Herbs for Pain Relief: Devil’s Claw and Capsaicin

By Staff
article image
Chile: Capsaicin, the compound that puts the heat in hot peppers, helps relieve nerve pain and arthritis discomfort when used in topically applied creams.
Chile

By Gina Mohammed, Ph.D.

Devil’s claw is a South African herb with medicinally active roots. This herb eases muscular tension or pain in the back, shoulders and neck. A popular treatment for osteoarthritic pain, it may ease rheumatoid arthritic pain as well. The herb’s active ingredients are harpagide and harpagoside, both iridoid glycosides with analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory actions. Devil’s claw extract has been shown to reduce osteoarthritic hip or knee pain by 25 percent and improve mobility within a few weeks. Rheumatoid arthritic pain may also be reduced and mobility enhanced within about two months. Devil’s claw extract is considered safe at the typical dosage of 750 mg (containing 3 percent iridoid glycosides) taken three times daily. It is also available as tincture (use 1 teaspoon up to three times daily) and tea. It should not be taken with blood-thinning medications and may not be safe during pregnancy or for young children, nursing mothers and individuals with liver or kidney disease, or digestive system ulcers.

Capsaicin puts the heat in hot peppers. It manipulates the body’s pain status by hindering pain perception, triggering the release of pain-relieving endorphins and providing analgesic action. Commercial capsaicin-containing creams such as Zostrix, Heet and Capzasin-P are used topically for arthritic and nerve pain. Creams containing .025 percent capsaicin can significantly reduce osteoarthritic pain when applied to joints four times daily. A higher concentration of .075 percent works best for peripheral nerve pain–such as that from diabetic nerve damage, HIV and pain following cancer surgery. When using topical capsaicin products, be sure to avoid touching your eyes and other sensitive areas.

Capsaicin also can be taken internally to help with chronic digestive discomfort, or dyspepsia: A daily dose of 0.5 to 1 grams cayenne, divided and taken before meals, reduces pain, bloating and nausea over a few weeks. If you like to munch hot peppers, rest assured that they do not aggravate stomach ulcers as is commonly believed, and they actually might protect your stomach from prescription-drug damage.

Mother Earth Living
Mother Earth Living
The ultimate guide to living the good life!