Herb for nerve pain

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Quench Chronic Inflammation and Pain With Natural Herbs and Nutrients

Pain is a fact of life. Everyone experiences it at some point or another. As people age, the biggest concern that affects activities of daily living is the ability to move and function without pain and discomfort. However, the latest research suggests that up to 50% of the population may be suffering from some kind of chronic pain, with back pain being the most common. In many cases the pain signal is the result of a viscous cycle of structural damage, tissue breakdown and inflammation.

While most people are familiar with the concept of losing cartilage as we age (which leads to more mechanical irritation and degeneration) we should consider that inflammation is the process that is occurring under the surface of most pain processes. In fact, it is now well known that almost every chronic disease is fueled by inflammation at the tissue and cellular level. A robust anti-inflammatory strategy would be very beneficial to address both pain and chronic disease. Frustrated people often turn to natural and complementary approaches when they are no longer getting adequate results from medications or if they want to avoid the long-list of potential side effects.

Stop Feeding Your Inflammation

Eating a diet that is high in refined fats and sugars encourages inflammation. While following a balanced diet of unrefined good fats (like omega 3s) as well as avoiding refined sugars, and nutrient rich-plant based foods reduces inflammation. Common foods such as refined carbs like bread, pastries and pasta are rapidly converted to sugar which is one of the biggest drivers of inflammation. Sugar also promotes weight-gain and is linked to diabetes. Animal meats, especially those rich in saturated fats, promote inflammation. Food sensitivities or intolerances cause chronic irritation and inflammation of our digestive tracts, which causes our immune systems to be over stimulated and become sensitized to normally harmless food particles.

Through the immune system inflammation is transferred throughout the body causing a wide range of pain symptoms (i.e. headache, joint pain etc.) There are two options to identify which specific food intolerances you may have . The most cost-effective (but also time-consuming) option is to go through a full-food elimination diet. This usually takes a month to identify which foods cause symptoms. The second option is get a food intolerance blood test. To break the cycle of inflammation and pain you should limit foods that promote this damage.

On the flip side of avoiding pro-inflammatory foods a person should consume more foods that are anti-inflammatory. Based on the most current research and expert opinion, a plant-based Mediterranean style diet has the most powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Culinary spices such as ginger and turmeric are now being studied to quench inflammation right at the cellular level. Let’s look at these herbal extracts in more detail.

Health Conditions

Avoid processed foods – refined sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup), preservatives/chemicals, processed meats

Eat less meat – limit to 3-4 times per week. Quality over quantity. Only lean cuts of grass fed, free-range meats: lamb, beef, chicken, wild game Avoid common food allergens – wheat (gluten), corn, oranges, dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk, cream), eggs, peanuts, yeast and even soy. Increase veggies –Goal is 8 servings of fruits and veggies a day. The more colorful the better – aim for 9 different colours. Increase use of anti-inflammatory spices and herbs – ginger, turmeric, green tea, flaxseeds, sesame seeds etc.

Block Inflammation with Herbal Extracts

There are many evidence based herbal extracts that can reduce inflammation. The following are some of the most researched and effective options. Be sure to always check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure there are no interactions with your current medications.

Turmeric is a spice derived from the root of Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family. Curcumin is the herbal constituent found in turmeric with the most medicinal benefits. Curcumin has many studies showing its anti-inflammatory effects but what makes curcumin stand out is that it blocks inflammation at multiple levels including right at the DNA, preventing the creation of more inflammatory signals. The trouble is that curcumin is very poorly absorbed so a fat-soluble extract is needed to maximize absorption.

Boswellia is a resin extract from the herb frankincense that also reduces a multiple of inflammatory pathways without causing cartilage damage. A number of human clinical trials have found an extract from boswellia was able to improve joint range of motion and function with the same effectiveness as specific non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). What makes boswellia unique is that it also has an affinity for inflammatory pathways in the digestive system and lungs, which can improve conditions like asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. Just like curcumin, boswellia is a fat soluble substance that is best absorbed in combination with fat so look for an oil-based formulation to enhance the absorption.

Ginger is known to help prevent nausea and vomiting as well as being an effective NSAID in treating primary dysmenorrhea (pain during menstruation) helping to relax the uterus muscles and reduce pain. In a double-blind comparative clinical trial, 150 participants suffering from primary dysmenorrhea enrolled to take either one of 250 mg of ginger root powder (4:1 extract), 250 mg mefenamic acid or 400 mg ibuprofen ( both are NSAIDs) four times per day for three days. At the end of treatment, the severity of dysmenorrhea significantly decreased in all groups and no significant differences were found between the groups in severity of dysmenorrhea, pain relief, or satisfaction with the treatment. This shows that ginger was as effective as two NSAIDs in relieving the pain of dysmenorrhea.

There are a wide variety of powerful natural herbs and molecules that have shown very promising results for the reduction and prevention of inflammation. The advantage of these natural anti-inflammatory agents is that they act through a variety of mechanisms and influence a wide range of targets and molecules involved in the body’s inflammatory response. These natural agents are safe and effective and can be used in combination to help control/prevent chronic inflammation throughout the body. By preventing and treating chronic inflammation, it may be possible to reduce the risk and progression of chronic pain and many serious diseases that have been linked to inflammation.

  1. Andersson HI, Ejlertsson G, Leden I, Rosenberg C. Chronic pain in a geographically defined general population: studies of differences in age, gender, social class, and pain localization. Clin J Pain. 1993;9(3):174-82
  2. Seaman DR. The diet-induced proinflammatory state: a cause of chronic pain and other degenerative diseases? J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2002 Mar-Apr;25(3):168-79.
  3. Aljada A, Mohanty P, Ghanim H, Abdo T, Tripathy D, Chaudhuri A, Dandona P Increase in intranuclear nuclear factor kappaB and decrease in inhibitor kappaB in mononuclear cells after a mixed meal: evidence for a proinflammatory effect. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;79(4):682-90.
  4. Gota V et-al J Agri Food Chem 2010, 58: 2095-2099
  5. Sengupta K, Alluri KV, Satish AR, et al. A double blind, randomized, placebo controlled study of the efficacy and safety of 5-Loxin(R) for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthritis Res Ther, 2008;10:R85.
  6. Sontakke S, Thawani V, Pimpalkhute S, et al. Open, randomized, controlled clinical trial of Boswellia serrata extract as compared to valdecoxib in osteoarthritis of knee. Indian J Pharmacol, 2007;39(1):27-9.

5 top herbs for muscle and joint pain

1) Turmeric

Turmeric is a yellow-coloured powder that originates from India and Indonesia and is often used in cooking to flavour curries. Turmeric is thought to help relieve pain, inflammation and stiffness as a result of curcumin, a key chemical found in this herb. Curcumin is thought to have this effect by blocking inflammatory cytokines and enzymes. Traditionally in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine turmeric was used to provide relief and treat arthritis, as well as a cleansing agent and digestive aid. Check out our blog for 6 more fantastic uses of turmeric!

Studies have found promising results of the actions of turmeric on inflammation however, one study found that turmeric was more effective at joint inflammation prevention rather than reducing the joint pain itself.1 One review found that 8-12 weeks of turmeric supplementation was sufficient in reducing arthritis symptoms.2

The curcumin in turmeric is a powerful antioxidant which helps to keep the body clear of damaging free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage surrounding molecules leading to the damage of tissues and cells. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals thus helping to protect our cells and tissues.

Sadly, turmeric is often poorly absorbed by the body so liquid supplements or through food are the best ways to get it into your body. BetterYou’s Daily Oral Turmeric Spray is one supplement option I’d suggest considering. With a natural orange taste and easy application this spray is definitely one of the easiest methods of absorption! For more information check out this spray with our friends over at Jan de Vries Healthcare.

2) Devil’s Claw

Devil’s Claw, or Harpagophytum procumbens, is a herb that is only found in the wild Kalahari desert of South Africa. Devil’s Claw is often used for rheumatic pain, backache, as well as muscle and joint pain. The botanical name Harpagophytum means ‘hook plant’ in Greek and it gets its name from its hook-like appearance.

One study looking at the effectiveness of Devil’s Claw on mild to moderate rheumatic disorders found that although Devil’s Claw had no effect on the blood count results of the actual conditions, it had a significant effect on pain reduction with more than 60% of patients seeing a positive impact.3 What’s more, the study also suggests that the use of Devil’s Claw long-term is not only safe but also may show improvements in those with chronic lower back pain.

Devil’s Claw is widely available in tablet form however it is important to take into account the health of your digestive system, as well as the quality and quantity of Devil’s Claw that actually makes it into the tablets. Our founder Alfred Vogel was a big fan of using liquid oral tinctures instead of tablets because liquid tinctures are more readily absorbed than their tablet counterparts. What’s more, if you have digestive distress such as diarrhoea or constipation often little of the herbs actually get absorbed by your gastrointestinal tract.

Tinctures, on the other hand, are swiftly absorbed directly into the bloodstream on ingestion without needing time to be broken down by the digestive system first. This not only means that tinctures are often quicker acting, but also more effective too! Why not try our own Devil’s Claw tincture out for yourself? For best results mix the recommended dosage with a little bit of water (only around a centimetre or so of water).

3) Ginger

Ginger is another common spice that you can easily find by opening up your kitchen cupboard! Traditional uses of ginger include treating nausea and digestive issues however, ginger is now up-and-coming for another amazing benefit – pain relief! Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to function as a COX-2 inhibitor in a similar way that some arthritis medications function.4

These anti-inflammatory properties are thought to come from several different compounds present in ginger including gingerols and shogaols. These compounds also have antioxidant properties which help to reduce the amount of damage by free radicals and oxidative stress. Research into ginger’s effects on muscle and joint pain has been promising. One study comparing the effects of a highly concentrated ginger extract to a placebo in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee found that ginger reduced pain and stiffness by 40% in comparison to the placebo!5

Ginger comes in a whole variety of shapes and forms including teas, tinctures, capsules, powders and food made from either dried or fresh ginger root. It can be tricky to know which will benefit your joint pain the most – some experts recommend capsules with brands that use ‘super-critical extraction’ to maintain the nutrients of ginger. Some suggest taking ginger alongside food to help quail an upset stomach. Others prefer and recommend a more natural approach; a study published in the Journal of Pain found that a few tablespoons of freshly grated ginger can help ease muscle pain caused by exercise.6

4) Arnica

Sometimes referred to as the ‘mountain daisy’ Arnica is a perennial flower found in the mountains of Europe and Siberia. Its bright yellow flowers have a long-standing traditional use of relieving muscle and joint pain, as well as the appearance of bruising. Arnica contains lactones which, in the herbal format, contribute to an anti-inflammatory effect. The lactones intervene at the core of the inflammatory process by inhibiting the production of an inflammatory substance known as Nuclear Factor Kappa Beta (NF-kβ). NF-kβ is a protein complex that plays a key role in regulating the immune system’s response to infection and tissue damage.

