Chronic pain, whether because of joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, back injuries or muscle disorders like fibromyalgia, is a huge problem in this country. It sends people flocking into emergency room departments and doctors’ offices to find some relief. And from mild, over-the-counter treatments like aspirin or ibuprofen to more heavy-duty opiates like hydrocodone or Vicodin, there are plenty of pain relievers to choose from. The problem is that all of them come with a cost. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, can cause irreversible (and sometime fatal) damage to the liver. Oxycodone has a high potential for addiction. Even the harmless-sounding aspirin has the potential to produce bleeding ulcers and permanent damage to the hearing. That is why there is such an increase in interest in natural pain relievers, such as the ones that are discussed in the sections below.
Ginger doesn’t just add great taste to any dish. Its active compounds, called gingerols, have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help with many chronic and painful conditions. In one study, it was found to be more effective than ibuprofen at controlling knee pain caused by arthritis. It can also help the nausea severe pain sometimes brings with it. (1)
The magic ingredient in cayenne that gives these peppers their wonderful heat is capsaicin. This compound is used in a variety of topical creams and ointments and can help with arthritis and other joint issues and nerve pain produced from conditions like shingles, just to name a few. Use as directed on the package, but be careful to keep it away from the eyes or mouth! (2)
Pain that comes from an inflammatory condition (from arthritis to inflammatory digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease) can be helped by supplementation with turmeric. This is because its active ingredient, curcumin, is both a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent to help reduce swelling, irritation, stiffness and pain throughout the body. (3)
If pain is coming from cramps in the foot or leg, particularly at night, this is a good sign that magnesium levels are low in the body. This is because magnesium is essential for muscle health. Supplementing with magnesium and restoring these levels can help to eliminating the painful cramping and muscles spasms. (4)
Teas or capsules made from birch leaves are also a great, natural way to relieve pain. They contain a compound called methyl salicylate, which is similar to the salicylic acid found in willow bark tea and which is the active ingredient in aspirin. This compound, too, has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties – but without the side effects. (5)
In short, if chronic pain is a problem, there are solutions that do not involved mainstream analgesics. Talk to a naturopath, herbalist or other practitioner to find out which of these remedies would be able to provide relief from the problem of pain.
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