Updated: Mar 18, 2020
Over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are effective pain relievers, but long-term use can cause side effects. Prescription medications may be addictive and have even more adverse effects. What are the best natural ways to relieve pain?
People have used essential oils, herbs, and alternative therapies as natural pain relievers for hundreds of years.
Researchers have not fully explored these options, but some evidence suggests that certain remedies can help, and that many people find them useful.
1. Lavender essential oil
Inhaling lavender essential oil may help relieve pain and anxiety.
Lavender essential oil may help relieve pain naturally. People use lavender oil for pain relief, to help sleep, and to ease anxiety.
A small-scale 2012 study found that inhaling lavender oil may relieve pain associated with migraine headaches compared with a placebo.
Some research also suggests that lavender oil has pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects in animals.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not currently regulate essential oil ingredients and dosages, so use them with caution. Always talk to a doctor before using any new essential oils.
Do not ingest essential oils, as they can be toxic. If applying an oil topically, always dilute it in a carrier oil. Learn more about carrier oils here.
People can choose from a range of lavender essential oils online.
2. Rosemary essential oil
Rosemary is another essential oil that may relieve pain.
Some researchers state that the rosemary plant, Rosmarinus officinalis L., may help treat headache, muscle and bone pain, and seizures. Rosemary may also reduce inflammation, relax smooth muscles, and boost memory.
Dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as olive oil. Use three to five drops of essential oil for each ounce of carrier oil.
The researchers suggest that the herb acts on receptors in the brain called opioid receptors, which are involved with the sensation of pain. A 2013 clinical trial found that rosemary oil reduced pain in people experiencing opium withdrawal.
People can choose from a range of rosemary essential oils online.
3. Peppermint essential oil
Peppermint oil comes from the Mentha piperita L. plant.
Some research suggests that the peppermint plant has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and pain-relieving effects. The active compounds in peppermint oil include carvacrol, menthol, and limonene.
People often use diluted peppermint essential oil as a topical treatment, meaning that they rub diluted oil into the area that feels achy or painful.
One 2015 review notes that people have traditionally used peppermint to relieve painful spasms and problems associated with arthritis.
The researchers also report that applying peppermint oil to the temples and forehead may relieve tension headache pain.
Avoid putting peppermint oil on broken skin. It can cause allergic reactions, so do a spot test before using peppermint oil on a painful area. Do not use peppermint oil around children.
People can choose from a range of peppermint oils online.