When a plant shows a certain effect with regards to human health, the first thing western medicine does is isolate, synthesize and make a pharmaceutical out of the “active molecule” in the plant. The rest of the plant is normally not considered of any use because it is cheaper for research to study one single compound instead of the multiple complex interactions happening between the whole plant and the human body. Isolating and synthesizing one molecule in a plant (instead of the entire array of plant molecules that benefit us in the first place) allows drug companies to patent that molecule and call it their own. Making slight chemical modifications opens these companies to an array of further patenting potential (and thus, more money).
Little do people know is that the entire plant itself is much cheaper, and easier to gain access to. The whole plant is also much more beneficial to the human body, putting the isolated compounds synthesized by drug companies to shame.
I will, and always have believed that the whole plant itself is much better than pharmaceutical drugs. Consuming the entire plant allows your body to synthesize all that plant has to offer – the enzymes, minerals and vitamins, creating a whole body health benefit. Synthesized plant compounds take on a form that is not as recognizable to the human body – the benefits are not whole, and have little to no effect on our health compared to if we actually ate from the source plant itself. The compounds in the whole plant work synergistically with the body – human beings and plants have evolved side-by-side for millions of years, and so it only makes sense that our bodies would have adapted to absorb these health-activating compounds from plants and dispose of the rest.
Here are 8 natural painkillers that can be found in your kitchen:
1. Ginger – Joint & Muscle Pain
Gingerols (active compounds in ginger) prevent the production of pain-triggering hormones. Add at least 1 tbsp. fresh, raw dried ginger (powder form), or 2-4 inches of fresh ginger into your meals daily (juicing ginger with other greens is a great way to reap these health benefits!)
2. Garlic – Painful Earaches
Ear infections are one of the most prevalent medical complains in North America. Placing two drops of warm garlic oil into you or your child’s achy ear daily for five days. This treatment clears up infections faster than prescription medications! Making your own garlic oil is simple. Crush 3-4 cloves of garlic and put into a shallow pot on the stove. Let the cloves simmer in 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (or hemp oil) for two minutes, strain, and refrigerate for two weeks. Alternatively, simply let the garlic cloves sit in the oil for 2-3 days in the fridge and strain out the cloves whenever you need to use the garlic oil.
3. Honey – Mouth Sores (i.e., canker sores or cold sores)
Unpasturized, raw honey works wonders for mouth sores. Dabbing a little bit of honey on your cold sore or canker sore four times daily helps them heal up to 43% faster than over-the-counter prescription creams. The enzymes in raw honey reduce inflammation and destroy bacteria and viruses. It also helps speed the healing of damaged tissues.
4. Horseradish – Sinus Problems
Many individuals suffer from congestion and facial pain. Horseradish naturally speeds up blood flow to the sinus cavities and helps heal sinus infections by opening up and draining the cavities. Horseradish works just as well, if not better than, decongestant sprays do, and without the addictive side effects of decongestants (these also leave you congested more than decongested in the long run – I remember using them as a teen and I was consistently congested). Take one teaspoon twice daily symptoms clear.
5. Turmeric – Chronic Pain & Inflammation
Turmeric is a wonder food. It contains a compound called curcumin which naturally shuts down cyclooxygenase 2, an enzyme that activates an array of pain-inducing hormones. It is three times more effective at easing pain and inflammation than aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen. It has also helped relieve chronic pain for over 50% of people suffering with arthritis and fibromyalgia. I would suggest juicing 3-4 inches of turmeric root, or consuming 1 tbsp. fresh, raw turmeric powder daily.
6. Cloves – Tooth Pain & Gum Inflammation
Chewing on clove buds is a great way to ease tooth pain and gum inflammation. They contain a compound called eugenol which is a natural anesthetic. You can also sprinkle some ground cloves (1 tsp. or so) on your food if you would rather not chew on the clove itself.
7. Peppermint – Painful Muscles
Peppermint is an excellent muscle relaxant. If you have any knots in your back, shoulder, or anywhere else in your body, sitting in a warm bath with 10 drops of peppermint oil will help relax your muscles. Peppermint oil naturally soothes the nerves in your body, and when combined with warmth, is up to 25% more effective at relieving muscle cramps than over-the-counter painkillers.
8. Grapes – Backaches (damaged back tissue)
The resveratrol in grapes helps relax tight blood vessels and improves blood flow in the intervertebral discs and thus eases back pain. Improving blood flow to the discs in the back in important because blood helps deliver healing nutrients and oxygen to the cells and nerves in our body. Eating 2-3 cups of grapes per day is an excellent way to help loosen and ease backaches.
(1) Altman, R., & Marcussen, K. (2001) Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 44, 2531-2538.
(2) Brooks, D. (1986) An onion in your ear. The Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 100, 1043-1046.
(3) Molan, P. (2001) The potential of honey to promote oral wellness. Gen Dent., 49, 584-589.
(4) Bladh, K., & Olsson, K. (2011) Introduction and use of horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) as food and medicine from antiquity to the present: emphasis on the nordic countries. Journal of herbs, spices and medicinal plants, 17, 197-213.
(5) Funk, J., Oyarzo, J., Frye, J., Chen, G., Lantz, C., Jolad, S., Solyom, A., & Timmermann, B. (2006) Turmeric extracts containing curcuminoids prevent experimental rheumatoid arthritis. Journal of Natural Products, 69, 351-355.
(6) Raghavenra, H., Diwakr, B., Lokesh, B., & Naidu, K. (2006) Eugenol – the active principal from cloves inhibits 5-lipoxygenase actiity and leukotriene-C4 in human PMNL cells. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids, 74, 23-27.
(7) Grigoleit, H., & Grigoleit, P. (2005) Pharmacology and preclinical pharmacokinetics of peppermint oil. Phytomedicine, 12, 612-616.
(8) Xin, L., Phillips, F., An, H., Ellman, M., Thonar, E., Wu, W., Park, D., & Im, H. (2008) The action of resveratrol, a phytoestrogen found in grapes, on the intervertebral disc. Spine.