Herbs for Nerve Pain

by CoreyPine Shane on December 2nd, 2012

Herbs for Pain - Part 2 of 3

Let me say this up front - there is no one herb for all kinds of pain. They are not isolated chemicals like pharmaceutical medicines, they are a complex of hundreds of chemicals that can affect many parts of the body at once. They might not always work as strongly as pharmaceuticals, but the more specific you can get, the better the herbs will work. And of course the best idea is to figure out why someone is pain and treat the root cause at the same time.

There are some general categories that analgesic herbs fall into – nerve pain, muscle pain, injury and inflammation, headache, and serious pain. And these are the categories we’ll use for our discussion here.

The best way to begin is to ask enough questions to understand what’s going on. We may not be moving to a specific diagnosis, but at least to understand the character of the pain and get closer to what the client is actually feeling. Use your curiosity to ask good questions, and include the following:

When did this begin? How often does it happen?
Have you ever had anything like this happen before?
How bad is the pain on a scale of 1 to 10?
What makes it better/worse?
What does it feel like? Where in the body? Can you show me where?

These questions help you assess what might be going on, and also to choose the best herb for the situation. Let's begin by looking at herbs for nerve and muscle pain.

Nerve pain tends to be shooting pain, or pain along a line. Symptoms might include numbness and tingling, those these can also be signs of poor circulation. This category includes sciatica, shingles, spinal pain, tooth pain, herpes, etc. When showing where it hurts, people will often use their finger to point to their pain; if they hold a part of their body with their whole hand, it is more likely muscle pain. Useful herbs for nerve pain include St. John’s Wort, Skullcap, and Motherwort.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is actually one of my favorites for nerve pain, especially spinal pain, for which I have used the infused oil rubbed on topically and the tincture taken internally. It can reduce pain enough to allow people to sleep and go see the chiropractor or doctor in the morning. I also use it for sciatica, and here I like to combine it with Skullcap and Willow bark tinctures.

This remedy has a longer historical use for wounds and bruises than as an anti-depressant as we use it now. I have seen great results using St. John's Wort topically for tingling and numbness following compression injuries, seeming to help soothe as well as help regenerate the nerves. This effect on nerve growth can be enhanced by combining it with Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) seed or root tincture applied topically.

Skullcap is one of my favorite herbs for the nervous system, perhaps because it can be used as a long-term tonic to build and nourish the nervous system as well as having an immediate affect that can be used for insomnia from circular thinking or, as is appropriate for this article, for nerve pain.

For the latter use, I often combine it with St. John's Wort, but I also combine it with Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata) as the basis of a migraine headache formula. Skullcap has been used for tremors, trigeminal neuralgia and even epilepsy because of its ability to relax the muscles by dimming the amount of nerve signals being sent. In Chinese Medicine, it might be looked at as an herb for Qi Stagnation because of its ability to relax resistance to the flow of energy (qi) in the body.

And finally, Motherwort, an herb I have recommended primarily for PMS, menstrual pain, and anxiety that results in chest tightness, but I have also seen good results using it for muscle tightening around painful spots and it is a specific for shingles (herpes zoster), painful skin eruptions that are related to chicken pox.


To Be Continued: Next blog – Muscle pain.


Posted in not categorized    Tagged with Pain, nerve pain, analgesics, herbal remedies


21 Comments

Lucy Steele - April 30th, 2013 at 11:48 AM
have taken my mother to many doctors and specialists....NOTHING has helped her, in fact she has had several bad reactions to the various oral muscle relaxers...and is in danger of getting hooked on Oxycontin for the very minimal relief it brings her. I hope to try your suggestion in this article this afternoon. She is too afraid to try anything orally...but maybe the ointments will soother her pain and fear. Thanks a whole bunch


CoreyPine Shane - April 30th, 2013 at 3:09 PM
Thanks, Lucy - topical herbal ointments can be very helpful and are widely available. There is a local herbalist who sells an amazing potion called "Flying Dragon Liniment" which is also available online. So search for that and could be a good choice for her.
Kimberly - June 18th, 2013 at 10:25 PM
I was recently in an accident. I was hit by a truck while riding my bike. I am suffering from numerous injuries but the most painful has been nerve damage in my foot. I was on Neurontin but it caused increased swelling in my foot which made matters worse. Although a lot of the foot problems have subsided, I am still having mild to moderate discomfort. If I am in the heat or sitting for a long period of time, the nerve pain worsens. I just started taking hypericium perforatum today to address the nerve issue. I am hoping to see a dramatic difference in the numbness and stickiness that I feel in my toes. I believe in homeopathic medicine and I am hoping this is my cure.
CoreyPine Shane - June 18th, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Good to hear! Hope it does well for you. And just to be clear, the herbal extract St. John's Wort is different from the homeopathic preparation Hypericum, though similar uses. Let us know how it works for you!

