What causes pain?
By Mr. Steven Horne

We all have aches and pains now and then, but for some of us, back pain, headaches, stiffness and aches are a way of life. In fact, the most commonly purchased over-the-counter drugs are pain killers. These drugs are considered by many to be one of the greatest "miracles" of modern medicine. Perhaps they are. After all, no normal human being likes to be in pain.

However, pain is not altogether evil. If you touch a hot stove, the pain informs you that you are injuring your body and causes you to jerk your finger away. It also serves as a reminder not to make the same mistake again. Pain is a message that something is wrong in our body and needs to be corrected.

Back PainUnfortunately, the drug medications for pain only deaden the nerves so we no longer receive the signal that something is wrong. They do not actually remove the cause of the pain. Hence, people keep taking them over and over again, but their headaches, backaches and general body aches keep coming back.

While occasional use of medications for pain may be a wonderful blessing, constant use of these medications may be downright harmful. Just think of the terms used to describe these medicines: pain killers which deaden the nervous system. Keep that in mind, because pain medications are actually small doses of poisons. Isn't it possible that continuous use of these substances could eventually kill our nerve cells and leave parts of our nervous system dead?

Instead of just trying to block out the pain, we need to pay attention to it. We need to remember that the pain is telling us that something is wrong. Perhaps we need to examine our diet, life-style and feelings and see if we can't figure out what "hot stove" we are touching. Perhaps we will find that we are eating poorly or too much. Perhaps we will need to let go of some of our worries and stresses. Perhaps we need to drink more water. Whatever the case, the long term solution to pain is to discover the cause of the pain and remove it.

That is where herbs, nutrition and other natural therapies may be able to help. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), there are no herbal pain killers, unless one includes toxic plants like opium. So, don't expect herbs and supplements to kill pain and deaden your nerves the way your favorite pain killer does. The herbs or supplements you take are going to feed and nourish the tissues and help to correct what is wrong.

When the problem is corrected, then the tissues won't complain anymore. Wholesome herbs are feeders and nourishers, not killers. Herbs and nutritional therapies may not block the messages which say that something is wrong, but they can help fix what is wrong so the tissues will no longer send messages of pain to the brain. In other words, they can help remove the cause of pain.

What causes pain?

It may be helpful to understand the mechanism that creates pain. When cells are damaged in any way, they release irritating substances into the surrounding tissues. These substances can directly stimulate nerve endings which send the message to the brain that damage has occurred in that part of the body. These substances will also create inflammation. By irritating the blood vessels they will cause the pores in the blood vessels to dilate (enlarge) and excess fluid will escape into the tissues. This creates swelling at the sight of injury. This diminishes blood flow to the area and the supply of oxygen to the tissues. This diminished blood flow and decrease in the amount of needed oxygen also causes pain.

Put simply, anytime you feel pain in a part of your body, it is a signal that:
1. There are irritating substances present (toxins as we commonly call them) and/or;
2. There is a diminished flow of blood and oxygen to that area of the body.

So, to relieve pain we have to help rid the body of these irritating substances (herbalists commonly call this "cleansing") and increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the tissues. And that's just what this issue will teach us how to do.

Tissue Damage (Inflammation)


Every time we damage tissues (whether the damage occurs through trauma, nutrient depletion, toxicity or stress) they respond through a process called inflammation. Inflammation can be thought of as the "mother of all diseases" because all disease processes in the body start with cells becoming injured and an inflammatory response being initiated.

Medical research suggests that even serious chronic and degenerate diseases have their roots in chronic inflammation. For example, it is now known that heart disease begins with an inflammatory process, which sets the stage for hardening of the arteries. lnflammation is the first, or acute stage of disease and corresponds to a tissue state we call irritation. Here's what happens.

When cells are damaged, they burst and release certain chemicals into the surrounding tissues. One of these substances is called histamine, another is bradykinin. There are several others but these are the two most important ones.

Even if you have never heard of histamine, you are still probably aware of the existence of antihistamines (drugs which block histamine reactions). Histamine reactions are well-known for their involvement in allergic responses, but they are also involved in all inflammatory reactions. Bradykinin is also involved in inflammatory reactions, particularly the symptoms we experience with the common cold.

Histamine and bradykinin cause the capillary pores to enlarge. This, in turn, allows massive amounts of fluid, including the plasma protein albumin, to flood the tissue spaces. So, our smashed finger begins to swell. Fluid and protein rush out of the blood stream and into the spaces around the cells, filling them with fluid. This takes the cells out of their normal "dry" state and slows down the exchange of oxygen. It also causes waste material to accumulate in the spaces between the cells. In effect, the cells start "drowning."

