Your pain management specialists in Jupiter, Florida, at The Medical Group of South Florida, are committed to providing the best pain relief available to our clients. We are trained in the most up-to-date methods for relieving pain. Sometimes, though, it’s worth looking backward; that is, to various herbs that have been used for centuries to relieve pain. After all, before the pharmaceutical industry came into being, humans were on their own to relieve various forms of pain.
A note of caution: All these herbs can be accompanied by side effects, some of them serious. Just because something’s “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe. Tobacco, poison ivy, and ragweed are all “natural,” but we wouldn’t recommend them to our clients. If you want to try these herbs, we can work with you to incorporate safely them into your overall pain management plan.
White willow bark
This herb contains the same basis for pain relief as aspirin, the compound salicin. Thus, it can be used in the same way, for relief of general pains such as headache, muscle, and joint pain. Unfortunately, it also contains the same risks as aspirin: possible stomach upset and increased risk of bleeding.
Long used to control nausea and relieve congestion from colds, ginger root has also been found to reduce pain and inflammation more effectively than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs. It can be added to foods, sipped as a tea, and taken in capsule form. Some even use grated ginger root wrapped in cheesecloth which is soaked in hot water for 30 seconds, then applied as a compress to painful areas. Ginger is a blood thinner, and should not be combined with other such drugs. It can also induce mild stomach upset and heartburn in some.
This popular herb is also part of the ginger family, and confers much the same relief of pain as its cousin. It is an anti-inflammatory that can reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation, and is often used for relief of arthritis pain. Possible side effects include nausea, indigestion, gas, or stomach discomfort.
A South African herb, it has been approved by the German Commission E for relief of arthritis, lower back, knee, and hip pain. Other uses include relief of tendonitis and muscle pain. The most common side effect is diarrhea. It can also affect heart rate, high blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, and bile production, and should be used with caution.
The flower of the arnica montana plant is a homeopathic remedy that has been used for centuries as a salve for bruises, aches, pains, and strains. It comes in gel or cream form and is applied to the site of pain or bruising. It should not be applied to broken skin. When taken orally, it can cause a host of digestive and heart problems, so avoid internal use.
Capsaicin is the heat-producing ingredient in hot peppers that, applied topically, at first increases the pain then deadens pain signals, thus relieving pain. Users may experience burning, pain, redness, or swelling at the application site, but these tend to go away as the body adjusts to the treatment.
Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple, which is available in pill form. It is used for the pain of arthritis, as well as reducing swelling and inflammation. It may cause such mild stomach upsets as diarrhea.
All these supplements should be treated as drugs, and respected as such. Thus, women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult their doctors before using them, because some can stimulate womb contractions. And, as always, keep in mind that herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).