We all suffer from painful ailments from time to time, from digestive upset to sporting injuries to headaches, but you don’t have to suffer as there are medications available for pain relief. However, many people would prefer a natural remedy to medication. The good news is, there are many healthy foods which sit at home in your kitchen cupboards that can help to alleviate painful symptoms without the need for drugs. Below is a list of 8 health foods you can try to help soothe pain and allow you to go on with your day...
It has been used to help with stomach upset for years and rightly so! Many people report this spice to be effective against morning sickness (and general nausea), migraines, the flu and menstrual cramps. Ginger is also a natural remedy for heartburn and is currently being researched as an effective treatment for ovarian and colon cancer. There are also studies which suggest that ginger is useful in ameliorating joint pain and soothing sore muscles.
Muscle and Joint pain: Gingerols and zingibain found in ginger have anti-inflammatory properties. Gingerol is a compound which prevents the production of pain-triggering hormones. Zingibain is an enzyme which breaks down proteins and suppresses inflammation by inhibiting prostaglandins which cause swelling. There are also studies to suggest that topical applications of ginger to the skin can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the underlying tissues.
Ginger may be an effective pain management alternative for those who cannot tolerate or prefer not to use medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Try adding 1 teaspoon of dried ginger or two teaspoons of chopped ginger to one meal daily. In order to help alleviate muscle soreness after a workout, it is best included in your post-workout meal.
Cloves are aromatic dried flower buds from an evergreen tree which are most commonly used as a spice in foods, but their antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make them great for pain relief too. Sprinkling a ¼ teaspoon into a meal can help improve cardiovascular health and stabilise blood sugar but cloves are most known for their ability to ease tooth pain. Cloves contain eugenol, which is a natural anaesthetic. Chewing on a clove is an effective pain relief for alleviating tooth pain and reducing gum inflammation.
Apple cider vinegar is a popular health food associated with many benefits including weight loss, detoxification, improved skin, hair and teeth health, increased energy levels and improved digestion. It is also an effective remedy for muscle cramps due to its rich mineral content. Taking one tablespoon with a glass of water helps to reduce the frequency and intensity of painful muscle spasms.
Mixing one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a glass of water before each meal can also help to prevent painful bouts of heartburn. This is because the vinegar is rich in malic and tartaric acids which are powerful digestive aids which help to speed up the breakdown of macronutrients, allowing your stomach to empty at a faster rate and avoid triggering heartburn pain.
The compounds which give cherries their vibrant red/purple colour are called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are also anti-inflammatories which are stronger than ibuprofen when it comes to pain relief, with the added bonus of causing no stomach upset in quantities which are not excessive. Anthocyanins help to shut down the enzymes which kick-start tissue inflammation so they can be utilised to prevent and soothe many different kinds of pain, including headaches and joint pain.
Science is yet to prove (beyond dispute) that any spice can cure disease. However, it has supplied compelling evidence that several spices may help manage chronic conditions, fight infections and improve digestion when consumed in moderation. Turmeric can help alleviate sinus headaches by helping to decrease sinus congestion. Studies show that turmeric is more effective at relieving pain than aspirin or ibuprofen.
Turmeric also contains anti-inflammatory compounds known as curcumoids which can help slow down the degenerative process relating to alzheimers, reduce arthritic pain and when used appropriately, help to heal certain skin infections.
A few slices of fresh pineapple daily can help reduce bloating and soothe the pain it creates. Pineapple is naturally packed with enzymes which aid digestion, helping to speed up the breakdown of macronutrients in the stomach and small intestine, helping to avoid lethargy and painful bloating.
Peppermint is an effective natural remedy to help relieve sore muscles. The best way to utilise the effects is by adding a few drops of peppermint oil to a warm bath. This helps you to physically relax while the peppermint gets to work soothing your neuromuscular system. This eases muscle cramp, relieves muscle pain and helps to reduce the frequency of muscle spasms and knots in the immediate future.
Grapes may be helpful in speeding up recovery from injury and soothing back pain. A generous serving of grapes can help to relax tight blood vessels significantly improving blood flow to damaged tissues. The vertebrae and shock absorbing discs in your back are completely dependent on blood flow to help deliver healing nutrients and oxygen. Often when your back is damaged, inflexible or the surrounding muscles are in spasm, blood flow is restricted which can cause long and excruciating bouts of pain. Grapes help to improve blood flow and get you on the road to a speedy and pain-free recovery.
And obviously don’t forget...
Yes it seems like the obvious choice, but the majority of people who suffer from headaches are dehydrated. There are too many people who drink barely any or no water at all, choosing instead to opt for drinks high in sugar, caffeine or both. Water is essential for all of the chemical functions in the body and we need it in order to function optimally and survive. Buy yourself a large bottle of water and once you have finished, top it up every day. If you drink the entire bottle each day you will be on the right track and because you will have it with you 24/7 there will be no need to go thirsty!
And it isn’t just headache pain that water can help with. Water helps to dilute and rid the body of histamine, a pain-triggering compound produced by damaged tissues. Water is also a key building block of cartilage. Damaged cartilage is one of the most common reasons to suffer from joint pain, so well-hydrated joints are a must to help avoid hard tissue pain.
If pain strikes ensure that you enjoy a refreshing glass of water with whatever herbal remedy or medication you decide to take.
Duke JA, The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook" 2000.
Funk JL et al., Comparative Effects of Two Gingerol-Containing Zinziber Extracts on Rheumatoid Arthritis, Journal of Natural Products, 2009.