The Big List of Natural Topical Pain Relief Remedies

Natural Topical Remedies A - Z.

44 natural ingredients of topical pain relief lotions, creams, and gels explained

Science-backed explanations of the most common natural ingredients of lotions, creams, and gel topicals used for pain relief in treating common chronic conditions such as arthritis, neuralgia, fibromyalgia, muscle and joint pain, back pain, sciatica, and more.

Argan Oil

Argan oil is derived from the kernels of the Moroccan argan tree. It is rich in fatty acids and vitamin E.

Benefits: Argan oil reduces pain, helps improve physical activity, and benefits knee osteoarthritis. Daily massage with argan oil relaxes the muscles. (1). 

Side Effects: Argan oil is typically safe to use topically.

Aconitum

Aconitum, also known as monkshood or wolfsbane, is a flowering plant from the buttercup family.

Benefits: Aconitum has been used in traditional medicine for pain relief. It improves circulation and decreases pain in neuralgia patients. (2).

Side Effects: Aconitum is highly toxic and can be hazardous if ingested. 

Apricot Oil

Bitter apricot oil is extracted from the kernels of bitter apricots and is commonly used in topical applications.

Benefits: Bitter apricot oil, which is high in Vitamin B17, Vitamin E, C, omega 9, and essential fatty acids, can help with arthritis pain. Its anti-inflammatory characteristics can also help relieve sore and achy muscles, making it an effective therapy option.

Side Effects: Bitter apricot oil is generally a safe topical treatment. 

Basil Oil

Basil oil is extracted from the leaves of the basil plant.

Benefits: Sweet Basil Essential Oil alleviates cramps, joint pain, muscular aches, and spasms by reducing tension and inflammation. (3) 

Side Effects: Basil oil is generally safe for topical use.

Birch Essential Oil

Birch essential oil is derived from the bark of the birch tree.

Benefits: Birch essential oil has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving characteristics, making it ideal for application on the skin to relieve muscle and joint pain (4).

Side Effects: Birch essential oil is quite strong and should be used cautiously, as it can cause skin irritation or allergic responses in some people.

Boswellia Serrata (Indian Frankincense)

Boswellia serrata, a tree native to India and Arabia, is also known as Indian frankincense. It is commonly used in traditional medicine.

Benefits: Certain Boswellia serrata preparations and other components have been shown to relieve joint pain and inflammation and improve movement in people with osteoarthritis. (5)

Side Effects: Boswellia serrata is generally well-tolerated.

Borage Oil

Borage oil is derived from the seeds of the borage plant. It is rich in essential fatty acids. 

Benefits: Borage oil is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and has anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests that borage seed oil may help reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. (6)

Side Effects: Borage oil is generally safe.

Camphor Oil

Camphor is a waxy, white, or translucent substance with a strong scent from camphor tree wood.

Benefits: Camphor oil, when absorbed via the skin, has health advantages such as pain reduction and anti-inflammatory qualities, making it useful for topical analgesics and relieving chronic muscle and joint pain (7).

Side Effects: Topical use of camphor might cause slight skin irritation, redness, and a burning sensation. Ingestion or inhalation can be toxic. 

Capsaicin

Capsaicin is a compound found in chili peppers responsible for their spicy taste.

Benefits: Capsaicin has powerful pain-relieving properties that help treat neuralgia, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle sprains, and strains. Topical formulations relieve mild muscle/joint aches and pains by lowering substance P, which aids in transmitting pain signals to the brain. (7).


Side Effects: Long-term use of Capsaicin topically may cause desensitization. It is also essential to avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes.

Chondroitin

Chondroitin is a substance that occurs naturally in the body's connective tissues, including cartilage.

Benefits: Chondroitin, a dietary supplement, is often used to treat osteoarthritis by lowering joint pain and inflammation, improving joint function, and slowing its development. (8,9).

Side Effects: Chondroitin is generally safe for most people.

Cinnamon Oil

Cinnamon oil is extracted from the bark or leaves of the cinnamon tree.

