Natural pain relief will be a series of posts. Each post will cover one natural pain reliever. Not everyone will be able to use every natural pain reliever due to allergic or other adverse reactions.
Although everyone experiences pain at some time, as we age, we tend to feel it more often. Joint, muscle, neck, and back pain tend to become constant companions. While there are both prescription and over the counter pain relievers available, most of them may cause serious problems over time, when used continuously. As well, in the event of a long term disaster, you may not have access to prescription or over the counter pain relievers.
Natural pain relievers are generally safe, with no long term side effects. Allergic reactions are the number one side effect, so do not use any herb or other natural substance to which you know you are allergic.
If you find one or more remedy that works well for you, most of the ingredients may be purchased in bulk for very reasonable prices. You may be able to forage some of these ingredients, if they grow locally. Many of the ingredients may be easily grown at home, either in pots or in your garden. Foraged and home grown ingredients may be dried for future use. Whether purchasing, foraging, or growing your own, make sure to stock up on what you need to make your own pain relievers.
Simple Drop Test For Allergies
If you aren’t sure whether you have an allergy to a remedy or ingredient, there is a simple test you can use. Rub a drop of a prepared remedy on the inside of your arm, at the elbow. Wait a couple of hours. If you are allergic to the remedy, you will get a rash.
To test fresh or dried individual herbs, simmer a small amount in water for 10 minutes, then allow to steep for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then proceed with the drop test.
To test essential oils, mix one drop of essential oil in a tablespoon of carrier oil, then proceed with the drop test. As a carrier oil, I recommend olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil, or camellia seed oil. Note this is a higher concentration than you would use in most remedies.
Caution: Any younger women, of child bearing age, should use caution when using natural remedies, as with any other medication, during pregnancy. Although generally safer than prescription or over the counter drugs, some natural remedies may not be safe for pregnant women. They, also, may not be safe for young children, so they may not be safe while breast feeding.
Like the turmeric, which we discussed previously, when using ginger, you are using the root, or rhizome, of the plant. Unlike turmeric, ginger is very easy to find. Most grocery stores sell fresh ginger root, even in rural areas, like mine. Fresh ginger root may be frozen for later use. It’s, also, quite easy to find dried cut ginger and dried ground ginger.
Although I haven’t grown it myself, most resources say it is pretty easy to grow from the fresh root. The main problem with growing your own is the large quantity of plants you’d need to have, if you were to use ginger on a regular basis. If you live in a warm, humid, climate, you might want to give it a try.
The phytonutrients, gingerols, in ginger are pain relieving, aid in conditions where swelling and inflammation occur, and can ease muscle soreness. Ginger supplementation is commonly recommended to relieve arthritis.
When you were young, did your mom or grandmother give you ginger ale when you had an upset stomach? It wasn’t just the carbonation that helped your little tummy feel better. The ginger was major factor, at least when those of us whom are older were kids. When I was young, ginger ale was still made with real ginger, rather than mostly flavoring, and contained far less additives. Besides being useful for painful conditions, ginger is antioxidant, relieves nausea and other digestive issues, and is great for easing cold and respiratory symptoms.
There really isn’t much information available that gives actual dosages for use of fresh or dried ginger. It’s generally considered safe in the amounts a normal person would choose to use. One article I read, at Veterans in Pain, and another from University of Maryland Medical Center, state you shouldn’t consume more than 4 grams (about an eighth of an ounce) of ginger per day, in order to avoid gastric problems and irritation in the mouth.
Of course, if you are taking supplements, in tablet or capsule form, you should follow the manufacturer’s recommended dosage. Personally, unless recommended by a medical professional, I wouldn’t take a manufactured ginger supplement. Although the concentration may be higher in pills, fresh or dried ginger is easy to incorporate into your diet and you know exactly what is in your preparation.
Ginger is generally safe during pregnancy, although a maximum of 1 gram per day is suggested. Moderate amounts, between 1 and 2 grams per day, are, also, considered safe for children, although the University of Maryland Medical Center says it should not be given to children under the age of 2.
In tincture form, adults can take up to three dropperfuls, three times per day. As long as there are no adverse reactions, adults may use ginger tincture, for any of the ailments discussed above, as long as necessary. Children should not be give more than half that amount. For children, only use ginger tincture occasionally, for nausea or stomach bugs. Start with smaller doses, whether for adult or child use, and work up to larger dosages, if necessary.
If using ginger tea, the amounts are much more flexible. I’d suggest 3 to 4 cups per day for pain management.
If you regularly make smoothies or juice, a 1/2 to 1-inch piece of ginger can be added. If using tea for your doses, replace one of the cups of tea with your smoothie or juice.
