10 natural pain relievers: what they are, why they help and how to use them

The world of plants offers many gimmicks for treating pain: let’s see which are some of the best natural pain relievers and how they are used.

Pain relievers (or analgesics) are substances aimed at treating pain, be it acute or chronic. The term “painkiller” groups and describes several pharmacological agents, which can act through different mechanisms.

For example, they can bind to specific receptors blocking the perception of pain; they can inhibit the activity of some enzymes involved in the painful response; or they can reduce the synthesis of inflammatory mediators. By way of example, paracetamol is a very well-known drug and is one of the most used pain relievers.

The scientific interest in curative substances has allowed us to deepen the usefulness of many plants already known in popular medicine. In this regard, it may be interesting to describe some natural remedies for pain, as long as it is clear that they too, like common drugs, must be used correctly and scrupulously. In particular, it is always advisable to seek medical advice.

10 natural pain relievers: what they are and why they work

As mentioned earlier, the world of plants understands and offers various gimmicks for treating pain. In order to explain its ancient curative applications, there are in fact numerous studies conducted on various botanical species. Although some evidence has to be confirmed or strengthened by further investigations, the plants in question are currently used to obtain products that are simply commercially available.

What criteria to follow for the purchase? In general, a good quality product will have a cost that is entirely comparable to the market average, meeting certain requirements: in fact, an excessively low price could indicate poor quality. Good quality natural remedies will contain indications about the audience of potential consumers, including, for example, vegan, celiac or lactose intolerant subjects. With particular reference to some products described below (such as essential oils), the bottles used will be small, equipped with droppers and made of dark glass. Finally, it is always preferable to opt for mixtures that are not very complex and low in additional substances with respect to the active ingredient. Some botanical species will now be considered from theanalgesic activity.

1. Cumin

Cultivated from the Mediterranean area to the East, cumin is a herbaceous plant belonging to the Apiaceae family and known in botany as Cuminum cyminum. Cumin seeds are used for both culinary and therapeutic purposes, boasting, in the latter case, a recurring presence in the context of folk medicine. In particular, cumin has been used for the treatment of diabetes, epilepsy and pain.

A study conducted on laboratory animals attributes the analgesic properties of cumin to the bioactive substances contained in its seeds and, in particular, to cuminaldehyde, which is the most abundant substance. It has been suggested that cuminaldehyde may act at the level of receptors involved in pain perception.

The essential oils obtained from the seeds of this aromatic species are used for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and abdominal cramps, mostly resorting to local applications. The best quality products will be 100% natural and will not have additives of an alcoholic nature. In addition, they will be arranged in small dark glass containers.

2. Thyme

Among the natural painkillers, thyme is also worthy of note, a perennial and aromatic plant widespread in the Mediterranean area. This species bears the botanical name of Thymus vulgaris and belongs to the Lamiaceae family.

Thanks to its content in biologically active components, such as thymol and carvacrol, some curative effects are attributed to the thymus, among which an antispasmodic effect on smooth muscles stands out. A study dating back to a few years ago compared the activity carried out by the essential oil of thyme at 2% and that carried out by ibuprofen, a drug commonly used for the treatment of menstrual pain. In particular, the essential oils of thyme have shown a certain effectiveness in solving this problem, without causing particular adverse effects.

Herbal products obtained from thyme are commercially available in the form of essential oils and hydroalcoholic solutions, to be used following the information notes of each product. The best products are those obtained from spontaneous growth plants and grown without the use of chemical agents.

3. Cloves

Cloves are the buds obtained from the Eugenia caryophyllata species , an evergreen shrub of the Myrtaceae family and cultivated in Indonesian, Indian and African lands. In addition to uses in the culinary and cosmetic fields, cloves are known in herbal medicine for various healing properties, also ranking among the strongest natural pain relievers.

These properties have been attributed to eugenol, an aromatic molecule deriving from the essential oils of cloves. Considering the various mechanisms suggested and highlighted, this bioactive component seems to act at the level of pain receptors.

The products recommended and available in common commercial channels (pharmacies, parapharmacies and herbalists) mostly consist of essential oils and will contain the natural components of the plant without other additives. A few drops of essential oils are mixed with a small amount of vegetable oil (eg: almond oil) and then applied to the area to be massaged. Typically, these products are recommended to treat menstrual pain, bloating cramps, and neck pain. Furthermore, this spice, if applied locally, is also effective in counteracting toothache.

4. White willow

The white willow is a very common tree plant in the humid environments of the European continent. In the botanical world, the white willow is known as Salix alba and is classified as a species belonging to the Salicaceae.

This species is rich in biologically active components, mainly contained in its bark and mostly represented by salicin. The healing properties of white willow are attributed to this substance and to the synergy with polyphenols and flavonoids, which is classified as a powerful natural pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. The active principle of the white willow bark can therefore be defined as “multicomponent” and acts on pain through various mechanisms, resulting, however, less irritating on the gastric mucosa.

White willow supplements, typically represented by capsules or liquid solutions, are applied to various painful conditions, such as back pain, headache, rheumatism, and arthritis. The products may differ from each other for the percentage of the active ingredient: in any case, it is good practice to follow the dosages recommended by each manufacturer. Willow supplements should be consumed after a meal.

5. Peppermint

Peppermint (Mentha piperita ) is a herbaceous and distinctly aromatic plant belonging to the Lamiaceae family. This species is cultivated all over the world and its leaves boast various curative applications, so much so that it is among the remedies of folk medicine.

