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Ease the pain

Reducing pain and inflammation with natural supports found in your local health store

A very common pain is a headache and this is linked to dehydration, stress and poor sleep. Common sense steps such as drinking more water and getting enough sleep can help to prevent this becoming a common problem.

Acute pain

"Severe or acute pain is a sudden, sometimes intense pain that acts as a warning of disease or threat to the body," says nutritional therapist Liz O'Byrne who works with health store the Aloe Tree in Ennistymon, Co Clare. "It is often treated with painkillers or cold or hot treatment applied to the affected area. White willow bark, boswellia, devil's claw, bromeliad, turmeric, ginger and garlic have all shown potential to help ease pain."

"Natural help can come in the form of CBD oil, curcumin, tissue salts (for headaches) feverfew, and white willow bark," says Elaine Joyce, owner of health store Ylang Ylang in Westport, Co Mayo.

Chronic pain

"Chronic pain is described as any pain lasting longer than three months," says Liz O'Byrne. "It can be continuous pain or be described as 'on and off'. It can hugely impact a person's quality of life by affecting their sleep or not allowing them to work or take part in physical activity. There are many types including neuropathic (nerve) pain, pain due to injuries to tissue such as burns, bruises or sprains, musculoskeletal pain such as back pain or myofascial pain. Endorphins released by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in response to pain are a type of hormone that can relieve pain."

"Natural help can be in the form of omega 3, turmeric, curcumin, CBD oil, cider vinegar, alkalising diet, managing stress levels and lifestyle changes," says Elaine Joyce.

Arthritic pain

"Arthritic pain intensity varies from person to person," says Liz O'Byrne. "It can present as pain, stiffness or swelling of joints such as wrists, knuckles, hips, knees or ankles. For some people certain foods can trigger their symptoms such as dairy, sugar, gluten or alcohol. Proven natural remedies are omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, zinc (in therapeutic doses), green tea, frankincense, capsaicin and cat's claw."

"Inflammation is part of the body's immune response and it isn't always bad," says Lucy Kerr from health store The Good Earth in Kilkenny. "When inflammation is acute it's the body's natural defence against damaged cells, viruses and bacteria. It aims to remove these harmful invaders and repair itself. Acute inflammation starts quickly and generally disappears in a few days, chronic inflammation can last for months or years."

"Regular movement is thought to help with arthritic pain such as yoga or t'ai chi and gentle walking," says Liz O'Byrne. "Following an anti-inflammatory diet can also help. reducing processed foods, sugar, caffeine and alcohol and eating lots of vegetables, particularly leafy greens, eating lots of oily fish and eating mainly wholegrains plus garlic, ginger and turmeric is a good approach to eating."


Excessive or uncontrolled inflammation can result in arthritis, gout, eczema, psoriasis, headaches and bowel disease.

"Triggers for inflammation and pain can be caused by chronic stress, a poor diet, too many acid-forming foods, alcohol, caffeine and sugar, plus lack of exercise," says Elaine Joyce. "Natural remedies include curcumin, magnesium is beneficial for inflammation as is CBD oil which helps with pain and mobility. A wholefoods diet, rich in antioxidant foods is beneficial."

Two to three portions of oily fish are recommended weekly, including salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel or tuna, or taking a high quality omega-3 fish oil daily. Apple cider vinegar can be useful for inflammation-related pain, and collagen in chicken and beef stock can help.

"I recommend curcumin," says Lucy Kerr. "The active compound found in turmeric, it has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Vitamin D aids in absorbing calcium, needed for bone growth and maintenance. Bromelain is an enzyme that inhibits inflammation and facilitates injury healing. Boswelia (frankincense) helps relieve stiffness and joint pain, and MSM is a sulphur compound found to relieve pain."

Lifestyle advice

"Stretching and yoga are a great way to keep your body flexible and to help your muscles stay strong to help avoid any aches and pains." says Lucy Kerr. Topical applications such as arnica balm or Tiger Balm are a great way to get rid of any localised muscle pain or after an injury. Get plenty of sleep, manage your stress levels, limit alcohol and caffeine and stop smoking.

Food triggers

For some people headaches and migraines are triggered by food and drinks that contain amino acids such as tyramine and histamine. These include aged and fermented foods like cheeses, dried and fermented meats such as bacon, pepperoni, salami and ham, sourdough breads, yeast breads and yeast extracts and fermented foods like vinegar, sauerkraut and alcohol. Tannin-rich foods and drinks like tea, coffee, berries and nuts should be avoided where possible.

Natural remedies

Ashwaganda – an adaptagenic herb, helps maintain balance in your body, keeping cortisol stress hormone levels in a healthy range and out of 'fight or flight' mode.

Basil oil – good for headaches caused by tight muscles due to tension.

B-vitamins, especially riboflavin or vitamin B2 – thought to help prevent migraines.

CBD oil – can give great relief to many pain-sufferers though it doesn't work for everybody, and there are some excellent Irish brands available.

Flaxseed – rich in omega-3 fatty acids, can be taken as an oil.

Lavender oil – relaxes your mind and body. Place a drop on your temples or add 2-4 drops to boiling water and inhale.

Valerian – good for relaxing stiff muscles. Take as a tincture or in tea.

Magic magnesium

Magnesium, often hailed as the 'miracle mineral', plays a crucial role in natural pain relief. Studies show that magnesium deficiency is linked to muscle spasms and headaches, heightened pain sensitivity.

Moreover, magnesium plays a pivotal role in combating inflammation, a key contributor to pain. Studies highlight magnesium's potential in reducing chronic inflammatory pain.

Incorporating magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, nuts, and seeds into your diet and supplementing with magnesium may offer a natural and effective way to alleviate pain.

"Including magnesium in a holistic wellness approach to pain management can be an effective tool for individuals seeking alternatives to conventional medication," says Meaghan Esser, registered holistic nutritionist and managing director of ITL Health. "When choosing a magnesium supplement to help ease pain, make sure to choose one that is pure and easy for the body to absorb quickly."

Helpful hemp

"Understanding the connection between our gut and brain is increasingly understood as the secret to long term good physical and mental health," says Marc McDonald from The Hemp Company Dublin. "The hemp plant is a nutritious and easily digestible food. It contains all 20 amino acids, including the nine essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and -6, which are essential for brain health. Rich in antioxidants, hemp products can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body and mind by neutralising harmful free radicals.

"The healthful ratio of omega-3s in hemp seeds and their omega-3 to omega-6 ratio work together to help reduce inflammation which is linked to pain. Hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Hemp hearts are the raw seed with the hull removed, giving them more protein and EFAs. Hemp protein powder is produced by grinding and sifting the de-fatted cake created after cold-pressing hemp seeds. Hemp seed oil is rich in EFAs, vitamin E, antioxidants and minerals."

Discuss with a healthcare practitioner before beginning or stopping any medical or herbal treatment.

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