Food Is Medicine: 20 Natural Painkillers in your Kitchen

In many ways, we don’t really need much advice because we already know basically what we should do:

  • Eat a variety of foods, especially whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Minimize candy, soda and other empty calories.
  • Watch how much we eat.
  • Do some physical activity every day.

As a nation, we are increasingly eating more processed foods. Our supermarkets are full of convenient packaged foods that appeal to our taste buds, but compromise our nutrition. In addition, we are eating less variety of foods. Ironically, while 17,000 new products are introduced each year, two-thirds of our calories come from just four foods: corn, soy, wheat, and rice.Pie chart showing two-thirds of the calories we consume come from corn, soy, rice, and wheat.

Nor is our food the same as it was 20 years ago. Nutrients in the soil have been depleted, so food grown in that soil has fewer nutrients. Chemicals are increasingly used in raising both plants and animals, particularly on huge industrial farms that specialize in a few products.

It is easy to fall into the pattern of eating fast, convenient, prepared food, especially in our often frenetic lives. But we are not nurturing ourselves by doing so. Our Standard American Diet (it’s SAD, get it?) lacks nutrients and relies heavily on processed foods that include artificial color, additives, flavorings, and chemically-altered fats and sweeteners.

Our fast foods remove us from the pleasures of creating and savoring a wonderful meal, and our fast pace often prevents us from connecting over a good, slow meal. We tend to eat for convenience and speed, not health and pleasure.  No wonder it’s so easy for you to overeat like a mother fucker! (Yeah, I’m talking about you.  Well, there’s a very high chance I am considering 69% of Americans are either overweight or obese. 69%!!!)

So there are many reasons why we might want to pay attention to what we eat. Food is powerful stuff.  Everyone has to eat.  Food is not like medicine, it is medicine.  We especially need to pay attention when we are sick so we can help our bodies get the nutrients we need to heal. There are many health benefits if we look at food as medicine.  Here are some of the ways…

1. Make muscle pain a memory with ginger

When Danish researchers asked achy people to jazz up their diets with ginger, it eased muscle and joint pain, swelling and stiffness for up to 63 percent of them within two months. Experts credit ginger’s potent compounds called gingerols, which prevent the production of pain-triggering hormones. The study-recommended dose: Add at least 1 teaspoon of dried ginger or 2 teaspoons of chopped ginger to meals daily.

2. Cure a toothache with cloves

Got a toothache and can’t get to the dentist? Gently chewing on a clove can ease tooth pain and gum inflammation for two hours straight, say UCLA researchers. Experts point to a natural compound in cloves called eugenol, a powerful, natural anesthetic. Bonus: Sprinkling a ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves on meals daily may also protect your ticker. Scientists say this simple action helps stabilize blood sugar, plus dampen production of artery-clogging cholesterol in as little as three weeks.

3. Heal heartburn with cider vinegar

Sip 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with 8 ounces of water before every meal, and experts say you could shut down painful bouts of heartburn in as little as 24 hours. “Cider vinegar is rich in malic and tartaric acids, powerful digestive aids that speed the breakdown of fats and proteins so your stomach can empty quickly, before food washes up into the esophagus, triggering heartburn pain,” explains Joseph Brasco, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the Center for Colon and Digestive Diseases in Huntsville, AL.

4. Erase earaches with garlic

Painful ear infections drive millions of Americans to doctors’ offices every year. To cure one fast, just place two drops of warm garlic oil into your aching ear twice daily for five days. This simple treatment can clear up ear infections faster than prescription meds, say experts at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Scientists say garlic’s active ingredients (germanium, selenium, and sulfur compounds) are naturally toxic to dozens of different pain-causing bacteria. To whip up your own garlic oil gently simmer three cloves of crushed garlic in a half a cup of extra virgin olive oil for two minutes, strain, then refrigerate for up to two weeks, suggests Teresa Graedon, Ph.D., co-author of the book, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy. For an optimal experience, warm this mix slightly before using so the liquid will feel soothing in your ear canal.

