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Pain is an everyday problem. Therefore, it is not surprising that natural painkillers have become a part of folk medicine, and are the drug-free remedies that are just as effective as drugs in relieving pain without producing side effects.

For many of us, pain is a regular fact of life and it you know it brings various problems of restlessness, decreased immunity, depression, anxiety, and many more problems. Most of us deal with pain by consuming over-the-counter painkillers, such as aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen. Because pain is an everyday problem in today's world, it is not surprising that natural painkillers have become a part of folk medicine throughout the world. Natural pain killers are drug-free remedies that can be just as effective as drugs in relieving pain and many times without producing any side effects. More recently, some high-tech food supplements have also been developed to prevent pain. The top ten natural pain killers are as follows:

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains two essential omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids are known to block the production of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines and leukotrienes in the body. They are responsible for a range of painful conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, gout, and sinusitis. Researchers found that eating 3 g of fish fats a day relieved the joint pain, inflammation, and morning stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and reduced the need to rely on drugs.

In another study of rheumatoid arthritis patients, daily supplementation with 2.7 grams of EPA and 1.8 grams of DHA resulted in a striking reduction in the number of tender joints and an increase in the time span before fatigue appeared. [1]

Various other studies have put forth that the same dosage of fish oil can reduce the severity of Crohn’s disease by more than 50 per cent and make it possible for many patients to stop anti-inflammatory medication and steroids.

Olive Oil

Olive oil has been found to contain a natural chemical which acts like the anti-inflammatory pain killer ibuprofen. The active ingredient in olive oil is oleocanthal, which influences the same biochemical pathway as ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The researchers concluded that 50 gram of extra-virgin olive oil was comparable to about 10 per cent of the ibuprofen dose recommended for adult pain relief. [2] Although you will not cure your headache with olive oil in your salad, yet regular olive oil consumption is expected to provide some of the long-lasting benefits of ibuprofen.

Tart Cherries

According to researchers at Michigan State University, eating about 20 tart cherries may relieve pain better than aspirin and may also exhibit antioxidant properties comparable to supplements like vitamin E. That number of cherries are said to contain 12-25 milligrams of the active ingredients, called anthocyanins. [3]

Anthocyanins inhibited cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 enzymes, which were the targets of anti-inflammatory drugs at doses more than ten times lower than aspirin. Thus, daily consumption of cherries has shown the potential to reduce pain related to inflammation, arthritis, and gout.

Saliva

Saliva has been found to generate a natural painkiller of up to six times more strength than morphine. The substance produced by human saliva is similar to opiorphin and has been said to produce a new class of natural painkillers that are far better than the traditional drug morphine, which has many addictive and psychosomatic side effects. [4] The researchers demonstrated that the opiorphin acts in nerve cells of the spine and stops the usual destruction of the natural pain-killing opiates, known as the enkephalins.

White Willow Bark

White willow bark decreases pain by blocking the production of inflammatory prostaglandins. White willow bark is also a very effective fever reducer. It is said to contain a compound called salicylic acid and aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid) is a synthetic form of this compound. White willow bark provides all pain-relieving benefits of aspirin, more safely than aspirin and other synthetically derived salicylate based anti-inflammatory drugs. Medical science has reported no contra-indications or severe side effects. White willow bark provides relief to a headache, toothache, backache and even arthritis. [5]

It is important to keep in mind that you should not take white willow bark with aspirin, or if you are sensitive to salicylates. Though it is far less irritating to the stomach, you should avoid white willow bark if you suffer from gastritis or ulcers. 

Children under 16 should not use white willow bark, because its use is associated with the possibility of developing Reye's syndrome in a child during a viral infection.

MSM

MSM (methyl-sulphonyl-methane) is a naturally-occurring sulfur compound. It is a powerful painkiller with anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and analgesic properties, and it inhibits the transmission of pain impulses. In a double-blind study conducted at the UCLA School of Medicine in America, researchers achieved 80 per cent pain control in degenerative arthritis patients receiving MSM within six weeks, but they observed only a negligible improvement in the control group. 

MSM is available both as a dietary supplement and as a cream for topical application.

Glucosamine And Chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin are nutritional supplements that significantly reduce the pain of arthritic joints. In Europe, oral glucosamine is a commonly used pain killer and is even approved as a prescription drug. It may also be effective in topical use. The results of a study put forth that a cream containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and camphor decreased arthritic knee pain more than a placebo cream. [6]

Boswellia

Clinical trials have proven that the Indian herb Boswellia is as effective as conventional drugs for both chronic and minor pains. Boswellic acids, the active ingredients in Boswellia, are more potent and less toxic than standard NSAIDs. Boswellic acids decrease the production of inflammatory compounds, the leukotrienes that play a role in many chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. [7]

Boswellia is available both as a supplement and as a topical cream. A comparative study conducted on 175 rheumatoid arthritis patients demonstrated that 97 percent of these patients had moderate to excellent recovery from pain, swelling and morning stiffness after consuming 450 to 750 mg of Boswellia acids daily for three to four weeks. These results were comparable to those of patients taking ketoprofen and phenylbutazone, but unlike the drug treatments, Boswellia acids produced no adverse effects.

Devil’s Claw

Devil’s claw, native to South Africa, is another herb that is best known for alleviating back pain and arthritis. The active ingredients in this herb are called iridoid glycosides. They are responsible for producing its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. A French trial found it as effective as, and safer than, the anti-arthritis drug diacerein. One four-month study included around 120 people with knee and hip osteoarthritis and put forth the premise that devil’s claw decreased pain and increased function as effectively as a regular osteoarthritis medicine, but with a lot fewer side effects. People with gastric ulcers should consume devil’s claw with caution since it increases gastric acid production. [8]

Curcumin

Turmeric contains the compound curcumin, which is a powerful painkiller known to block inflammatory proteins and enhance the body’s ability to suppress inflammation. You can use turmeric in place of NSAIDs without any side effects to organs including the stomach, heart, liver, and kidneys. Various studies put forth that curcumin eases the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis. [9]

The pain relievers found in curcumin stop the neurotransmitter substance P from sending its pain signals to the brain. Curcumin also decreases inflammation by reducing prostaglandin activity. 400 to 600 mg of curcumin should be consumed three times daily. To improve absorption, you can eat it with equal amounts of bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme found in pineapples – 20 minutes before meals.