- 1 For all General pain and inflammatory processes
- 2 Whole cloves are often used to spice up meat and rice dishes. Ground cloves are used in pies and many other foods. As a medicine, cloves can be found in capsule or powder form. Clove oil is also available.
- 3 Lavender
- 4 Rose oil
- 5 Bergamot
- 6 Essential oil blends
- 7 Massage
- 8 Inhalation
- 9 Hot bath
For all General pain and inflammatory processes
Originally, people chewed the bark itself to relieve pain and fevers. Now willow bark is sold as a dried herb that you can brew like tea. It also comes as a liquid supplement or in capsule form. You can use willow bark to help relieve discomfort from headaches, low back pain, osteoarthritis (OA), and many other conditions.
However, willow bark comes with its own risk of side effects. It can cause stomach upset, may slow down your kidneys, and can prolong bleeding time, just like aspirin. It should only be used by adults. Similar to how aspirin taken in large quantities can be harmful for children, willow bark could be poisonous to children.
If you’re sensitive to aspirin, or if you’re taking any over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory drugs (like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen), you should avoid willow bark. You should also avoid taking it if you’re taking warfarin (Coumadin) or other anticoagulant treatments, as salicin could increase the risk of bleeding. Talk to your doctor before taking willow bark if you’re taking other anti-inflammatory or pain medications.
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color and unique flavor. It contains the compound curcumin, an antioxidant that helps protect the body from free radical molecules that can damage cells and tissue.
Turmeric can also be used for the treatment of many conditions, including:
Some people with OA also turn to turmeric as a natural pain reliever because it helps relieve inflammation.
Whole cloves are often used to spice up meat and rice dishes. Ground cloves are used in pies and many other foods. As a medicine, cloves can be found in capsule or powder form. Clove oil is also available.
Like other herbal supplements, you can use cloves to treat a wide range of conditions. Cloves may help ease nausea and treat colds. They may also help relieve the pain associated with headaches, arthritic inflammation, and toothaches. Cloves can also be used as part of a topical pain reliever.
One study suggested that cloves could be used to treat fungal infections, but further research is needed.
The active ingredient in cloves is eugenol, a natural pain reliever that’s also used in some OTC pain rubs. Rubbing a tiny amount of clove oil on your gums may temporarily ease toothache pain until you can get to a dentist. But too much undiluted clove oil may actually hurt your gums, so discuss this approach with your dentist before trying it at home.
This ancient Chinese medical practice seeks to relieve pain by balancing the body’s natural energy pathways. The flow of energy is known as qi (pronounced CHEE).
For this practice, acupuncturists place tiny, thin needles into your skin. The location of the insertion is related to the source of the pain. Based on the qi, a needle may be inserted far from the part of the body experiencing pain.
Acupuncture may relieve pain by causing the body to release serotonin, a “feel-good” chemical that eases pain.
Among the most common home pain remedies is applying heat and ice directly to sites of pain. While this treatment may seem obvious, not everyone’s clear on exactly when to use ice versus heat.
Applying an ice pack to reduce swelling and inflammation shortly after you experience a strained muscle, tendon, or ligament may bring relief. Interestingly, once the inflammation has disappeared, heat may help reduce the stiffness that comes with sprains and strains.
A cold pack used briefly on the head may also help take away the pain of a headache.
If your painful problem is arthritis, moist heat applied to the affected joint will help more than ice. Moist heat packs can be warmed in the microwave and used many times, making them effective and easy to use.
If you get injured, talk with your doctor or pharmacist about how to best use heat or ice to help ease the pain.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate essential oils. This means that essential oil products can vary in purity, strength, and quality across manufacturers. Be sure to only purchase essential oils from reputable brands.
Essential oils can be inhaled or applied topically when mixed with a carrier oil. Never apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin. Do not swallow essential oils. Do a skin patch test before applying diluted essential oils to your skin.
The following essential oils may help with pain relief.
According to a 2013 study, lavender essential oil may help treat pain in children after a tonsillectomy. Children who inhaled the scent of lavender were able to reduce their daily dose of acetaminophen post-surgery.
Researchers in a 2015 study found that lavender essential oil can be an effective analgesic and anti-inflammatory. When diluted lavender essential oil was applied topically during one test, it provided pain relief comparable to that of the prescription medication tramadol. This suggests that lavender could be used to help treat pain and any associated inflammation.
Another study in 2012 tested lavender essential oil’s ability to reduce pain in people who experience migraines. Results showed that inhaling the scent of lavender was effective in lessening the severity of migraine headache symptoms.
