Natural Painkillers: 10 Alternatives to Ibuprofen and Other Drugs

Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are effective pain relievers, but long-term use can cause serious side effects, including depression and a weakened immune system. To make matters worse, some prescription painkillers may lead to drug abuse.

If you want to avoid the adverse effects associated with OTC and prescription pain relievers, you can always turn to nature for relief.

Best Natural Remedies for Pain

People have been using herbs, essential oils, and alternative therapies as natural pain relievers for centuries. Even though researchers have not fully explored the many options nature has to offer, some evidence suggests that the remedies below can help, and that many people from all over the world find them useful.

1. Lavender Essential Oil

A 2012 study found that inhaling lavender oil may help relieve pain associated with migraine headaches. Some research also alluded that lavender oil has pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects in animals. However, never ingest essential oils, as they can be toxic. If applying lavender oil (or any essential oil) topically, always dilute it in a carrier oil such as olive oil. Use around three to five drops of essential oil for each ounce of carrier oil.

It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate essential oil dosages and ingredients, so use them with caution. Always consult a doctor before using essential oils as a natural pain reliever.

2. Rosemary Essential Oil

Some researchers suggest that the rosemary plant may help treat headaches, muscle and bone pains, as well as seizures. Rosemary may also play a role in reducing inflammation, boosting memory and cognitive functions, and relaxing smooth muscles.

The researchers found that the herb acts on receptors in the brain called opioid receptors, which are associated with the sensation of pain. A clinical trial showed that rosemary oil reduced pain in people experiencing opioid withdrawal.

3. Peppermint Essential Oil

Some scientists suggest that the peppermint plant has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effects. Menthol, carvacrol, and limonene are among the active compounds found in this “miracle oil.”

People use diluted peppermint essential oil as a topical treatment on areas that feel painful. One 2015 review reported that older men and women used peppermint to alleviate painful spasms and problems linked with arthritis The researchers also noted that applying peppermint oil on the temples and forehead may help soothe headaches.

Do not use peppermint oil on broken skin or around children and animals. The fragrant oil can also cause allergic reactions, so complete a spot test before introducing peppermint oil on a painful area.

4. Eucalyptus Essential Oil

The last essential oil on this list of natural remedies for pain is eucalyptus oil, which may help address pain and inflammation in the body.

A 2013 study discovered that inhaling eucalyptus oil helped relieve pain. The participants, all of whom were recovering from knee replacement surgery, inhaled eucalyptus oil for 30 minutes a day for a total of three days.

Keep in mind, however, that eucalyptus essential oil is toxic if swallowed. Furthermore, similar to most essential oils, do not use eucalyptus oil around children or animals.

5. Ginger

A 2015 systematic review revealed that ingesting two grams of ginger per day helped reduce muscle pain from running and resistance exercise. Researchers also suggest that ginger may accelerate recovery and minimize inflammation related to exercise.

One of the best ways to reap the pain-relieving benefits of ginger is by adding it to smoothies or teas. People can also take ginger supplements, although the natural, fresh ingredient may be more powerful and effective.

Always consult a doctor before taking any new supplements, as they may cause side effects.

6. Turmeric

Research suggests that curcuma, the active ingredient in turmeric, has pain-relieving properties. A small-scale study from 2014 found that curcuma extract is equally as effective as ibuprofen for managing the pain associated with knee osteoarthritis. Turmeric is also a common herbal remedy for inflammation.

Similar to ginger, adding turmeric to smoothies and teas is an excellent way to incorporate the spice to one’s diet.

7. Feverfew

Feverfew, also referred to as featherfew or bachelor’s buttons, is a medicinal plant from Europe, Australia, China, Japan, and North Africa. Traditional uses of feverfew include treating fevers, migraines, toothaches, stomach aches, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Feverfew contains compounds that may help reduce or eliminate inflammation and muscle spasms. Researchers believe that the beneficial sesquiterpene lactones and flavonoids are the key active compounds in this medicinal plant.

Feverfew can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and increased risk of bleeding. Therefore, it is crucial to speak with a doctor before trying it.

8. Acupuncture

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) states that acupuncture helps relieve certain types of pain, including:

  • Neck pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Knee pain or osteoarthritis

The traditional Chinese practice may also reduce how frequently people get tension headaches and migraines.

Furthermore, a 2018 meta-analysis found that acupuncture is an effective way to ease chronic pain. The researchers concluded that acupuncture can help reduce headaches, musculoskeletal pain, and aches associated with osteoarthritis.

9. Yoga

Yoga is a mind and body practice that may offer a natural, medication-free way to manage pain. For instance, managing back pain often includes physical therapy and stretching. Yoga provides this. The practice combines physical postures with breathing exercises and relaxation methods as well, so practicing it may relieve pain related to stress and anxiety.

In addition, the NCCIH stated that yoga may help soothe neck pain and low back pain. There is, however, not enough evidence supporting that it can alleviate pain from other conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia.

10. Mindfulness Meditation

More and more people experiencing chronic pain are turning to mindfulness meditation as a natural remedy. Additional research is necessary, but initial studies are promising. For example, a 2017 systematic review analyzed 38 studies and concluded that mindfulness meditation can improve pain, depression, and overall quality of life.


Prescribed pain medication is a relatively safe and effective way to manage pain as long as the patient takes them responsibly and with guidance from a doctor. Natural pain relievers, however, offer an alternative for men and women who want to avoid the long-term side effects of certain conventional medicine.

If you are in need of effective pain management solutions for cancer or any health problem, the first step is to discuss your options with a medical professional who’s open-minded about the efficacy of both conventional and alternative medicine. Together, you can develop a treatment plan that not only works, but also minimizes the risk of long-term side effects.

For cancer patients seeking alternative treatments for chronic pain, call New Hope Unlimited at 480-757-6573 today to schedule a consultation. Our cancer care team believes that you should never accept pain as a normal part of having cancer.

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