5. Chase away joint and headache pain with cherries

Latest studies show that at least one in four women is struggling with arthritis, gout or chronic headaches. If you’re one of them, a daily bowl of cherries could ease your ache, without the stomach upset so often triggered by today’s painkillers, say researchers at East Lansing ’s Michigan State University . Their research reveals that anthocyanins, the compounds that give cherries their brilliant red color, are anti-inflammatories 10 times stronger than ibuprofen and aspirin. “Anthocyanins help shut down the powerful enzymes that kick-start tissue inflammation, so they can prevent, as well as treat, many different kinds of pain,” explains Muraleedharan Nair, Ph.D., professor of food science at Michigan State University . His advice: Enjoy 20 cherries (fresh, frozen or dried) daily, then continue until your pain disappears.

6. Fight tummy troubles with fish

Indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel diseases…if your belly always seems to be in an uproar, try munching 18 ounces of fish weekly to ease your misery. Repeated studies show that the fatty acids in fish, called EPA and DHA, can significantly reduce intestinal inflammation, cramping and belly pain and, in some cases, provide as much relief as corticosteroids and other prescription meds. “EPA and DHA are powerful, natural, side effect-free anti-inflammatories, that can dramatically improve the function of the entire gastrointestinal tract,” explains biological chemist Barry Sears, Ph.D., president of the Inflammation Research Foundation in Marblehead , MA . For best results, look for oily fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, trout and herring.

7. Prevent PMS with yogurt

Up to 80 percent of women will struggle with premenstrual syndrome and its uncomfortable symptoms, report Yale researchers. The reason: Their nervous systems are sensitive to the ups and downs in estrogen and progesterone that occur naturally every month. But snacking on 2 cups of yogurt a day can slash these symptoms by 48 percent, say researchers at New York ’s Columbia University . “Yogurt is rich in calcium, a mineral that naturally calms the nervous system, preventing painful symptoms even when hormones are in flux,” explains Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a professor of gynecology at Yale University .

8. Tame chronic pain with turmeric

Studies show turmeric, a popular East Indian spice, is actually three times more effective at easing pain than aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen, plus it can help relieve chronic pain for 50 percent of people struggling with arthritis and even fibromyalgia, according to Cornell researchers. That’s because turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, naturally shuts down cyclooxygenase 2, an enzyme that churns out a stream of pain-producing hormones, explains nutrition researcher Julian Whitaker, M.D. and author of the book, Reversing Diabetes. The study-recommended dose: Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of this spice daily onto any rice, poultry, meat or vegetable dish.

9. End endometrial pain with oats

The ticket to soothing endometriosis pain could be a daily bowl of oatmeal. Endometriosis occurs when little bits of the uterine lining detach and grow outside of the uterus. Experts say these migrating cells can turn menstruation into a misery, causing so much inflammation that they trigger severe cramping during your period, plus a heavy ache that drags on all month long. Fortunately, scientists say opting for a diet rich in oats can help reduce endometrial pain for up to 60 percent of women within six months. That’s because oats don’t contain gluten, a trouble-making protein that triggers inflammation in many women, making endometriosis difficult to bear, explains Peter Green, M.D., professor of medicine at Colombia University .

10. Soothe foot pain with salt

Experts say at least six million Americans develop painful ingrown toenails each year. But regularly soaking ingrown nails in warm salt water baths can cure these painful infections within four days, say scientists at California ’s Stanford University . The salt in the mix naturally nixes inflammation, plus it’s anti-bacterial, so it quickly destroys the germs that cause swelling and pain. Just mix 1 teaspoon of salt into each cup of water, heat to the warmest temperature that you can comfortably stand, and then soak the affected foot area for 20 minutes twice daily, until your infection subsides.

11. Prevent digestive upsets with pineapple

Got gas? One cup of fresh pineapple daily can cut painful bloating within 72 hours, say researchers at California ’s Stanford University . That’s because pineapple is naturally packed with proteolytic enzymes, digestive aids that help speed the breakdown of pain-causing proteins in the stomach and small intestine, say USDA researchers.

12. Relax painful muscles with peppermint

Suffering from tight, sore muscles? Stubborn knots can hang around for months if they aren’t properly treated, says naturopath Mark Stengler, N.D., author of the book, The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies. His advice: Three times each week, soak in a warm tub scented with 10 drops of peppermint oil. The warm water will relax your muscles, while the peppermint oil will naturally soothe your nerves — a combo that can ease muscle cramping 25 percent more effectively than over-the-counter painkillers, and cut the frequency of future flare-ups in half, says Stengler.

