Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen — known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — are some of the common painkillers that you might have in your medicine cabinet.
As soon as you start having a headache, toothache, stomachache, backache or any other type of pain, without thinking about anything else, you simply reach for one of those painkillers.
It is true that medicines that relieve pain are valuable tools for doctors as well as patients. But like all drugs, NSAIDs come with plenty of short-term side effects, such as rashes, heartburn, nausea and stomach upset.
Worse yet, prolonged use of the pain-killing medications can cause various harmful side effects, including liver damage, kidney problems, stomach ulcers and increased risk of a stroke and heart attack.
In the recent past, there have been many incidents that warn us against the regular use of such painkillers. In fact, health experts recommend using natural painkillers to beat the pain without the potential side effects.
For natural painkillers, you do not have to go to the market. There are many painkillers that you already have in your home.
Here are some of the natural painkillers that you have in your home.
1. Ice Pack
An ice pack is one of the most effective pain relief treatments available. In fact, whether you are suffering from jaw pain, back pain or pain due to a sudden fall or injury, an ice pack is very beneficial. Even for postpartum pain, an ice pack is effective.
A study published in Women and Birth in 2016 found that applying an ice pack for 20 minutes is effective for alleviating postpartum perineal pain and continues to be effective between 1 hour 35 minutes and 2 hours .
An ice pack helps reduce inflammation and pain during the first 48 hours. The cold temperature restricts circulation and offers a numbing effect on the nerves, which plays a key role in reducing swelling and inflammation.
There are many types of ice packs that can be used for pain relief. You can find reusable cold packs or ice packs in the market, but you can always make one with ice cubes that you have in your freezer.
- Put some ice cubes in a plastic bag and wrap it in a towel.
- Apply it on the painful area for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Repeat several times a day, as needed.
2. Hot Compress
Another very common home remedy for pain relief is applying heat directly on the painful areas.
A hot compress is effective for any kind of acute or chronic pain. The heat helps dilate blood vessels, which makes it easier for the blood to distribute nutrients throughout the body as well as flush out toxins. This in turn helps relieve pain.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research indicates that the application of thermotherapy and cryotherapy, accompanied by a pharmacologic treatment, could relieve pain in patients with acute low back pain .
For heat therapy, you can buy hot packs from the market. But you can also make one at home.
- Soak a cotton cloth in hot water and wring out the excess water.
- Place the warm cloth on the affected body part for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
- Repeat every 2 hours, as needed.
The bright yellow spice that you might have in your kitchen for cooking also works as a natural painkiller.
Turmeric is rich in a compound called curcumin, an antioxidant that helps protect the body from free radicals. This in turn soothes pain. In fact, turmeric is extremely good for body aches, joint pains and internal body injuries that result in inflammation.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reports that curcumin exerts anti-inflammatory activity by inhibition of a number of different molecules that play a role in inflammation .
A 2007 study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology describes both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin and its therapeutic use against different pathological conditions, such as cancer, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative diseases and inflammatory disorders .
A study published in the Alternative Medicine Review in 2009 indicates curcumin may have potential as a therapeutic agent in diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, arthritis, chronic anterior uveitis and certain types of cancer .
- The best way to use turmeric is to mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in a cup of hot milk and drink it 2 or 3 times a day.
Whole and ground cloves are often used for culinary purposes. As a medicine, cloves work as a powerful painkiller.
Cloves may help relieve the pain associated with toothaches, headaches and arthritic inflammation. Both the whole clove and the oil form can be used as part of a topical pain reliever.
A 2014 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine reports that the use of clove as an analgesic has been reported since the 13th century for toothaches, joint pain and as an antispasmodic, with eugenol being the main compound responsible for this activity .
- For a toothache, chew a whole clove or dab a little clove oil on the sore tooth and the surrounding gums using a cotton ball to relieve the pain.
- For muscle or joint pain, mix a few drops of clove oil with any carrier oil. Use it to massage the painful area for a couple of minutes.
You can follow either of these remedies a few times a day, as needed.
5. Cayenne Pepper
If you’re a lover of spicy food and have a bottle of cayenne pepper in your spice rack, then you have a natural painkiller right in your kitchen.
