Chronic pain afflicts 116 million Americans, or more than a third of the population. Not surprising, the use of pain medication has risen 415% among women. But what is shocking? Many sufferers don’t find complete relief on meds, and more North Americans die from painkillers than from cars accidents.
Sure, sometimes the pain is so bad that meds are the only answer (and they’re generally safe when taken according to doctors’ direction), but there are many natural remedies you can try before going there. We’ve compiled 100 of the best. Just find your ache and apply the brakes.
For the first 48 hours after the pain sets in, place a bag of frozen peas (or an ice pack, if you want to get fancy) on the ache. Do this for 20 minutes several times daily. Localized cooling shuts down capillaries and reduces blood flow to the area, which helps ease swelling. Cold also thwarts the nerves’ ability to conduct pain signals.
After 48 hours, switch to applying a heating pad several times daily for 20-minute intervals. Warmth loosens tight muscles and increases circulation, bringing extra oxygen to the rescue, which promotes healing.
Soften the muscles
Use your discomfort as a legit excuse to get a weekly massage. One study found that people who did had less pain and disability after 10 weeks, compared with the control group. Depending on your health-care plan, it may even be covered.
Soften the mattress
Conventional wisdom is off base: An extra-firm mattress may not make your spine smile. A number of studies suggest that people with lower back pain who sleep on medium-firm mattresses do better than those on firm beds.
Stop needling yourself…
No, the pain isn’t in your head. But what is in your head could be making it worse. Because brain circuits that process pain overlap dramatically with circuits involved with emotions, fear and anxiety can translate into actual pain. Deep breathing can help (try this technique), as can simply shining a light on dark thoughts. Start by accepting the pain then repeat, “It will get better.”
…And get needled
There’s scientific proof that acupuncture works. In a review of 11 studies involving more than 1,100 people, this Chinese medicine staple improved symptoms of back pain better than simulated treatments and, yes, in some cases, NSAIDs. The needles appear to change the way nerves react and may reduce inflammation around joints.
Place a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back, or between them if you sleep on your side. The former helps keep your spine naturally curved while the latter relieves pressure on lumbar joints. Never sleep on your stomach; that’s the worst position for your back.
Tilt your rearview mirror up just a bit to encourage sitting up straighter. And if your seat doesn’t provide much lumbar support, stuff a small pillow behind your lower back.
Empty your purse
Throw your handbag on the bathroom scale. If you’re like most women, you’ll find your lugging around the equivalent of a bowling ball. And believe it or not, paring down what’s in there is one of the easiest and most effective ways to alleviate back pain.
Carrying your bag on the same shoulder daily forces your body to elevate that shoulder to compensate, which throws your spine off-kilter. Either split a heavy load between two bags, or remind yourself to switch shoulders.
Check your toilet paper
Promise we’re not making this up: Your toilet paper holder may be responsible for your aching back. If it’s in a position where you have to contort yourself to reach it, you’re not doing your spine any favors. Either unspool some tissue before you sit down or buy a freestanding holder.
Soft, fluffy furniture may seem relaxing, but sofas and chairs without adequate back support can triple pressure on the disks in your spine. Tuck a throw pillow, lumbar roll, or even a rolled-up towel behind the small of your back to help you sit up straight. Rest feet on a small footstool, and keep your chin up, rather than tucked against your chest. (See how else your house could be hurting your back.)
Buy a rug
Surfaces with no give—like ceramic tile or hardwood flooring—can stress your lower back. Put thick, nonskid rugs or rubber mats where you frequently stand, like in front of the sink, stove, washer, and dryer. This absorbs shock and reduces stress.
When standing in place for a while—washing dishes, for example—rest one foot on a low stool or the shelf under the sink. Switch legs every 5 minutes. It’ll take the strain off your lower back and help relax tense muscles.
Have a beer
Now here’s some good news. Researchers found that women who consume alcohol moderately (about one drink per day) had a 22% decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis compared to those who don’t drink. Women who drink beer two to four times weekly had a 31% decreased risk.
