Top Seven Natural Pain Relievers

This post is a follow-up to my post on Natural Lifestyle Approaches for Relieving Pain. Everyone has times when they experience pain. Sometimes the pain is short-lived, sometimes it becomes chronic. My encouragement for anyone with chronic pain is to use the tips shared in the post I mentioned above along with the pain relievers shared in this post while working with a practitioner to determine and address the cause of the pain.

As always, none of the statements made in this post or any others on this site were evaluated by the FDA and none are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition. Please consult with your health practitioner before starting to take any supplement or before making major changes to lifestyle or diet. Please also note that pregnant women should never take any supplements unless recommended by a trained professional. Please always follow doses recommended on the bottle and do not take any supplement in a dosage higher than that recommended.

Following are my favorite choices for natural pain relievers. Some of these can be very easily found in any drugstore, while others may require a visit to a health food store. I’ve provided links to an example of each product so that you’ll know what to look for in stores. (I often find that Amazon has the lowest prices on supplements, including ones that can only be found in doctor offices.) Please work with a practitioner to determine which of these is the best option for you. I will provide examples of situations appropriate for each supplement, but each person is wonderfully unique and needs to find the supplement or combination of supplements that is best suited to their physiology, lifestyle and habits.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a muscle relaxer that is known to provide fast relief to many types of pain, including simple muscular pain, headache pain (stress headaches, especially), etc. This would be my first line of defense against many types of minor pain, especially since it is readily available, works fairly quickly, and because 80% of the US population is deficient in Magnesium. I recommend taking 200-400mg at the first sign of discomfort. Although higher doses can be taken, be aware that higher doses may cause diarrhea, especially if other supplements you take contain magnesium. When purchasing a magnesium supplement, please do not purchase one whose primary ingredient is magnesium oxide, as that form of magnesium cannot fully be absorbed by the human body. For more information on magnesium, including information about choosing an effective magnesium supplement, please read my post: Why You Need More Magnesium and How to Get It.

Arnica

Arnica is a homeopathic remedy or topical cream/gel/lotion that has been used for centuries to relieve inflammation. It is such a powerful anti-inflammatory that many mainstream surgeons now recommend their patients use homeopathic arnica orally before and after surgery. The nice thing about homeopathics is that they typically have no interaction with other medications or supplements. When using the oral form of arnica, tiny pellets are placed under the tongue 3-5 times per day at least 10 minutes before or after eating. (Homeopathics should also not be used within an hour of brushing your teeth, as mint can block their receptors.) Topically, arnica cream or gel can be amazingly helpful for muscle aches and injuries and bruises, but should not be used on open wounds. My favorites include Hyland’s Arnica Montana pellets or Boiron’s combination packet of Arnica Gel & Pellets. Please note that the Arnica Montana herb is highly toxic, but that it is perfectly safe to use in homeopathic form because the quantities used are so tiny. The tiny amounts are enough to stimulate healing but are not enough to cause problems.

Proteolytic Enzymes

Proteolytic enzymes are one of my favorite healers. They are powerful anti-inflammatories which also have the ability to help the body eliminate extra tissue growth and any undigested food molecules that wind up in the tissues due to leaky gut or other digestive disorder. Proteolytic enzymes are used in Germany to battle cancer along with other natural therapies, but this therapy is not yet recognized in the US. (Please don’t use this therapy for cancer treatment without the express consent of your medical professional.) I recently spoke with an osteopathic surgeon from an osteopathic center in Indianapolis that is known world-wide for its success in treating osteopathic issues. This MD shared that he is using proteolytic enzymes instead of cortisone injections to treat his own knee pain due to the damage caused by cortisone injections, but that he cannot legally recommend proteolytic enzymes to his patients. (That’s another issue for another blog post.) The bottom line is that proteolytic enzymes bring incredible relief to many because they are known to reduce inflammation and to help the body repair damaged tissues. They can also be helpful in reducing the size of some forms of fibroid tumors. I have a friend who suffered from debilitating bursitis pain for years and who tried every remedy – mainstream and alternative – under the sun, but who found relief in less than two days after trying proteolytic enzymes. The trick to using proteolytic enzymes is that they MUST be taken on an empty stomach. If they are taken while food is in the stomach, the enzymes will digest the food and will never reach the bloodstream. This means they must be taken at least half an hour before eating or at least two hours after eating. The nice thing is that they are effective when taken once per day, so splitting the dosage is not necessary. In my opinion, Wobenzyme is the best on the market. There are many others available, but Wobenzyme contains professional grade enzymes in the highest quantity and includes the highest combination of enzymes. I typically recommend that people start with three tablets per day. If three tablets don’t work to bring complete relief, I then recommend they take six per day, gradually working up to as many as 12 if needed.