The compound capsaicin in cayenne pepper exhibits an anti-inflammatory effect that helps reduce pain and inflammation. It also prevents the activation of the brain’s pain transmitters, which in turn reduces the feeling of pain.
This is why many over-the-counter pain-reducing creams or ointments contain some amount of purified capsaicin.
A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Anesthesia notes that topical application of capsaicin cream is effective for pain management .
Another study published in 2016 in Molecules highlights the analgesic effects of capsaicin and its clinical applicability in treating pain .
Using cayenne pepper, you can make a homemade pain-relieving ointment.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper and 2 to 3 teaspoons of warm olive or coconut oil.
- Apply it on the painful area.
- Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse it off.
- Repeat once daily until the pain is gone.
If you love to drink ginger tea or use ginger in your cooking, you might be happy to know that you are using a pain-relieving herb.
Ginger has strong anti-inflammatory properties in the form of the compound gingerol. This compound can help treat the pain associated with gout, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
According to a 2005 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, ginger affects certain inflammatory processes at a cellular level. This makes it an effective treatment for both acute and chronic inflammatory diseases .
Another study published in 2010 in the Journal of Pain reports that daily ginger consumption also reduces muscle pain caused by exercise .
- For consumption, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of ground ginger to your meals daily.
- For topical application, apply a warm ginger paste mixed with a little turmeric on the affected area twice a day.
- Also, steep 1 tablespoon of ginger slices in 1 cup of hot water for 5 minutes, then drink it 2 or 3 times a day to help relieve the pain.
7. Olive Oil
The popular oil that you use for cooking or salad dressing is also beneficial for reducing pain and inflammation.
A 2005 study published in Nature reports that olive oil contains a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent that inhibits activity of cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, which cause inflammation in the body .
Another study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design in 2013 showed that the compound called oleocanthal in extra-virgin olive oil prevents the production of COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes in the body that cause inflammation .
A 2013 study published in the Indian Journal of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy reports that topical application of extra-virgin olive oil proved to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of patients diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis compared to topical application of an NSAID .
When it comes to fighting inflammation, always opt for extra-virgin olive oil.
- For topical use, massage the painful area with warm olive oil to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation from arthritis and muscle cramps.
- For consumption, eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil on a daily basis to fight inflammation.
- Length of perineal pain relief after ice pack application: A quasi-experimental study. Women and Birth. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871519215003091. Published September 26, 2015.
- The Efficacy of Thermotherapy and Cryotherapy on Pain Relief in Patients with Acute Low Back Pain, A Clinical Trial Study. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: JCDR. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4225921/. Published September 2014.
- Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: a component of tumeric (Curcuma longa). Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12676044. Published February 2003.
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. Advances in experimental medicine and biology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569207.
- Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research. Alternative medicine review : a journal of clinical therapeutic. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19594223. Published June 2009.
- Clove (Syzygium aromaticum): a precious spice. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3819475/. Published February 2014.
- Topical capsaicin for pain management: therapeutic potential and mechanisms of action of the new high-concentration capsaicin 8% patch. BJA: British Journal of Anaesthesia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3169333/. Published October 2011.
- Capsaicin: Current Understanding of Its Mechanisms and Therapy of Pain and Other Pre-Clinical and Clinical Uses. Molecules. doi:10.3390/molecules21070844.
- Ginger-An Herbal Medicinal Product with Broad Anti-Inflammatory Actions. Ginger-An Herbal Medicinal Product with Broad Anti-Inflammatory Actions | Journal of Medicinal Food. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2005.8.125.
- Daily ginger consumption eases muscle pain by 25 percent, study suggests. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100519131130.htm. Published May 20, 2010.
- Olive Oil Contains Natural Anti-inflammatory Agent. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050906075427.htm. Published September 06, 2005.
- Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal. Current pharmaceutical design. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21443487.
- The effect of Topical Application of Extra Virgin Olive Oil on Alleviating Knee Pain in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis: A Pilot Study. Indian Journal of Physiotherapy & Occupational Therapy-An International Journal. https://eis.hu.edu.jo/deanshipfiles/pub106524938.