For many of us, pain is a regular fact of life which is known to bring with it various problems of restlessness, decreased immunity, depression and anxiety. 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 the present world, it is not astonishing that natural painkillers have become a part of folk medicine throughout the world. Natural pain killers are the drug-free remedies that are just as effective as drugs in relieving pain 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 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, which 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 drug requirement.
In another study of rheumatoid arthritis patients, daily supplementation with 2.7 grams of EPA and 1.8 grams of DHA resulted in striking reduction in the number of tender joints and increase in the time span before fatigue appeared. 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 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. Although headache will not be cured with this, yet regular olive oil consumption is expected to provide some of the long-lasting benefits of ibuprofen.
According to researchers at Michigan State University, the 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.
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 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 generate a new class of natural painkillers that are far better than the traditional drug morphine, which has many addictive and psychosomatic side effects. 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. Conventionally is safer then aspirin and other synthetically derived salicylate based anti-inflammatory drugs. No contra-indications and serious side effects have ever been reported by medical science. It is said to provide relief to headache, toothache, backache or even arthritis.
It is important to keep in mind that white willow bark should not be taken with aspirin, or by people who sensitive to salicylates. Though it is far less irritating to the stomach, yet it should be avoided by people with gastritis or ulcers, or could be used in suppository form only. It should not be used by children under 16, because of the associated possibility of developing Reye's syndrome in children during a viral infection.
MSM (methyl-sulphonyl-methane) is a naturally-occurring sulphur 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 showed that 80 per cent pain control was achieved within six weeks in degenerative arthritis patients receiving MSM, but only a negligible improvement was observed in the control group. It 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. They 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.
Clinical trials have proved 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 are implicated in many chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Boswellia is available both as a supplement and as a topical cream. A comparative study conducted on 175 rheumatoid arthritis patients demonstrated that 97 per cent of these patients had moderate to excellent recovery from pain, swelling and morning stiffness after consuming 450 to 750 mg of boswellic acids daily for three to four weeks. These results were comparable to those for patients taking ketoprofen and phenylbutazone, but unlike the drug treatments boswellic acids produced no adverse effects.
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 that 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 diacerhein. One four-month study included around 120 people with knee and hip osteoarthritis and put forth that devil’s claw decreased pain and increased function as good 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 the gastric acid production.
Turmeric contains the compound curcumin, which is a powerful painkiller known to block inflammatory proteins and enhance the body’s ability to suppress inflammation. Turmeric is used in place of NSAIDs without any side effects to the organs including stomach, heart, liver and kidneys. Various studies put forth that curcumin eases the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
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. In order to improve absorption, it can be consumed with equal amounts of bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme found in pineapples–20 minutes before meals.