5 Natural Topical Pain Relief Treatments to Try

Our world is filled with natural remedies that various cultures have been using for hundreds, if not thousands, of years to treat different ailments. These days, many pain relief treatments are available in topical form. That means you can rub them directly onto your body, whether it be for aching muscles or sore joints.

In this article, we’re going to explore some of the most popularly used natural topical pain relief treatments. By the end, you’ll be an expert on everything from recently popularized CBD products to ancient treatments like frankincense.


The Boswellia serrata tree grows in various regions, including parts of India, the Middle East and Northern Africa. It is a mid-sized deciduous tree with the gnarled appearance of a desert bonsai. You might know it as the famed frankincense tree of biblical lore that contains a rich and powerful treasure within it.

Boswellia extract is a potent anti-inflammatory. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for millennia, and now in modern-day medicine as it is being researched for its diverse pharmacological uses. These include various chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, asthma, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, etc.

As a topical treatment, it is available as an essential oil and in cream or salve form, which can be applied directly to areas with aches and pains. It is especially popular with those suffering from arthritis.

Cannabidiol (CBD):

The hemp plant (Cannabis sativa) has been used in cultures worldwide for thousands of years for everything from building materials to medicinal purposes. Some research even indicates that this plant was used in China as far back as 6,000 years ago.

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More recently, a landmark change in American law has legalized the industrial production of hemp in 2018. Since that time, products made with cannabidiol, or CBD as it’s more commonly referred to, have been flooding the market. This is because CBD has been shown to have efficacy in dealing with many issues, including pain, anxiety and insomnia.

CBD topical creams have taken center stage in this surge of popularity. They are quickly becoming a favorite for young athletes dealing with muscle pain. And are gaining traction among aging members of the population seeking joint relief. Many individuals report quick relief that lasts for hours at a time. Ingesting CBD has also been shown to relieve pain. The most common method of CBD ingestion is via a CBD tincture. And don’t worry, CBD does not contain THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijauana, and CBD will not show up on a drug test.

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Willow Bark:

These tall deciduous trees originated in China, but can now be found across the Northern Hemisphere in Asia, Europe and North America. There are numerous varieties and they can grow anywhere from 30 to 80 feet in height (9 to 24 meters).

The bark of willow trees contains salicin, which works the same as aspirin to reduce inflammation and pain as it enters and makes its way through your bloodstream. In fact, the active ingredients in aspirin are a synthetic form of those found in willow bark.

A small number of clinical studies have verified the use of willow bark to relieve chronic lower back pain, joint pain and osteoarthritis. One can use willow bark in many ways, but a widespread form is now as a topical treatment applied directly to the area causing pain or discomfort.

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Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers and is classified as an irritant. This is because it causes a burning sensation. When an abundance is present, this will be more highly intensified. It may seem counterintuitive then to be placing capsaicin on your skin.

However, research has shown that low concentration capsaicin topical formulations used daily have provided pain relief for those suffering from neuropathic pain. And more, a topical eight percent capsaicin patch has been approved for use in the EU and USA. It is reported to provide those who use it with weeks of relief at a time.

Using any products with capsaicin is best done under the direction of a healthcare professional or pharmacist. There are both high concentration variants and over-the-counter formulations of lower strength available. Regardless, there should be monitoring and guidance to ensure this topical treatment is being used correctly. At first, patients will report a tingling or burning sensation when using the product. But eventually, the capsaicin works its magic and the nerves become numbed, erasing the pain.


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Heat and Cold:

One can never underestimate the power contained within the old standbys of heat and cold when it comes to pain relief. However, it’s good to know which one to use and when.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to use heat for muscle stiffness and pain. For example, it has been shown that heat therapy provides reliable treatment for lower back pain.  By dilating blood cells and increasing blood flow to the area, additional oxygen and nutrients are also carried, which helps with the healing process. Additionally, heat allows otherwise tense muscle tissue to decrease in stiffness and increase in flexibility.

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So, when do you apply cold? Break out the ice pack for those painful injuries that become instantly inflamed. The goal here is to reduce swelling and sometimes even bleeding while providing a numbing effect to the area. Cold therapy will be perfect for new injuries that have occurred within the past 24 to 48 hours.

In both cases, you want to be careful when applying any heat or ice packs to affected areas to not cause any damage to your skin. There are also several ointments and patches that exist to mimic these functions as well. Have a chat with your local pharmacist to get more info on what’s available.

Always Exercise Caution

Whenever trying out a new treatment of any type, it’s best to do a little research and be aware of the potential side effects. When you notice these occurring, discontinue the use of the product — and if the side effects persist, be sure to contact your doctor for additional advice.

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