Natural Herb Treatments for Back Pain

Jeannie Randall
Upper and Lower Back Pain

Back pain can be irritating to downright crippling. For the millions that suffer from back pain, relief is of utmost importance. Chinese herbalists have long responded to back pain with some powerful herbal formulations. Modern research has shown many of these ancient formulations to have some profound effects on the biochemical processes that lead to pain.

Eucommia

Eucommia is a small tree native to China. The bark of the tree is harvested for medicinal properties. Eucommia is an ancient Chinese herbal medicine used for many ailments, including back pain. The bark of the tree is dried and ground into a powder. The powder is typically formulated into a capsule, although herbal teas can also be made.

Side Effects and Dosage

According to altMD this herb has been used for centuries and has no known detrimental side effects. A recommended daily allowance has not been established, and consumers will want to follow manufacturer's recommendations for dosage.

Eucommia Study

A study published in the Sept. 1988 edition of The Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine examined 79 patients who were treated with an herbal formula containing eucommia for 17 days. All but three of the patients reported partial to total relief of sciatic back pain after the 17-day trial. The researchers support the use of this herb for treatment of back pain.

Menthol

According to WebMD, topical menthol works by causing the skin to feel cool, then warm. This sensation is effective at distracting feelings of pain and leads to relief of minor back pains.

Side Effects and Dosage

Side effects are similar to the actual activity of the medication and include redness, stinging, or burning. If these effects become severe, one should discontinue use and seek medical treatment. A rash, itching, or swelling after use could indicate an allergic reaction. Seek medical attention if any of these symptoms are experienced. Most people using menthol will not experience detrimental side effects, and menthol is considered safe for topical use in most. Menthol is typically available as a salve or a topical patch. There is not an established recommended dosage, and consumers should follow manufacturer's suggestions for dosing.

Angelica Sinesis

Angelica sinesis, also known as dang gui, has been recognized as an effective herbal supplement for the treatment of back pain. According to the book, The Treatment of Modern Western Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine, dang gui supports increased blood flow, which acts to remove toxins that can lead to back pain from the system.

Side Effects and Dosage

The use of angelica sinesis can cause photosensitivity and should be avoided by those who are sensitive to sun. This herb should also be avoided by individuals with hormone-sensitive cancer. In high dosages, this herb has been shown to have carcinogenic effects. A recommended daily dosage has not been established, but anecdotal evidence suggests 2,000 to 4,000 mg daily is safe for most adults. Consumers should follow manufacturer's recommendations.

Psoralea

Psoralea, which is also known as babchi or habucha, is an herbal plant that has been a favorite in Chinese traditional medicine for centuries. Every part of the plant is used for medicinal reasons. This plant is indigenous to tropical and sub-tropical regions of India, South Africa, and China. This plant has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and has long been recognized for its positive effects in treating low back pain.

Side Effects and Dosage

There are few associated side effects of psoralea. With extended use, side effects could include appetite loss, anemia, decrease in white blood cells, and liver complications. There is not an established recommended daily allowance. As such, consumers should follow dosage guidelines from the manufacturer.

Atractylodes

Atractylodes is another common herbal medicine that has potential for treatment of back pain. This flowering herb is native to Manchuria, China, Korea, and Japan. The rhizome of the flower has powerful anti-inflammatory activity that improves the sensation of back pain.

Side Effects and Dosage

Taking up to 1.32 grams per day for up to seven weeks is considered safe, according to WebMD. Nausea, dry mouth, and a poor taste in the mouth are potential side effects of atractylodes. Follow manufacturer's instructions for dosage.

Atractylodes and Rheumatoid Arthritis

A study published in Archives of Pharmacal Research demonstrate the biochemical action of this herb leads to decreased inflammation and swelling. The researchers conclude atractylodes may be effective against rheumatoid arthritis pain.

Frankincense

Frankincense, also known as ru xiang, has long been recognized in Chinese traditional medicine for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects. The 2011 May-June edition of the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences published an article discussing the biochemical effects this plant has on the body. The research indicates frankincense has anti-inflammatory effects similar to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) without the negative side effects. This herb is considered effective for all types of back pain and has been used specifically to treat pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Side Effects and Dosage

According to WebMD, frankincense is considered safe for most adults. The only potential side effect cited is irritation to the skin if directly applied. At this time, there is not an established recommended dosage. Consumers should follow directions on product labels and always consult with a primary care physician or pharmacist before starting any supplement.

Gentiana

Gentiana, also known as qin jiao, is another popular remedy for back pain in Chinese traditional medicine. Gentiana is a flowering plant that grows 20 to 60 cm in height. The plant is native to Mongolia and China. The root of the plant is extracted and used for its medicinal qualities. The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of the root make it a popular choice for treatment of any type of back pain. The root is typically ground into a powder and consumed as a capsule or made into a tea.

Side Effects and Dosage

Potential side effects include nausea, vomiting, and slowed heart rate. Consumers should be aware of potential side effects and follow manufacturer's directions for dosage, as there is not an established recommended daily allowance of this herb.

Yao Tong Pin

Often, many of these herbs will be combined into one formulation. An example of this is yao tong pin. This formula combines several herbs including dang gui, eucommia, soralea, atractylodes, ru xiang, and others. The combination of these herbs potentially leads to relief of lower back pain and any type of pain radiating from the sciatic nerve.

Side Effects and Dosage

Side effects are consistent with the constituent parts of the formulation. This formulation is typically available as a capsule and, as with the constituent herbs, there is not a recommended daily allowance; thus, manufacturer's directions should be followed.

Consult With Primary Provider

For many people suffering from back pain, traditional Chinese herbal remedies may offer a safe and effective alternative to narcotic pain medications or invasive medical procedures. As with any herbal supplement, it is important to talk with your primary provider, making sure to discuss any other medications you take and any medical conditions you have before adding a supplement to your routine.

Natural Herb Treatments for Back Pain