6 Herbs for Pain Relief

Find out how to get all-natural pain relief

man with neck pain
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If you're dealing with pain, adding herbs to your regimen may help to ease your aches. At the root of many pain-causing conditions is chronic inflammation. A natural immune response to infection or injury, inflammation can become chronic due to factors like poor diet, stress, lack of exercise, and exposure to environmental toxins.

If you suffer from an inflammation-related condition such as arthritis, neck and back pain, or tendonitis, adding certain herbs to your health regimen may help you manage your pain.

Although not as fast-acting as standard pain medication, such herbs may significantly diminish your pain when used regularly (especially when combined with daily exercise and the practice of relaxation techniques, both of which can provide pain reduction).

Keep in mind that anti-inflammatory herbs won't heal your condition itself, despite any pain-easing effects. Furthermore, addressing the cause of chronic inflammation is essential for working your way toward optimal health: Not only known to generate pain, inflammation is a major risk factor for chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Here's a look at six herbs often used for natural pain relief:

1) White Willow Bark

Containing salicin, an aspirin-like compound, white willow bark has long been used as a natural remedy for inflammation and pain. It was found to be as effective as conventional medicine in lessening pain among people with mild to fairly severe knee and hip problems in a 2008 study.

White willow bark may also alleviate acute back pain, joint pain, and osteoarthritis. However, the bark may cause stomach upset, affect kidney function, prolong bleeding time, and increase the risk of bleeding, just like aspirin. Also, it shouldn't be used by children.

Related: White Willow Bark

2) Boswellia

Sourced from a resin found in the bark of frankincense trees, boswellia has been shown to thwart chemical reactions involved in inflammation.

Practitioners of ayurvedic medicine have long used boswellia to treat arthritis; the herb may also benefit people with inflammatory bowel disease.

Related: The Health Benefits of Boswellia

3) Devil's Claw

Traditionally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, the South African herb devil's claw may also soothe pain resulting from osteoarthritis, tendonitis, and back and neck troubles. In a 2007 study of 259 people with rheumatic conditions, researchers found that 60 percent of study members either reduced or stopped their pain medication after eight weeks of taking devil's claw. The herb also appeared to improve the participants' quality of life.

Related: What You Need to Know About Devil's Claw

4) Bromelain

An enzyme extracted from pineapple stems, bromelain reduces levels of prostaglandins, which are hormones that induce inflammation. Bromelain may benefit people with arthritis and conditions associated with musculoskeletal tension (such as TMJ syndrome), as well as those suffering trauma-related inflammation. What's more, the enzyme may promote healing in muscles and connective tissues.

Find out more about Bromelain and other Enzymes.

5) Turmeric

An ayurvedic spice known to tame arthritis pain, the curry spice turmeric contains an antioxidant compound called curcumin.

In an animal-based study published in 2007, scientists discovered that curcumin can overpower pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines. The compound may also help decrease pain associated with autoimmune disorders and tendonitis.

Related: Turmeric for Health

6) Ginger

While sipping ginger tea can help relieve cold-related congestion, supplementing with ginger may help to ease pain. Research indicates that ginger may calm arthritis pain, possibly by lowering your prostaglandin levels. One 2005 study even suggests that ginger could reduce pain and inflammation more effectively than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin).

Related: The Health Benefits of Ginger

Using Herbs for Pain?

Keep in mind that the scientific support for the claim that any herbal remedy can treat pain conditions is fairly lacking. Also, a word of warning: it's important to talk with your doctor before treating pain with herb to avoid any adverse reactions. For example, white willow bark, turmeric, and ginger contain natural blood-thinning compounds, so people taking many common medications and supplements and those about to undergo surgery should be particularly cautious.


Beer AM, Wegener T. "Willow bark extract (Salicis cortex) for gonarthrosis and coxarthrosis - Results of a cohort study with a control group." Phytomedicine 2008 [Epub ahead of print]

Grzanna R, Lindmark L, Frondoza CG. "Ginger--an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions." Journal of Medicinal Food 2005 8(2):125-32.

Reyes-Gordillo K, Segovia J, Shibayama M, Vergara P, Moreno MG, Muriel P. "Curcumin protects against acute liver damage in the rat by inhibiting NF-kappaB, proinflammatory cytokines production and oxidative stress." Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 2007 1770(6):989-96.

Warnock M, McBean D, Suter A, Tan J, Whittaker P. "Effectiveness and safety of Devil's Claw tablets in patients with general rheumatic disorders." Phtyotherapy Research 2007 21(12):1228-33.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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