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Herbs That Ease Musculoskeletal Pain

The musculoskeletal system refers to the shared structure and function of the skeletal and muscular systems. Maintaining a healthy musculoskeletal system is crucial as it supports our bodily movements and protects the internal organs. However, problems in this system can lead to pain and discomfort.


Degenerative disorders affecting the musculoskeletal system are prevalent, with their onset typically occurring during middle age. These conditions can cause debilitating pain and hinder mobility, thereby decreasing one's quality of life. A potential solution to managing such discomfort lies in herbal medicine - an alternative treatment modality known for its effectiveness against inflammation and musculoskeletal pain. This therapy involves topical applications as well as internal preparations to tackle these ailments.


Botanical remedies like liniments, salves, oils, plasters, fomentations and baths fall under the category of Topical Treatments. These treatments employ herbs that possess counter-irritant properties along with analgesic benefits. Traditional medicine suggests joint and muscle disorders are caused by local toxic accumulation; hence promoting improved local circulation can aid in their elimination. Certain herbs serve as counter-irritants that stimulate vasodilation locally while encouraging the proliferation of pro-inflammatory mediators to assist waste product removal besides stimulating repair and regeneration. To help alleviate pain, topical analgesics can be employed, and each type of treatment has a distinct mode of action. It is important to exercise caution while applying certain analgesics as their internal consumption can be highly toxic, and they should not be used on damaged skin.


Counter-irritant Herb Examples:

Ginger Root (Zingiber offinalis)

Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis)

Cayenne (Capsicum minimum) (fruit)

Mustard Seed (Brassica nigra)

Bayberry (Myrica cerifera)

Nettles (Urtica dioica) (fresh)

*caution should be used when using these herbs with rheumatoid arthritis, as these herbs are classified as hot herbs and may increase the symptoms of hot conditions.


Topical Analgesic Herb Examples:

Cayenne (Capsicum minimum) (fruit)

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) (oil) (flowering tops)

Arnica (Arnica montana)

Monkshood Root (Aconitum napellus) (NOT for internal use)


Internal Preparations of herbal medicine are taken orally and may offer systemic relief for musculoskeletal pain. Herbs that anti-inflammatory, analgesic, trophorestorative and circulatory effects can be especially effective in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain.


In traditional medicine, inflammation is considered a crucial part of the healing process and a normal response to injury or irritation. Nevertheless, if it persists for an extended period, chronic inflammation can cause tissue degeneration and worsen joint pain. To control inflammation without inhibiting the natural process, botanical anti-inflammatories aid in supporting and stimulating chemical mediators that are involved in this procedure. This support helps the body with its cleansing work which ultimately reduces long-term damage caused by chronic inflammation while also accelerating the healing process.


The mode of action of botanical anti-inflammatories includes inhibiting the activity of enzymes that cause inflammation, reducing the production of inflammatory mediators and cytokines, modulating the immune system function, scavenging free radicals and reducing oxidative stress in the body.


Anti-inflammatory Herb Examples:

Willow Bark (Salix spp.)

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

Poplar (Populus canadensis) (buds, bark)

Ginseng (Panax spp.)

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) (root)

Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Lavender Flowers (Lavandula officinalis)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)

Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana)

Ginger root (Zingiber officinalis)


The significance of Internal Botanical Analgesics as effective therapeutic agents for pain relief has been acknowledged for centuries. Studies have indicated that analgesics hold immense potential in managing various types of musculoskeletal pain and are also highly tolerated by individuals.


Botanical Analgesics Examples:

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

Arnica (Arnica montana)

Marjiuana (Cannabis sativa)

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)


Botanical trophorestoratives are thought to enhance the function and health of musculoskeletal tissues by supplying necessary nutrients, strengthening muscles, bones and joints.


Trophorestorative Herb Examples:

Hawthorn Berry (Crataegus oxycanthoides)

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

White Bryony (Bryonia dioica) (root)

Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)


Ciruclatory stimulants are botanical agents that promote healthy blood flow, oxygenation and nutrient delivery to musculoskeletal tissues. This increased circulation enables speedy healing and muscle growth, reduces inflammation through the removal of metabolic waste products from tissues.


Circulatory Stimulant Herb Examples:

Cayenne (Capsicum minimum) (fruit)

Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum cassia)

Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) (berry)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Ginger Root (Zingiber officinalis)


Aside from herbal medicine, natural pain remedies can also include modifications in diet and physical activities. Diet plays a crucial role in reducing inflammation and chronic pain. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and antioxidants help to reduce inflammation and support musculoskeletal health. Some examples of anti-inflammatory foods are fatty fish (salmon, tuna), flaxseed, nuts and seeds, dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale and broccoli), berries, turmeric and ginger. Reducing the intake of inflammatory foods such as refined sugars, dairy, processed meats and foods, fried foods and certain vegetable oils can greatly decrease inflammation in the body.


Physical activities such as yoga and strength training have also been proven to alleviate musculoskeletal pain. Yoga has been found to increase flexibility, reduce tension in muscles and relieve stress, thereby decreasing chronic pain in musculoskeletal tissues. Additionally, strength training helps to increase muscle strength and endurance, leading to better overall musculoskeletal health. In today's healthcare landscape, people are increasingly turning to natural remedies and techniques like herbal medicine, modifications in diet, and physical activities such as yoga and strength training as alternatives to conventional pain medications, which may have harmful side effects or be ineffective in some cases.


Incorporating these natural remedies into a holistic treatment plan can not only alleviate musculoskeletal pain but also promote overall wellness and vitality.


The content provided in this article serves solely for educational purposes and is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or medical condition. In case of any health concerns about yourself, or your family or if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or currently taking any medication; it's highly recommended that you seek professional advice from a licensed healthcare practitioner.


Please note that Health Canada and the Food and Drug Administration have not assessed the information presented herein.