Drink some cherry juice
Sipping 10.5 ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily has been shown to reduce muscle soreness. That’s probably due to the high levels of anthocyanins (a beneficial phytochemical) that it naturally contains.
Oil your insides…
So far, the best diet for fighting arthritis appears to be the Mediterranean-style of eating, says Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This eating plan is full of foods that tame inflammation, namely fish, olives and olive oil, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. It’s heart-healthy as well. (Give these 20 ridiculously tasty Mediterranean meals a try.)
…And oil your outsides
Essential oils can help relieve sore muscles and joint.. Here’s a recipe that’s perfect for soothing pain. Ginger-Eucalyptus Massage Oil: Combine 2 cups almond or olive oil and 2 tbsp coarsely ground ginger in a slow cooker and heat for 6-8 hours on low. After it cools, strain through cheesecloth and pour into a glass jar with a lid. Add 24 drops of eucalyptus oil and cover. Apply to skin as desired.
The same hot peppers that bring tears to your eyes can take away arthritis pain. An ingredient called capsaicin does the trick by stimulating nerve endings and depleting a chemical that relays pain signals. You can buy capsaicin-containing creams at most pharmacies, or you can add peppers to soups and sprinkle chili sauce on food. The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains.
Researchers at Oklahoma State University gave osteoarthritis sufferers either 40 grams of soy protein (about ¼ cup of shelled edamame) or milk-based protein for 3 months. At the study’s end, pain was reduced for those who ate the former but not the latter. Additional sources of soy protein include tofu, tempeh, and other fermented forms of whole soy—not soy protein isolates, which you commonly see in processed snacks, says James Dillard, MD.
Try vitamin C
A 10-year Boston University study of 149 people with knee osteoarthritis found that getting less than 150 mg of vitamin C per day tripled the rate of cartilage breakdown. So eating more high-C foods might help with arthritis in general. (Up your C intake with these 7 super citrus recipes.)
Consider this supplement
For individuals suffering from mild to moderate arthritis pain, some studies suggest that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate provide a level of relief similar to that supplied by NSAIDS such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Skip the wine
German researchers questioned roughly 950 wine drinkers and found that nearly 25% reported at least mild signs of alcohol intolerance. And here’s the kicker: Women were almost twice as likely as men to have wine allergies, with symptoms including flushed skin, itching, nasal congestion, and headaches.
Check your cheese
Smoked, pickled, dried and aged food—typical munchie fare—contains sulfites that can dilate blood vessels and make your head hurt. Avoid salami, cheese and smoked salmon if you’re sensitive.
Chew less gum
Israeli researchers suspected that gum chewing might be why teenage patients often have chronic migraines, so they asked 30 of them to quit their habit for a month. Symptoms improved for all but 4; for 19, pain disappeared altogether. It seems chewing stresses the jaw’s temporomandibular joint, which can trigger head pain. (You may want to skip gum entirely when you read these gross side effects of chewing gum.)
Chew more fish
Specifically fatty fish, such as mackerel, tuna, salmon, and sardines. They’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which convert to compounds that block pain signaling in the nervous system. People with chronic headaches who ate a high-3 diet for 3 months changed their brains’ chemical makeup and had fewer and shorter headaches.
Give ginger a try
This spicy root is a natural aspirin impersonator and anti-inflammatory. It can offer relief from migraines and muscle aches. Grate it into Asian dishes, smoothies, and juice. Or make ginger tea by placing sliced, peeled gingerroot in boiling water and letting it steep for 15 minutes. For ginger lemonade, combine grated gingerroot, lemon juice, and honey with ice water.
Sip some coffee
Coffee isn’t just a morning pick-me-up. It’s good medicine. “Caffeine helps reduce pain by narrowing the dilated blood vessels that develop with headaches,” says Andrew Weil, MD. But be warned: Too much caffeine can have the opposite effect. And when you quit, you can get withdrawal headaches. Coffee works as a headache reliever only if you don’t consume it regularly.
Peppermint oil (Mentha piperita) has been shown to be effective for relieving headaches. Rub one or two drops on your temples or wrists and breathe in the minty scent. The oil relaxes muscles in spasm.