Arnica works by preventing the activation of this inflammatory substance at the very start of inflammation. One study found that 3 in 4 people suffering from mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knees experienced an improvement after using Arnica.7 Another study comparing the benefits of a topical Arnica gel alongside a 5% NSAID Ibuprofen gel found that Arnica gel was more effective in relieving pain in osteoarthritis of the hand.8 Our own Arnica Atrogel is made from organically cultivated, fresh Arnica flowers and is vegan friendly too. If need be this friendly pain relief gel can be used alongside other pain medication.

5) Bromelain

Pineapples are a well-loved, tasty tropical fruit but did you know it could help with muscle and joint pain too? Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple juice and pineapple stem and is often used to reduce swelling or inflammation. It is also thought to have beneficial effects for hayfever sufferers, as well as preventing muscle soreness after intense exercise. Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme meaning that it assists the body’s own digestive mechanisms to breakdown complex protein molecules. It is thought to work because of its anti-inflammatory properties and by producing substances that fight pain and inflammation.

Although the research on bromelain for osteoarthritis and muscle soreness after exercise is conflicting, there have been studies which have found it to be useful for relieving symptoms of acute nasal and sinus inflammation when used in combination with other medications.9 Even although supplement forms of bromelain are available, I’d definitely suggest cutting up a tasty pineapple instead as any nutrients and benefits will most definitely be available through eating this tasty fruit.

Has stress left you feeling overwhelmed, tense and anxious? Stress can be depleting to your nervous system and can lead to a host of symptoms of anxiety such as muscle tension, worry, panic, irritability, racing heart, digestive discomfort, headaches and difficulty sleeping.

The most important treatment is to make changes to your lifestyle. Carve out more time for self-care and ensure that are getting enough sleep, time to rest, and try incorporating yoga and meditation into your routine. Exercise and getting outside in nature are also restorative.

If you are feeling this way, the right combination of herbs and vitamins can go a long way in nourishing your nervous system so that you can have more resilience to stress and feel your best. The following are my favourite tonics to soothe the nerves:

Skullcap is one of our best tonics to nourish the nervous system to help repair it after a period of stress or debility. Skullcap can relax the body, ease pain, calm the mind and can be taken before bed for insomnia.

Passionflower is a beautiful nerve tonic. Taken as a tea, tincture or tablet passionflower has a sedative effect to calm the body, relax muscles and ease pain. This is one of my favourite non-addictive herbs to support sleep.

St. John’s Wort has bright yellow blossoms that come into bloom around the summer solstice. This sunny herb is useful to uplift the mood in cases of mild depression, anxiety, SAD or PMS. Many people don’t know that St. John’s wort also has anti-viral properties, anti-inflammatory effects and can ease pain.

Ashwagandha is a powerful Ayurvedic herb that has been used in India for over 5,000 years. It is a calming nerve tonic and adaptogen which helps to restore the body after a period of stress. As an adaptogen it helps to balance stress hormones and improve resilience to stress. Through this action it helps to promote energy while taking the edge off anxiety. Other adaptogen’s that have a similar effect include Rhodiola and Relora.

L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that promotes a restful, soothing effect. This nutrient gives you a dose of “Zen” as it helps to promote alpha brain waves similar to meditation. This leaves you feeling relaxed and alert. You can find L-theanine in chewable tablets or capsules.

Magnesium is a relaxing mineral that is important for over 300 reactions in the body. This mineral gets depleted by stress and coffee consumption. Muscle cramping/twitching, tension, anxiety, fatigue, headaches and insomnia can be signs that your body is deficient. Magnesium rich foods include dark leafy greens, nuts/seeds, legumes and whole grains. Supplemental magnesium comes in various forms, magnesium bisglycinate is absorbed well. This has a calming effect on the body, promotes muscle relaxation and can be taken before bed to restore sleep.

Vitamin B Complex: B vitamins such as B6, B12 and active folate are important nutrients for producing healthy levels of neurotransmitters in the brain to promote balanced mood. These B vitamins can get depleted due to stress. A daily B complex vitamin taken in the morning can be helpful in managing stress and preventing anxiety.

Herbal Tea: Taking a break to prepare and get cozy with cup of tea can have as much of a restorative effect as the tea itself. Create a daily self-care ritual with preparing tea for yourself. Herbs that calm and soothe your nervous system include oatstraw, skullcap, passionflower, chamomile, lemonbalm, holy basil, rose petals and lavender. Create a blend for yourself with flavour and aroma that are pleasant and comforting.

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—- Infographic courtesy of Veeva —-

The Best Herbs for Pain Relief

More Pain-relieving Herbs

To complete your anti-pain arsenal, consider these herbs:
• Arnica (Arnica spp.), available in creams and tablets,relieves osteoarthritic pain in the knee and pain following carpal-tunnel release surgery. It contains helenin, an analgesic, as well as anti-inflammatory chemicals. Apply cream twice daily; use tablets according to package directions.
• Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic boswellic acids that can soothe pain from sports injuries and also can help osteoarthritic knee pain. Take 150- to 400-mg capsules or tablets (standardized to contain 30 percent to 65 percent boswellic acids) three times daily for two to three months.
• Clove oil (Syzygium aromaticum) is a popular home remedy for a toothache. Apply a drop or two of this excellent anti-inflammatory directly to your aching tooth or tooth cavity.
• Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seeds are stocked with 16 analgesic and 27 antispasmodic chemicals. It makes a pleasant licorice-flavored tea and is especially good for menstrual cramps. But avoid the herb while pregnant or nursing because of its estrogenic effects.
• Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a remedy many people swear by for headaches, including migraines. Feverfew can reduce both the frequency and severity of headaches when taken regularly. It is available in 60-mg capsules of fresh, powdered leaf (1 to 6 capsules daily), or 25-mg capsules of freeze-dried leaf (2 capsules daily). You can also make tea—steep 2 to 8 fresh leaves in boiling water, but do not boil them, since boiling breaks down the active parthenolides.
• Gingerroot (Zingiber officinale) has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate digestive cramps and mild pain from fibromyalgia. You can take 1 to 4 grams powdered ginger daily, divided into two to four doses. Or make tea from 1 teaspoon chopped fresh root simmered in a cup of water for about 10 minutes.
• Green tea (Camellia sinensis) is great for stiff muscles—it has nine muscle-relaxing compounds, more than just about any other plant.
• Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is recommended by the German Commission E for sore throat. Not surprising, considering its nine anesthetic, 10 analgesic and 20 anti-inflammatory compounds. To make tea, simmer about 2 teaspoons of dried root in a cup of water for 15 minutes; strain. Do not take licorice if you have high blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes, kidney disease or glaucoma.
• Oregano (Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) are herbs you should be sprinkling liberally onto your food, as they are replete with analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory compounds. (Oregano alone has 32 anti-inflammatories!) Mix and match these garden herbs into a pain-relieving tea: Pour a cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of dried herbs, steep 5 to 10 minutes and strain.

Aromatherapy: Experience the Sweet Smell of Pain Relief

Ever thought of using your nose to help ease your pain? Volatiles in essential oils can easily enter your body via your olfactory system and adjust brain electrical activity to alter your perception of pain. Clinical aromatherapists commonly use lavender, peppermint, chamomile, and damask rose for pain relief and relaxation. A report from Nursing Clinics of North America says that massage with lavender relieves pain and enhances the effect of orthodox pain medication. Lavender and chamomile oils are gentle enough to be used with children and, in blends, have relieved children’s pain from HIV, encephalopathy-induced muscle spasm and nerve pain. Both oils contain anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic chemicals, and exert sedative, calming action. Rose essential oil contains pain-reducing eugenol, cinnamaldehyde and geraniol; but the report’s author suggests it may also alter perception of pain because it embodies the soothing aromas of the garden.

Time-tested Herbal Aids

White willow bark is one of the oldest home analgesics, dating back to 500 b.c. in China. Modern research confirms old-time wisdom, showing it helps back, osteoarthritic and nerve pains. Willow bark contains apigenin, salicin and salicylic acid, which provide anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-neuralgic actions. At the end of a four-week study of 210 individuals suffering from back pain, reported in the American Journal of Medicine in 2000, 39 percent of those who had received 240 mg of salicin daily were essentially pain-free, compared to 6 percent of those given a placebo.

Individuals with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip also are helped. Willow bark can be purchased as standardized extracts and teas. If you have access to white willow and wish to make your own, collect bark from a twig (never the main trunk). Use about 2 teaspoons of bark to a cup of water, boil, simmer for 10 minutes and cool slightly. Because salicin concentration is low and widely variable in willow bark, you may need several cups to obtain the equivalent of two standard aspirin tablets. A word of caution: Willow should not be given to children, due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome, nor used by individuals with aspirin allergies, bleeding disorders, or liver or kidney disease. Willow may interact adversely with blood-thinning medications and other anti-inflammatory drugs. Also, willow tends not to irritate the stomach in the short term, but long-term use can be problematic.

Peppermint is a famous antispasmodic for digestive cramps, while its essential oil is used as a local topical anesthetic in commercial ointments (Solarcaine and Ben-Gay, for example).

Germany’s Commission E authorizes use of oral peppermint oil for treating colicky pain in the digestive tract of adults. However, peppermint oil shouldn’t be used for colic in newborn babies, as it can cause jaundice.

Several double-blind studies of individuals with irritable bowel syndrome demonstrate peppermint can significantly relieve painful abdominal cramps, bloating and flatulence. In the largest study, reported in the Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers administered either enteric-coated peppermint oil or a placebo to 110 individuals three to four times daily, 15 to 30 minutes before meals, for four weeks. The study found peppermint significantly reduced abdominal discomfort.

Take a 0.2- to 0.4-ml enteric-coated peppermint capsule three times daily. (Enteric coating prevents stomach upset.) For mild stomach discomfort, try a tea from fresh or dried peppermint leaves. The menthol in peppermint relaxes the muscles. Its antispasmodic and analgesic effects also can help relieve headaches, possibly including migraines, when applied to the forehead or temples—dilute about 3 drops of essential oil in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.

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Herbal Blends and Other Old Friends

We’re also hearing more about commercial herbal mixtures for pain relief. Two apparently promising ones are avocado/soybean unsaponifiables and Phytodolor, both from Europe. Avocado/soybean unsaponifiables are a complex mix of sterols, pigments and other substances found in the oils, and initial trials suggest that a daily dose of 300 mg soothes hip and knee osteoarthritic pain by anti-inflammatory actions. Phytodolor, with a 40-year history in Germany, is a liquid extract of European aspen (Populus tremula), European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and European goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea). The extract helps muscle and joint conditions, including osteoarthritis; it contains salicin and other chemicals with anti-inflammatory and possibly antioxidant properties.

