Pain serves a protective function by letting you know that something is wrong with your body. Resolving the underlying problem, when possible, is the best way to eliminate pain. Your brain responds to pain by producing morphine-like hormones known as endorphins. Besides drugs, there are other ways to stimulate endorphin production.
The Role Of Foods And Herbs In Pain Relief
The amino acid tryptophan (found in avocados, bananas, grapefruit, nuts, seeds, papayas, peaches, and tomatoes) encourages the production of the calming neurotransmitter serotonin. Foods particularly beneficial for pain include broccoli, cauliflower, winter squashes, sesame and flax seeds. You can also opt for strawberries, which contain natural salicylates and are cooling and anti-inflammatory. And enzymes present in unheated foods reduce inflammation, which is often a factor in pain.
Herbs that target pain can be classified in several ways:
- Analgesics, when used internally, allay pain without affecting consciousness.
- Anesthetics numb the existing pain either locally or generally.
- Anodynes are sedating and keep the pain from being transmitted.
- Antispasmodics relax muscle spasms.
- Sedatives promote rest and peace.
Foods And Herbs That Reduce Pain
1. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper stimulates endorphin production and is an anti-inflammatory agent. Topically, it is used after being diluted in salves as it blocks the transmission of substance P, a neuropeptide that transports pain messages to the brain.
2. Corydalis Root
Corydalis root, a relative of poppy, can relieve pain from traumatic injuries. Corydalis binds with opium receptors in the body and slows down the breakdown of choline. It is analgesic, antispasmodic, and a sedative.
3. Cramp Bark
Cramp bark is an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and a sedative. It can calm menstrual cramps, rheumatism, and spasms in the legs and lower back.
4. Feverfew Herb
The feverfew herb inhibits the growth of certain inflammatory hormones known as prostaglandins and prevents blood platelet aggregation (clumping together). It is also anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. Used on a regular basis, it can prevent migraines and relieve arthritis and menstrual cramps.
5. Ginger Root
Ginger root is warming and improves circulation. It is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory. It can reduce arthritic pain, backache, and menstrual cramps. You can even chew a piece of fresh ginger root for a sore throat.
6. Hops Strobiles
Strobiles of hops, a relative of marijuana, are sedating to the nervous system. Hops is an anodyne, antispasmodic, and a sedative. It can relieve cramps, insomnia, restlessness, stomachache, and stress.
7. Kava Kava Root
The kava kava root, enjoyed by many tropical island natives, is a skeletal and muscle relaxant. It is an analgesic, antispasmodic, and a sedative. It improves anxiety, cramps, gout, insomnia, neuralgia, pain, and rheumatism.
The passionflower doesn’t make you more passionate but slows the breakdown of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Try it for cramps, headache, insomnia, muscle spasms, neuralgia, shingles, and stress. It is an anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and a sedative.
The skullcap herb sedates the brain and spinal column and encourages endorphin production. It is antispasmodic and a sedative. It is used for arthritis, delirium, emotional trauma, headache, insomnia, neuralgia, and restlessness.
10. Valerian Root
The valerian root is a smooth muscle and skeletal relaxant. It is an anodyne, antispasmodic, and a sedative. Try it for cramps, headache, insomnia, neuralgia, shingles, stress, and trauma.
11. White Willow Bark
The white willow bark contains salicin, one of the original aspirin compounds, and is a traditional herb used to treat arthritis, backache, gout, headache, joint inflammation, migraine, and general pain. It is an analgesic, anodyne, and anti-inflammatory.
Other Ways To Reduce Pain
Vitamin B-1 and calcium can raise your pain threshold. Vitamins C and E are necessary for the production of endorphins. And magnesium can relax muscle spasms.
DLPA, made from the essential amino acid phenylalanine, works by inhibiting the enzymes that destroy endorphins so that the naturally occurring endorphins can survive longer. This helps relieve chronic pain but does not block the nerve transmission of short-term acute pain.
Note: Although DLPA is considered to be very safe, it should not be used with monoamine oxidase inhibiting drugs (MAOIs), during pregnancy, or via phenylketonurics.
2. Exercising And Alternative Medicine
Exercise and acupuncture can stimulate endorphin production. Acupuncture is so effective that, in the Orient, it is sometimes used by itself in place of anesthesia during surgeries. Yoga, Rolfing, massage, and chiropractic and osteopathic practices may also help relieve pain. You can also practice deep slow breathing.
- Visualize inhaling a healing light and exhaling the pain out of your body.
- Tighten the area where the pain is centered and then release to alleviate the pain.
The color blue is considered anti-inflammatory. Some have found that exposure to blue light, visualizing breathing in the color blue, or simply wearing blue results in reduced pain.
3. Art And Journaling
Some find it helpful to write about their experience with pain in a journal. This is a useful hobby as it can help you find clues to reduce your pain. For example, you will remember if pain reduced on the days you took a walk or when you ate all raw foods.
Art can be used to describe your pain. Is it like a dog bite or burning flames? Draw or paint it. In your mind’s eye, muzzle the dog or pour water on the fire. Then, draw the images that may soothe the pain and visualize them to feel relief.
4. Hot Or Cold Compress
Before using anything on the affected area, get a sense of what is appropriate – hot or cold? Heavy or light?
Most throbbing pains are best relieved by a cold application, such as an ice pack or cool compress. If it hurts too much to touch, a cold treatment is usually your best bet. Sharp pain is often remedied by heat via a hot water bottle or hot herbal compress. You can even add pain-relieving herb teas or Epsom salts (1 pound) for enhanced benefits.
For topical application, you can use castor oil, charcoal poultices, hot ginger tea, hot salt packs, or cold mashed cucumbers. Essential oils can also be used in topical liniments to help relieve pain. Among the most pain relieving are birch, cajeput, camphor, chamomile, eucalyptus, frankincense, geranium, ginger, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, and wintergreen.
Using pain-relief drugs for extended periods can be habit-forming. It can also cause fatigue, mental fogginess, and constipation. Instead, explore the all-natural alternatives and correct the root cause of the pain, whenever possible.