Try DIY acupressure
Feel along your trapezius, the large muscle that runs from the high point of both shoulders and joins your neck. Use your thumbs, index, and middle fingers to squeeze the muscle just below where it attaches to both sides of your neck. You’ll be releasing “trigger points,” tiny muscle spasms that can cause neck tension and are a common cause of headaches. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute—or have a friend do it for you. (See this quick video for an acupressure demo.)
Give lightning a wide berth
More than half of people with migraines are sensitive to drops in air pressure and temperature. Now a study that matched lightning activity with headache diaries has found that flashes can also trigger them. Scientists can’t explain the effect but theorize that lightning may emit electromagnetic waves, produce ozone in the atmosphere, or release fungal spores that cause trouble. Take cover!
Use an electric headband
Electric-pulse techniques are among the most exciting developments in migraine treatment. The first-ever FDA-approved device, called Cefaly ($300), features a headband that delivers a mild electrical current to stimulate the upper branch of the trigeminal nerve. Zapping it is meant to increase endorphins and block pain signals in the nervous system. Slightly more than half of the 2,300 testers in a recent survey reported relief. Read more about Cefaly here.
Eat more oatmeal
One common trigger is skipping breakfast. “When you fast, that activates the hypothalamus, the brain region that controls the drive to eat,” explains B. Lee Peterlin, director of Johns Hopkins Headache Research. And an activated hypothalamus is closely associated with migraine attacks. Having a bowl of oatmeal every morning will save you from a blood sugar dip that can get your head a-throbbing. (Short on time? These 9 almost-instant breakfasts are ready in minutes.)
Pinpoint your triggers
Keep a log of each headache, noting when it happened, what you were doing, and what you ate and drank for 24 hours prior. Potential culprits: hormonal changes, cigarette smoke, bright light, caffeine, and food with nitrates, MSG, or a compound called tyramine, like aged cheese and lunch meats. Spotting a pattern is the key to alleviating the problem.
Knees ache because they’re inflamed. When yours get cranky, mold a bag of frozen peas or other vegetable around the joint. Applying for 20 minutes each hour will reduce swelling and inflammation.
Don’t stop working out. Keeping active builds muscles that support the knee joint. Two things to avoid if you have pain: running and doing full leg extensions on a resistance machine. Better bets: walking, bicycling, and “closed kinetic chain” exercises, in which the foot stays planted (like on an elliptical trainer).
Drink more milk
Drinking fat-free or low-fat milk slows the progression of knee osteoarthritis in women, according to findings published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. Women who drank the most milk (7 or more glasses per week) showed smaller joint space decreases than women who drank the least, indicating slower osteoarthritis progression.
Eat more yogurt
Like milk, yogurt contains a potent combination of calcium and vitamin D, which reduce bone loss, lower the risk of fractures, and may quell knee pain. One cup of plain, low-fat yogurt contains 415 mg of calcium per cup, compared to 299 mg for fat-free milk. (Keep your snack interesting with these 8 tasty yogurt add-ins.)
Lose a little weight
Every pound you lose feels like 5 fewer pounds to your knees. And they’ll thank you for lightening the load by being far less cranky. The best way to shed weight fast is to combine exercise with a healthy eating plan. (Get started with these 50 ways to lose 10 pounds.)
Take at least 2,500 steps a day
One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to shed pounds is with a movement tracker. There are many bands and other devices on the market, including apps for mobile phones. Research shows pedometer users take nearly 2,500 more steps a day (over 1 mile, or about 100 calories) than nonusers. Over a year, that’s enough to burn off about 10 pounds.
Strengthen your hips with the Side Swing move…
According to a review of 28 years’ worth of research on common exercise injuries, hip strength is the biggest predictor of knee pain. So attach a resistance band to something stable at floor height and loop the other end around your right ankle. While balancing on your left foot (hold onto something if needed), raise the right leg out to the side then lower. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps daily for each side.
…and the Front Kick
Position the resistance band as before but now turn your body so it’s anchored behind you and looped around your left ankle, foot flexed. Swing your left leg forward about 12 inches, keeping it straight, and return to start. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps daily for each leg.