Don’t discount the psychological dimensions of pain in everyday aches. For instance, most headaches have psychogenic causes (such as anxiety, depression and stress), rather than vascular causes (dilated or distended blood vessels in the brain). Psychogenic headaches tend to be diffuse, often feeling more like pressure than pain, and often are accompanied by muscular tension. Vascular headaches, including migraines, respond more readily to painkillers, whereas emotionally induced ones might benefit more from herbs with calming or sedative properties, such as lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), chamomile (Matricaria recutita) or valerian (Valeriana officinalis).

It shouldn’t be surprising that pain is multidimensional, and our tools for combating it need to be also. When you’re suffering from creakiness or other discomfort, consider the possible causes—disease, physical strain, nutrient deficiency, chemical sensitivities, allergies or emotional stress. Then you can access the herbal apothecary effectively and appropriately, to fully restore your well-being.

Gina Mohammed, Ph.D., is a plant physiologist living in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. She is author of Catnip and Kerosene Grass: What Plants Teach Us About Life (Candlenut Books, 2002).

When people experience a minor headache, muscle tension or other pain, they readily reach for over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen—the most commonly used drugs in the U.S. But regular use of these drugs can lead to long-term side effects like intestinal damage, liver failure and more, recent research reveals. Before popping the pills, consider these alternative remedies for natural pain relief.

1. Ginger

The powerful anti-inflammatory ginger is more effective than drugs like ibuprofen for pain relief, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Arthritis. The study revealed that drugs like Tylenol or Advil do block the formation of inflammatory compounds. Ginger, however, “blocks the formation of the inflammatory compounds–prostaglandins and leukotrienes–and also has antioxidant effects that break down existing inflammation and acidity in the fluid within the joints,” reported care2.com.

2. Turmeric

This distinctive, curry spice possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, according to Doctor Oz. It also improves circulation and prevents blood clotting. Turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin is responsible for lowering the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation.

Turmeric

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3. Capsaicin

Derived from chili peppers, this topical remedy reduces nerve, muscle and joint pain by stopping the chemical known as substance P from transmitting pain signals to the brain. Available in gel or cream form, it can be applied three to four times daily.

Capsaicin

4. Valerian Root

“Nature’s tranquilizer,” valerian root helps relieve insomnia, tension, irritability, stress, and anxiety, Doctor Oz says. Through reducing nerve sensitivity, it alleviates feelings of pain. Drink a cup of valerian tea for a natural pain relief and body aches.

Valerian Root

5. Magnesium

Magnesium supplements can help curb the pain of migraines, muscle spasms and fibromyalgia. “It’s really easy to be magnesium deficient,” Tanya Edwards, MD, medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told WebMD. Heavy consumption of alcohol lowers magnesium levels. “The foods that are highest in magnesium are things like sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Most of us just don’t eat those very often.”

Sunflower seeds

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6. Cats Claw

Named for its hook-like horns, cat’s claw, a woody vine native to the Amazon rainforest and other places in South America, is known for containing an anti-inflammatory agent that aids in blocking the production of the hormone prostaglandin, which contributes to inflammation and pain within the body. Stick to the suggested doses to avoid diarrhea: 250 to 1,000 mg capsules one to three times daily.

7. Boswellia

Commonly known as Indian frankincense, boswellia contains active components like resin that reduce inflammation and pain. It can be taken as a supplement as well as used topically.

Bowellia

8. White willow bark

The original Aspirin, white willow bark contains salicin which, in the stomach, converts to salicylic acid—the primary component of Aspirin. Synthetically, it can irritate the stomach, but naturally through white willow bark, it is effective in relieving pain, inflammation and fever. The recommended dose is 1 to 2 dropperfuls of white willow bark tincture daily.

White willow bark

9. Essential oils

Keep essential oils on hand. Rub chamomile, lavender or sage into temples, chest or sore joints to relax muscles and calm the mind. Aromatherapy relieves stress—often the root of our pain.

This story was originally published June 23, 2014.

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Natural Pain Relief: 5 Ways to Relieve Pain Without Ibuprofen

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can do you more harm than good.
  • NSAIDs can damage your gut lining, wreck your gut bacteria, and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • There are better ways to hack pain and inflammation. Some of your best natural pain relief options are cryotherapy, compresses, herbal remedies like curcumin and Boswellia, PEMF therapy, and TENS.
  • NSAIDs are not the best way to deal with pain or inflammation. You have a lot of other natural options. Try them and see what works for you.

My road to discovering natural pain relief was a long one. Years ago, when I was inflamed and weighed 300 pounds, my doctors said I should take NSAIDs (think aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen) every day. A lot of mainstream doctors suggest ibuprofen or aspirin for managing chronic pain and inflammation.

I didn’t know any better at the time, so I followed their advice and took ibuprofen daily. It wrecked my gut, stressed my liver, and destroyed my sleep.

I’m not saying NSAIDs are useless. They have their place. If you’re recovering from surgery or a major injury, traditional over-the-counter pain relievers are good for controlling inflammation, swelling, and pain, but NSAIDs are far too powerful for over-the-counter, everyday use. Unlike a lot of natural pain relievers, NSAIDs also don’t address the cause of inflammation or pain; they just mask the symptoms.

If your doctor suggests you take an NSAID long-term, I would look for a functional medicine doctor and get a second opinion. There are safer, natural pain relief options to deal with chronic inflammation and pain.

Ahead, I discuss the downsides to NSAIDs, and offer my go-to natural pain relievers for inflammation that you can use instead of popping ibuprofen or aspirin.

Why natural pain relievers are better for you

1. Ibuprofen, aspirin, and other NSAIDs damage your gut lining

When I was taking NSAIDs for pain management every day, my gut was the first place I felt them. After a little research, I figured out why. It turns out NSAIDs damage your gut in two ways.

The first is that inflammation-lowering NSAIDs destroy your gut lining. Check the bottle of ibuprofen or aspirin in your medicine cabinet. You’ll see it right on the label: “NSAIDs such as ibuprofen may cause ulcers, bleeding, or holes in the stomach and/or intestine.” Long-term low-dose aspirin use is particularly likely to cause ulcers and tear holes in your intestine.

NSAIDs work by blocking prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds that stimulate inflammation. But prostaglandins do a lot more than control inflammation, and one of their most important roles is protecting your gut and stomach lining.

When NSAIDs block prostaglandins, they also rob your gut of much-needed protection and the lining starts to break down, which can give you leaky gut syndrome. Your intestines become permeable, letting food and other molecules slip into your bloodstream and cause massive inflammation. Leaky gut can also lead to autoimmune issues.

Traditional wisdom says that NSAID pain relievers only damage your gut lining if you take them every day for a long time, but recent research disagrees. High-level athletes with stress-related intestinal damage tried taking ibuprofen to improve muscle soreness and recovery. Ibuprofen ended up damaging their gut lining even further after just a couple weeks; it increased inflammation and made their original pain issues worse. In fact, a single dose of aspirin can significantly increase your intestinal permeability.

This is one of the big reasons I avoid NSAIDs altogether. Using them even once can cause problems. If you’re coming out of surgery or have a major injury, it may be worth the risk, but they’re way too strong for chronic pain management or everyday aches and pains.

If you’re worried that you have leaky gut or intestinal damage (from NSAIDs or anything else), you can use this guide to repair your gut and boost your beneficial gut bacteria.

2. NSAIDs feed bad gut bacteria

NSAIDs don’t just damage your gut lining. They affect your gut bacteria, too. A study of regular users found that different NSAIDs caused different changes in gut bacteria. Ibuprofen and arthritis drug celecoxib (Celebrex), for example, increased pathogenic Enterobacteriaceae, a family of bacteria that includes E. coli, Salmonella, and a number of lesser-known bacteria that contribute to eye, skin, respiratory, and urinary tract infections.

NSAIDs damage your gut lining and feed bad bacteria at the same time. That’s not good.

3. NSAIDs put you at high risk for heart attack and stroke

NSAID pain relievers can also damage your heart — so much so that the FDA issued a long warning back in 2005, and strengthened the warning in 2015.

Researchers estimate that COX-2 NSAIDs (a specific type that is no longer legal) caused 140,000 heart attacks during their five years on the market, which led to a deeper study of ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, and other longer-standing NSAIDs used for pain and inflammation.

The FDA specifically warns that risk of heart attack and stroke increases significantly within the first week of taking an NSAID, and it gets worse the longer you take it, even if you have no heart problems to begin with.

Why this stuff is still available over-the-counter puzzles me. It’s very rare that the FDA issues warnings about drugs, then strengthens those warnings, but doesn’t change their legality.

Regardless, NSAIDs are bad news, and you shouldn’t take them to manage pain. Here’s the natural pain relief biohacks I recommend instead.

5 best natural pain relief hacks to use instead of NSAIDs

Instead of ibuprofen or aspirin, I use these natural pain relief biohacks to keep my inflammation low. Give them a try. You will be surprised by how good you feel.

Cryotherapy

Sudden and intense cold exposure makes you release cold-shock proteins, a special class of proteins that decrease inflammation and speed up recovery. To get the benefits of cold therapy, you can take an ice bath or use a cryotherapy chamber, like the one at Bulletproof Labs. Cryotherapy’s benefits go far beyond inflammation, too. Get a full breakdown of how cryotherapy upgrades your biology.

Related: 4 Minutes to Perfect Posture and Less Pain

Hot/cold compresses

When it comes to natural pain relief, sometimes the basics are the best. The temperature change from hot to cold and back again triggers anti-inflammatory heat-shock and cold-shock proteins (yeah, there’s a heat version, too), and the compression decreases blood flow to injuries, which keeps inflammation and swelling down.

Curcumin and other herbal painkillers

Curcumin is the bioactive compound in turmeric that gives the herb its healing properties. It’s one of the safest anti-inflammatories you can take, and is an effective natural pain reliever too — even for severe pain. In fact, curcumin matches or outperforms ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and other over-the-counter painkillers without any side effects.

Turmeric root contains just 2% to 5% curcumin, so when reaching for a supplement, be sure you’re buying curcumin, not powered turmeric root. Curcumin is not easily absorbed by the digestive tract, so choose high-potency curcuminoids and combine with oil, since curcumin is fat-soluble. Black pepper extract (piperine), though not Bulletproof, has also been shown to increase curcumin’s bioavailability by 2000%. However, some newer, high-tech curcuminoid formulas have been shown to offer the same potency levels without the use of piperine.

Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF)

Physical therapists use PEMF to heal fractures and torn cartilage faster, and surgeons recommend it as a post-op way to minimize soft tissue inflammation. I use it to recover from workouts faster and keep inflammation low. PEMF machines send electromagnetic pulses through your tissue, gently stimulating anti-inflammatory and repair compounds.

You can get PEMF therapy at a physical therapist’s or chiropractor’s office. It costs between $30 to $60 per session. Or, you can get PEMF equipment to use at home, but be prepared to pay. The cheapest PEMF mats go for $1,300 or more.

Related: The Science Behind PEMF Therapy and How It Can Fix Your Pain Naturally

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

TENS is another powerful biohack for pain and inflammation. It’s similar to PEMF, but uses electricity. TENS sends a mild electrical current through muscle and soft tissue, stimulating repair compounds and pain-relieving endorphins. Bonus hack: you can also use TENS on your brain to make you more mentally resilient to stress.

Do you have any go-to biohacks for pain or inflammation? Any bad experiences with NSAIDs? I want to hear about your natural pain remedies in the comments. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to subscribe below for more biohacking advice.

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Holistic Treatment for Sciatica: Stretch Daily and Take Herbs

The sciatic nerve runs from your pelvis down the backs of your legs. Inflammation of the sciatic results in sciatica, which can cause pain, tingling, and numbness in your lower back, buttocks, and legs. If you experience this type of pain, try stretching and taking herbs daily as a holistic treatment for sciatica. Then, if at-home care isn’t enough, visit Back 2 Health for more in-depth sciatica treatment.

4 Stretches for Sciatica

Daily stretching is particularly effective if your sciatica is caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Try these four stretches to produce the results you’re looking for.

Piriformis Stretch

The sciatic nerve runs right through the piriformis, a small but power muscle deep within your glutes. Its job is to laterally rotate your hips. When the piriformis becomes too tight, the sciatic nerve running through or under it becomes compressed, causing pain, tingling, and numbness. Here’s how to stretch the piriformis:

  • Lay on your back, knees bent, with both feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift your left leg and rest your ankle over your right knee.
  • Lace your fingers together behind your right thigh and pull it toward your chest.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Then, repeat on the other side.

Seated Hip Stretch

This stretch targets your hips, another common place for sciatica pain to take hold.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended.
  • Cross your right foot over your left knee, and hug your right knee in toward your chest with your left arm.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. Then, repeat on the other side.

Pigeon Pose

This pose is like doing the splits one leg at a time for a deep stretch on the front of your thigh.

  • Start in a lunging position with your left leg in front of you.
  • Lower yourself toward the ground, keeping your right leg extended behind you and turning the left knee out until this leg lies flat.
  • Stabilize yourself with your hands on the floor and shift your weight until you feel the stretch in just the right spot.
  • Hold for five to 10 breaths. Then, repeat on the other side.

Butterfly Pose

Here’s another way to stretch your hips as a holistic treatment for sciatica:

  • Sit on the floor with a straight back.
  • Bend your knees and bring the bottoms of your feet together.
  • Grasp your feet with both hands and pull your heels toward you as far possible, keeping your knees out. If you have the flexibility, bend forward, reaching your nose toward the floor.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then gently release.

4 Herbs for Sciatica

In addition to stretching, taking certain herbs can help with inflammation and nerve pain associated with sciatica. These natural remedies are much preferred over non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can cause liver problems and other side effects. Here are four herbs we recommend as holistic treatment for sciatica.

Turmeric

The anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, help it relieve sciatica pain and swelling. You can administer turmeric in several ways:

  • Heat it in milk with coconut oil and a sprinkle of black pepper.
  • Brew it into a tea.
  • Add ground turmeric to your food.
  • Apply it topically in a paste.

Garlic

Similar to turmeric, garlic has anti-inflammatory properties, plus immune system-boosting power. Add this delicious herb to your cooking or take four raw cloves each morning with a glass of water.

Jamaican Dogwood

This herb is derived from the bark of the dogwood tree. It’s known to relieve nerve pain and can be taken as a capsule or applied as a tincture. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not use Jamaican dogwood.

St. John’s Wort

The use of this herb dates back to the time of ancient Greece. With its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, astringent, and antioxidant properties, St. John’s Wort is highly effective against nerve pain. It even helps regenerate nerve tissue damaged by sciatica.

Visit Back 2 Health for Professional Sciatica Treatment

At-home, holistic treatment for sciatica goes a long way, but it may still not be enough to completely rid you of debilitating pain. For additional treatment – including chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, hot and cold therapy, and Sarapin injections – visit Back 2 Health in Goose Creek. Remember, your sciatica treatment may be covered by insurance, so nothing should stop you from starting down the road to recovery!

Call us at (843) 405-0025 or fill out the contact form on the right to set up your initial consultation today.

34 All Natural Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs That Fight Neuropathy Nerve Pain

Neuropathy is a serious condition, with over 20 million people in the US suffering from peripheral neuropathy alone. While the most obvious problem with this condition is the chronic pain that it causes, severe neuropathy can result in amputations and other serious health difficulties.

With current medications offering very limited help when it comes to lessening pain and slowing disease progression, many people are turning to herbs, vitamins, and minerals for help. Read on to learn about the 34 supplements that people are using for neuropathy.

Vitamins and Minerals That Help with Neuropathy

1. Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is an amino acid (a building block of protein) with strong antioxidant properties. It is important for nerve growth and the modulation of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Researchers have found ALC to help reduce peripheral neuropathic pain while supporting nerve regeneration. (1)

In a 2005 study published in Diabetes Care, 1,000 mg/day ALC for 52 weeks significantly improved diabetic neuropathy symptoms when compared to a placebo. (2)

2. Alpha-Lipoic Acid

ALA, which is sometimes called alpha-lipoic acid, is part of a class of vitamin-like chemicals known as antioxidants. An antioxidant is a type of chemical, either man-made or (as in the case of ALA) naturally-occurring, which helps to defend against certain types of cellular damage within the body. Alpha-lipoic acid is found in yeast, in dark green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, and in organ meats such as animal liver and kidney.

R-Alpha Lipoic Acid is approved in some European countries for the treatment of chronic nerve pain due to diabetic neuropathy, and is widely used as an unregulated supplement in America for the same reason. It is also beneficial to the health of blood vessels, internal organs, the eyes, and for the relief of chronic fatigue, exhaustion, concentration, and memory loss.

Elevated blood sugar and molecules called free radicals harm the health and function of nerve cells, resulting in worsening neuropathy symptoms like tingling, numbness, and pain. Alpha-lipoic acid is able to slow neuropathy disease progression thanks to its ability to prevent oxidative stress and reduce blood sugar levels. (3)

One word of caution: you should avoid this supplement if you drink a lot of alcohol or have a vitamin B-1 deficiency.

3. Benfotiamine

Everyone knows that the B-Complex vitamins are among the most vital nutrients that our bodies need and literally can’t live without. Vitamin B1, or “thiamine,” is a water-soluble vitamin which is used by the cells in our body to convert food into energy.

It is also used by our nervous system to help maintain healthy nervous tissue. Because it is water-soluble, however, it can be hard to get enough Vitamin B1 through the food that we eat, since much of it passes out in our urine; this is why B-Vitamin deficiencies are not uncommon. Benfotiamine is a fat-soluble analogue of thiamine (Vitamin B1). (4) This means that it might be more easily absorbed by the body than traditional vitamin B1.

Research suggests that benfotiamine may help to improve neuropathy symptoms, such as pain. This relationship was more pronounced the longer a high dose (600 mg/day) was taken. This relationship is believed to be thanks to benfotiamine’s effect on glucose metabolism.

4. Biotin

Biotin is a B vitamin found in a wide variety of foods, such as salmon, peanuts, dairy, whole-grains, and more. (5) While deficiency is rare, early studies have found that some people with neuropathy benefit from biotin supplementation.

Biotin supports nerve health and may decrease insulin resistance. Thanks to these benefits, biotin supplements may help to lessen nerve pain in neuropathic patients.

5. Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is an endogenous antioxidant, meaning that our bodies create their own coenzyme Q10 to combat oxidative damage from free radicals and reactive oxygen species. (6) In doing so, coenzyme Q10 reduces inflammation and protects against nerve death. Studies suggest that a deficiency in this antioxidant may be involved in peripheral neuropathy.

While there have been no human studies examining coenzyme Q10 supplementation and neuropathy, a 2013 study on mice with peripheral neuropathy found impressive results. (7)

Following 6 months of coenzyme Q10 supplementation, neuropathy symptoms like pain and sciatic nerve conduction velocity nearly disappeared. Additionally, the loss of nerve cells was significantly reduced in comparison to control mice.

This study suggests that early, long-term coenzyme Q10 supplementation might help to slow type 2 diabetic neuropathy progression.

6. Copper

Copper is a trace mineral essential for life. (8) Copper deficiency can be the cause of peripheral neuropathy, although this is uncommon in the West thanks to a typically copper-rich diet.

Yet, there are some who are at a higher risk of copper deficiency. These include:

1. People who have undergone gastric bypass surgery2. Those who take zinc supplements3. Postmenopausal women

When we do not consume, or absorb, enough copper from our diets, it can lead to myelopathy, a form of neuropathy. This type of peripheral neuropathy tends to exhibit symptoms in feet and hands first, such as tingling, loss of sensation, or pain. For those with this type of neuropathy, copper supplementation can help.

7. Gamma Linolenic Acid

Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid found in a variety of plant seed oils. (9) There is limited evidence that supplementing with GLA for 6-12 months can help prevent nerve damage and improve symptoms in those with diabetic neuropathy.

Because GLA plays a role in nerve membrane fatty acid synthesis, it may help to support nerve function and health. (10) GLA may be best for those who have good blood glucose control.

8. Inositol

Also known as Myo-inositol, inositol is a molecule that’s structurally similar to glucose that plays a role in signaling between cells and peripheral nerve development. (11) Because poor insulin resistance and blood sugar control is implicated in diabetic neuropathy progression, inositol may help to slow the progression of this disease in diabetic patients.

In a study of diabetic men with neuropathy that experienced related erectile dysfunction, 4,000 mg/day myo-inositol was found to be more effective than placebo at improving erectile function.

9. L-Arginine

L-arginine in an amino acid (a building block of protein) that is excessively broken down in the body of those with type 2 diabetes. (12) Because of this increased degradation, L-arginine is often used by those with type 2 diabetes to maintain healthy levels of L-arginine in the body.

In 2018, researchers published a preliminary study examining the effects of L-arginine supplementation in rats with diabetic neuropathy. (13) They hypothesized that a variation in arginine metabolism in diabetics may be involved in neuropathic pain and in the worsening of diabetes itself.

