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The Best Herbs for Back Pain Relief

written by: Diana Cooper • edited by: BStone • updated: 3/27/2011

Learn about two of the best herbs for back relief. One is applied topically and the other is taken internally. Learn what they are and find different ways to use each to treat back pain.

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    Back Pain

    Back Pain If you strained a muscle or ligament in your back from a sudden awkward movement or from improper or heavy lifting, the pain can often be bad enough to interfere with daily activities. If you wish to avoid taking medications, there are natural ways to relieve the pain. Herbal remedies are one way. The following are two of the best herbs for back pain.

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    Herbs

    Cayenne

    Cayenne contains a compound called capsaicin, a fiery phenolic resin. Capsaicin is believed to relieve pain by stopping the release of substance P, a chemical that transmits pain signals from the affected area to the brain. The following are three different ways you can topically apply cayenne to your back:

    Cream - Mix crushed cayenne pepper or cayenne powder with an all natural skin lotion until the lotion turns dark pink.

    Oil - Fill the bottom of a double boiler with water. Add 2 1/4 cups olive oil and 3/4 cup chopped cayenne pepper in the top. Place over low heat and simmer for two to three hours. Remove from heat and let sit until the mixture cools to room temperature. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the mixture into a dark glass bottle.

    Plaster - Mix 1 part cayenne powder, 1 part olive oil and 3 parts white flour. Add enough water to form a paste. Spread the paste on a piece of cloth (cheesecloth or muslin) and fold.

    Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap after touching cayenne so you don't accidentally get it in your eyes. When using the cream or oil, test a small area to check for any irritation. A burning sensation is expected at first, but it should not be unbearable.

    Willow Bark

    The second of these two best herbs for back relief is taken internally. Willow bark has been used throughout the centuries in Europe and China, and continues to be used today to treat pain, including back pain. The bark from the white willow tree contains a chemical called salicin, which is similar to aspirin. In fact, it was this chemical that was used to develop aspirin. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), one well-designed study showed positive results using willow bark to relieve back pain. The study involved nearly 200 individuals with lower back pain. Those who took willow bark had significant improvement in pain compared to those who took a placebo. The participants who took a higher dose of willow bark, 240 mg compared to 120 mg, had more significant relief.

    You can buy capsules or liquid. UMMC recommends 60 to 240 mg of standardized salicin per day. If you require a higher dose, consult your doctor first. You can also make a tea using dried bark. Boil 1 to 2 teaspoons of bark in 8 ounces of water, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then steep for 30 minutes. You can drink three to four cups a day. If you are allergic to aspirin or other salicylates, you should not use willow bark. Do not give to children under the age of 16. Pregnant women and breastfeeding moms should avoid. If you are taking medications or have a medical condition, consult your health care provider before use.

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    References

    NYU Langone Medical Center: Cayenne - http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21645

    University of Maryland Medical Center: Willow bark - http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/willow-bark-000281.htm

    Photo by vali_muga / Flickr

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    Disclaimer

    Please read this disclaimer regarding the information contained within this article.