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Container Gardening

Over The Counter Medicine vs. Medicinal Herbs 

I enjoy gardening, but it sometimes affects my mussels and joints. I wonder if there is any way I may incorporate some of my gardening into an ‘old-fashioned’ Medicinal Herb remedy.

Although it’s a good idea to stock up on OTC medicines, you shouldn’t avoid natural medicines either. OTC medicine has an expiration date, but you can grow fresh medicinal herbs year after year, making them a great option for people who want to live off the grid or at least be a little more self-sufficient.

One type of medication that people will miss more than any other in a grid-down scenario is painkillers, so pain relief will be the main focus of this list. You won’t find anything as strong as Vicodin below, but these herbs can make the pain more tolerable.

Here, then, are 11 medicinal herbs that are natural painkillers.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, and nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor before using any herbs and/or remedies mentioned in this article.


St. John’s Wort

This plant, inhabited by woods, hillsides, and roadways, is sometimes considered invasive. It’s about knee to waist-high and covered in yellow flowers at their brightest in mid-summer. Besides being very pretty, it’s also a potent pain reliever.

This plant targets nerve pain and can encourage healing in damaged nerves. To get the full benefit of this plant, harvest the flowers when they’re at their prime and macerate them in alcohol or olive oil. An alcohol tincture (glycerin as an alternative) can be taken internally, while an oil tincture can be used externally.

St. John’s Wort is also an anti-depressant and can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder if taken daily. A therapeutic dose is approximately 1 tbsp of tincture in half a glass of water every night. Externally it will help heal bruises, sprains, and scrapes, particularly when combined with other pain-relieving herbs.

This is made from the buds of the cottonwood tree, macerated in oil. Normally used as a topical salve, Balm of Gilead effectively relieves pain from bruises, sprains, burns, sunburns, and other injuries. It can also speed the healing of fractured bones if used with a “Bone Set” (Comfrey).

Balm of Gilead, if extracted in an alcohol base, can be taken internally. However, it is most commonly used on external wounds and injuries.

Harvest the buds between late winter and early spring to make Balm of Gilead just as the sap begins to run. If you pinch the buds and see oran gish resin inside, it’s time to gather them. Once you’ve filled up half a mason jar, it’s time to make the balm. Here are detailed instructions.


The balm of Gilead is made from Cottonwood (seen above)


This tree’s berries, bark, and flowers effectively relieve cramps caused by women`s complaints. It can also help with other cramps, though it is less effective. Berries or flowers can be dried and used as a tea. The bark can also be used in tea or turned into a tincture.

For tea, generally half a tsp. of Hawthorn to a tsp. And half of the other herbs (like peppermint and marshmallow) are used.

Willow Bark

Willow is a surprisingly effective pain reliever, with the bark containing the highest concentration of the pain-relieving compound. The chemical in aspirin was synthesized after analyzing willow.

Since willow contains the same compound as aspirin, it also acts as a mild blood thinner. Thus willow should not be combined with commercial pain medications, and anyone sensitive to aspirin should not take it.

Willow bark can be harvested and dried at any time. To access its pain-relieving properties, brew a mild willow tea, and combine it with peppermint or another sweet herb to mask the bitterness.

Hot Peppers

These hot spicy friends are your allies in the fight against pain. Hot Peppers, or the capsaicin within them, are an effective pain reliever, analgesic, and general anti-inflammatory agent. Consume hot peppers in food to access some of their benefits.

Topical capsaicin ointments can also help relieve inflammation from sprains, chronic arthritis, and other inflammatory pain issues. The consumption of hot peppers can also act as a mood booster.

Soothing Herbs


This sweet herb can enhance the benefits of some bitter pain-relieving herbs. It can also act as a soother and help reduce heat-related inflammation due to its cooling properties. However, for some people mint is an exciter rather than a soother.


Observation is always necessary when utilizing natural herbs. Mint should be harvested in its prime, just before the flowers appear. Then it should be dried and kept in a cool, dark, and dry place until it is needed to blend with other herbs for tea or its own.

Chamomile and Oxeye Daisy

These two beautiful plants have the same soothing effect, though, like mint, they can have an excitatory effect on certain people.

Chamomile works well with St. John`s Wort to reduce pain and induce sleep. Chamomile and Oxeye Daisies should have the flowers harvested and dried, with newly opened flowers being the most potent. After drying, the flowers can be added to tea.


When used topically, lavender oil–or just a lavender frond rubbed on the skin–will relieve pain from burns, insect bites, and stings. To use, apply lavender oil, or rub a sprig of lavender directly on the bite, burn, or sting.

The pain should lessen Within a few moments, and within five to ten minutes, it should be gone from most mild burns, wasp stings, or insect bites. A hornet sting is the only sting that may need more treatment than straight lavender to relieve. Spider bites are also likely to need more care, depending on the type of spider.

Anti-inflammatory Herbs

Most chronic pain is caused by inflammation, so consuming anti-inflammatory herbs can help relieve it. However, consuming anti-inflammatory herbs must often be sustained over several months before results are fully evident. Of course, reducing inflammatory substances like sugar will quicken your results.


This herb is a wonderful anti-inflammatory agent. Use liberally in cooking, or dump a teaspoon in a glass of milk and drink straight to access its potent anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.


This has the same properties as turmeric, and while you can easily access its benefits by cooking with it, Ginger has the added benefit of being a delicious candy.

Topical Use Only


This beautiful mountain plant is highly recommended for treating bruises and general inflammation. While some companies sell arnica pills for consumption, home-harvested arnica should only be used topically.

Arnica works best on closed injuries, such as bruises and sprains. Harvest arnica flowers at their prime, and macerate them in oil. Combine arnica oil with St. John`s Wort and Balm of Gilead for an awesome pain-relieving concoction.




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