Our "side" cells are surrounded by excess fluid and plasma protein which has "leaked" out of the circulatory system through the enlarged pores. The cells are pushed apart and the lymphatic system is trying to draw away the excess fluid.

The Acute Stage of Disease Irritation

This pooling of fluids creates the first symptom of inflammation-one we can all readily observe when we have bumped our head, smashed a finger or twisted an ankle. That symptom is swelling. Because the swelling deprives cells of oxygen and nutrients, they send out a distress signal that we call pain. This is the second symptom of inflammation-sharp pain.

The other two symptoms of inflammation are redness and heat. That is why it is called inflammation. These symptoms arise from three primary causes. In response to the situation, tissues become hyperactive. They speed up their metabolism trying to clear out the surrounding area and repair the damage. There is also a tendency for oxygen radicals to form and cause free radical damage in inflamed tissues. In effect, oxygen spins out of control and starts "burning" tissues. The cells, of course, send out a distress signal-a cry for help that we call pain. The final cause of the "flames" in inflammation is the activity of white blood cells which are drawn to the area as a "clean-up crew." White blood cells will use oxygen radicals to "burn up" and destroy microbes and toxins that may be present at the site of injury.

Anytime we see the symptoms of heat (elevated temperature either locally or generally as in fever), swelling, redness and sharp pains we are dealing with an inflammatory condition. In other words, tissues have been chemically injured and are in a state of acute distress. The Latin word for inflammation is itis. So anytime you have an -itis, you are dealing with inflammation, whether it is tonsillitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, or bronchitis.

It is the job of the lymphatic system to "suck up' the debris and clean up the area. The lymphatic system captures the proteins that have escaped from the circulatory system and carries them, along with the fluid they attract, back to the circulatory system through a series of one-way check valves. If the body can successfully discharge the irritant and clean up the area via the lymphatics, then the problem is solved and it ends there.



Try drinking at least 1/2 oz. of pure water (Evian or Celtic) per pound of body weight/day.


Pain is nearly always linked with inflammation. Chronic inflammation is often caused by oxidative stress. Inflammation is a natural process designed to sequester a damaged area, trigger an immune reaction to draw white blood cells to the area and evoke pain. The pain tells us something is wrong and encourages us to not use and further irritate the damaged area so it will have time to heal.
Since fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, people suffering from chronic pain should adopt a diet that is at least 60-70% fresh fruits and vegetables. Some people have found that a temporary diet of 100% fresh fruits and vegetables eliminated chronic pains.

1. Drink water with a pH of 7.4 or higher PLUS Liquid chlorophyll ES. Helps alakalyse your tissues... very impotant!
2. You can also consider an antioxidant supplement, such as Thai-Go or Curcumin BP or Super ORAC
3. Super Omega-3 EPA has helped ease pain and inflammation.


Muscle tension may be brought on by Fatigue, stress, poor posture or repetitive movements over along period
of time. For example, many people who work long hours at a computer get chronic tension in their upper back, neck and shoulders, which can lead to neck pain, back pain and headaches.
If muscle tension is causing your pain, make sure you are
getting enough rest and taking periodic breaks from repetitive tasks to stretch and relax. Adopting better posture while sitting or standing will also help. Bodywork, such as chiropractic adjustments or massage therapy, has eased this type of pain for many people.

1. Magnesium Complex: try taking 2-4 capsules daily.
2. Lobelia extract applied topically, along with topical analgesics (see below), can also help.


In traditional Chinese medicine pain is seen as a sign of stagnation. When there is a lack of blood bringing oxygen to the tissues and a lack of good lymphatic drainage allowing an accumulation of acid and waste around the cells, cells cry for help by sending pain signals to the brain.

Massage improves lymphatic drainage and brings blood and oxygen to the tissues. Massage can be even more effective in relieving pain when you also apply a topical analgesic like those listed below. Deep breathing can also be helptful.

1. Doing a periodic cleanse, such as the CleanStart or Tiao He Cleanse has been helpful in reducing chronic pain for many people.
2. Pain is often due to a lack of oxygen in the tissues and deep breathing not only increases oxygen in the body, it also moves lymph. Walking or swimming helps increase lymphatic drainage. Gentle bouncing on a mini-tranpoline while deep breathing is an excellent way to move lymph and has proven very effective in reducing many kinds of chronic pain.