Use your fingers…
Push firmly into the knot with your fingers while turning your head slightly in the direction opposite the cramp. Bend your head diagonally, as if you were trying to touch your armpit with your chin.
…Or a ball
Can’t quite reach the kink? A tennis ball or other prop can work for you—just lean against a wall for leverage and roll around.
Slouching all day at a desk can really mess with your neck. For better posture, keep feet flat on the floor and eyes level with the computer monitor. Make sure your chair supports the curve in your lower back and your shoulder blades. And most important, stand up and walk around for 60 seconds at least 5 times daily.
Check your stance in front of a mirror. Facing sideways, line up your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. Notice how your body feels when it’s aligned correctly. Do this more often until it becomes habit.
MORE: 6 Quick Posture Fixes
Stretch this way…
While sitting or standing, slowly circle your head clockwise for 30 seconds and then reverse direction. You’ll hear some Rice Krispie sounds coming from your neck, but if you do this simple exercise regularly they’ll gradually disappear.
…Then that way
While standing tall, put your right hand behind your head near the left ear. Gently pull down toward your right shoulder. Hold 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Then repeat after us: Ahh.
Adjust your bag
Carrying a heavy purse all day can strain neck and shoulder muscles. The best way to lug one is diagonally across your body, with the strap adjusted to minimize swing. “This allows trunk muscles to carry more load,” says Matthew Cunningham, MD, a NYC spine-care specialist.
Engage those abs
To further minimize purse-induced neck pain, keep your abs engaged (like you’re buttoning up a tight pair of pants), your weight centered over your feet, and your shoulder blades down and back, says Vonda Wright, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Pittsburgh. (Try these yoga poses to strengthen your abs.)
Stretch it out
For heel pain or plantar fasciitis, stand barefoot facing a wall with one leg in front of the other. Press into the wall with both hands and lean forward, feeling a stretch along the back of the opposite leg and heel. Hold for 30 seconds; switch sides and repeat.
Roll it under
Freeze a small water bottle. Cover it with a towel and place the arch of your foot atop it. Slowly roll the bottle back and forth for about 5 minutes at a time. Switch feet and repeat.
Curl this way…
For flexible, pain-free arches and toes, do this simple stretch: Kneel on a folded towel or mat. Curl your toes under and sit back, hips on heels. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. (Know what else you can do with a towel? Get seriously toned. Here’s how.)
…Then that way
Kneel as before; only this time curl your toes in the opposite direction. Sit back, hips on heels, and hold for as long as is comfortable.
Try this high heel stretch…
Switching abruptly from heels to flats can cause Achilles tendonitis—when your Achilles tendon, which attaches your calf muscle to the heel, becomes inflamed. To protect yourself, periodically do this: Stand on a step or curb with your heels hanging off, and slowly rise up and down on your toes.
…And that high heel stretch
Hoofing it on heels shortens calf muscles, which can result in weak muscles and foot problems when the heels come off. The classic yoga pose Downward Dog lengthens the calves. Hold it for 30 seconds or longer immediately after removing heels for soothing relief. Remember to press both heels toward the ground.
Rub with St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort oil, a liniment, is “one of my favorites for nerve pain,” says Tieraona Low Dog, MD, director of the fellowship at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Apply the anti-inflammatory oil two or three times daily where there’s pain.
Rub with cayenne pepper
Another option is OTC cayenne pepper plaster or cream. Capsaicin, found in chiles, hinders the release of pain-causing compounds from nerves. For severe cases, Low Dog uses the prescription chile patch Qutenza, designed for shingles pain. “One application is effective for weeks,” she says.
Try a chiropractor
Sixty percent of people with sciatica who didn’t get relief from other therapies and then tried spinal manipulation experienced the same degree of pain relief as patients who eventually had surgery, a 2010 study determined. The 120 people in the study saw a chiropractor about 3 times a week for 4 weeks, and then continued weekly visits, tapering off treatment as they felt better. “Spinal manipulation may create a response in the nervous system that relieves pain and restores normal mobility to the injured area,” says study researcher Gordon McMorland, DC. “It also reduces inflammation, creating an environment that promotes the body’s natural healing mechanisms.”
