From arthritic pain to lower back pain, migraines and other headaches, herbal medicines can help address a wide variety of painful conditions to give you relief when and where you need it most. In this article we discuss the analgesic properties of eight of the most important pain-relieving herbs and how they can give you pain relief.
Devil’s claw is a herb that’s native to Namibia, Botswana and the Kalahari region of South Africa, but has been used as a herbal medicine in Europe for over 50 years. It has traditionally been used to assist in the management of lower back pain, gout, rheumatism and arthritis as well as for other forms of pain.
Many of its traditional uses have been validated by scientific studies, which confirm its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties and indicate that it may be useful for reducing the pain and inflammation of arthritis. Clinical studies have also shown that devil’s claw can provide rapid short-term relief of symptoms of lower back pain.
Amongst many other medicinal, cosmetic and religious uses, boswellia has been used to assist rheumatic conditions in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. In addition to having pain-relieving actions, boswellia has anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties and may help relieve pain, swelling, inflammation and restricted mobility associated with osteoarthritis. Its effects are attributed to the compounds called boswellic acids that it contains.
Curcumin is a natural component of turmeric. The curcumin in turmeric gives curry its characteristic yellow colour, as well as French mustard and the robes of Hindu priests. It has a long history of use in both Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of inflammatory and digestive disorders. Curcumin has been the subject of many clinical trials, which have confirmed that it has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Along with its potent antioxidant actions, this anti-inflammatory activity makes curcumin valuable in the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
Ginger has been used as both a food and as a medicine since ancient times, and is mentioned in the Bible, the Koran and the Talmud. Medicinally, ginger is best known for helping to relieve nausea, but it has also been used to stimulate circulation in traditional Chinese medicine, and to address inflammation and rheumatic conditions in the Ayurvedic tradition. Modern studies have confirmed its anti-inflammatory properties, with numerous constituents in ginger found to be potent inhibitors of inflammatory substances in the body. This versatile herb may assist in the temporary relief of the pain and swelling of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and may also improve joint mobility in osteoarthritis.
White willow has been used medicinally for hundreds of years – the Greek physician Hippocrates is even known to have recommended it for relief of fever and pain in around 400BCE. In traditional western herbal medicine white willow has been used to relieve muscle pain, arthritis pain, and gout, and it is still used for these conditions by herbalists today. It may also assist in the symptomatic relief and management of lower back pain and in the temporary relief of headaches.
Over the last 25 years, feverfew has been the subject of numerous clinical trials, which indicate it may be an effective treatment for migraine headache, and may also help reduce the frequency and intensity with which migraine attacks occur.
Not all pain-relieving herbs are taken by mouth. Herbal capsicum (a form of cayenne pepper) is used as a cream to provide soothing warmth to aching muscles and joints. In some studies , preparations containing capsicum have been shown to be more effective than placebo preparations in relieving lower back pain.