I recommend choosing one of the above, when using ginger for pain management. If you choose to mix and match, other than making one of your cups of tea a smoothie or juice, make sure you stay close to the total amount you use for daily consumption.
When used in cooking and baking, the amounts of ginger you consume are negligible, so they don’t need to be counted towards any of the above methods of dosage.
Precautions (from University of Maryland Medical Center)
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken under the supervision of a health care provider, qualified in the field of botanical medicine.
It is rare to have side effects from ginger. In high doses it may cause mild heartburn, diarrhea, and irritation of the mouth. You may be able to avoid some of the mild stomach side effects, such as belching, heartburn, or stomach upset, by taking ginger supplements in capsules or taking ginger with meals.
People with gallstones should talk to their doctors before taking ginger. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking ginger before having surgery or being placed under anesthesia.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with heart conditions, and people with diabetes should not take ginger without talking to their doctors.
DO NOT take ginger if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are taking blood-thinning medications, including aspirin.
Ginger may interact with prescription and over-the-counter medicines. If you take any of the following medicines, you should not use ginger without talking to your health care provider first.
Blood-thinning medications: Ginger may increase the risk of bleeding. Talk to your doctor before taking ginger if you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin.
Diabetes medications: Ginger may lower blood sugar. That can raise the risk of developing hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
High blood pressure medications: Ginger may lower blood pressure, raising the risk of low blood pressure or irregular heartbeat.
Obviously, if you show any signs of allergic or other reaction, discontinue use.
How To Use Ginger
I would suggest taking ginger in either tincture or tea form, for regular use in treating painful conditions and inflammation.
Ginger tincture may be made using fresh or dried ground spice. Because fresh ginger is so easy to find, I suggest using fresh. (Fresh ginger freezes well, so get a bit extra so you will have it on hand.) I prefer fresh ginger mostly due to the fact it is much more difficult to strain your finished tincture adequately after using ground spice. There is, also, some controversy concerning dried spices losing some of their medicinal value. On a personal note, I do use dried spices when I don’t have fresh available and they seem to work fine in my finished tinctures.
To make a ginger tincture, you will need:
ginger, fresh or ground (you do not need to peel fresh ginger)
alcohol, vodka or brandy work well with ginger
large jar with tight fitting lid, for making your tincture (I suggest using a quart canning jar)
1-ounce, preferably dropper, bottles (this is an Amazon Add-on item) for bottling your finished tincture
If using fresh ginger, wash it well and allow to dry. Once dry, slice into thin slices. Fill your large jar about 2/3 full of fresh ginger, or 1/4 full of ground ginger. Fill the jar with alcohol to about 1-inch from the top. Put the lid on your jar. If your jar has a metal lid, cover the top of the jar with a double layer of plastic wrap before putting the lid on. Shake your jar, then place it in a cupboard for at least 6 weeks. Shake the jar a few times a week.
After the end of the 6 weeks, strain the tincture and pour into dropper bottles, using a small funnel or pipette. Start a new batch of tincture, so it will be ready when you finish the previous batch. You can leave it brewing in your cupboard for longer than six weeks, so don’t worry about leaving it if you don’t need it yet.
Your strained and re-bottled tincture will retain maximum strength for about two years.
See dosage and precautions above.
Tinctures can be taken strait from the dropper or mixed in juice or tea.
Do you like a spiced tea, or do you want to get started taking ginger, but don’t want to wait until your tincture is ready? Ginger tea is an easy, immediate, way to start getting your doses of ginger. As with the tincture, you can use either fresh or powdered ginger to make tea.
Ginger Cinnamon Tea
I have a friend with severe back problems, which resulted in a lot of pain. He swears by ginger cinnamon tea. He mixes 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon into about 1 1/2 cups of water. He brings the water to a boil, then lowers the heat and allows it to simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. He removes it from the heat and allows it to steep for another 10 minutes. Sometimes he’ll add a teabag for the last 5 minutes. Other times he just drinks the ginger cinnamon tea as is. Once it finishes steeping, he pours the finished brew into a mug and adds honey. He doesn’t strain the tea. He drinks this simple mix 4 times a day: first thing in the morning, between breakfast and lunch, between lunch and dinner, and at bed time.
He likes to make a full days worth each morning when he is working or will, for some other reason, not be able to make it by the cup. To do this, use four times the ginger and cinnamon, but use only 5 cups of water. Make the tea through the simmering stage, then pour into a thermos and screw the cap on. If you want to add tea bags, add four to the thermos, keeping the strings outside of the mouth. Let it steep for 5 minutes, then remove the tea bags. Let it sit for another 5 minutes before drinking the first cup. If it doesn’t stay warm enough by the end of the day, you can re-warm it. Add honey to taste to each cup before you drink it.