Benefits: Cinnamon oil has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant characteristics that help with circulation, muscle discomfort, and pain relief. It is also used in aromatherapy and medicine to reduce pain and inflammation. (10)

Side Effects: Cinnamon oil, when used undiluted, can cause skin irritation or allergic responses; therefore, dilute it with a carrier oil before applying topically.


Chamomile Extract

Chamomile is a flowering plant in the Asteraceae family. Its extract is derived from its flowers.

Benefits: Chamomile essential oil has the potential as a pain relief agent in a variety of diseases, including carpal tunnel syndrome, with diluted topical applications lowering symptom severity. (11)

Side Effects: Chamomile is generally safe, while some people may experience allergic reactions, particularly if allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family."

Calendula Flower Extract

Calendula, also known as marigold, is a flowering plant native to Mediterranean countries.

Benefits: Calendula flower extract has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It is commonly used in skincare products to soothe skin irritation, promote wound healing, and reduce inflammation and pain in arthritis and gout. (12)

Side Effects: Calendula is considered safe for most people when applied topically. 

CBD

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant.

Benefits: CBD has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. When applied topically, it may help reduce arthritis pain, inflammation, anxiety, and stress. (13,14)

Side Effects: While CBD is generally well-tolerated, some people may experience side effects such as dry mouth, diarrhea, fatigue, or changes in appetite or weight.

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Citrullus colocynthis (Bitter Apple) Extract Oil

Citrullus colocynthis, also known as bitter cucumber, is a desert vine native to the Mediterranean region and Asia.

Benefits: Citrullus colocynthis has been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, including digestive issues, arthritis, and skin conditions. It may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and is helpful in painful diabetic neuropathy. (15)

Side Effects: Citrullus colocynthis is toxic if ingested. 

Clove Oil

Clove oil is extracted from the cloves of the Syzygium aromaticum tree.

Benefits: Clove oil has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help relieve toothaches, reduce muscle pain, and alleviate inflammation when applied topically. Clove oil is used in topical pain-relieving creams and dental products. (10)

 

Side Effects: Clove oil is highly potent and should be used cautiously because it can cause skin, allergy, or mucous membrane irritation. It should not be used in high quantities or over lengthy periods.

Epsom Salt

Epsom salt, often known as bath salt or magnesium sulfate, is a mineral component with several health advantages.

Benefits: Epsom salt baths, when dissolved in water, can help to relieve muscle aches and inflammation and induce relaxation, reducing soreness, stiffness, and tension. (16)

Side Effects: Epsom salt baths are generally safe, but some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions. Thus, doing a patch test before fully immersing yourself in an Epsom salt bath is important. 

Echinacea Extract

Description: Echinacea extract is derived from the Echinacea plant and is commonly used in topical preparations. It is also called purple coneflower.


Benefits: Echinacea extract, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, promotes wound healing, reduces skin inflammation, manages pain, and treats migraines. (17)


Side Effects: Topical use of echinacea extract is generally safe.


Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is extracted from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree and is commonly used in topical formulations.


Benefits: Eucalyptus oil, with its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, helps alleviate joint and muscle pain associated with conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. (18)


Side Effects: Eucalyptus oil applied topically can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals if used in concentrated form. It should be diluted before use to prevent adverse reactions.


Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a natural compound found in the body and is used in topical formulations.


Benefits: Topical glucosamine application to the skin may reduce joint pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis, particularly in knee osteoarthritis, offering some pain relief (9).


Side Effects: Topical glucosamine is generally safe.


Ginger

Ginger is a root that is used in topical preparations.


Benefits: When applied topically, ginger may help reduce inflammation and relieve muscle pain and fatigue (17,19).


Some individuals may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions from the topical use of ginger.


Goshajinkigan

Goshajinkigan is a traditional Japanese herbal medicine used in topical preparations.


Benefits: Goshajinkigan, when applied topically to the skin, has been demonstrated to improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain and numbness associated with diabetic neuropathy. (20)


Side Effects: Some individuals may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions from the topical use of goshajinkigan.


