsule form.
Be careful not to take large doses of turmeric, especially if you take blood thinners.
Most people know about chamomile’s calming properties that help with sleep, but it is lesser known that chamomile is also used to help relieve pain. It has terpenoids and flavonoids that have been known to help people with inflammation, muscle spasms, ulcers, skin infections, digestive issues, arthritis and more.
Chamomile is best consumed as a tea.
Valerian tea can help relieve pain, especially from menstrual cramps. It can also help with insomnia, anxiety, lowering blood pressure, and migraines and headaches.
You should avoid valerian if you are pregnant, and you shouldn’t take it regularly for more than a month without consulting with a doctor. Also, because it is so good as a sleep aid, you should not take it before driving or operating machinery.
Willow bark acts a lot like aspirin. It has salicin, which reduces inflammation, and it can help provide relief from headaches, migraines, and back pain.
In the past, people used to chew on willow bark to relieve pain and fever.
Willow bark can be consumed as a tea or a capsule.
If you have a sensitive stomach, don’t take large doses. It can also have an adverse effect on people with thin blood, so consult with a doctor if you think this could be a problem for you.
Herbs and spices in capsule form
Boswellia is also known as Indian frankincense. It helps with headaches, arthritis, and gastrointestinal problems.
You can take Boswellia as a capsule or a tablet.
Devil’s claw is an herb that can help with back and muscle pain, gout, headaches and migraines, and arthritis.
You should take it in a capsule form, but be sure to take it in small doses if your stomach is sensitive to avoid a stomachache.
Glucosamine is a trusted treatment for arthritis. It helps with pain and improves movement. It is often combined with chondroitin. Together, they help make strengthen your cartilage.
Patience is key when taking glucosamine, since it takes several months to start feeling the effects.
Licorice has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It can help with arthritis, ulcers, respiratory problems, fatigue, cold, depression, and more.
It can be used topically or consumed as a tea, but the most common and effective way to consume it is as a supplement.
It can be used on the skin to relieve itching and eczema.
You can also gargle it to help with canker sores and pain in the mouth.
An important reminder
Many herbs and spices can mold in storage, which can be dangerous for your health.
One reason this happens often with dried spices is that when you put spices into a meal as it’s cooking, you’re letting steam inside the container, and that lets mold start growing.
Ways to avoid molding:
- Throw away old dried spices that have been opened
- Use fresh herbs and spices whenever possible
- Use high quality spices
- Don’t pour spices directly into steaming dishes
- Store them somewhere cool, not above the stove
Final words of advice
Herbs and spices are powerful in their ability to reduce pain and to deal with so many other health issues, that they are certainly worth adding to your diet.
Since herbs and spices are easy to buy and are regular items to have in your kitchen, many people underestimate their power. Please use caution when consuming them, and always start with small amounts.
If you are taking any medications, are pregnant, or have any other medical conditions, you should consult with your doctor before using herbs and spices to treat any pain or other issues.