As I sit and type this post, my left knee is compressed, raised and wrapped in an ice pack after a nasty fall last night. While running with friends on the beach I tripped in a previously invisible hole and went down fast, yanking my knee out of whack and causing an enormous amount of pain (and more than a few tears!). Lucky for me, one of the friends on the beach is a Naturopathic physician and had lots of tips for natural pain relievers, and I thought I'd share them with you too!
Arnica is a great natural pain reliever for swelling, bruises and any general trauma inflicted upon your body. It's a small little flower in the sunflower family with potent healing properties, and has been used for centuries as a safe, natural pain reliever. Arnica can be purchased in multiple forms, and can be taken orally (only in homeopathic preparations) or topically used as a rub. When I have pain in my shoulders, wrists (or everywhere) after a particularly vigorous yoga class, a little rub of arnica on my afflicted area often helps the pain dissipate. According to the New York Times, a 2007 study, "looked at 204 people with osteoarthritis in their hands and found that an arnica gel preparation worked just as well as daily ibuprofen, and with minimal side effects. Another study of 79 people with arthritis of the knee found that when patients used arnica gel twice daily for three to six weeks, they experienced significant reductions in pain and stiffness and had improved function." The arnica gel used in our house is made by Boiron is light and non-greasy, and can be applied as often as needed.
Topricin is a topical rub that is a really helpful natural pain reliever. Their formula includes arnica along with a host of other traditional medicinals like Echinacea and belladonna. These herbs work in combination to reduce swelling, pain, numbness and stiffness and can be used on many different types of injuries including sprains, strains, dislocations, bruises, carpal tunnel and more. Thanks to some free samples from my natural food store, I've been using Topricin and arnica salve interchangeably for muscle pains and any other injuries. According to their website, Topricin works by stimulating the body’s desire to repair the damaged cells at the root of the pain, helping to drain toxins and fluid build-up from the affected area, restoring normal blood flow. (That reminds me, I should put some on right now!)
3. Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are key to healthy digestion, but as I learned from my doctor friend, the same enzymes that help your food digest easily can also help reduce inflammation throughout the body. Taken separate from mealtimes and every few hours, digestive enzymes can help speed the healing process and reduce swelling associated with slight injuries. This article from NYU med school seems to suggest that it has some potential for healing stiffness and swelling, but the findings are not entirely consistent.
We recently wrote about the health benefits of turmeric, and guess what? Pain relief is one of them! According to Dr. Oz, "Turmeric has been used in traditional medicines for easing the pain of sprains, strains, bruises and joint inflammation, as well as for treating skin and digestive issues. The healing power of turmeric comes from its active ingredient – curcumin, which lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation." Though fresh and dried turmeric will color your curry, it won't do much for pain management just to eat it; to get the most benefit from turmeric it's best to choose a supplemental form of the herb.
5. Essential oils
Essential oils, the distilled or extracted volatile oils from flowers, leaves and bark, have wondrously healing properties, and can benefit our bodies in multiple ways. Last night my doctor friend rubbed down my knee with a mix of frankincense, wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, blue chamomile, and helichrysum. This helps with slightly numbing the area, but also providing comforting heating and cooling to affected areas (think of minty oils like a natural Icy-Hot pain relief. And from Alternative Daily, here are four other oils that can help with pain relief. I will continue to rub down my knee with lavender and mint oils for the next few days.
Please note: we're bloggers, not doctors! This advice is based on research and personal experience only, and is not intended to treat cure or prevent any condition or disease!