Most over-the-counter pain relievers are anti-inflammatories. This makes sense, since inflammation is almost always associated with pain.
There are two basic types of anti-inflammatories: steroidal and non-steroidal (NSAIDs). These drugs have many long-term side effects. However, there are many natural substances with similar anti-infiammatory properties, and a reduced risk of side effects.
Nature’s original NSAIDs are salicins or salicylates which are found in herbs such as willow bark, black cohosh and wintergreen. Aspirin was based on this compound. The herbs containing these natural anti-inflammatory compounds are a milder in their ability to ease pain, but they are effective and safer for long term use.

Corticosteroid drugs mimic the action of a hormone called cortisol produced by the adrenal glands. Many people suffering from chronic pain are also suffering from chronic stress and adrenal burnout. So, supporting the adrenal glands will often help relieve chronic pain.

1. APS II with White Willow Bark is a traditional “herbal aspirin” formula containing willow bark, valerian and capsicum. Besides having an anti-inflammatory effect, it stimulates circulation and relaxes tense muscles, which also helps to ease pain. The capsaicin in capsicum also blocks substance P, the neurotransmitter that signals pain.
2. Licorice root has a cortisol sparing action and is a natural anti-inflammatory. Other herbs that have a cortisol-like pain
relieving action include wild yam and yucca. Yucca is often helpful for chronic muscle and joint pain, while wild yam is better at easing pains in the digestive tract and pelvis.
3. Adrenal Support may also be needed if the person is suffering from chronic stress and burnout.


Natural analgesics often work faster and more effectively when applied directly to painful joints or muscles. They are even more effective when used as part of a pain-relieving massage, which stimulates blood flow and lymphatic drainage.

MSM is anti-inflammatory and promotes tissue healing, while glucosamine helps with cartilage damage. When used regularly several times daily, this team is not just a temporary measure to ease pain; it actually helps joints heal, especially when coupled with better hydration, dietary changes and other natural healing techniques.

1. The Tei Fu oil blend is a wonderful topical analgesic. It contains wintergreen, a source of natural salicylates, which eases pain when applied topically. It is available as just the oil and as a massage lotion.
2. Another pain-relieving blend of essential oils is Deep Relief. It contains clove, nutmeg and ginger, all of which stimulate circulation and have topical analgesic properties.
3. For joint pain, try using Tei Fu Massage Lotion along with MSM/Glucosamine Cream.


There are herbs that have no analgesic activity, but can still be useful in easing pain. Remedies that reduce inflammation can be very helpful for both acute and chronic pain. These include turmeric, devil’s claw, boswellia, chamomile, feverfew and mangosteen.

CurcuminBP is a standardized extract of turmeric enhanced with black pepper. It has a powerul anti-inflammatory action and it is very helpful for relieving joint and digestive pain.

IF Relief
contains the anti-inflammatory ingredients turmeric, boswellia, mangosteen and andrographis along with the analgesic white willow bark. It is a very helpful remedy for many types of pain. It is especially useful for easing pain and speeding healing after injury or surgery.

Relief Formula
has a number of anti-inflammatory and analgesic ingreclients—turmeric, boswellia, hops, mangosteen, andrographis and willow bark. It also contains an extract of Phellodendron bark, which is a natural substance that inhibits pain in the same way as most NSAIDs. Besides these herbal ingredients, it contains cil-phenylalanine, which helps the body to make natural pain-relieving neurotransmitters and protease enzymes, which are naturally anti-inflammatory.


Since tension and stress contribute to pain, remedies that help the body relax and promote sleep can also be helpul For pain. Valerian, lobelia, and wood betony are examples of herbs that ease pain by reducing tension and stress.

Nerve Eight is both a relaxing nervine and an anti-infammatory analgesic. It contains white willow and black cohosh, with their analgesic salicylates. It also has relaxing nervines like Valerian, hops and wood betony, along with the anti-inflammatory herbs devil’s claw and ginger.


Vulneraries are herbs that help tissues to heal. While not
directly pain relieving, vulneraries are possibly the ultimate pain relievers, because they help to remove the cause of a person’s pain by helping tissues return to their normal state.

These remedies can be taken along with analgesics and anti-inflammatories to help permanently ease pain clue to tissue damage.

1. Joint Support, is a traditional formula for easing arthritis pain by reducing inflammation and promoting healing of joints.
2. PLS II is another vulnerary formula that can ease pain by healing tissues. Originally designed as a poultice formula, you can empty the capsules, mix the contents with a little water or aloe vera juice to make a thick paste. This can then be applied topically to insect bites, swellings and minor injuries to promote healing and ease pain.

This information is for educational purposes only. Consult with a qualified health practitioner for all serious or persistent illness.
Copyright © 1990 by Robinson & Horne, L.C., P.O. Box 1028, Roosevelt, UT 84066. This material may be duplicated for educational purposes only (not for resale) provided it is not altered in any way.