Your Health Questions Answered

What Are Some Natural Alternatives to Painkillers?

Next time you need relief, try one of these options.

By Allison Forsyth May 18, 2022

natural painkillers

Image: Kari Perrin

For any type of pain, we typically turn to NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen. The drugs are helpful and quick-acting—but when they're taken in excess, they can contribute to a variety of negative side effects, such as stomach ulcers and liver damage.

Luckily, there are hundreds of natural remedies that can also do the trick for relieving pain. Next time you need relief, try one of the following.

Curcuma for joints

Curcuma, a natural compound produced by plants, is the orange compound found in turmeric root and is a potent anti-inflammatory that can help with joint pain. If patients have arthritis, doctors may recommend taking curcumin supplements, which can be found at health food stores. 

Arnica for muscle aches

Arnica is a yellow-orange plant that grows in mountain ranges of Europe. Ointments are made out of its flower to reduce muscle aches and bruising. Arnica can also come in capsule and pill form in a highly diluted form, and can be taken to reduce inflammation and joint pain. Studies have also shown that arnica can be effective in post-operative healing and can reduce swelling, bruising and pain.

Boswellia (frankincense) for upset stomach

Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to reduce symptoms of asthma, colitis (inflamed colon) and irritable bowel disease. Research has also shown it works to prevent leukotrienes, molecules identified as a cause of inflammation. The resin from the Boswellia serrata trees can be manufactured into oils, pills and ointments.

Talk to your doctor before boswellia, as it can negatively react with certain medications like anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs.

Cloves for toothaches

Cloves are a common way to flavor your food—but the spice can also be used to treat toothaches. If you purchase it in oil or paste form, follow instructions for swishing it around in your mouth or applying it onto gums that are in pain. Research has found that clove contains a natural anesthetic called eugenol, which can work just as well as the traditional analgesic benzocaine.

As part of its emergency care plan, Sarasota Family Dental recommends dabbing clove oil onto teeth if you have a dental emergency and are awaiting care.

Herbal blends for osteoarthritis

If you go to Sarasota Medical Natural Healing Center for joint pain or osteoarthritis, you may be treated with Inflamox, an herbal supplement made out of turmeric root, ginger extract, blueberry and cranberry fruit extract. It comes in tablet form and is dissolved on the tongue for five minutes. The supplement claims to reduce pain by 50 percent, with less bone damage over time. The maximum dose per day for adults is 15mg.

Inflamox is commonly prescribed with another herbal supplementation called Inflazyme, which works like an NSAID to reduce inflammation.

Magnesium for a migraine

If you suffer from chronic migraines, it can be hard to find treatments during an attack. This is why prevention is key. The mineral magnesium has been shown to help prevent and reduce migraine attacks when taken consistently. You can also eat foods containing more magnesium, such as bananas, flax seeds, chia seeds and dark, leafy greens, to boost your intake.

Holy basil oil for back pain

Holy basil oil, also known as tulsi, is a popular herb in natural medicine. Besides adding flavor to Thai food, it is a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Try applying it topically for back pain relief.

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