Curcumin

Curcumin is the active ingredient and most easily absorbed form of Turmeric, a spice that is commonly included in curry blends. Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory but also has other health benefits. It is known to be a powerful liver cleanser and is also often used as a remedy for MRSA. (Again, please consult a professional if you have MRSA, as it can be deadly.) Because Curcumin is a spice, it can typically be used in conjunction with prescription medications, but should not be used by anyone taking Coumadin or Warfarin and should not be used in conjunction with large doses of aspirin or NSAID pain relievers. Curcumin has been shown to be a powerful anti-oxidant and to increase cellular levels of glutathione, a naturally produced anti-oxidant. In other countries, curcumin is used to treat tumors, but please see my comment above related to using it in conjunction with cancer therapies. People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chron’s disease often find curcumin to be beneficial. Curcumin is also showing promise as a potential treatment for Alzheimer disease, although further studies are needed. I recommend using 400-600mg of curcumin one to three times daily for best results. Please note that taking curcumin in excessively high doses has sometimes been shown to cause liver damage. As with all things, moderation and following the dosage recommendations on the bottle is best. My favorite brands of curcumin include: Jarrow Curcumin 95 and Nature’s Bounty Curcumin.

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a natural form of sulfur that is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and which the body uses to repair connective tissues in joints. It is also a powerful cellular detoxifier which many people use when they’re doing a detoxification regimen. (On a side note, please note that people with sulfa allergies can take MSM without worry. The chemical form of sulfur used in sulfa drugs is very different and bears no resemblance to the chemical form of sulfur in MSM.) MSM is especially helpful for those battling arthritis or anyone suffering from tendon damage or muscular damage. I personally found MSM to be a lifesaver when I damaged tendons after I wrecked my motorcycle. MSM helped my body repair damage that doctors said couldn’t be repaired. I’m very thankful for that. I recommend starting with a dosage of 3000mg per day. Some people find they require higher doses. If you need a higher dose, work up very gradually to avoid a strong detoxification side effect and do not exceed 9000mg/day. As with any supplement, find the lowest dose that’s effective for you and don’t take more than is needed. My favorite OTC brands of MSM include: Doctor’s Best OptiMSM and Nature’s Way MSM. I find that taking MSM as a powder dissolved in water or in capsule form is best. MSM is also effective used in a cream applied topically.

Omega 3

Fish Oil, or an Omega 3 supplement, is a well-known anti-inflammatory with multiple health benefits. Anyone who does not eat fish at least three times per week probably needs an Omega 3 supplement. We are inundated with Omega 6 oils – which are known to be inflammatory – in our diet, so I tend to recommend people supplement with Omega 3s. Omega 3s can be obtained from seeds, nuts, fish and algae. If you wish to take an Omega 3 supplement, I recommend: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega or Carlson Labs Very Finest Fish Oil. Fish oil supplements are one supplement I strongly advise against purchasing in a drug store, as purity is very important. You don’t want to take one containing high mercury levels or which contains high levels of radiation. It’s worth it to spend a little bit of extra money on this particular supplement.

White Willow Bark

White Willow Bark is what aspirin was made out of in its earliest days. White Willow Bark is very high in salicylic acid, the pain reliever in aspirin. White Willow Bark is my personal go-to herb for occasional headaches and minor muscle aches that were not relieved by a glass or water or magnesium. Many women find it very helpful for menstrual cramps. It is also effective for relieving low-grade fevers, although I feel fevers below 102 degrees should not be treated, as they are the body’s defense against illness. However, White Willow Bark should not be used by anyone taking a prescription blood thinner (Coumadin, Warfarin), nor should it be given to children with a fever due to the danger of Reye’s Syndrome. Beyond that, it has few prescription drug interactions. Follow the dosage recommended on the bottle. Typically, the dosage can be repeated 3-4 times daily. Some people experience a bit of stomach upset with White Willow Bark. If you do, I recommend taking it with food, but that is not necessary if you don’t experience stomach upset when taking it. My favorites include: Nature’s Answer White Willow Extract (liquid) and Nature’s Way White Willow Bark Capsules.

What are your favorite all-natural pain relief supplements? Please share!

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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