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3 Herbs to Use When You Have Chronic Pain

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

You wake up but it's not because of an alarm clock. Your constant pain is more of an alarm clock than you ever wanted. You don't feel refreshed but rather tired and defeated. Every movement is carefully planned to minimize pain and even getting out of bed takes a concerted effort. The aching, burning, stabbing and throbbing constantly distract you from what you really want to be doing: Enjoying life.

Chronic pain is debilitating to say the least. It can come into your life in an instant or it can creep up insidiously and suddenly you realize that you just don't feel like yourself. This can greatly affect your quality of life making you withdraw from friends and family, increasing the chance for depression and suicidal thoughts.

If you suffer from chronic pain, consider asking your naturopathic doctor about these 3 amazing pain reducing herbs.

Harpagophytum procumbens: Devil's claw.

Although it may have a diabolical sounding name, Devil's claw is an absolute blessing when it comes to alleviating pain.

This native African herb is being used to reduce joint pain caused by degenerative joint disease, commonly referred to as osteoarthritis).

Devil's claw is a perennial plant that received its name based on the hooked shape of its flowers. The herbal extract is usually taken from the tuberous roots of the plant which contain its medicinal qualities.

Studies show Devil's claw to be just as effective as NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like aspirin or ibuprofen, in reducing pain from osteoarthritis. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines, chemicals the body releases that promote an internal inflammatory state[1].

Devil's claw has also been shown to be effective for reducing low back pain which affects up to a staggering 80% of Americans at some time in their lives!

Devil's claw has great potential as a chronic pain reducing herb.

A word of caution: Devil's claw has been shown in animal studies to cause heart rhythm disturbances. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure in high doses in animal studies.

Interestingly enough, extracts with a standardized harpgoside content, the molecule found in Devil's claw responsible for its pain reducing qualities, wasn't found to have the same heart rhythm disturbing effects that the whole plant extract did.

Devil's claw can also cause upset of the gastrointestinal tract, with symptoms like stomach ache and diarrhea, so you should speak to your naturopathic physician concerning the best possible dose for you.

Curcuma longa: Turmeric

Curcumin seems to be enjoying a somewhat celebrity status these days in academic literature as well as clinical practice. Although naturopathic physicians and herbalists have known about the pain reducing and anti-inflammatory properties of this herb for years, studies are now confirming curcumin's usefulness as the powerhouse it is.

Curcumin has now been researched for a wide variety of conditions ranging from cancer and Alzheimer's to diabetic neuropathy and osteoarthritis.

It has been shown to be very effective in reducing pain from osteoarthritis in clinical studies[2].

In fact, curcumin seems to be effective in reducing not only osteoarthritis type pain but different types of pain, like nerve pain. Curcumin was proven to reduce the pain associated with touch provoked diabetic nerve pain and slow down diabetic nerve damage[3]. It also has been proven effective in treating chronic prostatitis and pelvic pain[4].

The power of curcumin lies in its anti-inflammatory abilities and its power to activate the bodies own antioxidant system. It also blocks enzymes like COX-2 which is involved with increased inflammation[5].

Curcumin is a fairly safe herb and many people ingest it daily in the form of tumeric. Be warned that if you are using tumeric for chronic pain, that the spice by itself is not very bioavailable. This means that turmeric isn't easily absorbed into the body.

You would have to take large amounts of the spice before the body is able to absorb even a little of it and the amount absorbed would have very little effect on lowering your level of pain.

That's why I always recommend a curcumin supplement for the biggest physiological effect. My favorite curcumin supplement is from Integrative Therapeutics and I find that it works very well.

Boswellia serrata: Frankincense

The Story of the first Christmas isn't complete without the offering of the gifts of frankincense and myrrh to the Baby Christ. Now we know why, frankincense is such a kingly gift. Besides just having a wonderful relaxing aroma, boswellia serrata, also known as frankincense, is extremely helpful in reducing pain.

Study after study shows its effects on reducing osteoarthritis knee pain and musculoskeletal pain. It has also been shown to help reduce pain and associated symptoms, like blood in stools and number of bowel movements in inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis[6].

Boswellia is not only a powerful anti-inflammatory but is also an anti-oxidant, immune system regulator, and it has anti-tumor properties[7]. It even has anti-bacterial properties and is being studied for use against periodontal disease!

As if this herb couldn't get any better, there have been no reports of any adverse effects of using frankincense internally in reasonable quantities. There is a small chance that a mild irritation to the skin may occur if you are using the boswellia essential oil topically.

With such a safety record and a whole slew of amazing benefits, you really can't go wrong with using this kingly botanical for chronic pain.

So if you are suffering from chronic pain, consider checking out these three herbs: Devil's claw, curcumin, and frankincense for their healing affects and much needed relief.

It's your turn! How long have you been suffering from chronic pain? What have you tried that worked and what have you tried that didn't? I'd like to know!

Let me know in the comments!


1.Ghasemian M, Owlia S, Owlia MB. Review of Anti-Inflammatory Herbal Medicines. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences. 2016;2016:9130979. doi:10.1155/2016/9130979.

2. Haroyan A, Mukuchyan V, Mkrtchyan N et al. Efficacy and safety of curcumin and its combination with boswellic acid in osteoarthritis: a comparative, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018;18(1). doi:10.1186/s12906-017-2062-z.3.Daugherty D, Marquez A, Calcutt N, Schubert D. A novel curcumin derivative for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy. Neuropharmacology. 2018;129:26-35. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.11.007.

4.Morgia G, Russo G, Urzì D et al. A phase II, randomized, single-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial on the efficacy of Curcumina and Calendula suppositories for the treatment of patients with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome type III. Archivio Italiano di Urologia e Andrologia. 2017;89(2):110. doi:10.4081/aiua.2017.2.110.

5.Rahmani A, Alsahli M, Aly S, Khan M, Aldebasi Y. Role of Curcumin in Disease Prevention and Treatment. Adv Biomed Res. 2018;7(1):38. doi:10.4103/abr.abr_147_16

6.Pelligrini L, Milano E, et a. Managing ulcerative colitis in remission phase: usefulness of Casperome®, an innovative lecithin-based delivery system of Boswellia serrata extract. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2016;20(12):2695-2700.

7.Beghelli D, Isani G, Roncada P, et al. Antioxidant and Ex Vivo Immune System Regulatory Properties of Boswellia serrata Extracts. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2017;2017:7468064. doi:10.1155/2017/7468064.

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