Natural Remedies for Pain Relief and Headaches

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Natural remedies for pain relief- Looking for more natural ways to treat aches and pains? Here a list of ideas for whatever ails you!

When it comes to pain, I’m a “bite the bullet” sort of gal.

As long as it’s not a lead-based bullet, I suppose that’s a natural remedy for pain, right? Winking smile

Tylenol, aspirin, Motrin, Advil, and generic pain relief tablets certainly have a good thing going in the pharmaceutical market, don’t they?

From headaches to arthritis to sports injuries to chronic pain, people in our culture are often medicating for pain.

The very first line of defense against pain is completely countercultural: Instead of treating the symptom, seek the root cause of the problem.

If you get headaches, are they caused by stress, inconsistent sleep, sensitivities to fragrances or air pollution, a food sensitivity (additives like MSG and artificial colors and artificial sweeteners often cause headaches), or another condition that may have diet at its root?

Joint pain is often resolved when people cut grains, add healthy fats to their diet and consume bone broth regularly.

I can’t go into every sort of pain here, but trust me – covering up the problem by masking the pain is like telling your child, “I don’t want to see that 65% on your spelling test. Let’s make some origami out of it, and then it will look pretty again, no problem.”

If your body is in pain, it might be telling you something. Try listening.

(For me, it’s usually, “You idiot, you just ran your hip into the counter because you’re multitasking and rushing around too much.” My body is kind of snarky and sarcastic. And you?) (top photo source)

Natural Home Remedies for Pain Relief

Natural Health Month at Kitchen Stewardship

This post is part of a series about Natural Health Month here at KS.

When you do need something to ease a pain so you can get through your day, there are natural solutions that don’t involve Big Pharma. Here are a few ideas:

  • ear oil for ear ache relief (homemade, mullein herb optional)
  • arnica for growing pains (homeopathic – note: don’t mix homeopathics and essential oils as they may counteract and nullify each other)
  • Redmond clay for bruises, cuts, road rash and tummy aches (use a clay “burrito” on a bruise and take internally for tummy trouble)redmond-clay
  • a half teaspoon of whiskey for a child over 6 to help them sleep, if growing pains or ear aches are keeping them awake
  • peppermint and lavender essential oils, rubbed on the feet or temples/neck/forehead, or breathed in, is supposed to help ease headaches (my husband hasn’t had any luck with that solution though)
  • rosemary, eucalyptus and frankincense are also recommended for headaches
    • My EO book, Modern Essentials, says: “Apply 2 drops each of peppermint, eucalyptus, and frankincense to neck, temples, and forehead.”
    • For migraines, basil essential oil is also mentioned
  • for carpal tunnel and other joint pain, try wintergreen and lemongrass, also cypress

Natural medicine isn’t like modern medicine, in that it’s never “one size fits all.”

First, there isn’t one remedy for “pain.”

With OTC meds, it’s easy. Have pain, take pill. It doesn’t really matter where the pain is or what’s causing it.

With essential oils and homeopathics, you need to know a little more about why  you’re in pain and where the pain is located, and then you can find your solution more easily.

Secondly, what works for one person might not work for the next. That’s why there are so many options to try. It can be annoying to pin down what works for you, but I think (I hope!) it’s worth it.

And finally, I have to come back to root cause. So much pain is caused by poor dietary choices in general or food sensitivities that people just don’t know about or understand. Sometimes an elimination diet may be the best way to get to the bottom of your issues. (Here are some tips on starting one, especially if you have kids.)

Now for the truly helpful part of the post, because my readers are almost always smarter and more experienced than I am. I’m so happy to share the floor today –

What natural home remedies do you rely on for pain relief?

Update: Ideas from Readers

I just have to add some of the ideas from comments and emails here so they’re more easily accessible, but you should still read the comments – some amazing stories there! Remember that this is just advice like you’d get at a church group or grocery story, written as people use things, not as a medical doctor or naturopath would prescribe:

