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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

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Robert Locke

Freelance writer

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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