17 Natural Painkillers - Alternatives to Addictive Opiates! 

Pain is a very compelling force, teaching us right from wrong on a very primal level. If it feels good, go for it, and if it hurts, be away from it! 

Natural Pain Killers

The hunt for natural painkillers is as old as the human race, but, unfortunately, the human race is still hunting this elusive prize after all these years. According to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, around 40 million adults in the US had severe pain every day for the previous three months.

In this article, I will list the top 17 natural painkillers according to the latest science and medical research. Not every painkiller is a pill, however. Some of the best painkillers are pleasant activities that improve your health, mood, and energy level, while naturally boosting dopamine-stimulating endorphins in the brain to ease your pain. Cheers!

The Force Behind Modern Medicine Was Pain.

Ancient traditional medicine has its earliest roots in hunter-gatherer societies. However, it wasn't until the 7th century CE that the first drug stores in the world were established by Arab-Islamic alchemists in Baghdad with the development of nearly 2,000 substances.

The earliest medicines were still all-natural, though, as it wasn't until the 1800's that pharmacists began separating out active ingredients, or compounds, from natural substances. It is not surprising to learn that pain may have helped drive the development of modern compounded medicine.

Developed in 1803 by Friedrich Sertürner, Morphine was among the first compounds separated from its "crude" natural substance, the opium poppy.

17 Natural Painkillers - Ultimate List!

The list below is jam packed with plenty of natural pain relievers backed by scientific studies, but I have also compiled a nice little infographic to help you visualize!

Top 5 natural painkillers

Number 17 - Yoga

yoga is a natural pain killer

Why Its Listed:

Consistently among the top complementary alternative health treatments in the US, yoga originates from ancient Indian philosophy. Focusing on both mind and body, the various schools and styles of yoga combine specific physical postures (asanas) with breathing techniques (pranayama).

The 2007 National Health Interview Survey reports that around six percent of adults in the US practiced yoga for health purposes in the last 12 months.

The survey identified Hatha yoga as the most common school of yoga practiced in the United States and Europe. Among the major styles of Hatha yoga are Ashtanga, Bikram, Kindalini, Lyengar, and Vini yoga.

Number 16 - Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy Is a Natural Painkiller

Why Its Listed:

Massage therapy is defined as manually manipulating muscles, tendons, and ligaments by a qualified massage therapist. Encompassing many different techniques, therapists rub, press, and otherwise manipulate the body's soft tissues.

Most commonly using hands and fingers, therapists may also use their forearms, elbows, and/or feet. Stimulating blood circulation, massage therapy promotes relaxation and releases dopamine-stimulating endorphins to aid in natural pain relief.

Scientific research on massage therapy points toward beneficial effects on pain and other health conditions.

Number 15 - Acupuncture

Acupuncture Is A Natural Painkiller

Why Its Listed:

A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture has been practiced in China and throughout Asia for thousands of years. Acupuncture is defined as a body of procedures and techniques for stimulating specific points on the body.

Many scientific studies have been performed on acupuncture techniques employing thin metal needles which penetrate the patient's skin and are manipulated by hand or electricity.

Millions of people receive acupuncture treatments every year in the US, for many reasons, including pain relief. Medical research indicates that acupuncture may help ease chronic pain and tension headaches.

Number 14 - Magnesium

Magnesium Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral, present in nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and leafy green vegetables. Research related to back pain, muscle cramps, migraine headaches, and fibromyalgia have pointed to magnesium deficiency as a possible cause for pain.

Magnesium has been found to inhibit production of Substance P, an inflammatory chemical associated with pain. A German study in 1996 found that magnesium concentration in the blood also affects serotonin receptors in the brain.

The study reported around 50 percent of patients suffering acute migraines had low levels of magnesium. 41.6 percent of patients in the German study experienced reduced duration and pain of migraine attacks when given oral magnesium.

Number 13 - Fish Oil

Fish Oil - Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

Fish oil has a strong reputation for improving heart health, and is now being recognized for its anti-inflammatory properties which aid in natural pain relief. Scientific studies indicate that fish oil breaks down into prostaglandins following digestion.

Prostaglandins are hormonal chemicals associated with reducing inflammation. Recent research includes a Scottish trial reporting a 40 percent pain reduction in rheumatoid arthritis patients who received cod-liver oil daily.

A neck and back pain study from the University of Pittsburgh reported nearly 66 percent of patients discontinued pharmaceutical pain reliever use completely upon receiving fish oil supplements for 10 weeks.

