When it comes to headaches, muscles aches, and fevers, many people reach for Ibuprofen to get some relief. Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID. While it’s effective at alleviating pain, it’s not without its side effects. In fact, NSAIDs can have all kinds of adverse effects on the body, including:
- Kidney damage
- Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and hypertension
- Upset stomach
- Higher risk of gastrointestinal bleeding
Fortunately, there are natural alternatives to Ibuprofen that can help ease your pain without all of the negative side effects.
7 Natural Alternatives to Ibuprofen
Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is a popular natural treatment for pain. CBD is a cannabinoid found naturally in cannabis plants (that includes hemp!). The advantage of CBD is that it can have therapeutic effects without getting you “high.” This cannabinoid doesn’t have the psychoactive effects found with THC.
CBD is now being used to treat a variety of health issues, including anxiety, depression, and pain. You can find topical and ingestible CBD, and in many cases, it’s mixed with other ingredients to amplify its pain-relieving effects.
New research shows that CBD itself may not necessarily alleviate pain, but it can make the pain more tolerable. Other studies have had similar findings, but that doesn’t mean that CBD isn’t an effective alternative to Ibuprofen.
Improving your overall wellbeing and your pain tolerance (or your emotional reaction to pain) can be just as beneficial and effective as a pain killer.
2. Essential Oils
Essential oils have been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, from headaches to sleep disorders, anxiety, and pain. Whether applied topically with a carrier oil or diffused, essential oils can be used in many ways to help with pain.
Some of the most effective oils for pain include:
- Lavender: Research shows that lavender essential oil can have an analgesic effect and help alleviate inflammation.
- Bergamot: A 2015 study found that bergamot oil may help reduce neuropathic pain.
- Frankincense: Scientists believe that frankincense may inhibit the release of leukotrienes, which causes inflammation.
- Peppermint: Studies (here and here) have found that peppermint essential oil can help with migraines.
- Clary sage: Research has found that clary sage oil can help reduce menstrual cramps.
Overall, research has found that aromatherapy with essential oils can be effective at alleviating pain. But you can also apply essential oils topically (with a carrier oil or pain-relieving cream) to get more localized relief.
Dimethyl sulfoxide, or DMSO, is actually a byproduct of the paper industry. This colorless liquid has a remarkable ability to penetrate the skin, which makes it an excellent transportation device for small molecules.
But research has found that DMSO may also be effective at alleviating:
- Pain and inflammation from arthritis
- Pain and inflammation in the bladder
A 2002 review found that compared to a placebo, a 50% DMSO cream provided significantly better pain relief.
A separate German study found that 25% DMSO gel helped alleviate pain in participants with knee pain.
You’ll find plenty of anecdotal evidence that DSMO helps with pain. According to researchers, DMSO works similarly to narcotic analgesics and has properties that help inhibit several prostaglandins.
Because it’s easily absorbed by the skin, many people find quick relief when using DMSO gels and creams.
Turmeric has been used for both cooking and medicinal purposes for centuries. The main active component in this earthy spice is curcumin, and it’s been getting a lot of attention for its therapeutic benefits.
One of those benefits is pain relief.
Recent research found that curcumin was nearly as effective as diclofenac at alleviating arthritis symptoms. In addition, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate pain.
Adding turmeric to your diet can help reduce inflammation and pain, but for effective short-term relief, you may want to consider a turmeric supplement. Supplements contain a higher concentration of turmeric.
5. Willow Bark
Willow bark has been used for thousands of years to treat fevers, headaches, and pain. The main active component in the bark is salicin, which is the original source of aspirin. Salicin has been shown to inhibit the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) pathway. COX-2 helps produce prostaglandins, levuloglandins, and thromboxane.
Willow bark contains many components that are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.
The body converts the salicin in willow bark into salicylic acid, and many believe this makes it gentler on the stomach.
Aspirin may not be Ibuprofen, but the pain-relieving effects of the aspirin-like salicin can make willow bark a great alternative to this popular NSAID.
Acupuncture has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to help treat a variety of health issues, from infertility to anxiety and pain.
With acupuncture, tiny needles are inserted at strategic locations along the body (known as meridians). The belief is that the needles help release blockages along the meridians or energy pathways. Releasing the blockages allows Qi (your body’s energy or life force) to flow more freely and facilitates the healing process.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective at alleviating different types of pain, including chronic lower back pain and knee pain.
When most people think of cloves, they think of holiday desserts and spicy drinks, but this spice can also be used for medicinal purposes. Cloves have long been used to help with nausea, colds, toothaches, arthritic inflammation, and headaches. They’re also used as topical pain relievers.
Why are cloves effective pain relievers? Because they contain eugenol. Studies have found that eugenol has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
Eugenol is also commonly used in dentistry to help treat toothaches.
Ibuprofen, like other NSAIDs, is effective at alleviating pain, but it can have some negative effects on the body. Fortunately, there are natural alternatives to Ibuprofen that can give you the relief you crave without the harmful side effects. These seven alternatives are a great place to start.
If you’re looking for more localized pain relief, topical products like DMSO gel, essential oils, and CBD creams are great options. They’re excellent for joint and muscle pain relief because they target the affected area directly.
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