  • Heat, of course, a hot water bottle or rice pillow heated in the microwave (can’t believe I forgot that one; I guess because it’s an old familiar and my brain was on new things we’ve tried)
  • And cold: ice dipping or just an ice pack/bag of frozen vegs.
  • A big glass of water and a nap.
  • “For bone pain like that, I found soaking in a magnesium bath is tremendously helpful.” You must read the rest of Peggy’s debilitating pain and transformation via food HERE!
  • Magnesium for headaches and growing pains plus “For quick relief from a head ache massage the pressure point in the web next to your thumb, you will know it when you find it, it kills.”
  • LOTS of people recommend magnesium
  • “For headaches I have Feverfew; one leaf eaten daily; Dandelions will help to ‘stabilize’ or ‘neutralize’ your body and bring it back to ‘normal’.” (This reader had a lot of experience with herbs and recommended searching for more on them…)
  • “Aye Nasal Rinse (like Nettie pot effect) to relieve sinus pressure.” Also hot shower, warm cloth on face, facial massage.
  • “Now, I rarely get bad sinus pressure or heachaches anymore. I still eat a strict low grain, traditional diet and take the Redmond clay, Nettle and Grapefruit Seed extract daily.” (more on what she tried here)
  • “Turmeric (I make capsules with bulk turmeric powder) works great for aches and pains I get from running too much.”
  • “Another cause for headaches can be a misalignment somewhere – either in the cervical or in the cranial sacral area. Finding a really good chiropractor who specializes in those areas will go a long way in correcting headaches. Another source for headaches could also be hormonal imbalances – doing a good cleanse and supporting the reproductive system as well as the glands/organs in the endocrine system with herbs and essential oils can make a huge difference.”
  • Essential oils people like: peppermint, Deep Blue by doTERRA,
  • Great advice that Sarah used to treat pain after a car accident.
  • Arnica spray for sunburn pain.
  • Headaches from Lyme Disease (which is way more common than you’d think!) and the book “Heal Your Headache” recommended here.
  • A must-read story of modern medicine piling up and making a mess for someone who was simply vitamin deficient here.
  • using turmeric for cramps, backaches, and headaches.
  • Chili powder, “Also, a homeopathic trick that is great for colds, viruses, upper respiratory illness, etc. is the wet sock treatment
  • Milk thistle, sleep, Frankincense EO.
  • Root cause of headaches was a bad tooth and then needing glasses; story here.

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48 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. linda in WI says

    A drop or two of Peppermint essential oil (but only therapeutic grade) on my temples always stops my migraines in their tracks.

  2. says

    Aye Nasal Rinse (like Nettie pot effect) to relieve sinus pressure. Also a hot shower or as hot as I can stand, a warm cloth over my face, placed over sinus cavities and nasal passage area for a few minutes to help break up sinus congestion. Massaging sinus cavities following helps move congestion too. And drinking a lot of water or hot tea with honey helps too. Helps relieve pain associated with sinus congestion. Doc told me that it is safe to do nasal rinses up to 4 times a day during times of sinus issues going on. Once a day is usually enough to keep things clear on a regular basis.

  3. Julie says

    Memories from childhood

    Me: My [inseet body part] hurts

    Mom: That means you [body part] is tired. Go to bed.

    Most of the time, the pain was NOT worth a nap, and just kept it to myself. Probably why I tend to just “grin and bear it” nowadays. (Although naps sound might nice).

  4. says

    I’ve had seasons in my life where I suffered from migraines on a very regular basis. And then I learned that a lack of magnesium can lead to frequent headaches. Now I take a cal-mag supplement for a little insurance. If I miss it for too many days, the headaches return.

  5. Samantha says

    I went through two stages a few years back, when I was getting a lot of pain. First was pain on right side of my face; radiating, nerve pain was the best way to describe it. Doctor said it was sinus pain; take pain relief and nasal sprays. Emergency doctor said it was nerve pain and maybe MS; gave me an injection and strong pain relief. Dentist took an x-ray and found an infected, rotting tooth, removed it – pain gone!
    Second stage; I was having huge migraines that would start early afternoon and I would just make it home, from work, in time to throw up. I would then spend the rest of the evening in bed, after taking panadeine (paracetemol and codeine) to get any relief. Again, I got sick of just treating the symptoms, so I started looking for answers. Turns out that I needed glasses; no more migraines since! :)
    So important to keep searching for answers and not settle for just pill-popping!

  6. says

    I’m usually a lurker but I really want to follow this discussion as I get frequent headaches and just now realized that my painkillers are full of red dye! I’m sure that just makes the headaches worse. Thanks for this post. I need to buy some essential oils.

    • Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship says

      My aunt has the same problem, dumb painkillers. I hope you find something that works!! :) Katie

  7. says

    ARNICA!!! My new love! As a cancer survivor, my liver gives me fits if I don’t watch my symptoms closely. My head is an indicator of my liver. So milk thistle, both in tea and caplets are a big must. My chiropractor and sleep help so much too. Frankincense is the first essential oil I’ve added to the mix and it did wonders for my bestie with inflammatory breast cancer . Great topic. I love reading the responses here!

  8. Sarah B says

    I find that chili powder helps my severe tension headaches when nothing else will. I usually eat it in a cooked dish (not just a plain old spoonful) but I eat a good amount and it starts working almost immediately. I’m guessing it’s the anti-inflammatory properties of the capsaicin that helps?

