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10 Natural Pain Reliever Alternatives You Will Regret Missing

10 Natural Pain Reliever Alternatives You Will Regret Missing

My mother was a pharmacist. When we had toothache or headache, the order from her invariably was, “Take 2 Veganin.” We did not get much sympathy but lots of paracetamol, codeine and also caffeine which are the main ingredients of this very widely used painkiller. The strange thing is that although this medication has been in use for about 100 years, nobody is quite sure how it works!

Other popular painkillers are Tylenol 3, Percocet and Vycodin which contain acetaminophen. This ingredient has raised concerns because it has been connected with acute liver failure. Normally, this happens suddenly and is quite distinct from other liver diseases which can take years to develop. The FDA has issued a warning to pharmaceutical companies to limit the amount of acetaminophen to 325 milligrams per dose, because of these worries. As 35% of Americans suffer from chronic pain, you can understand why there has been an alert.

As if that was not enough, some studies show that acetaminophen seems to have a dulling effect on our emotions. It would seem wise to look at natural pain reliever alternatives. Here are 10 which you may not know about.

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“Almost always, if we find pharmaceuticals doing the trick, we’ll find a plant doing the same trick—and doing it more safely.” James A. Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods.

1. Ginger root

I wish I had discovered ginger root years ago when I started having problems with arthritis. I have now used it for two years and it has relieved my arthritis pain. I usually put a chopped portion (about an inch) in to boiling water for 10 minutes and then add honey to sweeten it a bit. You can also use it in smoothies, soups and desserts. Some research has been done and one study actually shows that taking a ginger extract twice a day was as effective in killing arthritic knee and hip pain as taking Ibuprofen three times a day. Ginger can also relieve colds, menstrual pain and nausea. It has an antioxidant effect which can break down inflammation and acidity in the fluids around the joints and this is why it is useful for arthritis.

2. Chilli peppers

If you like your food hot and spicy, you can also get pain relief from the main compound in hot chillies and pepper. The key ingredient here is the capsaicin. This can lessen the pain signals that travel to the brain and thereby reduce pain. It can be effective in giving relief for headaches, shingles and arthritis. You don’t have to eat hot curries all the time to get relief! There are several over the counter products such as gels, creams, ointments and lotions for topical application.

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3. Turmeric

If you suffer from heartburn, turmeric spice may be helpful. It contains a chemical known as curcumin which is an anti-inflammatory agent. It can also help with arthritis – but you should not take high doses as it may result in indigestion. If you suffer from gallbladder problems, it is not wise to take this spice. Studies show that taking turmeric or curcumin capsules can really help with joint pain.

4. Magnesium

I take a magnesium supplement because I suffer from severe leg and foot cramps at night. There is loads of magnesium in lots of foods but modern processing removes a lot of it (which is why we have to take supplements). Not only is it essential for proper bone, muscle and joint health, it is also a great mineral to help reduce stress. This is probably why it is called the “master mineral.” It is no surprise to learn that it plays a vital role in 300 enzyme reactions in the body. If you are not a supplement fan, you can get plenty of magnesium by eating the right foods. These include yogurt, bananas, spinach, avocadoes, kale, nuts, dark chocolate and mackerel.

5. Devil’s claw

Don’t let the name of this herb put you off! If you suffer from heartburn, liver problems or lower back pain, devil’s claw could be the solution. The key compound in this herb are the iridoid glycosides which are highly effective in treating inflammation. You can find it in teas, ointments, and capsules. As with most herbs and spices, there are not enough studies to show whether taking this in the long term is going to have side effects or not. The University of Maryland Medical Center provides an excellent guide to its uses and properties.

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6. Birch leaf

You may have taken cortisone to relieve severe pain when joints and muscles are involved, but there is a natural alternative in the birch leaf which acts in a similar way. The main compound in this leaf is methyl salicylate which is similar to the salicylic in aspirin. Birch leaf may be effective as an antifungal med, can help with pain and can also act as a diuretic. More studies need to be done on its safety and effectiveness. One warning is that it may help the body retain salt and thereby might increase high blood pressure.

7. Wintergreen essential oil

This oil is extracted form a shrub (Gaultheria procumbens) which grows wild in the US north east and Canada. This also has a high methyl salicylate content like the birch leaf which makes it an effective painkiller. You need to dilute this oil as it can be rather toxic if used in its pure form. The diluted oil smells fresh and minty and can be used topically and is great for relieving joint and muscular pains. When vaporized, this oil is great for uplifting your mood and relaxation.

8. Cherries and other berries

Who would have thought that a bowl of cherries can help to block inflammation and lessen pain? The main compounds in cherries are anthocyanins which help to give cherries their fantastic color, but they are also used for a lot more than color alone. These precious compounds are also present in blackberries, raspberries, red grapes and strawberries. They perform as pain relievers by inhibiting the pain enzymes and also neutralizing the free radicals which can cause inflammation.

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9. White willow bark

Another form of natural aspirin is white willow bark and it has been used for thousands of years to treat pain and inflammation. The key element here is the salicin which is very similar to the acetylsalicylic acid of aspirin. In addition, it has flavonoids which make it an excellent choice for those suffering from backaches, osteoarthritis or headaches. It does take longer to act on the pain than aspirin but the effects seem to last longer. Anyone who is allergic to salicylates may have negative side effects, though.

10. Aquamin

Aquamin is derived from red seaweed and is found in only a few locations around the world such as Iceland and the south west coast of Ireland. It is rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium zinc, selenium and iron. In one small study, this seaweed extract helped patients with osteoarthritis to reduce their pain and discomfort by 20% in just one month of treatment. It can help to rebuild bones such as the hip and the knee.

Now before you reach for the standard painkillers, why not look out for food, herbs and spices that can help you get relief.

Featured photo credit: Cherries/David Wright via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

1. Cat Camel Stretch

Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

Here’s a video to guide you through:

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2. Go for a Walk or a Run

This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

3. Jumping Jacks

Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

4. Abductor Side Lifts

Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

5. Balancing Table Pose

This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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    6. Leg Squats

    Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

    Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

    The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

    7. Push Ups

    You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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    An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

    Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

    This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

    8. Bicycle Crunches

    There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

    Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

    9. Lunges

    Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

    Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

    This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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    10. Bicep Curls

    You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

    Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

    Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

    Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

    Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

    These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

    You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

    Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

    More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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