Jasmeet Sethi - July 11th, 2013 at 2:30 PM
I have been sufferingn from pain in my left foot for years. I have tried so many different treatments with no help. It keeps getting worse and am unable to be on my feet for longer than a few minutes.The ankle and heel areas are very sensitive. The pain is also extending to the right foot in which case I have burning pain in both my feet and it feels like I have blisters underneath the skin. From the looks of it, both feet look very normal. I am intersted in some topical treatment to help with the symptoms. Currently, I am getting chiropractic help which does not seem to work either. I have tried acupuncture as well.
jason - July 26th, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Catnip; this is what I use for neuropathy. Try it. three fresh leaves in a cup of boiled water, let it steep covered for 10 to 20 minutes. You will be suprised by the flavor, as catnip is from the mint family it has a wonerfull taste.
Name - August 1st, 2013 at 2:29 PM
Where can you get it from?
CoreyPine Shane - August 30th, 2013 at 8:06 PM
You'll probably need to buy it in bulk and put it in a tea pot, OR do what I do now and use a French press!! Magical for making bulk teas. If you can't find it in your area (food coop, Whole Foods, etc.) then try Mountain Rose Herbs which has great quality and you can buy as little as 1/4 lb.

Emma - July 31st, 2013 at 10:31 PM
I love this post, and find that I've used many of these herbs in the same ways with similar results!

Does someone have to be concerned about topical St. Johns Wort if taking certain prescriptions, as one might be with internal use of the plant?
CoreyPine Shane - August 30th, 2013 at 8:09 PM
No worries, Emma. Very little of that oil will go into the system. That's the great thing about topical application - they are locally concentrated.
Jocelynn - August 30th, 2013 at 2:55 PM
I have a similar question to Emma's.

First I would like to thank you for providing all of this information because it has been extremely helpful!

I was in a car accident a few years ago and my neck has been injured pretty badly. I was prescribed muscle relaxers, which I would prefer not to take on a daily basis. I moved to Colorado for work and conveniently was able to apply for my medicinal marijuana card and the marijuana topical tinctures (no THC) worked very well for me. Unfortunately I am moving and cannot use marijuana based products in the state I am moving to. I have researched St. John's Wort for severe muscle pain relief and I am concerned because it will possibly interact with my birth control pills.

Does anybody use a topical tincture other than St. John's Wort for muscle pain?
CoreyPine Shane - August 30th, 2013 at 8:08 PM
I highly doubt that St. John's Wort would interact if you only used it topically - very little gets in so barely any systemic effect. However, its not my favorite muscle pain herb - If you're in Colorado you could probably find good quality local Arnica oil or Pedicularis (Wood Betony) tincture or oil for topical use, and the latter could also be used internally.
Linda Adams - September 24th, 2013 at 9:08 PM
I had a hysterectomy in March of this year and have suffered from upper right thigh numbness. I also have alot of pain in that area and doctor says I have some nerve root damage. I was prescribed tramadol and have been taking since May. Needless to say it only helps for a little while. I am thinking about trying the St. John's Wort with the Skullcap but have not tried anything like this before. I am tired of being in pain and not able to do anything. Would these two products help with the nerve pain or are they just for muscle pain?
CoreyPine Shane - December 8th, 2013 at 12:53 PM
I think that Skullcap and St. John's Wort can be very effective for nerve pain. I would also include some fish oil or hempseed oil to help nourish the nervous tissue and act as an anti-inflammatory.
Chris - October 17th, 2013 at 2:47 PM
I have MS and peripheral neurapathy, and serious pain in my feet, I've been to several doctors and tried so many medications, some work but only for a short time then I'm in pain again. I don't want to be on narcotics for pain relief, which is the direction I seem to be heading. Do you have any suggestions?
CoreyPine Shane - December 8th, 2013 at 12:54 PM
Although I do think herbs may be helpful here, I think this is too complicated an issue to address here. You can email me personally with medical questions.
Jasmeet Sethi - November 7th, 2013 at 12:06 PM
I had some relief in nerve pain from taking St.John Wart's tincture internally and applying the oil on the foot. Pain is coming back in full force again. You have any suggestions what else I can do. I will truly appreciate any input.

Thanks...jasmeet
mary - December 2nd, 2013 at 7:45 PM
Would you have a recommendation for spinal stenosis? The pain is mainly in the right butt cheek and affects my leg, especially when walking.
CoreyPine Shane - December 8th, 2013 at 12:58 PM
I have not personally worked with spinal stenosis, but I would imagine that along with the nerve pain remedies of this article, you might also add circulatory stimulating remedies such as Prickly Ash or Rosemary. Hope that helps!
Michele - December 11th, 2013 at 12:15 PM
Would you have any recommendations for hand tremors? My mom has been on several medications, many which are used for seisure patients and she has had terribel reactions. Her hands shake terribly from nerve damage and we are looking to see if there is an herbal relief?
Please let me know
thanks so much
CoreyPine Shane - December 23rd, 2013 at 10:02 PM
The first herbs I think of are the nerve tonics discussed in the article - St. John's Wort and milky Oat seed. Tincture internally would be best, but be sure to be aware of drug interactions with SJW. If that doesn't work as well as you hope, you can try American Corydalis (not Chinese Corydalis). I have all three tinctures available if you need.

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