    Also, a homeopathic trick that is great for colds, viruses, upper respiratory illness, etc. is the wet sock treatment:

  9. says

    I think what you said about finding the root cause is most important. I’ve had success with using turmeric for cramps, backaches, and headaches.

  10. says

    I’ve been diagnosed with “Fibromyalgia”. And “PCOS”. So I was prescribed Metformin a diabetic med because it “helps people with PCOS lose weight. Then the PCOS “became” “prediabetes” – meds increased. Prediabetes “became” “diabetes”. Want me to take a statin (which is for high cholesterol -MINE is EXCELLENT – statins are SO not happening!) THEN, my “blood count was low”, so they want me to take iron “and if it causes problems”, stool softener or laxative. Ok, I was pregnant 8-10 times (3 kids to show for it. sigh) and I was NEVER anemic because I cook in cast iron cookware. I’m almost 60, so there’s NO bleeding to cause a low count. At this point I’m balking BIG TIME.

    I happened to see a video made by a licensed, practicing ER doc about what happens once they get you on meds – how all of a sudden you’re being given more and more meds because those meds suck up or block Magnesium!!!

    So I quit all my meds but the thyroid medicine (I went in with a high t-3 count). And started taking a Calcium/magnesium/D3/K formula. I had my blood sugar CRASH – which hadn’t happened in years. (which means I AM putting out usable insulin). AND the edema and redness over my ankles (which I’ve had for about 13 years) had gone. And I wasn’t feeling tired, nor was I having bad leg and stomach cramps. AND the “fibro” disappeared. UNTIL I ran out of the supplement this past Sat and haven’t had any this week. Guess what? The edema is coming back and I’m in PAIN from “fibro”! And my tail-feathers are a dragging (which is why I hadn’t gotten to the store to get more magnesium). (Oh, I have sleep issues, too. NP wanted to give me sleeping meds. NO). And the sleep issues disappeared as well – and are now back.

    Guess who’s butt is going to the Health Food store in the a.m. and getting back on the magnesium?!

    Here is the two videos I watched:

      • Darlene says

        Nature’s Plus
        The energy supplements
        High Potency chewable
        CAL/MAG/VIT D3
        1200 mg/600 mg/1000 IU
        with 100 mcg Vitamin K2
        Dietary supplement
        60 Vanilla Flavored
        cost was $14.90 in North GA, USA
        BY Natural Organics Laboratory, Inc.
        Amityville, NY

        This is the best I could find. There are even better sources of Cal/mag that are supposed to exist, but I couldn’t/can’t find any.

  11. says

    Magnesium is fantastic, take 3 instead of a painkiller of a headache. Works 80% of the time on my 8yr with growing pains too, she only has 1. Most of my constant pain went when I removed all the gluten and milk from my diet.

    For quick relief from a head ache massage the pressure point in the web next to your thumb, you will know it when you find it, it kills.

  12. Sarah says

    My husband used to get terrible migraines which wou ld send him to bed for 24 hours. It turns out that his Lyme disease has caused him to be sensitive to a range of migraine triggering foods. The book, Heal Your Headache, was an absolute lifesaver for him. There is a huge list of foods he avoids (chocolate, citrus, yogurt, avocado, aged cheeses, etc) but it works. You can also Google migraine food triggers to find a list.

    Who would think a simple avocado could cause so much pain? Sheesh!

  13. Sarah says

    When we had the stomach bug a few weeks ago, a hot pack on the stomach (flannel pillow filled with rice and microwaved until warm and toasty) on the stomach helped with cramps. My book, Naturally Healthy Babies and Children, says that warmth is good for upset stomachs.

  14. says

    Luckily i don’t tend to suffer too much from headaches and general aches and pains, but being fair skinned i do occasionally suffer from sunburn and have found Arnica spray works great and almost instantly relieves the pain.

  15. Kathleen K says

    I’ve found dehydration can cause headaches, so my first remedy is a glass of water.

    If that doesn’t work, a nap usually does!

    Arnica is my favorite for sore muscles and overexertion.

  16. Pak says

    I would love to know what people have found that works (besides meds) for barometric pressure headaches! When the barometric pressure rises or falls rapidly – I get head pain and nausea. I have tried peppermint, and feverfew with no luck. Sometimes (if life cooperates) I will drink two cups of strong black coffee and lie down until it goes away. But I usually have to resort to taking Exederin, just to get through my day. I hate taking it because it makes my stomach upset!

