Herbal Support for Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is all too common, no matter how old we are.

Causes are many, such as accidental trauma or surgery, emotional stress, poor posture, asymmetric activities at work or at play, poor ergonomics, use of medications for pain or for other conditions, as well as chronic conditions, such as migraines, tension headaches, cluster headaches, fibromyalgia, diabetes, liver and gall bladder disease, or digestive difficulties, to name a few.

All of the above cause local and/or systemic inflammation in the body, leading to pain or discomfort.

Many herbs help with chronic pain.

There are many herbs that can help alleviate chronic pain no matter what the source.  Some of these herbs increase blood supply to bring oxygen and nutrients to the injured tissue and release metabolic or pharmaceutical toxins from the tissue.

Some herbs reduce nervous tension which helps to release tension held in the muscles, thus alleviating musculoskeletal pain and discomfort.

Other herbs, promote lymph flow to reduce swelling (edema) at the site of injury.  And some herbs help  the body to break down and flush out toxins by supporting the function of the liver and kidneys.

Digestive support helps the body to absorb nutrients to support the healing process and reduce inflammation.

Please consult a naturopathic physician in the use of these herbs, as some herbs may be toxic if taken in the wrong dosage or form.  Moreover, herbs may interact with medications or other supplements you are currently taking, possibly augmenting or inhibiting their actions.

Note that some herbs can only be taken externally, while others are meant for internal use only.  Many herbs can be taken both ways and to amplify their effects.

Below is a list of herbs well known to be helpful with chronic pain.

Know that healthy eating habits, gentle but regular exercise, and plenty of rest should be an integral part of your life style to promote general health and well being, and thus less inflammation and pain.  A healthy lifestyle is essential to reducing or eliminating chronic pain.

  TURMERIC  (Curcuma longa) is a great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling and pain.  Studies show that turmeric is every bit as effective as cortisone and other anti-inflammatory medications, without the side effects.

Curcumin also supports liver function, and thus digestion, reducing nausea, improving bile production and fat digestion, as well as protecting the liver from oxidative damage.

  MILK THISTLE (Silybum marianum) is considered the king of the liver herbs.  Silybum protects the liver from damage by toxins such as medications, smoking, and alcohol.

This herb also helps to restore liver health through tissue repair and regeneration.  Milk Thistle is particularly helpful in cases of acute and chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, and fatty degeneration of the liver.

  GINGER (Zingiber officinale) is a great anti-inflammatory, internally as well as externally.  Incidentally, Ginger is a great digestive aide, helping to improve appetite, and reducing nausea.

  CHAMOMILE (Matricaria recutita) reduces muscle tension and spasms.  This herb also relieves nervous tension and irritability.

  BROMELAIN  (Ananas comosus) is a natural enzyme that digests proteins, in this case proteins from tissue breakdown.  Bromelain also reduces swelling, inflammation, and pain, and helps to relax the muscles.  Bromelain is also a great digestive aide.

  LAVENDER OIL (Lavendula officinalis) applied to the area of injury reduces muscle tension and spasms.  Lavender is also one of the nervines, helping to soothe you into a restful sleep, reducing mental tension and anxiety, and alleviating migraines and headaches caused by muscular tension and spasms.

  DEVIL’S CLAW  (Harpagophytum procumbens) helps to reduce inflammation and reduce pain.  It’s valuable for bursitis, gout, nerve pain (neuralgia), and generalized aches and pain, as well as headaches.

  SKULLCAP (Scutellaria laterifolia) relaxes the mind and body, promoting restful sleep. Helpful with tension headaches.

  ST. JOHN’S WORT  (Hypericum perforatum) is a valuable herb for nerve pain.  Hypericum also reduces swelling, bruising, muscle aches and pain, as well as bleeding from cuts.

St. John’s Wort is  known as a nervine, helping to reduce anxiety and alleviating mild depression.  Furthermore, it improves mental clarity, and the quality of sleep.

  WITCH HAZEL  (Hamamelis virginiana) is known for healing damaged blood vessels, thus reducing bruising and speeding up the healing process.  Also good for varicose veins, phlebitis, and hemorrhoids.

  HORSE CHESTNUT (Aesculus hippocastanum) strengthens blood vessels and helps to speed up healing by reducing bruising and swelling after injury and surgery.  Horse Chestnut also promotes lymph drainage after a mastectomy or head injury.  May reduce brain swelling (edema).

  COMFREY  (Symphytum officinale) is the great bone healer.  Comfrey helps to cut the healing time of bone fractures in half.  This herb is particulary effective for non-union fractures, after amputation, to reduce bone bruising, and helps to reduce inflammation of the bone (osteitis).

  ARNICA (Arnica montana) speeds up healing from bruises, muscular and joint strains, as well as recovery from muscle cramping (charley horse).  Arnica also reduces swelling, pain, and inflammation due to injury.

  EUCALYPTUS OIL (Eucalyptus globulus) reduces muscle spasms, pain and inflammation of strains, and promotes wound healing.

  JAMAICAN DOGWOOD (Piscidia erythrina) is a potent nervine, soothing the nerves, reducing tension, and calming the nervous system.  Thus it is a valuable and effective herb for migraine and tension headaches, as well as nerve pain (neuralgia).

  KAVA KAVA  (Piper methysticum) very effective in reducing spasms and inflammation.  Also known as a nervine, improving sleep, reducing nerve pain (neuralgia), and improving mood by reducing anxiety.  Also a great aide for headaches due to muscle tension.

  LINDEN (Tilia spp.) is soothing to the mind and nervous system, alleviating migraine headaches, tension headaches, and sinus pain.  Linden also supports restful sleep, and lowers blood pressure.

  VALERIAN (Valeriana officinalis) soothes the nervous system and relieves pain from headaches caused by muscular tension of the neck, and shoulders.  Valerian, like many nervines, promotes sleep and relaxation.

  GOTU KOLA  (Centella asiatica) prevents scarring of tissue.  Also promotes healing of connective tissue, such as the tendons and ligaments by stimulating collagen synthesis.  Remember this herb for wounds from surgery, childbirth, and radiation therapy, as well as skin irritation.

Craniosacral Therapy gently helps the body to release restrictions in the connective tissue (fascia, tendons, ligaments) that contribute to chronic pain. Read More…