Number 12 - Bromelain

Pineapple - Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

Found in the stems of pineapples, bromelain naturally relieves pain through several avenues. Scientific research indicates that bromelain reduces painful joint swelling and inflammation, and relieves pain by breaking down mucus associated with sinusitis.

Studies on bromelain include a double-blind trial with sinusitis patients in which 87 percent reported good or excellent results. In a trial of 25 rheumatoid arthritis patients receiving a bromelain supplement reported substantial reduction in inflammation and joint swelling.

Women receiving bromelain following episiotomy procedures during labor reported reduced bruising, swelling, and pain.

Number 11 - Meditation

Meditation - Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

Originating in ancient spiritual traditions, meditation is a practice for promoting mind and body health. Meditation has a solid reputation for increasing relaxation, stabilizing psychological balance, and coping with pain, illness, and stress.

Focusing on the interactions between mind, body, and behavior, meditation is wide-ranging in both techniques and health benefits. Most forms of meditation incorporate a comfortable position in a quiet location, a specific focus of attention, and a nonjudgmental attitude toward one's flow of thoughts.

Scientific research includes that meditation is helpful in relieving sleep and mood disturbances, stress, and muscle and joint pain. A 2014 study indicated that meditation reduces chemicals associated with pain-related inflammation and helps stabilize the immune system.

Top 10 Natural Painkillers

Number 10 - Ginger

Ginger - Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

Ginger is a spice that has been used for hundreds of years for improving many health conditions, including general pain relief, soothing a sore throat or painful muscles, and reducing fatigue. 

Scientific research reports that the compounds in ginger work as a group to provide strong anti-oxidant benefits to inhibit free radical production linked to pain and inflammation. Patients suffering from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or general muscular discomfort reported substantial relief through the use of powdered ginger supplements for 3 months to 2 years.

120 students in another randomized, controlled trial of ginger supplements for treating primary dysmenorrhea (severe menstrual cramping) showed significant reduction of pain intensity and duration.

Number 9 - Borage Seed Oil

Borage Seed Oil - Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

Borage seed oil is a popular natural pain reliever with solid research confirming its pain relieving ability. Containing a high concentration of GLA, or gamma-linolenic acid, this omega-6 fatty acid is helpful for relieving pain from swollen, tender joints. 

Scientific research reports that GLA produces anti‐inflammatory hormone‐like substances, including prostaglandin E1, that helps relieve painful symptoms. 

At the end of a 6-month study, 64 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with borage seed oil showed significant improvement compared with 21 percent of placebo patients in tender joint count, swollen joint count, tender joint score, and pain scores.

Number 8 - White Willow

White Willow - Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

Willow leaves have been recognized since ancient Greek times for reducing pain. Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician prescribed willow leaf tea for pain relief.

Following the development of compounded medicine, salicylic acid was isolated from the bark of the white willow in the late 19th century. Salicylic acid works by reducing inflammation. 

Today's aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid) is a synthetic form of white willow's pain relieving compound!

Scientific research on white willow bark supplement for pain relief reported 39 percent of lower back pain patients found significant pain relief, in most cases within one week, compared to six percent who received a placebo.

Number 7 - Boswellia

Boswellia - Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

Boswellia is an Indian herb available as a supplement and as a topical cream. Undertaking clinical trials to find herbal remedies for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), India's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research concluded that boswellic acids are more potent and less toxic than standard NSAIDS (ibuprofen, Advil, etc.). 

In a comparative study of 175 RA patients, the group receiving daily boswellia supplements stated that 97 percent of patients reported moderate to excellent improvement in pain, swelling, and stiffness after three to four weeks.

The study indicated these results were comparable to patients receiving the conventional drugs ketoprofen and phenylbutazone. However, the boswellia supplements produced no undesirable side effects.

Number 6 - Cetyl Myristoleate

Cetyl Myristoleate - Natural Painkiller

Why Its Listed:

Discovered by an arthritis researcher at the US National Institutes of Health, cetyl myristoleate is a naturally produced waxy substance that protects the body from arthritis. 

Originally identified in laboratory mice, CMO is now manufactured from plants. Research indicates that CMO is a joint lubricant, as well as an anti-inflammatory. 

A double-blind trial of 106 patients with various forms of arthritis reported a 63.5 percent reduction in pain from the group receiving CMO, compared with only 14.5 percent from the control group.

Number 5 - Capsaicin

Capsaicin - Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

Produced from chili peppers, capsaicin is a potent pain reliever by temporarily desensitizing skin nerve receptors. Supplement pills are reportedly helpful for diarrhea and cramps. A skin cream with 0.25%-0.75% capsaicin may relieve acute back pain by applying it directly where hurts.

