Complementary Medicine

The best of natural and pharmaceutical medicine.

Herbs that Provide Natural Pain Relief

Three excellent herbs that provide natural pain relief

Many natural therapies can be very helpful for pain. My three favorite pain relieving herbals are willow bark, boswellia, and tart cherry. All three of these can be found in combination in the End Fatigue Pain Formula by Integrative Therapeutics. Begin with 2-4 tabs 2-3 times a day as needed until maximum benefit is achieved (approximately 4-6 weeks) and then you can use the lowest effective dose. Let's look at these three herbals.

Willow bark is the original source of aspirin, but when used as the entire herb it has been found to be much safer and quite effective. The active ingredient is salicin, and willow bark has been shown to be effective in both osteoarthritis and back pain. People who are severely allergic to aspirin (e.g., aspirin induced asthma or anaphylaxes — which is very unusual) should not use willow bark. Like aspirin and Celebrex, it acts as a COX (Cyclooxygenase enzyme) inhibitor, decreasing inflammation. There are clearly a combination of other factors in willow bark that markedly enhance its effectiveness and safety—which can be a major benefit over aspirin and NSAIDs (e.g., Motrin®) which cause an enormous amount of gastritis and ulcer bleeding, to the point of killing 15,000-20,000 Americans yearly! The studies on willow bark are quite consistent in their effectiveness in reducing pain. Let's look at some of the research.

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In one study, 210 patients with severe chronic low back pain were randomly assigned to receive an oral willow bark extract with either 120 mg (low dose) or 240 mg (high dose) of salicin, or placebo, in a 4-week blinded trial. In the last week of treatment, 39 still showing benefit at the end of 12 months despite having stopped the treatment. That lipoic acid helps in several kinds of neuropathies suggest that it is worth trying in others as well, as it is quite benign and not very expensive.

SAM-e is a nutrient produced from trimethylglycine (betaine) in combination with multiple nutrients including B vitamins, folate, and inositol. It was initially tested and found to be effective in treating depression. Researchers also noted as an aside that it improved patients' arthritis as effectively as anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS). A number of studies were done including one which gave 600 mg a day for 2 weeks followed by 400 mg daily for 2 years. Pain and stiffness decreased within one week and the improvement continued throughout the two-year trial. A study which reviewed seven other studies was inconclusive. A major problem with SAM-e is that it is not stable and breaks down easily, with many products not really delivering what they claim. In addition, it is quite expensive. An alternative that I prefer is to use the nutrients needed to make SAM-e in your body. Doing this in several patients (using the nutrients found in the Energy Revitalization System vitamin powder) resulted in increased blood levels of SAM-e similar to those found by taking 400-800 milligrams daily.

What Else Should I Keep in Mind for Pain?

As noted above, pain is the body's way of trying to get your attention. In addition to asking for nutritional support, pain also can be a sign that the patient needs 8+ hours of deep sleep a night, hormonal support, and to treat any underlying infections (especially yeast, parasites, and sinusitis). These and a host of other natural remedies (and how to tailor them to specific situations) are discussed at length in my book Pain Free 1-2-3! and previous articles. See our SHINE Treatment Protocol for more information on over 200 available treatments (by category), including dosing and other patient instructions. This will give you detailed information on the different therapies available for each problem and how to use them.

With so many safe and effective natural remedies available for pain, it is no longer necessary for over 50 million Americans to be in chronic pain, and tens of thousands to die each year from NSAIDs and other pain medications! Isn't it time for you to be Pain Free?

Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., internist and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic!, researches treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia.

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