Many women experience abdominal cramping during menstruation. Rose essential oil aromatherapy has been shown to relieve pain associated with periods when paired with conventional treatment.
Research from 2013 suggests that rose oil aromatherapy may also be effective in alleviating pain caused by kidney stones when coupled with conventional therapy.
Bergamot essential oil aromatherapy is being used to treat neuropathic pain, which is often resistant to opioid pain medications. The results of a 2015 study found this therapy to be successful in reducing neuropathic pain.
Essential oil blends
Researchers in a 2012 study found a blend of essential oils to be effective in decreasing menstrual pain in terms of severity and duration. Participants used a cream containing lavender, clary sage, and marjoram to massage their lower bellies daily.
According to another study in 2013, an essential oil blend was successful in reducing discomfort and menstrual bleeding. Participants were massaged with a blend of cinnamon, clove, rose, and lavender in sweet almond oil. They were massaged once daily for seven days before their periods.
Another study showed the potential of an essential oil blend to lessen pain and reduce depression in people with terminal cancer. These participants had their hands massaged with bergamot, lavender, and frankincense in sweet almond oil.
Be sure to use a carrier oil to dilute your chosen essential oil. Applying an undiluted essential oil can cause skin irritation and inflammation.
Common carrier oils include:
- sweet almond
- apricot kernel
In general, you only need to use a few drops of essential oil. The dose can vary, but a good rule of thumb is to add about 10 drops of essential oil to every tablespoon of your carrier oil.
Before using a new essential oil, do a skin patch test to check its effects on your skin. Rub your diluted oil onto the inside of your forearm. If you don’t experience any irritation or discomfort within 24 to 48 hours, the oil should be safe for you to use.
Massaging diluted essential oil into the skin can help to loosen up muscles and alleviate pain. You can practice self-massage or opt for a professional massage using essential oils.
Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil to a diffuser and inhale the steam in a closed room. No carrier oil is necessary for this method.
If you don’t have a diffuser, you can fill up a bowl or plugged sink with hot water. Add a few drops of the essential oil to the water. Lean over the bowl or sink, cover your head with a towel, and inhale the steam. You can do this for up to 10 minutes.
You may also take a hot bath with essential oils. To dissolve the essential oil, first add 5 drops (the number of drops may change depending on the type of essential oil) to an ounce of carrier oil. If you don’t want oil in your bath, you can add the drops to a cup of milk and the essential oil will mix with the fats in milk. Sitting in the bath will allow the essential oil to enter your body through your skin. The steam that rises from the hot water can provide added aromatherapy. Avoid very hot baths as this can cause weakness or dizziness.
Always use caution when trying a new essential oil. Take care to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as olive oil or sweet almond oil. Never apply essential oils directly to the skin.
Some people can be allergic to some essential oils. To do a patch test, mix 3 to 5 drops of the essential oil with an ounce of carrier oil Apply a bit of this mixture to unbroken skin of your forearm, about the size of a dime. If no reaction in 24 to 48 hours it should be safe to use.
Talk to your doctor before use if you:
- are pregnant
- are nursing
- have an existing medical condition
- wish to use essential oils on children or older adults
Potential side effects of using essential oils include:
- skin irritation
- skin inflammation
- sun sensitivity
- allergic reaction
If you want to start using essential oils, do your research first. It’s important to be aware of the unique benefits and risks associated with each type of oil.
You also want to buy from a reputable brand. The FDA doesn’t regulate essential oils, so the ingredients in each product can vary across manufacturers. Some essential oils or oil blends may contain added ingredients that can cause adverse side effects.
You can purchase essential oils online or at your local holistic health store. It also may be helpful to speak with a certified aromatherapist. They can answer any questions you may have and help you pick out the essential oils best suited to your needs.
Be sure to
- Always dilute oils before applying to your skin.
- Perform a skin patch test to check for any irritation or inflammation.
- Avoid applying essential oils to sensitive areas, such as around your eyes or near open wounds.
- Discontinue use if you experience any irritation or discomfort.
- Never ingest an essential oil.
The natural painkillers described above may only be effective for specific causes of pain. It’s possible that not all of the suggestions on this list will work for you. However, these natural alternatives to prescription or OTC medications may at least give you some decent options to try before you turn to pharmacological solutions.
Remember, pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong. It may be temporary, as with a strained muscle. But pain can also mean you have a serious health problem that needs professional medical evaluation. Don’t hesitate to seek out a healthcare provider to diagnose the source of your pain, and discuss some natural options for treating it.