Scientific studies from the University of Oxford reported almost 40 percent of arthritis patients saw a 50 percent reduction in pain following a month of using topical capsaicin cream. 60 percent of neuropathy patients covered in the same study achieved the same results after two months.

Also, capsaicin cream applied inside the nostrils of headache patients in New England showed a decrease in migraine and cluster headache pain intensity.

4 - MSM - Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane

MSM - Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

A naturally occurring sulphur compound, MSM, or methyl-sulphonyl-methane, is a powerful inflammation reducer. Drinking from or bathing in sulphurous spring water has long been known to provide relief to aching joints.

Scientific research reports that the active mineral, MSM, is naturally found in many foods, but is easily destroyed in the process of cooking. 

The UCLA School of Medicine carried out a double-blind study of MSM in patients with degenerative arthritis who reported over 80 percent relief of painwithin six weeks. The late actor James Coburn suffered for years from painful rheumatoid arthritis until learning about MSM. “It was like a miracle," said Coburn. "The pain stopped. In three days I started to swing a golf club.”

Number 3 - Turmeric

Turmeric- Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

Turmeric is perhaps the more famous natural food-based pain reliever with ancient Indian and Asian roots. Part of the ginger family, turmeric root is prized for its anti-inflammatory component, curcumin.

Popularly used in curry dishes, with meats, and in rice, turmeric can also be brewed as a tea, or taken in capsule form. Scientific research on daily curcumin treatment in controlled pain relief studies includes a 3-month trial of 50 osteoarthritis patients. 

Treadmill walking and symptom measurements to indicate pain relief in the control group was only modest. The curcumin-treated group, however, showed an improvement in treadmill walking from an initial 76 meters to 332 meters, and a 58 percent decrease in pain levels.

Number 2 - Qigong

Qigong - Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed:

Qigong is a centuries-old practice of traditional Chinese-medicine exercises. Involving gentle movements with certain postures, qigong enhances breathing, relaxation, and mental focus. The goal of qigong is to improve the body's energy flow, or qi.

Scientific research of qigong includes a 2012 randomized clinical trial with 100 participants. Benefits of qigong reported from the trial included reduced pain and improved sleep, even after 6 months.

The ability to perform daily activities and improved mental functions were also reported. Another study of women with severe fibromyalgia reported 73 percent less pain after just 5-7 qigong sessions, with benefits persisting beyond three months. Study co-author Afton Hassett said, "I’ve never seen pain scores change so dramatically."

Number 1 - Running

Running - Natural Pain Killer

Why Its Listed at Number 1:

Exercises like running or brisk walking has been proven to stimulate the body's release of natural endorphins. This results in a jolt of dopamine to the brain which binds to the opioid receptors in exactly the same way as morphine or any other opioid pain medication.

As we learned above, pain relief was the driving force behind the pharmaceutical production of morphine. It goes without saying that anything naturally producing the pain relieving effect of morphine is the top prize-winner in our hunt for natural painkillers.

Not only supporting the theory of the "Runner's High," scientific research on the dopamine-stimulating production of endorphins is thoroughly convincing. Exercise, especially running, increases these natural hormones, substantially reducing pain and elevating the mood, producing feelings of profound pleasure and satisfaction.

Don't Fall Into the Trap!

Alternative pain treatments, or "complementary health approaches," are now gaining much wider acceptance in the American medical community. With the growing body of scientific evidence, natural pain relief therapies are regularly being incorporated into many physicians' treatment plans. 

However, please don't forget that pain is your body's best way to tell you there's a problem with your health. Always seek medical attention to determine the source of your pain. Then, when seeking natural remedies, don't neglect the scientifically proven alternative therapies covered here. 

Particularly in the case of recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction, alternative natural painkillers play a very important part in restoring good health. The time immediately following detox is the perfect time to try new foods, explore new activities, and create new routines for your life.

Don't wimp out in the face of pain--join the hunt and try to find your top natural painkiller. And don't forget to share your results with me, I'd love to hear from you!

(Please note--Information in this article should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult a physician familiar with your personal medical condition before adopting any alternative medical therapy.)

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Marco Sterling

I am a former mid-level advertising executive who had the unfortunate experience with drug and alcohol abuse. My experience nearly ruined my life, but in going through that I realized how precious life really is. My aim is to help many people that are going through what I went through and I hope you find the value in the resources provided through this site.