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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 September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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