The researchers found positive results with oral L-arginine supplementation in managing neuropathic pain. More studies are needed to determine if the same relationship exists in humans.

10. Magnesium

Magnesium (Mg) is an essential mineral naturally present in the human body that many people are deficient in due to dietary factors. (14)

Magnesium deficiency is extremely common—occurring in up to 80% of adults—and is a major contributing factor to neuropathy: magnesium is required for the proper firing of neurotransmitters inside the human body.

This deficiency is particularly prevalent in those with type 2 diabetics, with a study finding that 88.6% of patients included weren’t consuming enough magnesium through diet and supplements.

Studies have found that Magnesium supplementation improves neuropathy in type 1 diabetics and can even reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in healthy people. In a study of those with type 1 diabetes, patients who took 300 mg/day magnesium for five years were 500% less likely to develop peripheral neuropathy when compared to those who did not supplement with Mg.

Taken in controlled amounts, it has beneficial properties with regard to certain digestive functions. In larger amounts, magnesium supplements have been known to cause diarrhea and other digestive upsets; the additional expense of slow release capsules usually negates this problem.

11. Manganese

Manganese is an essential mineral that we obtain through our diet. It is found in high quantities in tea, grains, and vegetables. It is used within the human body to make Mn superoxide dismutase (MnSOD), an endogenous antioxidant. (15)

With studies in mice showing that increased expression of MnSOD exhibits protection against diabetes complications, including neuropathy, some people have started to supplement with manganese in the hopes of protecting against the disease. (17) Be cautious not to over supplement with this mineral, as excess mineral consumption can be toxic.

12. Methyl B12 (Vitamin B12)

Methyl B12, or “methylcobalamin,” is one of two vitamins that is vital for processing food into energy and maintaining healthy red blood cells.

Vitamin B12 is also known to play an essential role in nervous system health by helping to insulate and protect neurotransmitters and brain cells. Insufficient intake of vitamin B12 can directly lead to peripheral neuropathy. (17) Older people and vegans are the most likely people to suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency.

In a double-blind clinical trial examining the use of methylcobalamin (also known as methyl B12), a naturally occurring form of vitamin B12, researchers gave 1500 μg/day methyl B12 or placebo to patients with diabetic neuropathy for three months. (18) Those in the treatment group experienced significant symptomatic improvement without any adverse effects, while those in the placebo group showed no significant changes.

13. Omega-3 Fish Oil

Fish oil is one of the most popular supplements around thanks to its being naturally rich in two omega-3 fatty acids that aren’t common in other foods: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). In vitro studies have found that EPA and DHA not only protect neurons (nerve cells) but stimulate their growth. (19)

While there have yet to be human studies examining the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on neuropathy, animal studies have found promising benefits. In these preclinical studies, fish oil slowed, and even reversed, diabetic neuropathy.

14. Selenium

Selenium is a trace mineral whose interaction with diabetes and neuropathy can be a bit confusing. Both too much and too little selenium can have a negative impact on diabetic neuropathy. (20,21) Exceeding 400 µg can cause toxicity and heighten neuropathy symptoms. Yet, sufficient selenium has been shown in animal studies to protect against nerve death and oxidative stress. The sweet spot? 55 µg/day, about the quantity that you get in one Brazil nut.

15. Sulbutiamine

Sulbutiamine is a thiamine (vitamin B1) derivative. (22) Thanks to a modified structure, it is more effective at enhancing communication between nerves than thiamine itself. This unique ability led researchers to hypothesize that it could help those with diabetic polyneuropathy.

30 diabetic polyneuropathy patients were randomly treated with sulbutiamine or no treatment for six weeks. Those in the sulbutiamine group saw improvements in multiple parameters that measured disease and symptom severity compared to baseline.

16. Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, is a water-soluble vitamin found in dairy, meat, fish, and dark-green vegetables. (23) Animal research has found that riboflavin deficiency can lead to neuropathy. While similar studies have not been conducted in humans, there is reason to believe that a vitamin B2 deficiency could harm nerve function and health.

Vitamin B2 is necessary for our bodies to absorb and use other vitamins, including vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folate. (24) These vitamins are known to play a role in the health of our nervous system, with deficiencies leading to neuropathy development or worsening of neuropathic symptoms. For this reason, it is helpful to take a B-complex vitamin that includes vitamin B2.

17. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is another B vitamin whose deficiency can directly lead to peripheral neuropathy. (24) It plays a role in nerve repair, nerve function, and nerve regeneration. Additionally, animal studies have found vitamin B6 to exert analgesic (pain relieving) and anti-inflammatory effects.

Deficiency is rare, but it can happen. It’s most common in those who are heavy alcohol drinkers or those who are obese. Be careful not to exceed 200 mg/day as this can worsen neuropathic symptoms.

18. Vitamin D

The benefits of vitamin D in bone growth and muscular development have long been maintained. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that our bodies primarily synthesize on their own when exposed to direct sunlight. (25)

Many people are deficient in vitamin D thanks to a lack of sunlight, particularly those who live in places with long winters or who spend most of their day indoors.

More recently, it has been studied for a hitherto little-known role in the regulation of nervous system growth. Research published this year in Diabetic Medicine examined the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

In this study, 17 people with painful diabetic neuropathy, 14 with painless diabetic neuropathy, and 14 controls with no diabetic peripheral neuropathy underwent testing for vitamin D levels.

After adjusting for other variables, the researchers concluded that vitamin D deficiency may be involved in the pathogenesis of painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

To get enough vitamin D, try to spend time in direct sunlight without sunscreen on. When this isn’t possible, work with your doctor to determine the best vitamin D supplement to take daily.

19. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble essential vitamin found in a variety of foods. (26) Deficiency is uncommon, but when it occurs, it can cause central and peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms include:

● Muscle weakness● Tingling and numbness● Trouble with balance and walking● Vision difficulties

These neuropathy symptoms are caused by a breakdown of myelin, the protective coating around nerves. When you don’t consume or absorb enough vitamin E, this layer begins to break down, leading to nervous system dysfunction.

While most people with neuropathy do not need to supplement with vitamin E, those that are deficient in this vitamin can see vast improvements by doing so. This deficiency is typically caused by a disease that reduces fat absorption, such as celiac disease or cystic fibrosis.

20. Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin whose subtype vitamin K2-7 has been found in human studies to help with neuropathy caused by diabetes and a vitamin B12 deficiency. (27)

In a study of 30 patients with peripheral neuropathy, 100 μg vitamin K2-7 twice daily for eight weeks led to symptomatic relief without any noted side effects. Larger, placebo-controlled trials are needed to confirm these results.

You can find vitamin K2-7 either in supplemental form or in fermented foods, egg yolks, butter, and other animal products.

21. Zinc

Zinc is another essential mineral that can be either good or bad for those suffering from neuropathy. In general, excess zinc can exacerbate neuropathy symptoms. (28) This is because zinc and copper compete, and too much zinc will lead to a copper deficiency, resulting in myeloneuropathy.

Yet, there are some who can experience a zinc deficiency that leads to neuropathy symptoms. (29) If you have undergone bariatric surgery or hemodialysis you are at an increased risk of a zinc deficiency.

Herbs That Help with Neuropathy

22. American Skullcap

American skullcap, or Scutellaria lateriflora, is an herbal remedy with a long history in folk and traditional medicine. Today, American skullcap is grown all over the world by modern herbalists and botanists, who advocate its use for increasing the supply of blood to the brain. This has a tranquilizing effect, which is beneficial to the treatment of anxiety and the promotion of positive moods and improved concentration and focus.

There is substantial clinical and anecdotal evidence for the viability of American skullcap as an herbal supplement; issues arise due to the lack of regulation of the herb, which can result in other plant-based ingredients being marketed and sold as American skullcap.

Very few human studies have been conducted on this plant, however, animal studies show promise when it comes to neuropathy. An active compound extracted from this plant, baicalin, was shown to help relieve neuropathic pain in rats. (30)

It is best to buy through a reputable distributor of herbal products when seeking to acquire American skullcap for medicinal purposes.

23. Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is a popular nootropic herb (an herb that supports cognitive function) that has long been used in traditional medicines. (31) Preliminary studies have found it to act as a powerful pain reliever, even helping to ease neuropathic pain.

While no human studies have been published directly examining the effect of bacopa monnieri on human neuropathy, other human clinical trials have found it to be well tolerated and beneficial for many aspects of human health and wellbeing.

24. Berberine

Berberine is a compound found in many medicinal plants that is extracted for its benefits for human health. In animal studies, berberine has been found to promote nerve regeneration, reduce neuropathic pain, and reverse diabetic neuropathy. (32,33) There have yet to be any human studies examining the effect of berberine on neuropathy, so more research is needed.

25. Cannabis Sativa: Medical Marijuana and CBD Oil

Cannabis sativa is a plant whose impact on human health have been celebrated for many thousands of years. Although cannabis was largely illegal in the US for the last century, its legal standing is growing thanks to its impressive benefits for human health.

Cannabis sativa includes both marijuana and hemp plants. Marijuana is often used in a clinical setting, and in such is termed medical marijuana. Marijuana and its extracts contain a variety of therapeutic compounds, but THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the two most abundant and well-studied.

Many human studies have found medical cannabis to be beneficial for neuropathic pain. However, many people still don’t have access to medical marijuana, and there are those who do that want to avoid the psychoactive effects altogether. These people are turning to CBD oil

CBD can be extracted from the hemp variety of cannabis plants and is thus legal in all 50 states. It is not a psychotropic compound, meaning that it won’t get you high. There is less research on CBD-only therapy for neuropathic pain, but preliminary studies suggest that it might be able to help relieve this type of pain. (35)

26. Curcumin

Curcumin is the compound in the turmeric root that is largely to thank for turmeric’s ability to reduce pain, combat inflammation, and quell oxidative damage.

One study in mice found that curcumin taken early on in animals with neuropathy helped to prevent chronic neuropathy development. (36) Another animal study found that curcumin helped to mitigate neuropathy caused by chemotherapy. (37)

You can go for either curcumin or turmeric supplements to find what works best from you. Some people will choose to add turmeric to their meals daily or make a yummy drink called golden milk that is a combination of milk, honey, turmeric, and other spices.

27. Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil is oil extracted from the seeds of evening primrose plants. (38) It is a commonly used plant medicine for people suffering from a wide range of conditions, including things like rheumatoid arthritis, skin disorders, heart disease, menopause/PMS and cancer. There is some evidence that this oil may also benefit those with nerve damage.

