July 20, 2021 5 min read

A 2016 survey estimated that as many as 20.4% of U.S. adults (50.0 million) experience chronic pain, a type of pain that is persistent and lasts weeks or years. For the other 79.6% of people, pain is still a discomfort that pops up from time to time, so it’s always a good idea to have some natural pain relief remedies on hand when the moment arises.

Whether you experience chronic pain, you’re dealing with an injury, or you have a sudden headache that you want to get rid of fast, there are plenty of reasons you may want to avoid over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Luckily, there are natural methods for pain relief that target all sorts of pain symptoms, from joint pain to neuropathic pain and more. Some are tried and true methods, like applying ice to reduce swelling. Others, like CBD, are new to the wellness spotlight, but are proving to be effective as part of a pain-management routine.

The best part? Many natural pain remedies can be combined to create a wellness regimen that targets pain from all angles. Here are 5 research-backed natural pain remedies that you can use when pain strikes:

Table of Contents
Heat and Ice
Turmeric
White Willow Bark
Capsaicin
CBD
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • Pain is usually treated with over-the-counter or prescription drugs, but other natural remedies may be equally effective. 
  • Preliminary research suggests that herbal remedies like willow bark and hemp-derived CBD may have the ability to help reduce physical discomforts. 
  • While most of these natural remedies have a solid safety profile and fewer drawbacks than pharmaceutical drugs, you should always talk to your doctor before using new remedies to manage pain. 

Heat and Ice

There’s a reason this advice has been around for ages—heat and ice are one of the most common and effective methods for achieving natural pain relief. Although it seems straightforward, it’s incredibly important to understand when to use heat and when to use ice.

A woman applying ice to an injured angle, the most common natural pain relief method that can be used at home.

Ice is useful for new injuries where swelling and inflammation is likely. Reducing inflammation in the beginning can help reduce tissue damage, which may decrease the pain you feel later and the amount of time it takes for the injury to heal.

A cold ice pack applied to the neck or head may also be suitable for managing headaches, especially when the head feels inflamed or like it's “pulsating” inside.

For managing recurring joint pain (like due to arthritis), muscle cramps, or tension, heat may be the way to go. An electric heating pad is an option, but if you want to go old school you can always fill an old sock with rice and heat it in the microwave.

The best part about using heat or ice as a natural pain remedy is that both methods can almost always be combined with one of the natural remedies below for increased pain relief.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a common spice that comes from the root of Curcuma longa. It contains a chemical called curcumin, which might reduce swelling.

Turmeric is a bitter spice that’s commonly used in curries, mustards, and various cheeses. Turmeric has been used for medicinal applications for hundreds of years, but more recently has been discovered to have potent anti-inflammatory effects that are commonly used to treat pain, especially in the case of chronic conditions that are characterized by inflammation (like arthritis).

A woman holding a handful of turmeric capsules she takes to help manage pain.

A 2016 meta-analysis looked at 8 different studies involving the use of turmeric for managing joint pain symptoms related to arthritis. Five of the studies found that there was no significant difference between the pain scored in patients using traditional pain medicine and those using turmeric to manage arthritis-related pain. The meta-analysis concluded that science supports the efficacy of turmeric extract as an arthritis treatment.

Turmeric can be consumed by adding fresh turmeric root or turmeric powder to your foods or by using the fresh root to make tea. You can also find encapsulated turmeric powder. 

White Willow Bark

White willow bark is another natural pain relief remedy that’s been used in folk medicine for centuries. Willow bark, which comes from the willow tree, contains salicin, a compound that’s converted to salicylic acid in the body, which is the natural form of the active ingredient in aspirin, called acetylsalicylic acid.

As you probably know, this chemical has various anti-inflammatory effects and is commonly used to manage pain, especially pain caused by headaches.

A 2015 study evaluated the safety and efficacy of white willow bark when used to manage various discomforts and described it as “an anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and analgesic” substance. The study also highlights some existing evidence that supports the use of willow bark extracts for managing “chronic lower back and joint pain and osteoarthritis.”

The research concludes that the white willow bark is likely effective for managing discomfort in these cases and that adverse effects were minimal compared to NSAIDs commonly used to manage the same symptoms.

Capsaicin

Capsaicin is the compound found in chili peppers that gives them their kick, but it can also be used topically to help manage pain and inflammation. In fact, it’s often used to make topical creams and ointments designed to help reduce joint and muscle pain.

A 2011 study involving the use of a name brand capsaicin patch found that a single 1-hour application reduced neuropathic pain for up to 12 weeks. At lower concentrations (like in the form of over the counter creams or herbal formulas) can be applied frequently throughout the day to help keep pain at bay, and can be combined with most systemic (oral) natural pain relief methods to provide increased relief.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

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CBD is a cannabinoid derived from hemp that’s been making waves in the natural wellness community, and for good reason. Unlike THC (which is also a common natural remedy used for pain), CBD isn’t psychoactive, which makes it far more accessible.

Still, research regarding CBD’s health benefits dates back decades, and one of the most common areas backed by research is CBD’s ability to help manage pain. We now know that CBD interacts indirectly on the Endocannabinoid System, a bodily system that’s responsible for regulating inflammation and pain signalling, which may be why CBD has shown some potential for managing neuropathic pain, one of the most difficult types of pain to treat.

An animal study published in the European Journal of Pain found that CBD, when applied topically, may reduce pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. Another study from 2012 also explored CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects and found that it could “significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain” without building tolerance in rat models.

CBD can be taken orally and has a sound safety profile, which is likely why many people prefer it to common analgesic or anti-inflammatory medications. Because hemp was legalized in the U.S. in 2018, CBD is not legal and accessible across the country, and you can actually buy it online and have it shipped directly to your door.

Interested in learning more? Read “What is CBD?” or skip straight to the point and check out our Vitality CBD Collection, which includes gummies, tinctures, softgels, and more.

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Resources

  1. “Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults — United States, 2016” https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6736a2.htm
  2. “Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5003001/
  3. “Efficacy and Safety of White Willow Bark (Salix alba) Extracts” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25997859/
  4. “Topical capsaicin for pain management: therapeutic potential and mechanisms of action of the new high-concentration capsaicin 8% patch” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3169333/
  5. “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis” https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ejp.818
  6. “Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3371734/

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