Herbalism and plants teach us that each person’s body is unique. What works for one person might not work for the next. You must also consider the physical issue. What is the source of the discomfort?
Where does it come from? Are there any changes you can make to your lifestyle to help with the pain? Herbal medicine is all about promoting wellness and health, and to do so, you must first consider the causes and then address them.
That being said, here are some of my favourite herbs to use when dealing with various pains in your body…for times when you just need some gentle relief:
1) Willow Bark (Salix alba/Salix spp. ):
Willow Bark was the very first herb I experimented with as a pain reliever. Willow Bark works so well because it contains salicin, a chemical that works quickly in your body to reduce inflammation and calm painful spasms.
Salicin is the chemical that aspirin is made of; however, I’ve heard that aspirin’s salicin is now created in a lab from petrochemical waste. I can assure you that this is not something I want in my body. Because clinical studies have revealed that aspirin has far more negative side-effects than natural willow bark, using it in its entirety is far superior to taking aspirin over the counter. Using herbs as God intended (in their entirety) is generally much gentler on your body.
People who are allergic to aspirin, taking blood thinners, pregnant or nursing, or who are pregnant or nursing should exercise caution when using Willow Bark and should always consult a medical doctor before using it. Willow Bark, like aspirin, is known to thin the blood, so it does not mix well with prescription blood thinners.
My Willow Bark Tincture is fantastic. It’s one I’m sure I’ll never run out of. This article will provide you with more information on how to make a tincture.
2) Capsicum annuum (Cayenne pepper):
Cayenne pepper is another favourite of mine because its effects are felt deeply in the body. It has a very hot flavour because of the capsaicin in the pepper. The amount of capsaicin varies greatly between hot pepper species and types, but cayenne pepper is a clear winner in this category.
Capsaicin concentration is measured in heat units, also known as Scoville Heat Units. A good hot pepper has a heating unit of 90,000 or higher. Green peppers can have as few as 0 heat units, while habanero peppers can have up to 100,000 H.U.
Regardless, Cayenne is my go-to pepper for relieving pain, particularly back and joint pain. Cayenne pepper can be tinctured, powdered for wounds, and even added to teas.
For external pain relief, however, making a salve with a healthy cayenne-infused oil is the best option. There is some evidence that capsaicin, as it soaks into the area, can help clear up arthritic joints over time.
Capsaicin works by preventing pain signals from reaching your brain from your nerve cells. As a result, it’s an excellent topical ache and pain reliever.
3) Curcuma longa (turmeric):
Turmeric is a beautiful yellow root that is related to ginger. Curcumin, a chemical that has been clinically shown to help prevent inflammation, is responsible for its pain-relieving properties. It’s especially beneficial for rheumatoid and osteoarthritic arthritis.
Although turmeric is a culinary spice that has been used for thousands of years, the amount of curcumin you can consume by simply using it as a food spice is not very high. It’s best to use turmeric in your food, but it’s also a good idea to supplement it with a standardized turmeric supplement for the best results.
One thing to keep in mind about curcumin is that it is not very bioavailable to your body on its own. It’s best to take your turmeric with black pepper, which contains piperine, a substance that aids in the absorption of curcumin by your body’s cells. When looking for a good supplement, keep this in mind.
Here’s one I found that appears to be a good option, though I haven’t tried it myself. I try to eat and drink as many herbs as I can with my meals. You can also try Golden Milk, which can be made at home or purchased. This Gaia herbs formula is fantastic. You mix this golden powder with a liquid of your choice (many people use milk of some kind) and drink it before bed.
Learn about herbalism! More information is available by clicking here!
4) Zingiber officinale (ginger):
Ginger is AMAZING! First and foremost, it is delicious in cooking and in teas. It’s a well-known immune-boosting herb that also helps with nausea.
Aside from all of these benefits, it’s an excellent pain reliever, particularly for muscle aches and osteoarthritis. Ginger contains compounds that act in our bodies similarly to COX-2 inhibitors, reducing inflammation and the pain associated with it.
You can learn more about some of the clinical studies that have been conducted using Ginger by clicking here.
Topically, I enjoy using Ginger salve. It’s one of the ingredients in my pain relief salve, which is simple to make and effective, especially when used over time.
5) Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel):
Fennel is one of my favourite herbs for relieving muscle cramps in general, and especially for painful menstrual cramps. Fennel is a delicious herb with numerous culinary applications around the world.
Medicinally, it’s a great herb to have on hand to make a quick tea in the case of cramps, which some people get.