There is one human study examining the effect of evening primrose oil on diabetic neuropathy symptoms. (39) In this study, researchers gave 80 patients with diabetic neuropathy 400 mg/day vitamin E plus 500-1,000 mg/day eve primrose oil for one year, with assessments occurring throughout this time. 88% of the patients reported neuropathic pain relief.

The researchers speculate that this improvement could be thanks to high levels of gamma-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, two omega-6 fatty acids that are components of the nerve cell membrane and myelin, the protective coating around nerve fibers.

28. Feverfew Extract

In terms of its purported medical benefits, feverfew extract is one of the most well-documented herbal supplements on the market today to remain unregulated.

It is used predominantly throughout the world for the relief of pain and inflammation, and is held by some to be particularly effective against the type of chronic nerve pain which results from hypersensitivity (sometimes known as “skin sensitivity”).

Tanacetum parthenium L., or feverfew, is often used to help with pain, such as that caused by rheumatoid arthritis and migraine, without profound side effects. (4) There is not a lot of research examining the potential of feverfew for neuropathy, but preliminary results are promising.

In a study conducted on feverfew flower and leaf extracts and a rat model of diabetic neuropathy, feverfew flower extract reduced pain to a similar extent as many antihyperalgesic drugs. Feverfew leaf extract did not have any significant effects.

29. Ginkgo Biloba Extract

Ginkgo biloba is a nootropic herb touted for its neuroprotective properties. (41) In an animal model of neuropathic pain, G. biloba extract EGb 761 (a standardized extract) was found to help reduce pain. Researchers believe that this beneficial effect is thanks to its ability to fight inflammation and oxidative damage as well as protecting against nerve damage.

30. Oat Straw Extract

Oat straw extract comes from green oats (Avena sativa), and has been used to support mental health and clarity for centuries. Modern herbalists recommend it for relaxation, but also to soothe and relax skin irritations such as redness, pins and needles, and raw, itchy skin. It is even said that oat straw enhances sexual performance; the substance is arguably the origin of the phrase “sow your wild oats.”

There is some anecdotal evidence toward its working in this capacity with regard to the side effects of peripheral neuropathy. If you search the internet for herbs that help with neuropathy, you will find many reports of people using oat straw extract.

There have been no studies directly examining the effect of oat straw extract on neuropathy, however, studies have been done that find benefits for oat beta-glucan (OBG), a compound found in oat straw extract, in helping to control blood sugar in patients with type-2 diabetes. (42)

These studies have found that short-term intake of OBG helped with glycemic control, however, this effect grew weaker with long-term intake. Because oat straw extract contains oat beta-glucan, it may help to slow diabetic neuropathy progression thanks to controlling blood sugar levels. But as for now, the scientific evidence is quite weak.

31. Passion Flower Extract

Passiflora incarnata, or passion flower, is an extract with sedative and anxiolytic (stress-fighting) properties.

Passion flower extract is not considered to be a dangerous substance; it is widely used in regulated food and beverage products throughout the United States as a flavoring.

It is particularly popular among modern adherents for its ability to relieve sleep-related and gastrointestinal issues which are bound to stress or anxiety, and it seems to be particularly effective in that specific regard.

Passion flower extract is believed to function by lowering the activity level of hyperactive brain cells, through a reduction in the chemical signals being used to trigger them.

In one animal study conducted on passion flower extract and neuropathic pain in rats, the researchers concluded that passion flower extract “might be useful for treating neuropathic pain” via GABAergic and opioidergic mechanisms. (43)

32. St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort (SJW) is a medicinal plant most commonly used for its antidepressant effects. Yet, many people have started to use it in the hopes of finding relief from neuropathy.

This use is supported by animal studies, including one study which found that mice given SJW seed extract experienced pain relief similar to that of currently used clinical drugs for neuropathic pain. (40)

33. Bitter Apple

Citrullus colocynthis, better known as bitter apple, has been used for many years as a folk medicine in Tunisia. (41) It has demonstrated impressive anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties.

In a human clinical trial, three months of topical C. colocynthis use was found to diminish pain in patients with painful diabetic neuropathy when compared to the placebo group.

This study is promising given that it is one of the few human clinical trials examining the effect of an herbal remedy on diabetic neuropathic pain.

34. Motherwort

Another herb often used to help reduce symptoms of neuropathy is motherwort. The plant is a native of southeastern Europe and Central Asia, but has spread all over the world. It is pretty enough that many people enjoy planting in their gardens just for its looks.

Traditionally, motherwort was used in folk medicine in both Asia and Europe to control fertility or menstruation. People would take the herb to stimulate menstruation or to provide relief for symptoms of menopause.

Like passionflower, motherwort can also be used to help calm the body and to reduce anxiety. It was traditionally used in Europe as a sedative.

Along with easing the pain caused by menstrual cramps, Motherwort can also help ease the pain caused by neuropathy. It is occasionally used to help soothe the pain caused by shingles for example.

Closing Thoughts

With medications offering little relief for many suffering from painful diabetic neuropathy, both doctors and patients alike are turning to vitamins, minerals, and herbs in the hopes of slowing disease progression and providing pain relief. Work with your doctor to see which of the above plant medicines might work to help you.

Nerve Renew is a uniquely formulated vitamin and mineral supplement which uses safe, all-natural sources to deliver a supercharged level of B-Complex vitamins and other ingredients directly to where they need to go.

It’s manufacturer, the Neuropathy Treatment Group (NTG), points to numerous research studies and clinical trials which confirm that the levels of B-Vitamin and other supplements in Nerve Renew are completely safe.

To date, there have been no reports of any overdoses or other concerns resulting from Nerve Renew. NTG offers a one-year money-back guarantee on the supplement, which they suggest be used for up to four months for optimum effect.

A pinched nerve is a common source of pain among the elderly, people who perform a lot of repetitive movements, those with arthritis and anyone struggling with obesity. Although they sometimes heal on their own, pinched nerves can cause significant disability and sometimes even permanent nerve damage when left untreated.

Determining how many people actually have pinched nerves is very difficult, since many people report symptoms that could be caused by another injury, and some people don’t experience any symptoms at all. Many different factors can contribute to a pinched nerve, including past injuries, someone’s level of exercise, age, gender and bodyweight. While there isn’t just one single cause of pinched nerves, prevention seems to be very important.

Conventional methods of treating pinched nerves usually include medications and surgery. However, research shows that non-surgical, more conservative treatments, including physical therapy, exercise, chiropractic adjustments, supplements and rest, can also greatly help reduce pinched nerve pain.

What Is a Pinched Nerve?

Pinched nerves (also called compressed nerves) are deep root nerves that have become inflamed and irritated due to experiencing an abnormal amount of pressure. Pressure can accumulate around a deep root nerve from surrounding tissues, bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons that protrude outward or are damaged due to an injury or inflammatory condition. (1)

Nerves are responsible for sending important sensory information regarding pain, well-being and perceived threats from our bodies to our brains, and vice versa. Major nerves travel from your brain through your spinal cord and down the center of your back, connecting to small series of nerves that stem off into your limbs and elsewhere. A pinched nerve causes painful sensations in addition to things like “pins or needles” and swelling because increased pressure changes the way nerves communicate.

What are some common conditions that might cause a pinched nerve? These can include a herniated disc in the lower back or a pinched near the neck. One of the most troubling things about pinched nerves is that they usually don’t just cause pain in one location — the pain often spreads, for example, extending down the legs, to the hands and into the shoulders.

Causes of a Pinched Nerve

Compression (increased pressure and stress) placed on a root nerve is the primary cause of a pinched nerve, which interferes with normal signals regarding pain.

There are several locations in the body where pinched nerves are common and numerous reasons that someone might develop a pinched nerve. The causes of a pinched nerve can include: (2)

  • Herniated disc, caused from a disc tearing or weakening
  • Wear and tear associated with aging and inflammation
  • Poor posture, such as forward head posture
  • Obesity
  • Repetitive movements that wear down or irritate tissue
  • Staying in one position for long periods of time, such as those related to someone’s job or hobbies
  • Injuries, such as trauma, tears and sprains
  • Bone spurs, which narrow the spaces where nerves travel
  • Recovering from conditions or treatments that cause neuropathy, including breast cancer and diabetes (3)
  • Arthritis and degenerative joint diseases

What makes a pinched nerve different than a herniated disc or slipped disc?

For the most part, people use the terms herniated disc, bulging disc, slipped disc, and pinched or compressed nerve interchangeably. (4) It can be hard to tell if a pinched nerve versus a herniated disc is the exact cause of your pain, numbness or tingling, but the good news is that both types of conditions are usually treated in similar ways.

Although they’re closely related, herniated discs are not exactly the same as pinched nerves. Herniated discs and slipped discs can contribute to pinch nerves because they cause tissue to protrude into a nearby nerve. Usually they’re the result of aging/degeneration, injuries or various diseases that affect the nerves in the spine. These conditions cause spinal discs to open and expand, which can lead to fluid leaking out, worsened inflammation and increased pressure.

That being said, it’s important to understand the real causes of your pain in order to know how best to treat it. Because there are various reasons you might have disc or nerve pain, it’s important to work with your doctor to identify if pain is at the site of the disc location itself or if it’s coming from a nearby irritated pinched nerve. Prior to taking medications or receiving adjustments, and definitely before undergoing surgery, getting an accurate diagnoses is crucial.

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

What does a pinched nerve feel like? Pain, nerve damage and irritation caused by a pinched nerve can sometimes be minor but other times severe. It’s possible for symptoms of a pinched nerve, such as tingling or shooting pains, to come and go temporarily or to become chronic problems. Pain can occur in the cervical (neck) region, thoracic (upper) region or lumbar (lower) spine. While in some cases pinched nerve pain goes away relatively quickly, in other rare cases that are left untreated, it can lead to permanent nerve damage and chronic pain.

Although the location of a pinched nerve determines the types of symptoms you feel, most pinched nerves have the following in common: tenderness and pain, swelling, feelings of extra pressure, and some degree of scarring. Increased pain when moving and trouble exercising are also common pinched nerve symptoms.

Pinched nerve symptoms aren’t usually located to one area; rather they cause “radicular pain” (nerve root pain) that tends to spread from one body part to another. The word “radiculopathy” refers to a variety of symptoms, including traveling pain, numbness and weakness. (4)

Symptoms of a pinched nerve in your neck or shoulder include: (5)

  • Pain, numbness and tingling that radiates from your neck down your upper back, shoulders or arms.
  • Symptoms might affect your elbow, hand, wrist or fingers.
  • It’s common for pain to get worse when you move, type on a computer or lift things.
  • You might experience “pins or needles,” inflammation, weakness, and pain associated with conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow. Your grip may become weak, and your arm or hand might become stiff.

