9 Best Herbs for Pain Relief

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The use of herbs for pain relief has been a common practice for thousands of years, and there are many traditional analgesic remedies using a variety of herbs. While pain-relieving pharmaceuticals have grown hugely in popularity in recent years, there are many side effects to the use of those treatments, including chemical dependence on the analgesic drugs. For chronic pain, the use of narcotics or other painkillers is effective, but after only a few months, there can be symptoms of dependence, as well as the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Herbs for pain, on the other hand, may not be as immediately effective, but the analgesic effects of herbs have been widely studied and are backed up by centuries of anecdotal evidence. Many of the herbs listed below have powerful anti-inflammatory, anesthetic, relaxing, and analgesic properties, making them ideal for soothing pain, regardless of the source. That being said, the use of herbs does come with a number of potential side effects, based on your individual sensitivities and allergies. Caution is always recommended when using herbs for pain, particularly if you are pregnant, suffering from a chronic disease, or are already taking certain medications. [1]

Herbs for Pain Relief

The most popular herbs for pain are rosemary, St. John’s Wort, devil’s claw, ginger, turmeric, feverfew, oregano, kava kava, capsaicin, and valerian root, among others.


Known as one of the best anti-inflammatory substances for traditional medicine, ginger is a great way to relieve pain. Inflammation can often result in pain, as it causes tissues to swell, triggering the pain receptors. The use of ginger is recommended for arthritis symptoms, as well as upset stomachs, and even for chronic pain. Some of the best ways to use ginger is in the form of a tea, or in a topical poultice. However, ginger supplements are also widely available. [2]

Kava Kava

Kava kava is high in certain antioxidants and active ingredients, such as kavalactone, which can function as a pain reliever in the body. It is typically used to reduce inflammation in key organ systems, but a natural side effect of this is an analgesic property. Kava kava is derived from the kava root and is most commonly consumed in the form of a powder. The powder is mixed with milk or in other fruit smoothies, as the taste alone can be quite unpleasant. [3]

Different kinds of herbs and spices

Herbs and spices can make any dish taste delicious. Photo Credit: Shutterstock


With one of the densest antioxidant profiles of any herb, oregano has been trusted to soothe inflammation and pain for centuries. From headaches and fresh wounds to arthritis and chronic pain, oregano’s stimulant properties can boost circulation to speed healing. These properties also help in suppressing inflammation and pain receptors, thus functioning as a great internal and topical analgesic. Oregano can be consumed in a variety of dishes in culinary applications, but the oil of oregano is far more popular and much more concentrated if you are seeking rapid pain relief. [4]

St. John’s Wort

While St. John’s Wort is often associated with depression and mood, it can also help to reduce pain throughout the body. It is well-known for soothing inflammation, which is often a precursor to pain, and the oil derived from this herb can be used as a topical treatment for injuries and wounds. This has a soothing and numbing effect, making St. John’s Wort one of the most widely available, and most effective, herbs for pain. You can purchase capsules of St. John’s Wort in health food stores and from natural healers around the world. [5]

Devil’s Claw

This herb has been a key part of the pain-relieving medical tradition for thousands of years. Primarily used topically for muscle and joint pain, as well as inflammation, the careful consumption of devil’s claw, can also help to soothe pain in other parts of the body. The most recent research on this herb relates to its potential effects on eliminating arthritis pain. Devil’s claw contains a number of unique components, including harpagoside and other analgesic compounds. You can consume devil’s claw in the form of an extract, or if required, powdered devil’s claw is also available. [6]


One of the best anti-inflammatory herbs for pain, turmeric is rich in an active ingredient called curcumin. This substance is able to inhibit certain communications from pain receptors and inflammatory triggers, which can reduce the strain on the immune system, while also helping to ease both chronic and acute pain. Turmeric is often added to food as a culinary spice, but it can also be brewed into a powerful tea, or mixed into a paste for topical application to areas causing you pain. [7]


Called the “natural headache reliever” by many practitioners of traditional medicine, feverfew contains pinenes, flavonoids, and various sesquiterpenes, including parthenolide. These compounds can help to quickly reduce inflammation, which also reduces pain in affected areas. The leaves of feverfew can be consumed like any other salad green to enjoy these benefits, although poultices and more concentrated essential oils from this herb are also commonly used. [8]


Capsaicin is an herbal remedy that can interfere with the transmission of pain and inflammatory messages to the brain. While the initial pain in an area may be worse after applying a capsaicin cream or ointment, the intensity will quickly subside, leaving you pain-free. Capsaicin achieves this pain relief by draining the body of its substance P supply, which is required to send pain signals to the brain. Capsaicin is found in an extract from, but many people also use a powdered variety in their food, much like how capsaicin usually enters our system – by eating peppers! [9]

Valerian Root

One of the most legendary pain-relieving herbs is valerian root, as it is well known to soothe both the body and the mind, allowing tension to dissipate and neutralizing inflammation throughout the body. This effect also extends to soothing pain, regardless of whether it is chronic or acute. Most people get valerian root in tincture or in the form of a capsule, but brewing a steaming cup of valerian root tea is also a delicious way to ease any pain you are suffering from.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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