Safer Alternatives for Pain Relief

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Approximately one person dies every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose,1 and the deaths have tripled since 1990.2 What gives?

About 75% of prescription overdoses are caused by opioids2 — a group of highly addictive drugs that reduce the perception of pain. Taking a high dose or using them along with alcohol or sedatives can stop your breathing and ultimately kill you.

But before you judge, please note that many of such victims aren’t “druggies” or misfits. A lot of them are everyday people like you and me who’ve become addicted after taking them for chronic pain.

Luckily, alternatives do exist. In fact, nature has given us a number of safe, non-addictive herbs for pain relief. Below, we’ll go over these along with a few non-herbal options as well.

Herbal Options for Pain Relief

Pain can drastically impact a person’s quality of life. It can be debilitating and even drive people to commit suicide.

Of course, we’re not advocating that people should suffer needlessly from pain, but rather that safer methods should be at least considered for managing it.

In fact, some people have been able to reduce or quit pain meds altogether by making the right nutritional and lifestyle changes.

Here are some herbal options that have been clinically shown to alleviate discomfort safely:

1. Curcumin

The yellow spice, turmeric, has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. Much of its benefits are attributed to curcumin, one of its key components.

In a clinical study, curcumin was more effective than a leading anti-inflammatory drug, diclofenac, for arthritic pain. After eight weeks of use, participants taking the curcumin had a 60% reduction in pain scores.3

How does curcumin work? Unlike opioid drugs, curcumin works on multiple levels to ease inflammation,4 a major cause of pain.

2. Capsaicin

Capsaicin is extracted from chili peppers. It’s one of the most heavily studied extracts for the management of pain.

Research shows it’s effective against multiple types of pain, including joint,5 sinus,6 nerve,7 and even post-surgical pain.8

In one study, post-surgical patients experienced significant pain relief with topical applications of capsaicin. They took significantly less opioids for pain relief.8

One thing to note about herbals is that they take a certain period of time before you’ll experience significant pain relief. If you’re going to try them, give them a couple of months to start working. In general, a good time frame to give them is between 2–3 months.

Safe, Behavioral Options for Pain Relief

1. Yoga

A common reason that people take painkilling drugs is to treat lower back pain. This type of pain can literally cripple its victims. Fortunately, multiple studies show that yoga may help.

For example, researchers in Seattle conducted a three month study and found that yoga classes decreased back pain in chronic sufferers.9 The participants’ back function also improved.

Of course, before you start any program, consult with your doctor first.

2. Sleep

In pain? Then definitely make an effort to catch more Zzzzzs.

Research shows that sleep helps to diminish pain.10 Why is this? Well, it may have to do with melatonin, a hormone that’s released during sleep.

Researchers have found that melatonin is actually a natural pain reliever.11 It reduces pain-causing inflammation12 and it supports the release of endorphins,13 your body’s natural painkillers.

3. Diet

As a first step, make it a point to avoid inflammatory foods as much as possible.

Diet is very important for managing pain effectively. Limiting foods that contain arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fat, may help to prevent inflammation and pain.14

This can be found in red meat, eggs, white meat, and peanuts.

Instead, incorporate the following foods into your diet, as they can help to ease inflammation:

  • flax seeds
  • walnuts
  • pumpkin seeds
  • oily fish
  • seaweed
  • green tea
  • black tea
  • tart cherries
  • dark berries
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • grapes
  • basil

Have herbs or diet and lifestyle changes helped you manage your own pain? If so, please tell us about it in the comments.

Who knows? You may be able to help others by sharing what’s worked for you.


  1. Available at: Accessed December 5th, 2012.
  2. Available at: Accessed December 5th, 2012.
  3. Phytother Res. 2012 Nov;26(11):1719-25.
  4. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Sep;52(9):1010-30.
  5. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2011 May;50(5):911-20.
  6. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2011 Aug;107(2):171-8.
  7. J Peripher Nerv Syst. 2012 May;17 Suppl 2:22-7.
  8. Clin Drug Investig. 2011 Dec 1;31(12):877-82.
  9. Available at: . Accessed December 5th, 2012.
  10. SLEEP. 2012 December;35(12):1667-1672.
  11. Clin Rheumatol. 2000;19(1):9-13.
  12. Life Sci. 2009 Apr 10;84(15-16):489-98.
  13. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2001 Jan;36(1):5-9.
  14. J Pain Palliat Care Pharmacother. 2011;25(1):49-54.


Mae Kristine Raña said...

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LifeExtension said...

Mae Kristine Raña - Why thank you! We appreciate the feedback.

physicsl therapists nj said...

Thanks for the great post on your blog, it really gives me an insight on this topic.

LifeExtension said...

physicsl therapists nj - We're glad you liked it! Thanks for reading. :)

fernenland said...

Butterbur cured me of life long chronic migraine. In the process it melted away a whole lot of joint pain too. Well worth a look at!

LifeExtension said...

fernenland - Great! Thanks for sharing. :)

back pain treatment exercise said...

Really appreciate you sharing this article post.Thanks Again. Will read on...

LifeExtension said...

back pain treatment exercise - Our pleasure! Thanks for reading.

back pain kent said...

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LifeExtension said...

back pain kent - Thanks! Glad it was useful. :-)

Pain Relief said...

I stay from painkillers as much as possible. Great article

Words for Life said...

My life has completely changed! January 2013 I had neuropathy added to my RA And my fibromyalgia. Couldn't walk except with a walker and in extreme pain. Began a daily regimen of fish oil, turmeric, Gaba, bromelain, within 6 weeks I was walking unassisted and within 8 weeks the pain was gone, and my rheumatoid arthritis inflammation was fine as well. Eating habits changed to organic, gluten free and non GMO as well. Easy and doable! I'm living proof it works! Now I'm writing a book " it's all about the journey" in hopes to help others manage their diseases

lower back pain treatment said...

This is a very good post! I admire the way you shared this topic! Keep it up a good job! credit report and score

Life Extension said...

Words for Life - Glad you found a program that worked for you. Keep up the good work!

Shu Arvilla said...

The problem with drugs is the body naturally develops a resistance and needs more. I know its controversial but many people get significant pain relief using magnetic therapy.

Life Extension said...

Shu Arvilla - Interesting point. There is some research indicating that opiates increase the body's sensitivity to pain with time. Go figure!

Orthopaedic Associates said...

Sleep and diet are two things that everyone can work on, especially diet. Great post and thank you for sharing!

Life Extension said...

Orthopaedic Associates - Thanks for stopping by!

Pain clinic Panama City said...

A good sleep and a balanced diet is must for a healthy life. It is suggested by specialists that stress is also a cause for many types of disease so try to live with light mood without any stress

Life Extension said...

Pain clinic Panama City - Good points!

Aan Jamhari said...

Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it. Pengobatan Untuk Saluran Pankreas Tersumbat

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