Symptoms of a pinched nerve in your back include: (6)

  • Back pain radiating from your lower back running down your legs. Pinched nerves are most common in the lower back because the lower back bears a high percentage of pressure and force.
  • Burning sensations, tingling, heat and weakness might be felt in the thighs, low back or buttocks. Sometimes the pain might spread upward to your chest and neck.
  • Pain likely gets worse if you exercise, after waking up from sleeping, or when you’re bending and walking.

Conventional Treatments for Pinched Nerves

To help make a diagnosis of a pinched nerve, your doctor will likely perform:

  • A physical exam, testing reflexes, tenderness and pain
  • Assessment of your medical history, family history and injuries
  • Tests for muscle strength or weakness, testing for signs of muscle atrophy, twitching, numbness
  • Testing pain based on motion, touch and pressure
  • Testing joint dysfunction through moving your limbs and torso
  • Diagnostic tests, including CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to look at disc alignment and configuration

Once the location of your pain has been identified and a pinched nerve is diagnosed, conventional treatments might include: (7)

  • Pain relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly used medications. These include aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen. Sometimes doctors even perscribe strong narcotics for chronic nerve pain. They can help dull inflammation and pain, but long term they won’t solve the pinched nerve and can cause side effects when used for long durations (like indigestion, for example).
  • Corticosteroids: Used to lower swelling.
  • Microdiscectomy spinal surgery: This removes part of the disc that’s bulging out or other material that’s irritating a root nerve. It’s a risky type of spine surgery that’s usually only effective for treating degenerative disc diseases — however, it doesn’t always address the real cause of pain associated with a pinched nerve.
  • Surgery to remove other material that’s pressing on a nerve, such as scar tissue or bone.

Natural Treatments for Pinched Nerves

1. Follow a Collagen Repair Diet

  • Consume a diet high in natural sources of collagen, which helps repair damaged connective tissue and adds cushion to spaces between bones and joints, reducing friction and pressure. Collagen is the most abundant natural protein found within our bodies and an important building block of all tissue. Bone broth is one of the best suppliers of collagen, along with other beneficial nutrients, including glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid and amino acids.
  • Eating omega-3 foods, such as wild-caught fish like salmon, grass-fed beef, chia seeds and flaxseeds, helps naturally control inflammation and reduce the effects of aging.
  • Get even more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds through organic vegetables, organic fruits and herbs like turmeric, garlic and ginger. These anti-inflammatory foods help slow the effects of aging by reducing oxidative stress and supply essential vitamins and minerals to help you recover.
  • High-fiber foods can also help control your appetite, and many supply important vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. Obesity and excess weight can add pressure to nerves and make pain worse, so try limiting added sugar, sweetened drinks, fried or packaged foods, and refined carbohydrates.

2. Posture Correction Exercises and Treatment

Proper posture is crucial for helping take unwanted stress off of delicate joints, especially joints that have been injured or under increased pressure for a long time. I recommend seeing an Egoscue posture therapist and/or seeing a spinal correction chiropractic doctor to help target the spinal problem at its root (such as sclerosis or spinal stenosis). Egoscue is a postural therapy protocol that focus on fixing musculoskeletal misalignment. A trained practitioner can help you restore proper posture for good and limit muscular compensations that might make your pain worse long term.

I also recommend doing exercises on your own (once cleared) that help strengthen your core in order to take pressure off of your back and prevent low back pain, along with other exercises to improve your posture. Working with a physical therapist at first is a smart idea if you’ve been injured or are still healing.

3. Prolotherapy

Prolotherapy is a cutting-edge form of regenerative medicine used to treat both acute and chronic injuries and growing in popularity even among elite athletes. Prolotherapy has been shown to be beneficial for conditions that can compress root nerves, including:

  • bulging discs
  • arthritis
  • torn ligaments
  • tendonitis
  • joint pains in the neck, low back, knee or shoulders

How does prolotherapy work? Platelet-rich plasma uses your body’s own platelets and growth factors to heal damaged tissues by promoting a minor inflammatory response. Glucose along with other active ingredients are injected into the damaged tissue to re-create your body’s own natural healing process, and in this case inflammation helps to rebuild the damaged tissue.

4. Soft Tissue Therapy

Relieving tight muscles and trigger points can make a big difference in reducing joint stress. Consider the following soft tissue therapies to help treat the underlying causes of a pinched nerve. A trained practitioner in one of the following manipulative therapies can help “turn on” muscles that have been “turned off” due to injury and eliminate muscular pain. I’ve worked with active release technique practitioners for years to help me overcome a number of muscle and joint-related injuries.

  • Active Release Technique
  • Graston Technique®
  • Dry Needling
  • Neurokinetic Therapy

5. Supplements

Most people are nutritionally bankrupt and their diets very low in specific nutrients that support musculoskeletal healing. Therefore, taking some quality supplements can make a big difference in terms of recovery and pain reduction. In order to heal damaged tissue, you need nutrients that help reduce inflammation, support tissue repair and increase growth factors. Some antioxidant compounds can also help support the body’s own stem-cell production and initiate tissue reconstruction.

I recommend taking the following supplements to help treat a pinched nerve:

  • Turmeric and ginger
  • Bromelain
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Bone broth (contains type 2 collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid to help aid in tissue repair)
  • Bovine collagen (has type 1 and 3 collagen)
  • Antioxidant-boosting compounds, including resveratrol, green tea, medicinal mushrooms like cordyceps, and berry extracts, such as acai or goji

Anatomy of a Pinched Nerve: Different Regions Where Pinched Nerves Occur

There are several different types of disorders affecting root nerves, which are commonly grouped together under the umbrella term “pinched nerve”:

  • Lumbar radiculopathy: The type of pinched nerve located in the lower (lumbar) region of the spine. “Lumbar” refers to the five large, flexible vertebrae toward the bottom of the spine. This is the most common place for a pinched nerve to develop since the lower back bears a lot of weight and stress, especially during movement or lifting.
  • Cervical radiculopathy: The type of pinched nerve located near the neck, which causes nerve pain and numbness to travel outward down the arms, upper back, chest or shoulders. “Cervical” refers to the seven vertebrae at the top of the backbone. Cervical radiculopathy is linked to conditions including herniated disc, a bulging disc, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis and stenosis. (8)
  • Thoracic radiculopathy: This is the least common type of pinched nerve, which affects the root nerves of the middle section of the spine (called the thoracic region). Due to the middle back’s lack of flexibility and mobility (since the ribs serve as an anchor and support system of the torso and upper body), the thoracic vertebrae are usually far less stressed than the other spinal regions.
  • Sciatica: Sciatic nerve pain radiates downward from the lower back through one or both thighs and legs.

Pinched Nerve vs. Sciatica:

  • Leg pain that runs down the length of the leg from the lower back is usually referred to as sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain. Sciatica is a type of pinched nerve pain, and the most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc in the lower back. (9) For this reason, many experts consider sciatica to be a form of lumbar radiculopathy.
  • Sciatica causes painful throbbing, stiffness and tenderness in the lower back and limbs. Often the throbbing is reoccurring and felt in only one leg, although it can also be felt throughout the lower back and both legs simultaneously.
  • Natural treatments for sciatic nerve pain include chiropractic adjustments, stretching, yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture and exercise.

Precautions Regarding Treatment of Pinched Nerves

  • For some people, pinched nerve pain will go away on its own within several weeks. If you experience strong pain suddenly that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter pain relievers, definitely make a trip to your doctor.
  • Look out for signs of infections, such as a fever, chills and nausea. These signs can indicate a more serious nerve-related problem and shouldn’t be ignored.
  • Depending on your condition, your doctor might also ask you to stop any activities that cause or aggravate the compression and pain. Get your doctor’s advice on whether or not rest; a splint or brace might be needed to help immobilize the area while it heals.

Final Thoughts on Pinched Nerves

  • Pinched nerves are compressed root nerves that cause radiating pain, tingling, numbness and weakness.
  • Sciatica (pain radiating along the sciatic nerve down the leg), lumbar radiculopathy, cervical radiculopathy and thoracic radiculopathy are the primary types of pinched nerves.
  • Pinched nerve symptoms can be felt in the back, thighs, shoulders, wrists, neck or hands.
  • Treatments for pinched nerves include active release technique and other soft tissue therapies, supplementation, exercise, physical therapy, and a diet high in collagen.

Read Next: 6 Natural Ways to Relieve Sciatic Nerve Pain

In the past few years, a number of companies in the United States have begun selling an herbal product called kratom, mostly online. The product, sold as dried leaves or a powder in capsules, comes from a tropical tree that grows in Southeast Asia.

Proponents of kratom say that it acts as a painkiller and a sedative, among other effects. Some people believe it can treat opioid or alcohol addiction. But none of these benefits have been demonstrated in rigorous clinical trials.

Negative events associated with consuming products that contain kratom have been reported. Many of these cases were caused by long-term abuse. In addition, kratom products have been connected to recent outbreaks of salmonella that sickened about 200 people in several states.

Memorial Sloan Kettering neurologist and pharmacologist Gavril Pasternak is studying the active components of kratom to figure out what the herb does in the body. He’s collaborating on this work with medicinal chemist Susruta Majumdar, who was an assistant attending chemist at MSK and is now an associate professor at the Center for Clinical Pharmacology at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy and the Washington University School of Medicine.

Scientists believe that some of the ingredients naturally found in kratom may hold promise for developing new and better painkillers. These drugs could potentially have fewer side effects than those currently on the market.

About Herbs: Kratom

Kratom is an herbal supplement that has both stimulant and calming effects. It may also have pain-relieving properties similar to opioids.

Learn more

How can a natural product become a medicine?

It’s not a crazy notion to think that a new drug could come from a tree. In fact, about half of all drugs sold today originated in living things, including plants, fungi, and bacteria found in the soil. These natural products include the heart drug digoxin, which is isolated from a flower called foxglove; the antibiotic penicillin, which comes from mold; and painkillers like morphine, which is made from poppies. Many cancer drugs are made from natural products too.

Natural products that are developed and sold as drugs may come directly from their source. They may also be created in the lab using chemical synthesis. Chemicals taken from living things may become the starting materials for making similar compounds. Chemists may alter naturally occurring molecules to come up with drugs that are more effective or have fewer side effects.

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Can kratom block pain with less risk?

Like most herbal products that come from plants, kratom contains a mixture of many different chemical compounds. In 2016, Dr. Majumdar published a study in collaboration with Columbia University researcher Dalibor Sames showing that among the natural products found in kratom, two compounds activate opioid receptors in human cells — the same receptors activated by drugs like morphine and oxycodone, which are clinically used in the treatment of pain.

