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There are a number of herbs and spices that have been used for centuries for pain management. The botanicals chosen will usual depend on the cause of the pain, such as arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, versus injury, headache, back pain and so on.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

  • Corydalis (Yu Jin) is a tuber prepared with vinegar and used to treat chronic pain. It has been compared to opioids in terms of potency, but without the risk of addiction.
  • Gu Zhi (cinnamon) relieves pain and swelling
  • Jiang Huang (curcumin) is a mainstay of Chinese medicine and used for all forms of pain. In Ayurveda, it is known as turmeric.
  • Mo Yao (myrrh) reduces inflammation and speeds healing


Ayurveda (Traditional Indian Medicine)


  • Cayenne pepper is good for pain relief when added to food or drunk as a tea.
  • Ginger is used for its warming properties in relation to arthritis.
  • Jatamansi is good for pain relief and sleep.
  • Kava kava reduces pain, and is said to prevent cancer, though there is some concern about liver damage.
  • Skullcap is a natural anti-inflammatory good for joint pain.
  • Turmeric is a delicious golden spice that gives flavor to many Indian recipes and is often used to treat arthritis pain.


Native American Medicine

  • Aspen bark, willow and birch all have similar pain relieving properties to aspirin.
  • Blackberry-roots, bark and leaves are good for inflammation when drunk as a tea.
  • Butterbur is good for migraines.
  • Fennel seeds and tea are useful for headaches and have a pleasant licorice flavor.
  • Feverfew is good for migraines.
  • Valerian is useful for pain relief and sleep disorders.


The case for kratom

 In recent years, kratom has garnered an increasing amount of attention in the medical world and that of the Food and Drug Administration due to its powerful pain relieving effects. Kratom comes from a south-east Asian tree related to the coffee plant.  Its pain relief effects have been compared to opioids, but apparently without the risk of addiction. It has been used for a stimulant at low doses, a sedative at high doses, and as a recreational drug, pain killer, treatment for diarrhea, and supportive supplement for those recovering from opioid addiction.  It is used for various other medical conditions, including arthritis, restless legs syndrome (RLS), and fibromyalgia. It is inexpensive and available in health food stores and from herbalists.  When the US FDA tried to ban it in 2016, there was considerable public outcry amongst hundreds of thousands of people who had been using it safely. Thus far, it is still legal in the US.  The leaves are chewed when fresh, or dried and powdered. Since it has a bitter taste, the powdered lea works well in shakes and smoothies.Anyone concerned about addiction to opioids, or who is a recovering addict, might benefit from one or more of these remedies. As always, they should research side effects and possible interactions. Remember, just because it is natural does not mean it is completely harmless.


Check to learn more before taking any herbs and supplements.

author avatar
Bill DiStasio
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