Gaultheria Wintergreen Oil

Gaultheria oil, derived from Gaultheria tree seeds, is used for topical applications. Wintergreen oil contains methyl salicylate, an analgesic and anti-inflammatory similar to aspirin.


Benefits: Gaultheria oil reduces joint, back, bone, muscle, knee, blood clotting, rheumatic, arthritis, and other muscular problems, stimulates skin healing and is a natural moisturizer. (21)


Side Effects: Gaultheria oil is generally safe for topical use.


Helichrysum Essential Oil

Helichrysum essential oil is derived from the flowers of the Helichrysum italicum plant and is used in topical applications.


Benefits: Helichrysum essential oil, a potent healing and restorative, can be applied topically to reduce inflammation, promote wound healing, and alleviate skin irritation. It offers anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits. It reduces muscle and joint inflammation when applied topically to the affected area. (22)


Side Effects: Helichrysum essential oil is generally safe for topical use.


Italian Bergamot

Italian bergamot is a citrus fruit whose essential oil is used in topical formulations.


Benefits: Italian bergamot essential oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties when applied topically, making it helpful in improving skin health and relieving pain and inflammation. (23)


Side Effects: Italian bergamot essential oil may cause photosensitivity and skin irritation in some individuals when applied topically.


Japanese Knotweed Extract

Japanese knotweed extract is derived from the Japanese knotweed plant.


Benefits: Japanese knotweed extract can reduce inflammation, increase skin elasticity, and stimulate collagen synthesis, potentially improving joint health and comfort (24).

Side Effects: Japanese knotweed extract is generally safe for topical use.


Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

 

Methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is a naturally occurring compound containing sulfur and has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

 

Benefits: MSM relieves inflammation and pain in various disorders, including osteoarthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, and tenosynovitis. It can also promote skin health and reduce muscle discomfort caused by exercise. (25).


Side Effects: MSM is generally safe for topical use.


Menthol

Menthol is a compound derived from peppermint oil extracted from plants.


Benefits: Menthol is used for treating minor muscle and joint problems such as arthritis, backaches, and sprains by making the skin feel relaxed and warm, which distracts from more severe pain (26).


Side Effects: Redness, warmth, or irritation at the application site may occur.


Mustard Oil

Mustard oil is extracted from mustard seeds rich in omega-3 and vitamin E. 


Benefits: Mustard oil, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, relieves joint and muscle pain and stiffness in arthritis patients. Its topically applied application helps decrease inflammation, soothe pain, and enhance mobility.


Side Effects: Mustard oil is entirely safe for topical use.


Olive Oil

Oil is extracted from the fleshy portion of the ripening fruit of the olive tree Olea europaea.


Benefits: Olive oil effectively combats inflammation and improves symptoms of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and lupus, including improved handgrip strength, morning stiffness, and joint pain (27).


Side Effects: Olive oil is generally safe for topical use.


Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is an essential oil derived from the peppermint plant's flowers and leaves.


Benefits: Topical Peppermint oil is an effective natural analgesic for pain, headaches, arthritis, osteoarthritis and menstrual cramps (28).


Side Effects: Peppermint oil is generally safe for topical use but may cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, and side effects, so patch tests are recommended.


Rosemary Oil

Description: Rosemary oil is derived from the leaves of the rosemary plant and is used in topical formulations.


Benefits: When applied topically, rosemary oil helps reduce inflammation, enhance circulation, and ease discomfort in people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (28).


Side Effects: if applied undiluted, it can irritate the skin. 


Reishi Mushroom Extract

Reishi mushroom extract is derived from the giant, dark mushroom with a glossy exterior and a woody texture.


Benefits: Reishi mushroom extract has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-stimulating properties and is suitable for those with arthritis, heart health, joint pain, and bone loss (29).


Side Effects: Reishi mushroom extract may cause minor side effects on the skin, such as irritation. Avoid using in pregnancy or breastfeeding. 


Shea Butter

Description: Shea butter is a fat extracted from the nuts of the shea tree and is commonly used in topical formulations.


Benefits: Shea butter lowers pain and improves knee muscle contractile ability in knee osteoarthritis by reducing inflammation (30).


