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    19 Free Alternatives to Pain Meds

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    Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor before using any of the herbs and/or remedies mentioned in this article.

    19 Free Alternatives to Pain Meds

    Doctor visits and pain medications can be costly , time-consuming, and hard to find. It might be impossible to get the pain relief you need from traditional medical sources in an emergency.

    If you’re looking to learn a bit of free and natural sources of pain relief, keep reading. You might be able to manage your everyday aches and pains from your own kitchen or backyard for free with these natural resources for pain relief.

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    1. Arnica Flowers

    Arnica Flowers

    The oil of arnica flowers can be applied topically to soothe muscle aches and skin irritations. Do not ingest arnica because it can be toxic. 

    How to use it: The best way to use arnica is to create an infused oil with the blossoms and then use the oil to make a salve. You can find directions here

    2. Cayenne Pepper 

    Cayenne Peppers

    Cayenne peppers are medium to hot chili peppers used in cooking to make dishes spicy. The peppers are grown on bushes and can be eaten fresh or dried and then ground into powder.

    Ironically, capsaicin, the stuff that makes the cayenne pepper burn your mouth, also blocks the neurotransmitter responsible for relaying information about pain to your brain. This spicy stuff is known to relieve pain associated with aches, bruises, pain from shingles, menstrual cramps, neuropathy, and migraines. 

    How to use it: The best way to use cayenne pepper for pain treatment is to make a simple salve and rub it on the spots that give you trouble. A very simple salve recipe using cayenne pepper, vegetable oil, and beeswax can be found here. Eating chili peppers may also alleviate congestion and sinus pain. 

    3. Cloves 

    Cloves Up Close

    If a toothache has got you under the weather, you can use cloves to alleviate the pain until you can get in to see the dentist. Clove oil contains a numbing agent and can be used to numb tooth pain. The easiest method of pain relief is to put a few drops of clove oil on a cotton ball and hold that on the sore tooth. The antibacterial and numbing properties will help with your pain. 

    How to use it: If you don’t have clove oil, you can hold a whole clove on the painful tooth with your mouth closed. Just don’t swallow the clove. Better yet, grind up the clove with a mortar and pestle and mix it with a few drops of olive oil to make a paste. Apply the paste to the painful spot. This paste will numb the area and give you some relief. 

    4. Comfrey 

    Comfrey Tincture

    Comfrey was used in traditional medicine for many years. Recently, it has come under fire for potentially causing liver damage and other issues if taken internally. However, comfrey can be used externally as a simple poultice to treat arthritis and bruising. 

    How to use it: To create a comfrey poultice, mash 6 to 8 large comfrey leaves with a mortar and pestle until the leaves begin to form a thick paste. Slowly add hot water until you reach the desired consistency. Place the mixture into a cheesecloth square and tie it shut. Hold the poultice over the affected area for ten minutes. Do not apply again for at least an hour and do not use for more than ten days in a row. 

    Oral use of comfrey has been banned in several countries due to the dangers associated with ingesting it. 

    5. Creeping Charlie

    Creeping Charlie

    How to use it: Creeping Charlie, also known as Ground Ivy, can be made into a tea to treat headaches. Here's how to make it.

    6. Devil’s Claw Root 

    Devil’s Claw root is a potent herb from Africa and is named for its claw-like blooms that catch onto animals and clothing. Devil’s Claw root is typically used to treat inflammatory pain such as back, joint, and arthritis pain. It is often made into a bitter tea. 

    How to use it: To make devil’s claw root tea, simmer half a teaspoon of chopped root per cup of water for fifteen minutes. Take half a cup of the tea as a dose. It is best to start with smaller doses and increase them only if necessary. 

    7. Feverfew

    Feverfew Flowers

    Feverfew is a pretty perennial that resembles tiny daisies. It may be grown as an annual in cooler climates, and it is often mistaken for chamomile. However, feverfew is an excellent resource for people suffering from migraines, arthritis, joint pain, and even toothaches. 

    How to use it: Feverfew can be harvested and dried, and then made into tea. Brew the tea by adding two tablespoons of dried leaves and flowers to boiling water. All the leaves and flowers to steep for five minutes. Once the tea has cooled, you can strain and drink it.  