13. Give your back some TLC with grapes

Got an achy back? Grapes could be the ticket to a speedy recovery. Recent studies at Ohio State University suggest eating a heaping cup of grapes daily can relax tight blood vessels, significantly improving blood flow to damaged back tissues (and often within three hours of enjoying the first bowl). That’s great news because your back’s vertebrae and shock-absorbing discs are completely dependent on nearby blood vessels to bring them healing nutrients and oxygen, so improving blood flow is essential for healing damaged back tissue, says Stengler.

14. Wash away pain injuries with water

Whether it’s your feet, your knees or your shoulders that are throbbing, experts at New York ’s Manhattan College , say you could kick-start your recovery in one week just by drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Why? Experts say water dilutes, and then helps flush out, histamine, a pain-triggering compound produced by injured tissues. “Plus water is a key building block of the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones, your joints’ lubricating fluid, and the soft discs in your spine,” adds Susan M. Kleiner, Ph.D., author of the book, The Good Mood Diet. “And when these tissues are well-hydrated, they can move and glide over each other without causing pain.” One caveat: Be sure to measure your drinking glasses to find out how large they really are before you start sipping, she says. Today’s juice glasses often hold more than 12 ounces, which means five servings could be enough to meet your daily goal.

15. Heal sinus problems with horseradish

Latest studies show sinusitis is the nation’s number one chronic health problem. And this condition doesn’t just spur congestion and facial pain, it also makes sufferers six times more likely to feel achy all-over. Horseradish to the rescue! According to German researchers, this eye-watering condiment naturally revs up blood flow to the sinus cavities, helping to open and drain clogged sinuses and heal sinus infections more quickly than decongestant sprays do. The study-recommended dose: One teaspoon twice daily (either on its own, or used as a sandwich or meat topping) until symptoms clear.

16. Beat bladder infections with blueberries

Eating 1 cup of blueberries daily, whether you opt for them fresh, frozen (nom nom nom) or in juice form, can cut your risk of a urinary tract infection (UTIs) by 60 percent, according to researchers at New Jersey’s Rutgers University. That’s because blueberries are loaded with tannins, plant compounds that wrap around problem-causing bacteria in the bladder, so they can’t get a toehold and create an infection, explains Amy Howell, Ph.D. a scientist at Rutgers University .

17. Heal mouth sores with honey

Dab painful canker and cold sores with unpasteurized honey four times daily until these skin woes disappear, and they’ll heal 43 percent faster than if you use a prescription cream, say researchers at the Dubai Specialized Medical Center in the United Arab Emirates . Raw honey’s natural enzymes zap inflammation, destroy invading viruses and speed the healing of damaged tissues, say the study authors.

18. Fight breast pain with flax

In one recent study, adding 3 tablespoons of ground flax to their daily diet eased breast soreness for one in three women within 12 weeks. Scientists credit flax’s phytoestrogens, natural plant compounds that prevent the estrogen spikes that can trigger breast pain. More good news: You don’t have to be a master baker to sneak this healthy seed into your diet. Just sprinkle ground flax on oatmeal, yogurt, applesauce or add it to smoothies and veggie dips.

19. Energize migraine medication with coffee

Prone to migraines? Try muscling-up your painkiller with a coffee chaser. Whatever over-the-counter pain med you prefer, researchers at the National Headache Foundation say washing it down with a strong 12- ounce cup of coffee will boost the effectiveness of your medication by 40 percent or more. Experts say caffeine stimulates the stomach lining to absorb painkillers more quickly and more effectively.

20. Tame leg cramps with tomato juice

At least one in five people regularly struggle with leg cramps. The culprit? Potassium deficiencies, which occur when this mineral is flushed out by diuretics, caffeinated beverages or heavy perspiration during exercise. But sip 10 ounces of potassium-rich tomato juice daily and you’ll not only speed your recovery, you’ll reduce your risk of painful cramp flare-ups in as little as 10 days, say UCLA researchers.

  • Dani Doodlez

    great post, but man oh man is there so much more…many of these remedies over lap. Such as a garlic compress helping with toothaches, and ginger helping with all kinds of tummy issues!! Nature is rad!

  • zzh

    Dont forget Apple Cider Vinegar, remove wart etc

    • Doc Hudson

      ACV for general body aches. you might want to buffer it with a small amount of baking soda. 2tbs ACV and 1/2 tsp baking soda. Very swift results.

  • Nena

    Great ideas but peppermint in the bath could cause some burning in sensitive areas of the body. Water will increase the burning sensation of oils and you don’t want to get it in your eyes!

