Learn about pain relieving herbs that help with inflammation, anxiety, and spasmodic conditions to help relieve pain naturally with medicinal plants
Today we are discussing pain relieving herbs that can help relieve pain naturally. The main categories of herbs being discussed include antiinflammatory herbs, calmative nervines, anodynes, antispasmodics, and narcotic herbs.
There are many pain relieving herbs on the list, and for some of them, antiinflammation is not even their biggest known effect. They are on the list because they serve as antiinflammatory agents in the sense of feeling stuck, blocked or inflamed in the mind, or psyche. In these cases you can think of antiinflammatory agents as falling more into the category of antianxiety herbs because a lot of times pain is originating from stress; the mental stress of holding, obsessing, and fixating on something. If you could just allow it to move, to come and go like a wave, then the pain in your mind would diminish and even disappear. This is psychological pain, not physical pain, although it feels like physical pain.
Any of the calmative nervine pain relieving herbs fall into this category. They can help to relieve pain naturally. Some examples include skullcap (Scutellaria laterifliora), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), lavender (Lavendula spp.), hops (Humulus lupulus), blue vervain (Verbena hastata), and motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca).This is an abridged list.
Pain relieving herbs and spasmodic pain
With spasmodic pain, there will always be a connection between the nervous system and muscle, whether the voluntary striated muscles of our skeletal system or the involuntary smooth and cardiac muscle or our organs, skin, other tissues and heart. We also include here antispasmodic herbs that have an affinity for the nervous system as it applies to the psyche and emotions. The spasm may be a locked contraction, like a Charly horse or uterine or intestinal cramps, or it may be rapid pulsation, like a tic or tremor. Often, pain is associated with the spasm, so it’s good to know several herbal antispasmodic herbs that can help to release or relax the spasm. A general common denominator among antispasmodic herbs is that they usually have an acrid taste. Taste is a bit of a misnomer because acridity is more a sensation than a flavor; a numbing or tingling sensation in the throat or tongue when you take the medicine. Kava (Piper methysticum) is an example. In some cases, the tingling sensation can be so strong that it induces salivation and the queasy sensation that sometimes precedes vomiting, as is the case with lobelia (L. inflata)
Other herbs that fall into this category include tobacco (Nicotiana spp.), black cohosh (Actea racemosa), wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) , black haw (Viburnum prunifolium), and wild lettuce (Lactuca spp.). Many herbs fall into this category and herbalists know which organs and tissues a particular antispasmodic herb has an affinity for. For instance:
- Wild yam for intestinal cramps;
- Kava for a spastic bladder and muscles;
- Wild lettuce for muscles cramps;
- Cramp bark and black haw for uterine cramps;
- Wild cherry for respiration, as in relieving spasmodic coughing;
- Black cohosh for reproductive, muscle, and psychological spasm, at least;
- Lobelia in my opinion is queen of the antispasmodics, helping to release spasm anywhere in the body and mind, with a particular affinity for relieving spasmodic bronchial airways that can cause asthmatic episodes. *Note: lobelia is powerful medicine, a little does a lot, so seek experienced guidance before trying it out.
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Pain relieving herbs and herbs for pain distancing
Now lets talk about pain relieving herbs known as pain-distancers, commonly defined as narcotics by allopathy. These herbs are also known as anodynes, which means pain relief with some degree of sedation or psycho-activity. They can numb pain, distance one from pain, and alter the mind, so that the pain diminishes or goes away altogether; or one becomes numb to the pain, or it feels as if the pain is somewhere else and not worth the bother.
Cannabis falls into this category for many people. It is also an excellent antiinflammatory agent, making it another superstar pain relief herb because of addressing pain from more than one angle. Cannabis works well on physical pain, emotional and psychological pain, and pain induced by undue stress.
The most famous pain-distancing herb is one that herbalists aren’t allowed to use because it is a controlled substance: opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Most of the narcotic pain relieving pharmaceutical medications are derived or synthesized from opium poppy, hence the name opiates: morphine, heroin, oxycodone, and so many more. Opium poppy is taboo in the herbal world. However, its second cousin, California poppy, also relieves pain naturally but in a gentler way, and without causing addiction or withdrawal issues. To be fair, it is not nearly as strong as opium poppy.
Wild lettuce is another herb that can create pain distancing and also fill our opioid receptors without being an opioid itself. Another famous narcotic herb, hailing from the Caribbean, Central and South America, is Jamaican dogwood (Piscidia erythrina). The bark of this tree holds the medicine. Jamaican dogwood, which is not a true dogwood of the Cornus genus, is also called the fish poison tree. People have been known to make a strong tea of the bark and toss it in a pond to paralyze fish, making it easier to catch fish than with a line. Jamaican dogwood is a superior narcotic pain reliever, one that you will actually feel the effects of if you take a high enough dose. It can create dizziness, stupor, and unconsciousness, so don’t operate heavy machinery while under its influence. These effects depend on the dose and the person.
A famous pain relieving herb from the Chinese materia medica is corydalis (C. yanhusuo). Its Chinese name is yan hu suo, and it is a superior pain reliever, similar in its action to Jamaican dogwood. It directly numbs and reduces pain, and can also induce drowsiness.
A pain relieving plant from our neck of the woods in the Northeast US is Indian pipe, or ghost pipe (Monotropa uniflora). Please be conscientious and very conservative when picking this plant. It is on the “to-watch list,” a list that includes herbs whose populations and/or natural ecosystems are threatened. The plant, also known as ice plant, ghost plant or corpse plant because of its translucent white appearance, is often mistaken for a mushroom. As it grows it produces a single flower per stalk, first appearing in a bent position, like a candy cane or upside-down saxophone, and then turning upward like a clarinet when it reaches maturity. Indian pipe does not contain chlorophyll and so cannot make its own food from sunlight. It is known as a saprophyte, meaning it derives its nutrition through its necessary symbiotic relationship with the mycorrhizae of particular fungi, pulling nutrients from the forest floor that the fungus has already digested. Indian pipe is a pain-distancing herb with a similar effect to laughing gas. The pain is present and you experience it, but it’s over there somewhere and not really too much of a bother.
These are the main categories of herbs that help to relieve pain naturally. If we talk about psycho-emotional pain, then that opens another large category of herbs called calmative nervines (antianxiety herbs, for example) and liver-constraint release herbs. Again, when it comes to physical pain, the three large categories of pain relieving herbs are antiinflammatory, antispasmodic and pain-distancing (anodyne/narcotic) plants.