In particular, peppermint is placed in the category of natural analgesics. These properties are attributed to the substances contained in the plant, such as resins, volatile oils and flavonoids, and seem to occur at the level of pain receptors, both centrally and peripherally.

The products available on the market and indicated for the treatment of pain are mainly represented by 100% pure and organic essential oils. The latter are used to make compresses and dilutions for external use, to be applied to neuralgia, muscle pain, joint pain and migraine. If you apply mint essential oil on the temples and forehead to counteract headaches, be careful not to get too close to the eye area.

6. Coriander

Classified with the denomination of Coriandrum sativum, coriander is an annual herbaceous plant and belongs to the Apiaceae family. Both the fresh leaves and the dried seeds of the plant are used in the culinary field of various cultures. In addition, coriander is a well-known remedy of traditional medicine, boasting several therapeutic applications: among these, an analgesic activity has been highlighted through investigations on laboratory animals.

This property has been attributed to the bioactive components contained in the plant, including flavonoids such as quercetin. The substances in question seem to impact on painful perception by operating at the level of some receptors.

For analgesic purposes, the recommended products are mostly represented by 100% pure essential oil, obtained by distillation of the fruits and contained in small dark glass containers. A few drops of the product must be mixed with any vegetable oil and applied to the area affected by the pain until completely absorbed: in general, these products are suitable for the treatment of rheumatism and muscle pain. In any case, it is advisable to refer to the information notes of each product.

7. Muscat grass

The moscatella herb (Salvia sclarea) is a herbaceous and aromatic plant belonging to the Lamiaceae family. It grows in the Mediterranean area and, as far as our country is concerned, it can be found above all in Sardinia and Sicily. Some therapeutic properties are attributed to the essential oils of the moscatella herb, among which the analgesic activity stands out.

The products recommended and available at dedicated sales points are made up of pure essential oils, to be mixed with small quantities of vegetable oils and to be applied to the area affected by pain, massaging until the substance is absorbed. They are useful for painful conditions affecting the tendons, for abdominal cramps and for headaches.

8. Absinthe major

Belonging to the Asteraceae family, wormwood is known in botany with the name of Artemisia absinthium and is a herbaceous plant widespread in different areas of the planet, such as Asia and Europe. This plant is one of the phytotherapeutic remedies of traditional medicine boasting numerous curative applications. Overall, the phytotherapeutic powers associated with wormwood are attributed to its numerous phytochemical components, among which are terpenoids, organic acids and flavonoids.

A certain importance is also attributed to the essential oils of the plant. The composition in bioactive components is also associated with an analgesic power, the effect of which is expressed through the external application of the related herbal products. In particular, it is advisable to use 100% natural and pure essential oils, to be used in the manner and in the quantities indicated by the manufacturers. These preparations are suitable for the treatment of menstrual, joint and muscle pains and, in general, act through a soothing and relaxing action.

9. Wild mallow

Wild mallow (Malva sylvestris) is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the Malvaceae family. In traditional medical contexts, wild mallow is known for its healing properties, among which analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities stand out. Although these properties are attributed to all parts of the plant, they seem to be concentrated at the level of the leaves and flowers, as they are rich in flavonoids and substances known as mucilages. These components seem to be useful in the treatment of inflammation and pain, acting as soothing and emollient.

Mallow is used to produce food supplements, mostly by obtaining the mucilage; the liquid solutions obtained must contain the active substances extracted from leaves and flowers. These products are generally taken with water or other drinks, to treat inflammation of the oropharyngeal mucosa and gastrointestinal tract (useful, for example, against heartburn ); mallow also lends itself well to the treatment of fissures and hemorrhoids. In addition to products in liquid solution, herbal tea preparations are also recommendedand supplements in capsules, especially if added with vitamin complexes. For dosage, it is preferable to follow the instructions provided by each manufacturer.

10. Alfalfa

Alfalfa, or “alpha-alpha”, is a herbaceous plant defined in botany as Medicago sativa and belonging to the Fabaceae family. This species is native to the Asian territories and is currently widespread also in our country. Various healing properties are attributed to it and, at a popular level, it boasts therapeutic applications for the treatment of muscle cramps, rheumatism and arthrosis. The healing properties of alfalfa appear to be related to its biologically active components, such as flavonoids, alkaloids and triterpenes.

Alfalfa-based supplements are available at pharmacies, parapharmacies and herbalists, both in the form of capsules and tablets, and as a hydroalcoholic extract (mother tincture). In the latter case, it is advisable to purchase products made from fresh herbs. For the posologies and methods of use, it is good practice to follow the explanatory notes of the products.

Summary table of the main natural pain relievers

For greater clarity, we report below a summary table on the effects of the main natural painkillers that we have seen above.

Painkiller:Works for:
CuminMusculoskeletal pains, abdominal cramps
thymeMenstrual pains, cramps
ClovesMenstrual pains, meteorism cramps, neck pain, toothache
White willowBack pain, headache, rheumatism and arthritis
PeppermintRheumatism, muscle pain, headache, pain in general
CorianderRheumatism, muscle aches, pains in general
Muscat grassPainful conditions affecting the tendons, abdominal cramps, headaches
Absinthe MajorMenstrual, joint and muscle pains
Wild MallowPainful inflammation of the oropharyngeal mucosa, fissures, hemorrhoids, heartburn
AlfalfaMuscle cramps, rheumatism and osteoarthritis

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