Side Effects: Shea butter is a low-risk topical ingredient with rare allergic reactions.


Sesame Oil

One of the first oils made from crops is sesame oil, extracted from sesame seeds.


Benefits: By reducing swelling and pain intensity, strengthening bones, and massaging joints, sesame seeds or seed oil can help reduce arthritis pain and inflammation (31).


Side Effects: Sesame oil is generally safe for topical use but might cause a mild allergic reaction in some people. 


Seaweed Extract

Seaweed Extract contains alginic and protein amino acids. It is a non-toxic, water-soluble powder made from fresh seaweed (Ascophyllum nodosum).


Benefits: seaweed extract is high in vital nutrients; thus, it can strengthen bones, repair tissue damage, and reduce inflammation in the joints, all of which can help relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis (32).


Side Effects: When applied topically, it has skincare benefits rather than any side effects. 


Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil

Sweet Marjoram essential oil, derived from the leaves of the marjoram plant, is used in topical formulations and has a warm, woody, and spicy aroma.


Benefits: Sweet Marjoram essential oil relieves muscle soreness and pain and boosts immunity. Its antioxidant and antibacterial effects soothe and relax the body and mind. (33).


Side Effects: Marjoram might cause cancer if used excessively, and fresh application is not recommended due to irritation. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should limit marjoram intake.


Thyme Oil

Thyme Oil, used topically and in cosmetics, has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.


Benefits: Thyme oil improves bone characteristics, normalizes mineral turnover markers, and slows bone loss. It also serves as an anti-inflammatory agent that helps with knee pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis. (34,35).


Side Effects: Thyme extract is generally safe for topical use.


Tripterygium Wilfordi

A traditional Chinese medicinal plant has the potential to be used in treating various diseases.


Benefits: Tripterygium Wilfordi efficiently treats rheumatoid arthritis patients' joint discomfort and swelling, improves blood circulation, relieves rheumatism, and reduces pain (36).


Side Effects: Tripterygium wilfordii extract may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals and should be used cautiously.


Tocopherol (Vitamin E)

Tocopherol, commonly known as Vitamin E, is a fat-soluble vitamin.


Benefits: Topical application of Vitamin E may help moisturize the skin, reduce inflammation, and promote wound healing (37).


Side Effects: Vitamin E is generally safe for topical use.


Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil, commonly known as melaleuca oil, is an essential oil extracted from the steamed leaves of the Australian tea tree.


Benefits: Tea tree oil is an essential oil that relieves pain, promotes bone regeneration, and helps prevent or treat osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. (35).


Side Effects: Tea tree oil is generally safe for topical use but may cause Allergic skin rash in some individuals.


Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice derived from the Curcuma longa plant. Its active ingredient is curcumin, which is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. 


Benefits: Turmeric's anti-inflammatory effects can help relieve pain and increase mobility in people with osteoarthritis, potentially lowering arthritic symptoms and improving knee function. (38). 


Side Effects: Turmeric is generally safe for topical use.


West Indian Lime Extract

West Indian lime extract, derived from lime fruits, is a topical formulation high in vitamin C and antioxidants.


Benefits: West Indian Lime Extract is effective at treating muscular pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and soft tissue pain, as well as musculoskeletal illnesses such as cervical disc issues and spinal stenosis (39).


Side Effects: West Indian lime extract is generally safe for topical use but increases skin sensitivity to sunlight, so use it with care if you're outdoors for extended periods.


White Willow Bark

White willow bark, derived from the bark of the white willow tree, is used in topical preparations instead of synthetic salicylic acid (BHA).


Benefits: Willow bark extracts, when applied topically, can relieve pain and inflammation in people with arthritis, improve physical health, and aid wound healing (40).


Side Effects: White willow bark is generally safe for topical use but may cause itching, rash, and allergic reactions, particularly in people who are allergic to aspirin.


Statements made regarding products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or possible complications before using any product.


Sources & Notes


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3. HOLY BASIL: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews . . Available from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1101/holy-basil


4. Birch Bark Extract: A Review in Epidermolysis Bullosa - PubMed . . Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37658982/


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