About 23.5 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain, according to the National Health Institute. To make matters worse, 17.6% of those Americans suffer from severe pain.
For many, opioids become the drug of choice to alleviate the pain. But the reliance on these drugs has led to an epidemic in the U.S., where 2.1 million people now have an opioid use disorder.
To avoid addiction, many people with chronic pain are seeking out natural alternative treatments to find relief. Here are five natural ways to help manage chronic pain.
1. Willow Bark
Willow bark has been used for centuries to alleviate inflammation, the cause of most pains. The white willow tree’s bark contains salicin, which is very similar to the main ingredient in aspirin.
Before modern medicine, people chewed on the bark itself to relieve pain and fever. Now, you can buy dried willow bark and drink it in tea form or take it in a capsule.
While effective at alleviating pain, willow bark is not without its side effects. Along with an upset stomach, willow bark can also prolong bleeding time and slow down kidneys. These side effects are all similar to aspirin.
Willow bark should only be taken by adults. Consult with your doctor before using any herb or plant substance to manage your pain.
Turmeric is another well-known anti-inflammatory food, although it’s often used as a spice in cooking to add an earthy flavor. This spice is what gives curry its yellow color and characteristic flavor.
Turmeric contains an important compound: curcumin. Curcumin, an antioxidant, is responsible for its anti-inflammatory effects.
3. Cannabis Tea
Studies have shown that cannabis can be effective at treating chronic pain. Pain relief is one of the main reasons people turn to medical marijuana in the first place. But everyone prefers smoking or vaporizing the herb.
Cannabis tea offers an alternative way to reap the pain-relieving benefits of marijuana and is considered a more therapeutic experience.
Because the active ingredients are absorbed through the digestive tract, the effects take longer to appear and last longer. Effects are usually felt 30-90 minutes after drinking the tea and can last up to eight hours.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice designed to balance the body’s natural flow of energy, or qi (pronounced CHEE). Small, thin needles are placed into the skin at precise locations along the body. For pain relief, needles are placed in relation to the source of the pain.
A study from 2012 found that acupuncture helped alleviate pain in those suffering from migraines and other forms of chronic pain.
5. Arnica Oil
Arnica oil may not be as popular as other essential oils, but it has long been used to treat many forms of pain, including arthritis, bruises and even carpal tunnel syndrome.
The oil is derived from the Arnica plant, which grows in mountainous areas. Known as the “mountain daisy,” this plant’s flowers are traditionally prepared as a remedy for pain relief.
Along with arnica oil, you can also purchase salves, creams, ointments and tinctures for pain relief.
Arnica should never be applied to broken skin or an open wound. The plant is toxic if it gets inside of the body.