    8. Ginger

    Sliced Ginger

    Ginger is a delicious spice as well as folk medicine. It has traditionally been used to treat nausea, indigestion, and pain due to inflammation. It may also treat headaches and menstrual cramps.

    How to use it: The easiest way to prepare ginger is to make the root into tea. Wash your raw ginger root, peel it, and slice it into four to six thin pieces. Boil the ginger in 2 cups of water for 10 to 20 minutes. Remove the tea from heat and add lemon or honey, if desired. There is also a benefit in incorporating fresh ginger root into your regular cooking. 

    9. Heat and Ice 

    Fire and Ice Cubes

    Don’t underestimate the power of heat and ice to soothe aches and pains.

    How to use it: Applying ice to a bruise can reduce pain and inflammation. Ice can relieve migraines and alleviate tooth pain. A warm bath can soothe away aches and pains. 

    10. Lavender

    Lavender Field

    Lavender is a beautiful purple flower often found in gardens and flower beds. It is commonly used to treat headaches and migraines, especially those due to stress and anxiety. Lavender tea is a delicious drink to help ease the pain away. 

    How to use it: To make lavender tea, steep one teaspoon of dried lavender in 8 ounces of hot water for five to seven minutes. If the flavor is too strong you can dilute it with more water or add milk.  You can also include chamomile in your lavender tea. 

    Lavender essential oil can also be used to treat stress and tension headaches. You can massage one drop of lavender essential oil onto your temples and the back of your neck for soothing pain relief. You can also inhale the scent or add a few drops of essential oil to your bath for headache relief. 

    11. Lemon Balm

    Lemon Balm Leaves

    Another easy remedy for headaches and cramps is lemon balm.

    How to use it: Steep ¼ cup of lemon balm leaves in boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain the tea and add honey to taste. Click here for more information. 

    12. Onion

    Diced Onions

    Onions aren’t just for cooking; they are also medicinal. The quercetin compounds found in onions have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

    How to use it: For tooth pain, simply chew on a piece of raw onion on the affected side. For a small cut, burn, or insect sting, place a piece of raw onion directly on the affected skin. Eating onions on a regular basis may also reduce inflammation which leads to pain. 

    13. Plantain

    Plantain Weed

    Plantain is a common North American weed with over 100 varieties.

    How to use it: If you suffer from the pain of an insect sting, nettle sting, bruise, or wound, you can crumple and bruise a fresh leaf. Apply the leaf directly to the site of the pain for soothing relief.  You can also make a spit poultice with a plantain leaf. Chew a clean leaf and apply it to the wound. 

    14. St. John’s Wort

    St. John's Wort

    You might associate St. John’s Wort with treatment for depression. However, this plant has been used for centuries to treat other disorders, as well. Specifically, as a tea, it works to treat sciatica, arthritis, and neuropathy. You can also use it in a salve form to treat skin abrasions and sore muscles. 

    How to use it: You can steep two to three teaspoons worth of fresh flowers in hot water to make tea. After four minutes, strain the flowers and drink. It will have a fresh, lemony flavor. 

    You can also create your own salve. First, you need to infuse fresh flowers into the oil. Then mix the infused oil with melted beeswax. You can find more detailed directions here. 

    St. John’s Wort may cause interactions with other medications; it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before using an herbal remedy. 

    15. Stinging Nettle

    Stinging Nettle

    You may be familiar with the nettle plant’s nasty sting. If you brush up against it, it can leave a nasty welt or rash. However, the same compounds that leave a sting can also relieve arthritis.

    How to use it: According to Mother Earth News, people have traditionally stung themselves with stinging nettle to soothe the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. 

    16. Toothache Plant 

    Toothache Plant

    The toothache plant is a tender perennial in the aster family. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked in a salad, but the petal-less flowers are helpful for mouth or tooth pain. 

    How to use it: Chewing on the flowers of the toothache plant will cause a strong numbing sensation in your mouth. If you have mouth or tooth pain, it will give you temporary relief. For a sore throat, you can create tea by steeping several flowers in hot water. Strain the tea and use it for gargling to relieve your throat pain. 

