Naturopathic Herbal Treatments for Pain

  • Tara Andresen

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Naturopathic Herbal Treatments for Pain

The Naturopathic approach to effectively manage acute and chronic pain often includes the use of anti-inflammatory herbs.  In this article, we will review some of the more commonly used herbs and their application in pain reduction. These herbs include Boswellia Serrata, Devil’s Claw, Curcumin, Willow and Jamaican Dogwood.

Boswellia Serrata

Boswellia is gum resin extracted from a tree and contains boswellic acids that inhibit a pro-inflammatory enzyme called 5-Lipooxygenase as well as other anti-inflammatory effects (nF-kB inhibition for example). These effects have been researched in relation to osteoarthritis. It has been shown that Boswellia can suppress pain and improve mobility. The effects of Boswellia occur within only a week of oral supplementation which is faster than some of the other arthritic herbs used by Naturopaths.

Devil’s Claw

Devil’s Claw is a tuber vegetable that contains harpagosides which are COX2 inhibitors and anti-inflammatory. It has been researched for its positive effects on low back pain and arthritis.  One study has shown its effects are similar to the drug Vioxx for pain management. It can take 1-4 months for this herb to achieve maximum effect.


Curcumin contains curcuminoids, the active ingredient found in turmeric. Curcuminoids are anti-inflammatory. Since curcumin is poorly absorbed, it needs to be paired with either piperine, phosphatidylcholine or curcumin nanoparticles.  Without these pairings, very little of the curcumin will be absorbed and results will be minimal. It has been studied for use in post-operatic pain, arthritis and general pain.  The pain-relieving effects occur within hours while the anti-inflammatory effects may take a few days to take effect. Take it with food since curcumin is fat soluble.

White Willow

The bark of the white willow plant has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.  It is used to reduce pain associated with arthritis, muscle pain (aka. Myalgia) and back pain. The active ingredient is salicylic acid, which is a precursor to make Aspirin. It inhibits COX enzymes that make prostaglandins which stimulate inflammation and fever.  Willow can be toxic when not used properly. Consult a qualified healthcare provider before use.

Jamaican Dogwood

The stem of Jamaican Dogwood has antispasmodic, sedating and nervine properties that can used for the treatment of painful conditions, such as neuralgia and migraines. It can also be used to treat ovarian and uterine pain.  The herb needs to be used with caution since high doses are toxic and it can potentiate sedative effects of concomitant therapies. Consult a qualified healthcare provider before use.

To learn how we can help with natural pain management options, book your free consultation with our Naturopathic Doctor, Tara Andresen at one of her Toronto Naturopathic Clinics.