The Instagram logo

It doesn’t hurt any more

Dealing with headaches, inflammation and chronic pain the natural way

Pain is caused when specific nerves detect damage to our bodies, be it tissue, or joints,” says Lorin Taylor at Licorice Healthfoods in Portumna, Co Galway. “These nerves transmit information about the damage through our spinal cord and to our brain. This then tells us not to stand on the ankle we injured, for example. Emotional upset and stress can sometimes manifest as physical pain – headaches, sore back, digestive discomfort and heartburn can all be symptoms of stress or anxiety.”

Acute pain

“Remedies for acute pain will really depend on what the problem is. For example gallstones related pain can be helped with dandelion juice or tea or apple cider vinegar in some warm water,” says Bernadette Cass, manager of The Fruit ‘N Nut Place in Portlaoise.

“The type of acute pain we see is usually injury related, so along with the usual rest, elevate, ice advice there are a few remedies we recommend,” says Lorin Taylor. “Arnica oil or gel is fantastic if the skin is unbroken and it’s in a region that it can be rubbed into. I have given some people white willow caps to help with this pain too. If it’s a muscle pull or damage, magnesium is great for relaxing out the tension and helping with the pain, both taken orally or as a spray-on oil.”


“For pain caused by inflammation my go-to remedy is turmeric, usually in curcumin form as it’s that bit stronger and bioavailable,” says Lorin Taylor. “Other very useful supplements are omega oils, ginger, vitamins C and D. These all help to reduce inflammation. For rheumatoid pain avoid the nightshade family which includes potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. We also advise people to drink plenty of water, and limit sugar intake.”

Apple cider vinegar can be useful for inflammation-related pain, and collagen in chicken and beef stock can help. Reducing or eliminating sugar, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol also have a part to play. A glass of lemon juice in warm water can have an alkalysing effect on the body and get the day off to a good start.

Arthritis pain

“Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in Ireland, affecting more than 400,000 people,” says nutritional therapist Olive Curran with PPC in Galway. “Up your Omega-3 fish oils, now well known as natural anti-inflammatory agents. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation. The beneficial omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are essential fats; as your body cannot make them, it is necessary to obtain them through diet. A massive 89% of Irish people are not consuming sufficient oily fish in their diet, so often there is a need to take a good quality omega-3 fish oil.

“Spices such as curcumin (from turmeric) and ginger are excellent at reducing inflammation. Supplements with highly bioavailable extracts of ginger and curcumin can help to reduce inflammation, reduce morning stiffness, and keep the body’s joints flexible. Vitamin C contributes to normal collagen formation and the function of bones and cartilage.

“Stretching, walking, swimming and yoga can prove beneficial. Aim for 30 mins 5 times a week. Aim to reach and maintain your ideal weight to avoid excess stress on your joints. Avoid potatoes, tomatoes, aubergine, peppers and tobacco to see if the nightshade foods are contributing to your symptoms.”

Chronic pain

On-going arthritic pain is a form of ongoing chronic pan, as are fibromyalgia, recurring migraines, post-shingles neuralgia, lower back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.

“For joint problems we recommend turmeric, black pepper and ginger as these are all anti-inflammatory,” says Bernadette Cass. “Herbs and spices that can help include chamomile, fennel, valerian and lemon balm.”

Digestive pain

“My go-to supplements for digestive pain would be a combination of digestive enzymes and probiotics,” says Lorin Taylor. “These take the pressure of the digestive system, break down food and limit the reaction you may have to whatever isn’t agreeing with you.”

“Keep a food diary,” says Bernadette Cass. “It can help you find out if there is a food that triggers your problems. For digestive discomfort take digestive enzymes or bitter herbs like dandelion and yarrow. Ginger, chamomile and fennel teas can also be good. Probiotics and l glutamine can help heal an irritated digestive system.”

Pain prevention

“Aim to keep your body in an anti-inflammatory state,” says Lorin Taylor. “Good quality omega oils, magnesium, vitamin D3 and a good probiotic can all help. I think one of the most important things to do is to pay attention to your body. It’s the only one we have and it will tell us what we need. If we are craving something unusual or that we know is unhealthy, there is something we are lacking. A chocolate craving is very often a sign that we are lacking in magnesium. It’s also incredibly important to rest enough. Be kind to yourself and everything in moderation.”

“Diet should be as alkaline as possible with less acidic foods like coffee, processed meats and processed foods in general,” says Bernadette Cass. “More vegetables are recommended, and especially blood cleansing ones like celery. Drink plenty of water, take omega-3 oils to reduce inflammation, add in nuts and seeds and oily fish to your diet.”

Natural remedies

  • 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. It can also help with sleep and relaxation issues which often feature alongside chronic pain.
  • CoQ10 – thought to help prevent migraines due to its omega-3 content, found in oily fish and wholegrains or as a supplement.
  • 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.
  • Magnesium – aids sleep and muscle tension. Spray straight onto the trouble spot.
  • Valerian – good for relaxing stiff muscles. Take as a tincture or in tea.
  • Turmeric – whether taken as the powder, in capsules, with ginger or black pepper to aid absorption, or in the form of curcumin, which is turmeric’s active ingredient, has become a very popular anti-inflammatory in recent years.

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

Articles from our latest issue...