    17. Turmeric 

    Spilled Turmeric

    You may be familiar with turmeric for its association with curries and other spicy Indian dishes. Turmeric is also known as Indian Saffron due to its bright yellow color. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has both anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. You can add turmeric as a spice to your diet, or you can make it into turmeric tea. Studies show that black pepper will boost absorption, so don’t be afraid to add some black pepper to your tea.  

    How to use it: To make turmeric tea, boil 2 cups of water with one teaspoon of turmeric powder and a half teaspoon of black pepper. Let the mixture simmer for about 15 minutes. You can add milk, honey, or lemon to taste. Additionally, you can purchase turmeric in supplement form if desired. 

    18. Valerian Root 

    Valerian Root in Tiny Bowl

    Valerian root has long been used for its calming and anti-anxiety effects. It also contains glutamine, which is one of the building blocks of GABA. GABA is an amino acid that calms the mind and helps you sleep better. Valerian may also reduce low back pain, sciatica, and migraines. 

    How to use it: To make valerian root tea, pour one cup of simmering water (not boiling) over one teaspoon of dried valerian root. Allow to steep for ten minutes; then, you can strain and drink the tea. Do not use valerian root for more than two consecutive weeks. 

    19. White Willow Bark 

    White Willow Bark

    Native Americans have used white Willow Bark to treat pain for many years. Salicin, the active ingredient in white willow bark, was discovered in 1828 and became the precursor to modern Aspirin. There are over 300 species of willow trees, and they all contain varying levels of salicin. 

    You can forage for white willow bark in the early spring but be cautious about taking bark from the large trunks of willow trees. Taking too much bark can damage, scar, and kill the tree. It is more sustainable to take small branches or use off-shoots from the tree itself. 

    Although the medicinal part of the tree is from the inner bark, if you use young small branches, you can use both the outer bark and the inner bark. 

    How to use it: First, carefully remove the bark with a sharp knife. You can cut the bark into small chips and either dry them for future use or use them fresh to create a tea or tincture. 

    To make white willow bark tea, add one tablespoon of your bark chips per cup of water to a pot. Boil the chips for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, then allow the mixture to steep for half an hour. Strain the tea and allow it to cool slightly before drinking. 

    To make a tincture, pack a mason jar roughly 2/3 full of your bark chips. Cover all of the bark with vodka and then cap the jar. Allow the mixture to sit for several months. When the mixture is finished, you can strain out the bark and store the tincture for later use. Keep in mind, this is an alcohol tincture and may cause impairment. 

    It is difficult to say how much salicin is in each cup of tea or tincture. If you need to have a precise dose, you may want to consider taking white willow bark supplements. 

    HerbMethodUsesSide EffectsMore Information
    ArnicaInfused Oil or SalveMuscle pain and skin irritationDo not ingestLink
    Cayenne PepperSalveAches, pains, bruises, pain from shinglesLink
    ClovesWhole, paste, or oilToothacheLink
    ComfreyPoulticeArthritis and sore musclesNever take comfrey internally or use it on open wounds because it can cause liver damage.Link
    Creeping CharlieTeaHeadache
    Devil’s Claw RootTeaLow back pain and arthritisStomach upsetLink
    FeverfewTeaHeadaches, stomachaches, toothaches, migrainesCanker sores, mouth irritation, not for use in pregnant women, digestive issues and dizzinessLink
    GingerTeaPain and inflammationLink
    LavenderTeaHeadaches and MigrainesLink
    Lemon BalmTeaHeadache and menstrual CrampsDo not take if you are on thyroid medicationLink
    OnionRawToothache, burn, insect stingLink
    PlantainFresh leavesInsect stings, wounds, bruisesLink
    St. John’s WortTeaSciatica, arthritis, neuropathic painMay cause drug interactions.Link
    Stinging NettleFresh leavesArthritis pain and inflammationLink
    Toothache PlantRaw or as a teaToothache or mouth painLink
    TurmericTea, Cooking, CapsulePain and inflammationLink
    Valerian RootTeaLow back pain, migraines, sciaticaHeart issuesLink
    White Willow BarkTea or tincturePain, arthritis, joint pain, inflammationMay cause prolonged bleedingLink

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