In our recent article “A Primer on Pain Meds”, we talked about your various pharmaceutical options with regards to pain relief. In a long-term survival situation, your limited supplies of these items will eventually run out. This leaves you with natural alternatives from products that you can grow yourself or, perhaps, find in your environment.
Although it’s true that you can’t be certain of the exact amount of pain relief you will experience, you also are less likely to have major side effects, as well. Let’s discuss some of these alternatives:
Capsaicin: This is an ingredient in chile peppers and decreases pain sensation by deactivating nerve receptors on the skin. This is especially helpful for headache, muscle ache, and arthritis sufferers and those with neuropathic pain (see the pain med article) and lasts sometimes for weeks. The most pain relief occurs after using a capsaicin ointment for a month or so. Commercial Capsaicin can be found easily on the internet. We’ll be posting an article on how to make your own salves and ointments in the near future.
Salicin: Salicin is the original ingredient in the first pharmaceutical, Aspirin, and has been manufactured since the 19th century. Found in the bark of Willow, Aspen, and Poplar trees, Salicin can give pain relief by chewing on strips of underbark (not outer bark) and making a tea. Like Aspirin, Salicin will help reduce fever, as well.
Arnica: A natural anti-inflammatory, this substance reduces swelling and, therefore, discomfort from injuries to joints and muscles.
Methylsulfonyl-methane (MSM): Derived from sulfur, this substance helps slow down degeneration from joint disease, especially when combined with Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Over the course of time, osteoarthritis sufferers often report significant pain relief. It works by decreasing transmission of pain nerve impulses, and is very popular in Europe.
Curcumin: The herb Turmeric contains this substance, which increases the body’s defense against inflammation, thereby decreasing pain.
Fish Oil: Filled with omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil reduces inflammation by releasing prostaglandins when digested. It also blocks the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body. Commonly recommended in those with coronary artery disease, larger doses (2000-4000mg/day) are shown in several studies to give significant pain relief from various joint and immune disorders. Be aware that high doses of fish oil can thin the blood.
Ginger Root: A tea made of ginger root is thought to decrease inflammation and provide pain relief.
Boswellia: This herb from India produces certain acidic compounds that are touted as useful for chronic pain, and is said to decrease inflammation. Used long term, Boswellia is thought to provide as much pain relief as many NSAIDS (see previous article).
Quercitin: Flavinoid compounds found in various plants, such as onions, may decrease inflammation. Quercitin can also be found in red wine. This is one of the reasons that some researchers believe that vegetarian diets limit the amount of pain experienced by those who adhere to them.
S adenosylmethionine (Sam-e): An amino acid, Sam-e seems to reduce inflammation and increase neurotransmitters in the brain that increase the sensation of well-being. Taking this supplement long-term seems to be the best strategy to obtain pain relief.
Olive Oil: A compound known as Oleocanthal works in the same way as many NSAIDS to relief discomfort. Use the “extra virgin” variety.
Hops: Isooxygene, an ingredient found in hops, has anti-inflammatory effects; some studies find it comparable to Ibuprofen with the possible side effects.
Cherries: If eaten when slightly unripe, cherries have antioxidant properties. An ingredient known as Anthocyanin is thought to exert an anti-inflammatory response and may be helpful for various joint diseases.
Many of the above substances are available in many different supplements that you can find online, many times in combination with each other. Your individual results with regards to pain relief will be somewhat variable.
Other Forms of Alternative Treatment
What if your patient is in more than slight pain? For major discomfort, you might consider some of these well-known (and usually, illegal) substances:
Opium: Derived from the seed pods of poppies, this highly addictive compound exerts significant pain-killing effects. This plant is the source of popular heavy pain medicines such as morphine and codeine. Heroin is another very potent product of the poppy plant.
Cocaine: A well-known derivative of the coca plant from South America, cocaine has natural anesthetic properties and was a popular painkiller for dental procedures not so very long ago. Some local anesthetics like Novocain and Procaine imitate Cocaine’s effect without the stimulant effect. Growing this is also very, very illegal.
Curare: Another South American plant, the Pareira vine, contains the compound Curare, which was used by natives on their arrow and spear points to paralyze their prey. This drug is still used today by anesthesiologists to paralyze respiratory action so that they can more easily perform intubations for surgery.
Besides all of the above, consider alternative methods such as aromatherapy, massage, inhalation therapy, Yoga, and Acupuncture. These options have been used for treatment of pain and many people have reported significant relief. Be open to every strategy available to deal with a medical issue; there are a lot of tools in the medical woodshed, and you should take advantage of any method to keep your family healthy in uncertain times.