  • tam

    cream of tarter for urinary tract infections

    • Davina Martinez

      What is cream of tarter and where can I get some? I get bladder infections all the time..

      • ARONB

        D-Mannose for UTI , works wonders . google it . It is inexpensive supplement . It is a sugar that Your body does not absorb , instead makes the inside of your bladder like teflon and does not allow bacteria to stick and cause infections .

      • ChefPattyO

        you can get it at any grocery store where the spices are or in the baking aisle.It is a thickening agent used in baking.

      • Cynthia Fincher

        Davina I use to always get bladder infections but i started taking cranberry pills. I haven’t had any more bladder infections in almost a year now.

      • julie

        Bladder and UTI’s are the worst. My Dr suggested cranberry juice. And just straight cranberry. Drink. 8Oz glass a day. I get UTI’s all the time. The fibro has my body always riddled with infection or its the RA. Who knows. Im sick of taking do many pills. I want to try foods and other alternatives to medication

  • Shirl

    I used to wake up during the night with terrible leg and foot cramps. I have been eating a banana before going to bed for almost a year now and find I no longer have the cramping. I guess it is the potassium in the bananas. Whatever – it works for me!

  • Leanne Lucas

    Does any. One out there no what to take for fibromyalgia

    • ChefPattyO

      tumeric spice added to your food is good for pain all over.You can also check on line for essential oils that may help!

      • Leanne Lucas

        Thank you I will give or a try Patty.

        • Gary Ritenburgh

          Try a soak in Epson Salts, it helps with the tingling in my feet at night.

    • antoinette

      I heard red cabbage helps with fibro myalgia.

    • Edie Cole

      I have it to, I hope some one can help ,
      good luck

    • julie

      I have been eating sweet potatoes, not yams but sweets. They help with inflammation which causes alot of pain. I also have fibro. I am researching foods and other alternatives that can help with the pain. It is horrible and somedays debilitating

    • Kelli

      Its been quite a while since you posted Leanne but I thought I would post a suggestion anyway.
      Have you ever heard of D-Ribose? It is a naturally occurring simple sugar found in all living cells. Studies have shown that people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are low in d-ribose.
      It’s worth looking into if you suffer from fibromyalgia and want an alternative to conventional medications and the side effects they can cause.

      • erik

        Have you ever heard of theraplate? We have one an alsoba friend of ours has fibro myalgia an she tried our theraplate an said it works for her. is our home page give it a look an feel free to call if you have any questions

    • Danielle Nelson

      Join the fb page foods for fibromyalgia. It’s full of info on treating the body with only foods, no medicine. I also suffer from fibro :(.

    • Michael Trounson

      Hi Lianne,
      I found this elsewhere on this site; the article below section on my brother; don’t know if you still need info, but that sort of pain is long term, so I joined to forward it to you!
      My brother has Rheumatoid Arthritis & was in a lot of pain!
      He was on 20 mg Prednisone & 1600 mg slow release Ibroprophen & managed through some small diet changes to reduce Prednisone to 3 mg, while still on full 1600 mg Ibroprophen.
      Knowing he had to reduce both drugs, after a yr on these drugs he went on the “Paileo Diet” & now after 3 mths is drug free!
      It does require discipline with such a likely change in what you eat, but my brother said pain is an incredible motivator!
      Last weekend he relented a little & ate a small portion of lamb, & a slice of Pavalova(sugary egg cake) & woke the next morning in a lot of pain!
      Did a clean out & after 3 days all is good again.
      Hope all this is of help.

      10 Causes Of Fibromyalgia Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About

      It’s estimated that fibromyalgia affects approximately 10 million people in the United States. Fibromyalgia is classically characterized by chronic pain, particularly muscle pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, brain fog or cognitive impairment, depression and painful tender points throughout the body.

      Conventional medicine has yet to uncover the cause of fibromyalgia and only offers management of symptoms through pain medications and antidepressants.

      Functional medicine, on the other hand, looks to find the root cause of fibromyalgia and other chronic diseases, treating the problem at the root level to restore the patient to health. As a functional medicine physician, I’ve helped many patients recover from fibromyalgia. Below are the top ten root causes of fibromyalgia I see in my clinic.

      1. Gluten intolerance

      Gluten has been liked to more than 55 diseases and is often called the “big masquerader.” The reason for this is that the majority of gluten intolerance symptoms are not digestive in nature, but are instead neurological, such as pain, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, behavioral issues, fatigue and depression.

