The practice of treating pain is assuredly as old as the human race itself. Anyone who has ever witnessed someone (especially a loved one) in pain, knows how much everyone wants to help them. And so human history is filled with some seemingly foolish and not so foolish methods of treating pain. Ancient cultures, believing pain was a punishment from the gods, offered religious offerings and sacrifices.
South Americans practiced trepanation (creating holes in the head to alleviate pain) while in North America natives were holding pain pipes to a persons skin to suck the pain out. Hippocrates had Greek women chewing on willow leaves during pregnancy (a great idea as it contains salicylic acid… a key ingredient in Aspirin). By the middle ages Theriac was common which consisted of up to 64 different compounds in a honey base. Another common analgesic that has been in use for thousands of years is opium and it’s derivatives such as Laudanum (mid 16th century) and morphine by the 19th century. By 1830 opiate addiction had become such a problem the British mobilize warships to the China coast to help stop the opium trade (known as the “First Opium War”).
Since then many attempts have been made to re-engineer opium into a safer analgesic for medical use. More recently this has taken the form of a product called Tramadol (often prescribed to treat acute pain associated with surgery, childbirth, pancreatitis, neuropathy and chronic back pain, etc). Designed to reduce constipation and respiratory depression (two common side affects of opiods), it unfortunately also has a long list of side affects that include: nausea, dizziness, dry mouth and indigestion, etc. Another more disturbing things about Tramadol are the withdrawal symptoms that can last up to 7 or 8 days verse 3 to 4 for other codeine analogues.
Despite these negative side-affects, the use of Tramadol has been growing as it is marketed as a safer alternative to other opiod analgesics such as hydrocodone and oxycodone (the former being the most abused prescription drug in the US). However, A 2010 study conducted by the Kentucky Regional Poison Center looked at poison emergencies in 4 sates from 2003-2009 and found that the number of Tramadol related emergencies increased from 401 to 1009 cases per year during that time period. In 2010 there were over 16,000 Tramadol related ER visits in the entire US.
Perhaps we should be looking at some natural alternatives to this and other dangerous pain medications.
Essential Oils for Pain
Wintergreen: The health benefits of Wintergreen Essential Oil can be attributed to its properties as an analgesic, anodyne, antirheumatic, antiarthritic, antispasmodic, antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, emenagogue and stimulating substance. It contains natural methyl salicylate, the main ingredient in aspirin.
Marjoram: Contains strong sedative properties. Marjoram essential oil in excellent in treating pain associated with stiffness, migraines, muscle spasms and arthritis. It can also relax internal organs such as the heart, diaphram and colon. Also due to is reputation as the “happiness herb” it can offer aid to those suffering from emotional pain as well.