Get yourself moving
Movement increases blood flow to the disk and the nerve, helping flush away chemicals causing inflammation. Take 15- to 20-minute walks. If that hurts too much, try swimming or water aerobics, which are lower impact.
The journal Pain reported that people with chronic back pain who practiced Iyengar yoga for 16 weeks saw pain reduced by 64% and disability by 77%. Although yoga’s effects on sciatica are less clear, gentle forms may be beneficial. By strengthening muscles and improving flexibility, yoga helps sciatica sufferers “move and function better so they don’t fall into a posture that aggravates the sciatica,” says James Carson, PhD. (Give these 5 stretches for back pain a try.)
By a licensed acupuncturist. “You can get relief as soon as the first session, though it takes about 12 sessions to see improvement,” says Jingduan Yang, MD.A small 2009 study in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine found that of 30 people with sciatica, 17 got complete relief and 10 saw symptoms improve with warming acupuncture, in which the needles are heated.
Consider devil’s claw
The herbal medication devil’s claw is “quite a potent anti-inflammatory, working like ibuprofen to inhibit substances that drive inflammation,” says Low Dog. She generally starts patients on 1,500 to 2,000 mg twice daily. Look for a brand that has a standardized extract of roughly 50 mg of harpagoside, the active compound. Avoid this supplement if you have a peptic ulcer or are on blood-thinning medication.
Don’t expect a chilled-out spa massage to help if you have sciatica. In this instance, trigger-point therapy is best, says Jeff Smoot of the American Massage Therapy Association. The sciatic nerve sits underneath a muscle called the piriformis, which is located beneath the glutes. “When the piriformis muscle gets tight, it pinches the sciatic nerve, causing tingling and numbness down into the leg,” he explains. He applies pressure to irritated and inflamed areas, or trigger points, in the piriformis, as well as muscles in the lower back and glutes. Typically, treatments are scheduled 7 to 10 days apart. If patients don’t see progress by the fourth visit, “they need to try another form of therapy,” he says.
The menthol in peppermint helps prevent muscle spasms, one of the reasons peppermint oil effectively treats irritable bowel syndrome. Botanist James Duke, PhD recommends brewing mint tea. Pour boiling water over peppermint leaves and steep until it’s as strong as you like. A squeeze of lemon will help you extract as many pain-reducing chemicals as possible from the plants.
About 20% of Americans have irritable bowel syndrome. If you’re one of them, help may come in the form of a bug—billions of bugs, actually. Several bacterial strains that are often in yogurt (especially B. infantis and L. acidophilus) reduce pain, inflammation and bloating, according to a 2010 review. Another study found similar results with B. lactis. But shop smart. Not every yogurt contains these probiotics. Look for a brand with “live and active cultures.” Vegans can get their daily dose from probiotic-enriched soy yogurt.
Ease gas pain with caraway
Sip 1 cup of hot water steeped with 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds. Like magic, it’ll stifle the enzymatic action that causes gas. (Sure it’s just gas? Here are 5 other culprits of stomach pain.)
Treat stomach cramps with chamomile
When you stomach starts to cramp and diarrhea seems imminent, drink a cup of chamomile tea. The herb has an antispasmodic effect that stops contractions in the lower intestine.
Chug cranberry juice
Ulcers result from a pathogen called H. pylori, which attacks the protective lining of the stomach or small intestine. Antibiotics are the usual cure, but you can help prevent ulcers by drinking cranberry juice, thanks to its ability to block H. pylori from adhering to the stomach lining. One study found that just under a cup a day for 3 weeks eliminated almost 20% of all cases of H. pylori infection—without drugs. Make sure it’s 100% natural cranberry juice, though. If it’s too bitter, add water.
Connect the dots
Diet changes can produce dramatic effects. But the first step to doing that is discovering what’s triggering your stomach distress. The next time pain strikes, make a list of everything you ate that day. Over time, you might uncover the cause. Common problem foods include: cabbage, broccoli, kale, legumes, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gum, raw fruit, and fatty food. (These tips can help you figure out if a certain food is making you hurt.)