      2. Candida overgrowth

      Candida is a fungus, or yeast, and a very small amount of it lives in your intestines. When overproduced, Candida breaks down the wall of the intestines and penetrates the bloodstream, releasing toxic byproducts into your body and causing a host of unpleasant symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, digestive issues and pain. Virtually every one of my patients with fibromyalgia has had Candida overgrowth.

      3. Thyroid

      It’s vital that your doctor check all six blood markers to accurately measure your thyroid gland’s function. It’s also imperative that your doctor use the optimal levels rather than the standard reference range when assessing and diagnosing thyroid disorders. Getting my patient’s thyroid levels into an optimal range typically alleviates their fatigue, brain fog, sleep disturbances and depression.

      4. Vitamin deficiencies

      Magnesium, vitamin D and B12 deficiency are the most common vitamin deficiencies I see in those who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I’ve had several patients completely reverse their fibromyalgia symptoms with magnesium alone. The best way to measure magnesium is a red blood cell (RBC) magnesium level, which can be tested through any conventional lab.

      5. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Leaky gut

      There are more bacteria in us and on us then there are of our own cells. When these bacteria get out of balance through use of antibiotics or a sugar-rich diet, we can lose our ability to digest and absorb nutrients, particularly B12. Gluten can cause SIBO and leaky gut and SIBO and leaky gut can lead gluten and other food intolerances. It’s a catch-22 and a vicious cycle. You must “fix the gut” first in anyone with fibromyalgia.

      6. Mycotoxins

      Mycotoxins are very toxic substances produced by molds. Conventional environmental mold testing only tests for levels of mold spores and does not test for mycotoxins. I use a urine mycotoxin test in my clinic to determine if someone has been exposed to toxic molds.

      7. Mercury toxicity

      I recommend that all my patients find a biological dentist and have their mercury amalgam fillings removed. Mercury is toxic to our bodies and can be one piece of the puzzle for those with fibromyalgia. I then recommend heavy metal testing using a pre- and post-DMPS urine challenge test.

      8. Adrenal fatigue

      Adrenal fatigue is a result of the chronic stress. Chronic pain is a stress to the adrenal glands, though it’s typically not the initial adrenal stressor. The initial stressor is usually something such as food intolerances, Candida, mercury toxicity, vitamin deficiencies or mycotoxins. My goal is to support the adrenals with adaptogenic herbs while we search for the root cause of the stress and correct it.

      9. MTHFR mutations

      This is a genetic test you can get though any conventional lab. The more mutations you have to the MTHFR gene the less able you are to methylate and detoxify toxins, such as mercury and lead. The more mutations you have at this gene the higher your requirements for methyl-B6, methyl-B12 and folinic acid in order to keep your detoxification pathways working properly.

      10. Glutathione deficiency

      Glutathione is the most critical part of our body’s detoxification system. Glutathione gets recycled in our body — unless our toxic burden gets too high, or we lack GSTM1 and GSTP1, the enzymes needed to recycle and produce glutathione. Taking glutathione or the precursors (NAC, alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle) often help dramatically with fatigue.

      As you can see from the above list, many of these causes are interrelated, and often there’s no single root cause of fibromyalgia. Because getting to the root can be complex, I recommend that you find a functional medicine physician in your area to help uncover the root cause for you. You don’t need to suffer needlessly or mask your symptoms with pain medications and antidepressants. There are doctors likes myself who can help you!

  • nankeeta

    Is that language really necessary? You totally lost your credibility with me by (1) your poor choice of words, and (2) insulting your readers.

  • Kat

    Cranberry juice for urinary tract infection

  • infidel6actual

    Great article!!

    Its not a natural remedy, but for severe mouth injuries, broken teeth, etc, until you can get a dental surgeon, mix half a cup of liquid Benadryl for kids (they don’t have it for adults anymore) and 1/2 cup of liquid Maalox. Swish, DO NOT SWALLOW, and spit out.

    It will deaden the excruciating pain of smashed teeth.

  • Karen Janssen

    I made a batch of turmeric paste with black pepper and when cool I mixed it with pureed raw ginger and just enough stevia to taste good. YUM – And it appears to be helping several pains.

  • J Ray

    Oats are not a always gluten for as they are cut on same mill as wheat and some celiac react to oats

  • J Ray

    Gluten free