Later in the year, in collaboration with Jay McLaughlin of the University of Florida and MSK researchers Ying Xian Pan and Dr. Pasternak, Dr. Majumdar published another study, which reported that two compounds in kratom were more effective than morphine at blocking pain in mice. Their effectiveness was tested using what is called a tail-flick assay. In this assessment, a mouse’s tail is put next to something hot. The efficacy of the pain medication is determined by how many seconds it takes for the mouse to feel pain and flick away its tail.

Further investigations done in cells and mice determined how these molecules provided pain-blocking effects. “We found that these compounds are structurally different from drugs like morphine or fentanyl,” Dr. Majumdar says. “They bind to pain receptors in a different way.” Specifically, they act on the pathways that allow pain to be suppressed without acting on the pathways that suppress breathing. The addictive potential of the natural products found in kratom is presently being investigated and will soon be reported.

“This is a crucial safety issue since respiratory depression is responsible for overdose deaths from opioids,” adds Dr. Pasternak. He and Dr. Majumdar are continuing to work together to design novel drugs based on components in kratom that will be even more effective and safe.

The US Food and Drug Administration and US Drug Enforcement Administration are considering banning kratom. Scientists who study kratom say that such an action would effectively end their research because it would become exceedingly difficult to obtain and work with the compounds. Potentially promising leads for new drugs could be lost.

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Can people with cancer take kratom now?

The type of kratom-derived drugs being developed by Drs. Pasternak and Majumdar are at least several years from being evaluated in clinical trials. But the experts in MSK’s Integrative Medicine Service who manage the About Herbs database frequently receive questions from people with cancer — as well as their doctors — about whether kratom as it is now sold is a safe and effective way to manage cancer pain. The database provides information about herbs and other complementary therapies that is based on scientific literature.

“A lot of people are interested in taking kratom for their cancer pain because they’re concerned about the addiction potential of traditional opioid drugs,” says pharmacist K. Simon Yeung, who manages About Herbs. “But right now, we don’t have enough information to know whether it is safe and effective for this purpose.”

People with cancer receive more effective and reliable pain relief with established painkillers. Gavril W. Pasternak neurologist and pharmacologist

“One problem with kratom is that it is a mixture of many different compounds whose levels can vary from preparation to preparation, making it quite difficult to determine what dose should be used,” Dr. Pasternak says. “People with cancer receive more effective and reliable pain relief with established painkillers.”

Dr. Yeung notes that concern about salmonella contamination makes it even more important to avoid kratom products. “One FDA analysis found that half of all kratom products evaluated were contaminated,” he says. “Because chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can weaken a person’s immune system, getting one of these infections could be very serious.”

MSK doctors stress that people with cancer should not take any herbal substances without first discussing it with their healthcare team.

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The 8 Best Teas For Reducing Inflammation

Acute inflammation is a natural body process designed to help the body heal. However, chronic cases of inflammation have been linked to a host of health problems ranging from heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer’s and irritable bowel syndrome.

Fortunately, there’s research to indicate a healthy diet and lifestyle may help prevent chronic inflammation and many of the ailment sit has been linked to. Drinking tea is one way to reduce inflammation.

The beverage has long been used as an herbal remedy in traditional medicine from across the globe. It boasts extensive health benefits from boosting the immune system to lowering blood pressure.

Read on to find out more about the best teas for inflammation. Want to pick up some tea to decrease inflammation today? Check out our collection of the best teas for inflammation right here.

The Best Teas For Inflammation

1. Green Tea

Try our Lavender Green Tea to help reduce inflammation and induce relaxation.

Green tea is a true tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves are harvested, withered, and dried to prevent oxidation. The tea offers a delightful earthy and grassy taste with hints of seaweed.

The active ingredient in green tea that boasts anti-inflammatory properties are tea catechins—particularly EGCG. Epigallocatechin gallate is a catechin that has been shown to reduce inflammation. One study showed that catechins and flavonoids in green tea work to inhibit protein denaturation resulting in decreased inflammation (1).

The tea catechins also prevent free radicals from wreaking havoc in the body. Free radicals are uncharged cells that bond with healthy cells and cause oxidative stress that can affect health (2). Free radicals can be caused by pollution, an unhealthy diet, and smoking. Oxidative stress is what ties inflammation to a host of diseases. Drinking tea can help to prevent free radicals from damaging healthy cells and stave off illnesses.

Green tea may also lower the risk of heart disease by regulating blood pressure. The catechins in green tea decrease inflammation and improve blood flow. This helps to lower blood pressure while also reducing the risk of blood clots and heart attack (3).

2. White Tea

Reduce inflammation and fight oxidative stress with our Silver Moonlight White Tea.

White tea is considered the most natural of the true teas as it undergoes the least production. Only the top two leaves of the tea plant are harvested for this premium tea. The leaves are the immediately sun-dried and packaged for sale. This tea boasts a delicate flavor that is slightly floral and sweet.

One study published in the Journal of Inflammation found that white tea offers anti-inflammatory effects in the skin. The polyphenols in white tea work to prevent inflammation in dermal fibroblast cells—cells that rebuild connective tissue and help the skin recover after an injury (4). These anti-inflammatory compounds may also help ease inflammation in joint tissue.

3. Ginger Tea

Our Thai Ginger Tea fights inflammation with a bold, spicy flavor you�ll love.

Ginger root tea is a spicy drink that offers a tingling flavor and piquant aroma. The tea is often consumed with a slice of lemon and a dash of honey to balance out the flavor profile. The tea is made from the root of the ginger plant and is an herbal tea backed by extensive scientific research.

Ginger contains compounds known as gingerol and shogaol, which play a role in the inflammatory process. Research shows that these compounds help to decrease inflammation and fight the resulting oxidative stress. The research indicates that ginger tea may help to prevent oxidative-stress related diseases including certain types of cancer (5).

According to the Arthritis Foundation, ginger tea may help to reduce pain associated with inflammation-related diseases. The site references research that shows ginger works as effectively as painkillers including NSAIDs—non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—to reduce pain and target inflammation on a cellular level (6).

4. Black Tea

Decrease pain with our Mint Black Tea that is packed with antioxidants.

Black tea is the most processed of the true teas. It undergoes the longest period of oxidation and brews into a rich brown or black hue. It boasts a flavor that is robust, roasted, and rich. Black tea has been a staple of Chinese medicine and Ayurveda in India for thousands of years.

The main anti-inflammatory compounds in black tea are known as flavonoids. The two flavonoids responsible for black tea’s health benefits are thearubigins and theaflavins. Research shows that these compounds work to prevent oxidative stress by inhibiting enzyme activity and eliminating free radicals (7).

5. Rooibos Tea

Taste tart and fruity notes while fighting inflammation with our Organic Rooibos Tea.

Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free herbal tea that comes exclusively from South Africa. The plant can only be found in the Cederberg mountains, just northeast of Cape Town. The tea is also known as red bush tea and brews into a rich maroon hue. It offers a tart and sweet flavor similar to cranberries.

Animal studies show that rooibos tea can help decrease inflammation thanks to anti-inflammatory flavonoids. In the case of rooibos tea and inflammation, aspalathin and nothofagin are the active ingredients. The research indicates these two flavonoids are more powerful than other flavonoids at treating chronic inflammatory conditions. The animal study demonstrated that drinking rooibos tea can prevent DNA damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress (8).

6. Masala Chai

Make chai the easy way with our Indian Spiced Chai Black Tea that offers extensive health benefits.

Chia in India simply means “tea”. This beverage is a delightful blend of spices and black tea leaves that boasts extensive health benefits. The tea is typically made using ginger, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Some recipes also call for allspice and star anise. These spices have long been used to treat health conditions and reduce inflammation.

Research indicates the spices in masala chai may help to protect DNA from harmful changes caused by free radicals. The spices including ginger work to decrease inflammation on a cellular level while antioxidants target free radicals and eliminate them (9). The spices and black tea leaves also offer pain relief as they decrease inflammation.

7. Turmeric Tea

Our Organic Ginger Turmeric Tea offers peppery and spiced flavors that are sure to satisfy your tastebuds.

Turmeric tea is made from the vibrant yellow root of the turmeric plant. The spice and essential oil are also commonly used thanks to their potent health benefits. Turmeric tea offers a flavor profile with hints of ginger and earthy notes. It’s often described as having notes of mustard and horseradish with bitter undertones.

Turmeric root is an essential ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine. The plant contains the active ingredient curcumin, which helps to fight chronic inflammation. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that curcumin inhibits molecules that play a part in the inflammation process. The research also referenced six human trials outlining the safety and efficacy of turmeric in treating inflammation (10).

8. Rosehip

The tart and sweet notes of our Organic Rosehip Tea are sure to have your tastebuds feeling giddy.

Rose hip tea is made from the berries of the rose plant. The berries emerge after the flowers have bloomed and are orange-red in color. The rose hips are packed with vitamin c that can help boost immunity and other compounds that decrease inflammation.

One meta-analysis of randomized trials involving close to 300 participants found that use of rose hips for three months resulted in a significant decrease in inflammation, pain intensity, and joint stiffness. The researchers attributed these inflammatory effects to galactolipids found in rose hips (11).

Versus Arthritis also found that rose hips block certain enzymes that breakdown cartilage and cause increased inflammation. The vitamin C in rose hip tea also contains antioxidants that prevent oxidative stress (12). In addition, the Arthritis Foundation cites research showing rose hips were more effective than a placebo in treating symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis including inflammation and joint stiffness (13).

You can brew rose hip tea using fresh blooms from the garden and steeping them in boiling water. Alternatively, you can find pre-packaged loose leaf tea options like the Organic Rosehip Tea in our shop as well as tea bags to take your inflammation-fighting tea on the road.

Decrease Inflammation With Tea

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic inflammation. Fortunately, drinking tea can help prevent serious side effects caused by chronic inflammation. These teas boast antiviral and antibacterial properties to help your body stay healthy and recover quickly after injuries. They also boast pain relief properties that can help soothe aches associated with inflammation.

If you’re worried about chronic inflammation, focus on living a healthy life. Try to eat a healthy diet with anti-inflammatory foods and drink these anti-inflammatory teas to stay hydrated and fight off inflammation. Make sure to get plenty of exercise and seek advice from a healthcare professional if you have chronic inflammation.

Settle back and pour yourself a cup of tea. Whether you choose light and airy herbal teas or a robust true tea, you can fight inflammation all while enjoying taste and relaxation. Tickle your taste buds and toast to your health with masala chai.

Sources:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3401676/

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16698148

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2855614/

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3214789/

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/

6. http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/health-benefits-of-ginger/

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15483420

8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19419525

9. https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2010-06/anti-inflammatory-and-chemopreventative-effects-chai-tea

10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12676044

11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22762068

13. https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/supplements-herbs/guide/rose-hips.php

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