It’s hard to exercise when you hurt, but researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that it doesn’t take much to reduce perceived pain. Just 15 to 30 minutes of “lifestyle physical activity” (e.g., walking, gardening, vacuuming) per day produced significant benefits in one study. (Follow these 25 ways to sneak in 10 minutes of exercise for help moving more.)
Get plenty of magnesium
Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects mostly women and is characterized by chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and an extremely low tolerance to pain. Not getting enough magnesium—a mineral found in green leafy vegetables, meat, and milk—may contribute to it. In one study, taking 300 mg daily for 8 weeks reduced pain and tenderness among sufferers. Your doc can test your magnesium levels and prescribe a supplement, if necessary.
In a small pilot study, women who attended a 2-hour weekly yoga program and practiced the poses at home for 20 to 40 minutes daily experienced a 31% drop in symptoms, including pain and fatigue. “The breathing techniques induce a relaxation response that may alter pain signals,” says study leader James Carson, PhD.
Tufts University researchers give tai chi high marks for improving sleep and easing fibromyalgia’s pain and depression. Tai chi’s controlled breathing and movements promote a restful state, which may interrupt the pain cycle. (Try this simple breathing exercise to help you sleep.)
Go for regular massages
Massage is a good all-around treatment for fibromyalgia, but Spanish researchers found particular success with “myofascial release.” Fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds muscles and organs, tightens in fibromyalgia sufferers, increasing pain. This form of massage—a slow, gliding pressure—separates tight bands of fascia, making them softer. It resulted in noticeably less pain and anxiety.
Opt for acupuncture
Acupuncture increases the activity of brain receptors that dampen pain signals, say researchers who studied brain images of women with fibromyalgia after they were treated.
Lose weight (literally)
Reducing just a little can lessen symptoms—and maybe prevent you from getting fibromyalgia in the first place. One study found that overweight or obese women had a 60% to 70% higher risk of developing fibromyalgia than women with normal BMIs. Being overweight contributes to fatigue and stresses joints, which can increase pain. A separate study found that losing just 4.4% of body weight helped eased symptoms.
Lose weight (figuratively)
Talking to a therapist and gaining a better understanding of your pain has been shown to ease physical as well as emotional symptoms. In a recent study, 6 weekly sessions of telephone-based talk therapy increased how much pain participants could bear. Negative thoughts are turned into more positive ones.
These babies are jam-packed with antioxidants. Research shows a diet rich in blueberries can help prevent everything from memory loss to urinary tract infections. Add a ½ cup to your daily diet for maximum health benefits. This alone provides almost twice the amount of antioxidants most Americans get in a day.
Try baking soda
It makes the bladder more alkaline, which prevents bacteria from multiplying, says urologist Larrian Gillespie, MD. Drink a solution made with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda mixed in 8 ounces of water at the first sign of symptoms. Continue this once a day until you see a doctor, get a culture, and start taking antibiotics. (Check out 10 more baking soda solutions.)
Do Pendulums and Wall Slides
If raising your arm above or behind your head triggers shoulder pain, you could have rotator cuff tendinitis. Improving range of motion with stretches that target the shoulder muscles is crucial. Do 50 daily reps of each of these: Pendulums (bend over and let your affected arm dangle as you make circles with it) and Wall Slides (run the hand on your injured side up and down a wall as though you were washing it).
Try this yoga pose
This easy yoga move can reduce pain by 90%. Interlock your fingers and press your palms together, then place your hands and forearms against a wall, forming a triangle. Rest the top of your skull against the wall in the center of the triangle. Walk your feet about 24 inches away from the wall. Lower your chest and press your elbows and forearms into the wall. Pull your shoulders back, down, and away. Hold for 45 seconds or so. Do daily for 2 to 3 weeks. (Get more rotator cuff relief with these solutions.)
Gargle it gone
Twice daily, gargle with a solution of 6 pressed garlic cloves mixed into a glass of warm (not hot) water. Do this for 3 days. Research shows fresh garlic juice has antimicrobial properties that fight pain-causing bacteria. The warm liquid soothes inflamed tissue.