He says it took about 2 weeks for it to really start working, but he has been pretty much pain free since then. He says he’s been taking the tea for about 4 years now and would never go back to either prescription or over the counter pain relievers.
Note: the doses are 8-ounce per serving.
Fresh Ginger Root Tea (made by the quart)
Grate about 1-inch of unpeeled ginger directly into a pot, so you don’t lose any of the juice. Add 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Pour 8-ounces into a cup and add honey and lemon to taste. You can pour the remainder into a thermos, as above, to keep it as warm as possible, reheating later if necessary. In the summer, it makes a nice refreshing cold drink, as well. Just add the honey and lemon to taste to the warm mixture, then refrigerate.
Whether hot or cold, drink in 4 8-ounce doses, throughout the day.
You can strain the tea, or leave the grated ginger in it. Personally, I just leave the ginger in the tea.
Feel a cold or the flu coming on? Make fresh ginger root tea, double strength (use a 2-inch piece of ginger root), and use every 3 to 4 hours, within the first 24 hours of the onset of a cold or flu, to stop the virus in its tracks. This will not work once the virus takes hold, so make sure to use it when you first start to notice symptoms. Even using regular strength ginger tea for pain and inflammation, may cause some people problems using it during a full blown cold or flu. If the tea causes problems for you during a viral infection, use another pain reliever until you recover. Note: Ground ginger tea does not work for stopping a cold or flu.
Ground Ginger Tea
You can make this like my friend’s ginger cinnamon tea, using just the ground ginger. Add honey and lemon to taste. Personally, I would go with the ginger and cinnamon. It tastes wonderful and the cinnamon adds an extra anti-inflammatory boost.
Again, take in 4 8-ounce doses, throughout the day.
Fermented Ginger Tea Paste (works with Turmeric, too)
Ginger may work well for some people, but using fresh ginger may cause gastro-intestinal problems for them, so they don’t use it. Fermenting the ginger should alleviate these problems. (With turmeric, it will aid in the bio-availability of the curcumin, as well. If you wish to make turmeric paste, just substitute fresh turmeric root for the ginger root.) The paste is easily portable and may be stored for about six months in the refrigerator.
1/2 pound unpeeled, grated, fresh ginger, washed and dried
1/4 cup raw honey (I like Cox’s honey)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or whey
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon rind
Combine all ingredients in a quart jar with a lid (a quart mason jar works well). Cover loosely and allow it to sit in a warm place, out of direct sunlight, and stir every hour until the honey is thoroughly incorporated. Replace the lid, again covering loosely, and allow to sit for about 48 hours in a warm place. This paste won’t really bubble like other fermented foods. You’ll know it’s ready when it becomes a thick paste. It will be about the consistency of a thick jam.
To use, add one teaspoonful to 8-ounces of hot (not boiling) water. As with the other teas, take one 8-ounce cup 4 times a day. (If using turmeric paste, add a dash of pepper.) You can, also, just take a teaspoonful, without diluting it in water, if you are a ginger fan, like me.
Note: If your kitchen is warm, you can leave the jar in a cupboard, or on the counter, out of direct sunlight. If you live in a cold winter area, just find a convenient place in the warmest room in your house. I live in an area where we get cold winters and I just heat my kitchen area enough to keep the pipes from freezing. My water heater is in my laundry room, between my bedroom and a spare bedroom, so I set my jars on top of it. This works well for ferments, tinctures, and extracts.
Other Ways To Use Ginger
Soothing Ginger Compress
Make 8-ounces of ginger tea using either fresh or ground ginger. Use only ginger and water. Allow to cool until it is comfortably warm, but not too hot. Soak a wash cloth or small towel in the warm tea. Use as a compress to relieve pain in joints or muscles. When the compress cools down, repeat. Repeat a few times, until pain is relieved, reheating tea as necessary.
Fresh Ginger Infused Oil
Clean a fresh ginger root well and allow to dry thoroughly. Just before preparing your ginger, freshly wash and dry your knife or grater and the jar and lid you are going to use. This will aid in the shelf life of your oil. Thinly slice, or grate enough ginger to fill a jar 1/3 to 1/2 full. I usually use a quart canning jar. Fill the jar to within 1-inch of the top with oil. I prefer either sesame or olive oil for infusions. When using either of these oils, you can use your finished oil in recipes, as well as externally.
For a cold infusion, cap the jar and set in a cabinet for a minimum of 6 weeks.