    • says

      Interesting. What exactly is in the Deep Blue blend? Do you what what oils are used for it? This is a first for me, but I’m just starting to familiarize myself with doTerra’s products.

  17. Kimberly says

    I put Peppermint oil directly where I have a headache or neck ache, and many times I have instant relief. My kids get headaches if they haven’t had enough water, so I keep a small jar with coconut oil and peppermint oil for them to apply to their heads, since peppermint is too hot for them to apply directly. Works!

  18. says

    I have had osteoarthritis since my early 20’s. All the doctor could do is write prescriptions for opioids, NSAIDS and steroid injections.

    For bone pain like that, I found soaking in a magnesium bath is tremendously helpful. Most of the time, that in itself is enough to alleviate enough pain that I can get by. Probably the largest improvement I had was when I quit eating sugar, HFCS and limited my grains to those which had been sprouted or soaked and added raw milk and fermented food into my diet.

    Almost two years ago now, Kim Hartke interviewed me and made a YouTube video because she was so impressed with my story of healing. Really, diet took me 99% of the way from crippled to functional.

  19. Brittany Ardito says

    I have dealt with terrible allergies (year round) and sinus pressure for the past few years now. So I stopped eating grains and started eating a traditional diet including bone broths, raw milk (when it is available), raw butter, coconut oil, and Redmond clay taken internally daily. The sinus pressure was still bad. So I found Young Living Peppermint Essential Oil. I used that and eucalyptus right when I would feel a sinus headache coming on. I tried putting it on my head and taking the peppermint oil internally, but no relief. I would have to resort to ibuprofen :-( After 3 years of experimenting with supplements and other holistic approaches for my sinus pressure, I finally came accross nettle & grapefruit seed extract. Now, I rarely get bad sinus pressure or heachaches anymore. I still eat a strict low grain, traditional diet and take the Redmond clay, Nettle and Grapefruit Seed extract daily. So the Nettle and Greapfruit Seed extract must have done the trick. I do still occasionally get a bad sinus headache though and about once every month or two, I have to break down and take ibuprofen. I also have tried tumeric (powder is all I can find) for those sinus headaches and well as menstrual cramps, but it does not help. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

    • stella says

      For menstral cramps try crashing garlic and pour hot water into it. Cover for a few minutes and take the contents. Garlic is a blood thinner. Cramps come sometimes because of clotted blood.
      Do the above about two days before your period, you won’t experience pain, but if U can’t tell, even within the period U will get relief
      God bless

  20. Cathy says

    Turmeric (I make capsules with bulk turmeric powder) works great for aches and pains I get from running too much.

  21. shonda says

    Homeopathy is a sweet and gentle answer to all kinds of pain relief and other health concerns as well. Look for a book by Dana Ullman or another good classic homeopath. It has helped us with everything from warts to fevers to headaches and so much more. I truly think it is a miracle:)

  22. says

    Great suggestions! Another cause for headaches can be a misalignment somewhere – either in the cervical or in the cranial sacral area. Finding a really good chiropractor who specializes in those areas will go a long way in correcting headaches.

    Another source for headaches could also be hormonal imbalances – doing a good cleanse and supporting the reproductive system as well as the glands/organs in the endocrine system with herbs and essential oils can make a huge difference.

    There are other causes as well, but these 2 I think people often overlook, but easy to take care of. Thanks for posting!

  23. Rebecca says

    Past Tense by DoTerra for headaches. My husband uses Deep Blue by DoTerra for muscle aches.
    Stretching exercises, like yoga and pilates, regularily helps me with many of my aches and pains, especially when pregnant.

  24. Heather says

    Vick’s Vapor Rub on Chest and back of Neck works great of a Headache but also helps ease a Migraine…(Migraine Suffer myself) and Bi Monthly visits to the Chiropractor for Electro Shock Therapy <my term and alignment. My Migraines usually center around the Weather. A lot of people do not realize the pressure in the air can be a trigger also. I'm my own Barometer.

  25. Heather says

    I love that Arnica and Frankincense was mentioned! BUT, it matters what kind of frankincense, according to my botanist extraordinaire friend that owns and operates one of the largest retail herbal shops online (KT)

    Frankincense…aka Boswellia Serrata. It, along with Turmeric, ranks among the most powerful anti-inflammatories in the world, natural or otherwise.

    Myrrh —- this stuff is awesome for respiratory infections. It’s also a great pain reliever, interacting with delta receptors. Makes sense why the soldiers offered Jesus myrrh mixed with wine after his beatings before his crucifixion, right?