Sip it away
Mix together 1 clove bud, which is antiseptic and fights infection, with ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger (or 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger) and ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon—the latter two because of their anti-inflammatory properties. Infuse with 2 cups boiling water, and for every cup, stir in 2 teaspoons of raw honey. Sip throughout the day.
Break off an aloe leaf and apply the juice to your sunburned skin. (Test a small spot first to make sure you’re not allergic.) If you don’t have an aloe plant at your beach house, buy a bottle of pure aloe-vera gel at a pharmacy, chill it in the fridge, and apply.
Take a lukewarm bath with 1 cup added instant oatmeal, 1 cup whole milk, 2 tablespoons honey, and 2 tablespoons aloe vera gel. Oatmeal is anti-inflammatory, honey is antiseptic, milk’s proteins and fats soothe skin, and aloe numbs pain. Afterward, moisturize with a cream containing hydrating shea butter and aloe.
Cucumbers offer natural sunburn relief on par with store-bought products. Simply mash one and apply it to your skin. A cuke can even provide sun protection in a pinch. Peel, chop, squeeze out the juice, and mix it with glycerin and rosewater.
Cut a raw potato into slices and rub a piece on your most painful sunburned spots. The spud’s starchy compounds will help soothe the sting. For a more intensive treatment, grate a cold raw potato and apply as a poultice.
Reach for milk
Fat-free milk creates a protein film on your skin that will help ease the discomfort of sunburn. Apply cool, not cold milk using a clean cloth or gauze. Apply compresses for 15-20 minutes, and repeat every 2-4 hours.
Dab on vinegar
White vinegar’s acetic acid acts like a topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (think aspirin and ibuprofen). If you’re red (not blistered), dab a bit of distilled white vinegar onto your sunburn. It will kill the pain for about 20 minutes.
Oil the ache
Add 6 drops of lavender oil and 3 drops each of rose and clary sage oils to 4 teaspoons of almond oil. Rub this blend on your belly for 15 minutes daily. Trust us, there’s research that shows it works. (Just shop carefully. Watch out for these 7 signs your essential oils are fake.)
Take ½ to 1 teaspoon of crampbark tincture every 2 hours on the days of your worst cramps. Studies show that this North American plant works as a muscle relaxant to quickly relieve painful spasms.
The most stress-out women are more than twice as likely to experience painful menstrual cramps as those who are less tense, a Harvard study found. Researchers blame a stress-induced imbalance of hormones. (These 13 foods can help fight stress.)
Not only can taking a yoga class help lower stress but according to one study the deeper levels of relaxation encourages through a guided meditation called “yoga nidra” can ease menstrual symptoms and help balance hormone levels. Ask your studio or instructor about it.
In one study, plain old commercial honey healed mouth ulcers faster than corticosteroid cream and a special over-the-counter paste. It also subdued pain significantly better. After each meal, simply wet a sterile cotton ball and wipe the sore clean then apply a small amount of honey with a cotton swab.
Dr. Weil’s favorite natural fix is an herbal supplement, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, which some studies show can help reduce the size of sores, speed healing, and ease pain. Look for chewable tablets or DGL powders at health food stores or online. When using the powder, mix it with water to make a paste, and apply to the sore every few hours.
To take the bite off the pain until you can get to a dentist, rub a little oil of clove on the gum, or chew a whole clove. It has a numbing effect.
Give acupressure a whirl
Although it sounds crazy, try rubbing an ice cube in the V-shaped area between your thumb and index finger. In one study, when this was done for 7 minutes on the same side of the body as the inflammation, the intensity of the tooth pain was reduced.
Pour on garlic oil
Ear pain often signifies an infection, which should be treated by a doctor. But antibiotics may take a day or two to ease symptoms. If traditional pain relievers aren’t enough, try warm oil. Liquid garlic extract in olive oil (warmed to slightly above body temperature) poured into the ear canal while you’re lying down provides a soothing sensation and appears to discourage bacterial growth.
Or try mullein oil
Mullein is an herb whose leaves are commonly used to relieve cough, sore throat and chest congestion, but when steeped in oil it can also be used to relieve earache.