For a hot infusion, you need to make sure your jar is heat resistant. This is why I like canning jars. If you don’t have a heat resistant jar, you can also use a small glass casserole dish. I like to use dry heat. You don’t want moisture to get into your oil and you want the moisture in your ginger to evaporate. You can use your oven, or toaster oven, or a box-style dehydrator, like an Excalibur, to heat your oil. Set the temperature to between 125ºF and 150ºF. Place your prepared oil, uncovered, in the oven or dehydrator and leave it for about six hours. I like to use the lower temperature and put it in before I go to bed and remove it when I get up. When I use the dehydrator, I cover the front with a dish towel, to keep the heat more even, since I’ve removed most of the shelves and there is a lot of air space.
Store your bottle in a cabinet, or a cool place out of direct sunlight on a counter. You can store the oil for about a year.
For pain relief, pour about small amount of oil into the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together to warm it a bit, then massage the oil into your aching joint or muscle. Repeat as often as necessary.
A Ginger Treat
Honey Vanilla Candied Ginger (and Syrup)
Candied ginger isn’t everyone’s favorite, but I love it and this is the best recipe I’ve come across. The recipe below is my minor variation of Sonia’s, The Healthy Foodie’s, recipe.
This candied ginger doesn’t have much medicinal value, but it is still a healthier “candy” than most. The honey pretty much loses all of its medicinal value due to the heat in the process and the ginger doesn’t retain much medicinal value by the end of the process, either.
The recipe takes time, a few days, as a matter of fact, but it isn’t labor intensive. Towards the end, you will want to keep an eye on it, though. The finished candied ginger is not overly sweet, is ginger spicy, and has a hint of vanilla.
1 1/2 pounds ginger, scrubbed, dried, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 quart water
1 1/2 pounds honey (a 24 oz bottle)
1 vanilla bean (you want a grade A vanilla bean for this recipe)
2 to 3 tablespoons toasted and ground sesame seeds, finely ground nuts, or finely ground unsweetened coconut (for coating)
I peel the ginger when making candied ginger. It gives it a more even texture. To peel ginger, scrape the peel with the edge of a teaspoon. The peel will remove easily this way, without waste.
- Put the ginger and water into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Just before the end of the 45 minutes, use a sharp knife to slice the vanilla bean open lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. (Use the remainder of the bean for vanilla sugar, or add it to homemade vanilla extract.) Add the seeds and the honey to the pan, cover, and continue to simmer for an additional 45 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit over night.
- The next morning, bring the pan back to a boil, lower the heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to completely cool, then repeat 2 more times.
- After it has cooled the third time, bring it to a boil, then lower the heat. Do not cover the pan on the final simmer. Allow it to simmer until the honey is thick and turns a caramel color. This should take between 10 and 20 minutes. Do not allow it to burn.
- While the syrup is still hot, place a cookie rack on a cookie sheet and remove the ginger with a slotted spoon to the rack. Cover the pan and set it aside so you can make your syrup later. Allow the ginger to dry on the rack over night.
- The next morning, grind your coating and place it on a small plate. Scrape the syrup from the cookie sheet and place back in the saucepan with the rest of your syrup. Roll the individual pieces of ginger in the coating and place back on the cookie rack. Dry over night. This is the final step for the candied ginger.
Store your finished candied ginger in an airtight container. It does not need to be refrigerated. Just store it in a cupboard or on the counter, out of direct sunlight.
Note (from Sonia): *For the record, almost 5 months later, I still have a few pieces of this in the cupboard, stored in a Mason jar, and it’s still as good as it was on day one, if not better! (Mine doesn’t last that long. *G*)
You can chop candied ginger and add it to other recipes. A little bit in a batch of ginger or other spice cookie is really good. You can also add it to apple pie or spicy muffins.
For the syrup: after you have your ginger set out for the final dry, add about 1/2 cup boiling water to the thick left over syrup. Mix well. If needed, continue to add hot water, a little bit at a time, until it is at desired consistency.
Drizzle over apple or pumpkin pie, or use for a spicy pancake/waffle syrup.
Drizzle over ice cream.
Add a bit to coffee, tea, cocoa, apple cider, or a warming winter hot toddy.
Mix a tablespoon or two into seltzer water, add ice, and have ginger ale.
Add to water kefir or kombucha during the second ferment.
Like turmeric, ginger may be a great option for you, for pain relief, for long term use. I like to use a combination of the two. During the winter months, I tend to use ginger more often. The ginger is spicy and warming and it aids in warding off cold and flu viruses, as well as relieving pain.
I Just Ran Across This and Wanted to Share It With You
Amazon currently has a great Add-on price for Ball regular mouth quart jars. You can purchase a box of 12 for just $7.69. Shipping is free for Prime members.