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Health, Dr. Mao, Santa Monica, Food

Dr. Mao's Wellness Living: Natural Herbs For Pain Relief

Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Courtesy Photo
Dr. Mao Shing Ni

Posted Feb. 5, 2012, 1:08 am

Dr. Mao Shing Ni / Mirror Columnist

Many people find winter to be the hardest season on joint and back pain because of the cooler weather. If pain has you feeling older than your years, you will be happy to know there are many natural healing herbs that can bring relief without the side effects. Here are five natural herbs—some that you may find in your own kitchen—that will bring you relief from head to toe!

Ginger Gives Freedom From Nausea And Aches

Ginger, a natural anti-inflammatory, has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese to remedy pain. Ginger helps ease nausea, arthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps, and muscle soreness; and in these colder days, ginger can help heat up your circulation, too!

A perfect complement to vegetables, marinades, and sweets, ginger is also delicious in tea. To make fresh ginger tea, you can cut up the root into 1/4 inch slices, boil for 10 minutes, then strain the water and voilà— tasty ginger tea. In a pinch, you can use ginger tea bags, available in health food stores.

You can also reap relief from pain by applying a ginger compress to the affected area. Grate the root, wrap the ginger in cheesecloth, place it in hot water for 30 seconds, then let it cool and place on the affected area for 20 minutes.

Valerian Root For Relaxation

Sometimes called “nature’s tranquilizer,” valerian has been used for centuries to regulate the nervous system and relieve insomnia, tension, irritability, stress, and anxiety. Valerian is also a natural pain reliever that reduces the sensitivity of nerves. Try a cup of valerian tea the next time you’re in need of pain relief!

Tame Pain With Turmeric

Turmeric, the spice that gives curry its distinctive flavor and coloring, can also bring relief to joint pain. New research suggests that turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, and can also help improve circulation and prevent blood clotting. Turmeric has been used in traditional medicines for easing the pain of sprains, bruises, and joint inflammation, as well as for treating skin and digestive issues. The healing power of turmeric comes from its active ingredient, curcumin, which lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to eat turmeric by the spoonful! Just stock your kitchen with the powdered spice and add a little to your cooking in place of salt and pepper. Turmeric is also sometimes sold in supplement form.

Herbal Oil Soothes Pain Away

Tonic oil, which consists of oils of camphor, peppermint, eucalyptus, fennel, and wintergreen, can be applied to your forehead and massaged gently in a circular motion for relief from headaches. Apply tonic oil to any body part for relief from minor aches and pains. If you don’t have a lot of essential oils hanging around, you can find traditional blends of tonic oil, like our patented Tonic Oil, which is a mix of herbs in a pure sesame oil base.

White Willow Bark Brings Relief

This anti-inflammatory herb is traditionally used to relieve painful inflammation in the joints. The pain-relieving properties of white willow bark come from its content of salicin, the same compound found in aspirin. While the actions of white willow bark may be slower-acting than over-the-counter aspirin, the results last longer. A major advantage of using willow bark over its pharmaceutical cousin, is that it does not cause gastric upset and erode the stomach lining. White willow bark has also been found to be useful in reducing the intensity of migraine attacks. One warning: people allergic to aspirin should not use willow bark. Talk to your physician to be on the safe side.

Take a Whole Body Approach

While these herbs and supplements can alleviate pain, I always recommend looking at your health from every perspective. In other words, treat your whole body, not just the painful symptom. A holistic approach includes dietary therapy, supportive physical exercises – especially tai chi, which is gentle on the joints – acupuncture, and stress release techniques.

A word of warning: The use of herbs is a time-honored approach, used to strengthen the body and treat disease, but you should always consult with your physician before treating conditions with herbs and spices in order to avoid any adverse interactions; for example, because turmeric and ginger possess natural blood-thinning properties, individuals about to undergo surgery and those taking blood thinners should take extra precautions.

May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!

Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has appeared regularly on “Dr. Oz,” “The Doctors,” and “EXTRA.” Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica and Newport Beach. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni founded Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to also founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at

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