The next time you’re suffering from an ache or pain of any kind, reconsider popping those pills from your medicine cabinet. Instead, head for your pantry, where you’ll find many natural painkillers hanging around, ready to work their magic.
Natural painkillers like the ones listed below have been backed by science and proven to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and prevent long-term damage and disease. Unlike prescription and over-the-counter medications, natural painkillers come with no dangerous side effects and are perfectly safe for all kinds of people—children, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and the immunocompromised.
The 15 foods listed below act as natural painkillers, and they also speed healing and prevent further infection. Give them a try the next time you’re in search of some relief.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is touted in the natural health and medicine community for its numerous benefits. Use it when you’re healthy for its preventative and protective properties to ward off disease and cancer; use it when you’re under the weather for its curative and medical benefits to relieve pain, clear a cold, and boost energy levels; and apply it externally for its curative and cosmetic powers to eliminate dandruff, acne, and fungal infections.
This natural painkiller really works because of its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. People with arthritis can experience relief by taking apple cider vinegar daily. It can also be used to treat a sore throat.
Externally, apple cider vinegar can be applied to the scalp and skin to treat dandruff, clean the hair from buildup, and clear up acne.
2. Cayenne Pepper
Hot peppers, like the ones cayenne pepper is made from, are incredibly powerful natural painkillers and medicines. It all has to do with a compound that they possess called capsaicin, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
In fact, there are many pain-relieving creams that contain capsaicin, used topically to treat arthritis and nerve pain. (1)(2)
In addition, capsaicin capsules have been proven to treat a variety of internal and external pain conditions, including pain experienced after chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery as well as chronic pain conditions such as cluster headaches. (3)(4)(5)
Take cayenne pepper capsules daily to treat chronic pain and to prevent all sorts of different aches or pains that may arise. Add a little spice to your life by using cayenne pepper in dishes that you cook at home for an extra health boost.
Bursting with antioxidants called anthocyanins, cherries are a good bet when reaching for natural painkillers in your kitchen.
In one study, people consumed Bing sweet cherries for 28 days straight and experienced a significant reduction in inflammation. After they discontinued eating the cherries, inflammatory markers continued to decrease. (6)
In fact, cherries are so full of anti-inflammatory and antioxidative benefits that they may be just as effective in reducing pain as over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). (7)
For oral pain, clove is your best bet when it comes to choosing a natural painkiller.
Clove is proven to fight oral bacteria and treat pain in the mouth and throat from toothaches, gingivitis, canker sores, throat infection, and more. It is widely recognized as a natural painkiller for oral pain—so much so that it is even used by dentists during dental work to control pain levels.
There’s a reason that caffeine appears as the main ingredient in many pain relievers. Often paired with aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen, caffeine is a known analgesic and natural painkiller that makes these medications more effective.
Caffeine is known to reduce pain associated with migraines and post-workout muscle aches.
The catch is that it doesn’t have the same effects on everybody, so while some people may experience relief using caffeine to ward off a migraine, others may find that it exacerbates the pain. The next time you feel a migraine coming on, reach for a cup of joe and see if that does the trick.
If you’re prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs), you may find solace in this natural painkiller, proven to reduce the incidence, severity, and duration of UTIs and bladder infections.
Cranberries contain a natural compound called proanthocyanidins, which prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall—particularly Escherichia coli, a common culprit in UTI incidents. (8)
Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in the reduction of inflammation throughout the body. Studies show that low levels of omega-3s are associated with high levels of inflammation, so it’s a good idea to add omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods to your diet.
These foods act as natural painkillers because when eaten regularly, they prevent chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disorders. (9)
The best sources of omega-3s are fatty fish, including mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies, lake trout, and albacore tuna.
Proven to be one of the most effective natural painkillers, garlic’s incredible health benefits stem from a natural compound that it contains called allicin. This compound is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, and antitumorigenic. (10)
Garlic seems to be able to treat just about everything, including ear infection, throat infection, sinus infection, common cold, flu, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, fungal infections, and much more.
You can get yourself garlic capsules to consume daily for better immune defense, but you can also just eat fresh crushed garlic for immediate pain relief. Just have a breath freshener handy if you intend to go the fresh garlic route.
For any digestive discomfort or pain, ginger is proven to be a safe and effective natural painkiller that relieves indigestion, nausea, gas, bloating, and general stomach pains. It’s perfect for pregnant women experiencing morning sickness as well as chemotherapy patients who have nausea from treatments. It can be found in a variety of forms, including tea, tablets, hard candy, gummies, crystals, or gum. (11)
Keep some ginger root in your fridge to use at any time if you or a family member experience stomach issues. Add a small piece of the ginger root to boiling water for instant relief.
Honey, especially raw manuka honey, has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it is a perfect natural painkiller for wounds, cuts, scrapes, and ulcers.
Not only does it soothe the skin, but it speeds healing and prevents infection. For a sore throat, add honey to a cup of hot tea to benefit from its antibiotic effects. Honey is also an expectorant, meaning that it helps to loosen phlegm and clear up a cough.
If you experience constipation, cramping, bloating, and gas, you can probably benefit from a few squeezes of lemon first thing in the morning.
Lemon can act as a natural painkiller for the digestive system because it increases digestive enzymes and gets things moving. Add two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice to a cup of water and drink it before you’ve had anything else to eat or drink. Wait half an hour until you consume anything else. Many people will see results immediately with this effective constipation remedy.
Pineapple is the only source of a powerful enzyme called bromelain, which is known for its anti-inflammatory, disease-fighting properties.
Bromelain is used to reduce inflammation, especially in the sinuses after surgery. It has many medicinal uses, including treating angina pectoris, bronchitis, sinusitis, surgical trauma, and wounds. It helps to relieve symptoms associated with arthritis and cardiovascular disorders as well.
Bromelain is most heavily concentrated in the stem of the pineapple—that hard part that we never eat. Instead of throwing it away, throw it into the blender with some other fruit and enjoy it as a smoothie.
This is one natural painkiller that every household has. Salt reduces inflammation because it draws water out of swollen areas. If you have swelling in the mouth or throat, you can easily make yourself a saltwater rinse to reduce discomfort.
Put one teaspoon of salt in an 8-oz cup of room temperature water and mix well. Sip, swish, gargle, and spit. Repeat until you finish all of the water.
You can also reduce swelling in the sinuses using a saline solution. One very effective way to do this is with a neti pot, which is available in most pharmacies.
Soybeans contain anti-inflammatory compounds called isoflavones that may play a major role in fighting disease and cancer.
Studies show that the isoflavones in soy reverse inflammation and oxidation that cause neuropathic pain as a result of nerve injury. (12)(13)
In addition, it has been shown to reduce pain associated with menstruation, arthritis, cancer, and more. (14)(15)
Perhaps one of the better known and more widely used natural painkillers, turmeric’s praise is well-deserved. This natural medicine is undeniably one of the most powerful and effective anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and disease-fighting foods out there.
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which actively seeks out toxins and free radicals in the body and works to repair damaged cells; it also prevents damage to healthy cells. (16)
Superfood turmeric is so powerful that it reduces inflammation and fights rheumatoid arthritis just as effectively as ibuprofen.
Long-term, turmeric can help to prevent chronic disease caused by inflammation, including asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and more.
The natural painkillers found in your kitchen can be used to treat a wide variety of medical issues. Whether it’s for immediate relief or preventative measures, start adding natural medicines like the ones listed above to your daily diet for a long, happy, healthy, and pain-free life.