    Kratom aka Mitragyna Speciosa, a very interesting tree hailing from Asia and quite a few Pacific islands (borneo, sumatra). It interacts with delta and mu receptors and works by raising your pain threshold. 500mg-1g is sufficient to rid yourself of severe menstrual cramps, migraines, back-pain, etc. It’s an amazing botanical that’s incredibly safe, as it does nothing to your liver, kidneys or any other organ. If feverfew doesn’t work for headaches, try this. Curiously, there’s several different varieties; the red and white vein leaves are stimulating, while the green vein leaves are sedating.

    Cramp bark aka Viburnum opulus, is used for…cramps! Muscle cramps, menstrual cramps…any kind. It’s awesome.

    For TMJ or related jaw pain, I use a tincture of Pedicularis Densiflora. It knocks out any kind of muscle related pain in under a minute. It’s really incredible.

    Qi Ye Lian, aka Schefflera arboricola, is another combo pain-killer and muscle-relaxer that I find useful when I’m stressed out, tense and in pain; it lasts for 6hrs on average and the pain never comes back for me. Plum Flower brand makes the best product, imo.

    Kava Kava aka Piper methysticum, another tree from the islands, is immensely popular in Hawaii as a mild intoxicant and amazing pain reliever. It specifically kills nerve pain and relaxes the smooth muscles (so it’d be good for IBS). 1-2g is usually sufficient.

    ALLERGIES!! OMG there’s only one thing you need for allergies, and it’s not claritin. It’s Stinging Nettle aka Urtica dioica. Yes, you heard me right. It’s one of the best anti-histamines that’s totally natural. It works for indoor, outdoor and animal-related allergies. You stuff the powdered leaf into capsules and swallow. It’s cheap too.

    Oregano Oil…okay so it’s not a painkiller, but it’s the most potent anti-biotic in the world. Better than z-pacs or any of the other crap your doctor gives you. This stuff kills any infection. The good stuff is expensive…$20/oz, but it’ll last you well over a year and it pays for itself if you count all the money you save by not going to the dr for every bad case of the flu.

    There’s no reason for anyone to be going to GNC to pay an arm or a leg or 40 dollars a bottle for any of this stuff. Go online… KT or somewhere else, and buy it inexpensively. The bigger the shop, the fresher the herbs, and fresh equals potent.

    • Darlene says

      Do you have a Web address? Tried looking up “KT” and couldn’t find anything but an old, closed, FB page.

  26. says

    For menstrual cramps, I find that lying down (or at least leaning back in a chair) and elevating my feet is very effective. It works even better when applying heat simultaneously.

    If you work at a desk and tend to get head, neck, or back pain while working or a headache that strikes within an hour after you STOP working, try sitting on an exercise ball at your desk. This can help cramps, too.

    I’m another believer in magnesium for migraines! I do want to mention, though, that high doses can cause diarrhea; an effective treatment for that is to take an iron supplement when/if you have troubles, as most iron supplements are constipating. Magnesium is, I’m pretty sure, the explanation for why I crave ramen noodles when I have a headache–the typical mass-market ones are high in magnesium, though of course they also contain MSG and bad fats and a whopping amount of sodium, so in general it’s better to take the magnesium and eat a different steamy food.

  27. Heather says

    I recently started getting really bad headaches, to the point of feeling nausea. I finally realized that when I would have several days in a row of HEAVY caffeine consumption, followed by a day without any caffeine, it was on that day without caffeine that I would start to get a migraine. Drinking more caffeine would cure the migraine. I have now, slowly started to try to wean myself off of caffeine

    • Pam says

      I too get horrid migraines without caffeine! But I soooo enjoy coffee and don’t trust the decaf stuff because it tastes nasty. Plus caffeine is a necessity when working full time night shifts and for trying to function during “normal hours” otherwise. I don’t do soda, but will sometimes drink unsweetened iced tea in the summer to get my daily fix.

      My other headache triggers are vinegar and lavender. A quick whiff is fine, but more than a few minutes will start a headache. The smell of hard boiled eggs quickly stimulates my gag reflex and can start a headache, scrambled eggs or otherwise cooked don’t bother me at all.

  28. says

    Great article!! For my back pain only this method works-
    Add 9 to 10 basil leaves to one cup of water, boil it until the water evaporates to half.
    Let it cool and then add a pinch of salt.
    For mild pain, drink this once daily
    for severe pain, drink it twice daily.

  29. Tina says

    When we were young mum always used to boil ginger for any abdominal complaints, but as we grew up that concept was lost by using modern day medicines. But we are finally coming to to terms with going back to using herbs again. Recently I discovered a powerful natural pain killer patch that works wonderfully to reduce inflammation by infusing nutrients into the area of pain.

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