Anyone who has experienced the agony of nerve pain knows it can be challenging to cope with the sharp, knifing pain. Sadly, many of the drugs on the market have serious side effects and can even be addictive. Fortunately there are some excellent natural options for treating nerve pain, also known as neuralgia or neuropathy. Neuralgia refers to nerve pain specifically while neuropathy is the general term to describe nervous system disorders that cause pain, as well as numbness or weakness. Here are some of my picks for addressing nerve pain naturally:
Acupuncture: Acupuncture—the practice of applying needles to specific points of the body to elicit a therapeutic response—is particularly effective against pain. And, electroacupuncture—the practice of using electrical current on the points used in acupuncture— seems to be particularly effective against nerve pain. An animal study published in the medical journal Anesthesia and Analgesia showed improvement from nerve pain.
Related: How Does Acupuncture Work?
Chiropractic: Because nerves run from the brain through the spine to the various areas of the body, it may be helpful to adjust the spine to prevent any pressure, pinching or irritation on the nerves. Research in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that 60 percent of those suffering from nerve pain linked to sciatica experienced relief from chiropractic even when other medical therapies failed. The level of relief was likened to that of surgery.
Curcumin: One of the active ingredients in the spice turmeric demonstrates potent anti-pain properties. According to a study published in the Journal of Pain Research, curcumin is more potent and longer lasting than 1000 mg of acetaminophen or 100 mg of the drug nimesulide. While this study was on the general anti-pain effects of curcumin, other research such as one published in the journal Neuroscience Letters, has specifically studied the compound’s effect on nerve pain, particularly diabetic neuralgia, and found it effective.
Exercise: Exercise encourages the release of natural pain-killing compounds known as endorphins, so you may find it helpful to go for a walk, hop on a bike or partake in another form of physical activity.
Feverfew: Research shows that alcohol extracts, known as tinctures, of feverfew flowers is effective against nerve pain. Incidentally, extracts of the leaves were not as effective as the flower-based ones, so if you’re choosing this herb to help with pain management, be sure to use a flower extract. Also, keep in mind that feverfew does not immediately eliminate pain but gradually decreases the pain over time. It may take a month or two to get desirable results.
St. John’s Wort: While this lovely yellow flowering herb is most widely known for its effects on depression, research published in the Italian medical journal Fitoterapia found that St. John’s Wort and feverfew flower extracts were highly effective in reducing the pain of neuropathy linked to diabetes. The herbal medicine proved comparable to three different drugs used for the condition, including: carbamazepine, lamotrigine and l-acetyl levocarnitine.
The researchers believe that two compounds found in St. John’s Wort are responsible for its anti-pain properties. Known as hyperforin and hypericin, these naturally-occurring compounds are likely to thank for the plant’s ability to alleviate pain. Oil infusions made with St. John’s wort are can be applied to help alleviate the pain of diabetic neuropathy. Simply apply the oil two to three times daily until symptoms improve.
Additionally, tinctures made from the plant can help address the nerve pain from the inside out. Because many drugs interact with St. John’s Wort, be sure to check with your pharmacist before combining them. This herb can also increase sensitivity to the sun, so avoid sun exposure within two to three hours after using St. John’s Wort. Additionally, avoid taking St. John’s Wort while pregnant or nursing.
Related: 10 Reasons to Love St. John’s Wort
Stretching and Yoga: Stretching or participating in yoga postures can be helpful for nerve pain. Research published in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation found that yoga was helpful against nerve pain caused by sciatica.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is publisher of the free e-news World’s Healthiest News, the president of PureFood BC, an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Arthritis-Proof Your Life: Secrets to Pain-Free Living Without Drugs.