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


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.
Bob Banever - June 10th, 2014 at 12:27 AM
Hello. A dentist damaged my lingual nerve, right side, from an injection of articaine for a root canal in 2007. I suffered burning pain and stiffness of my tongue, right side, for 5 years. After trying acupuncture, B vitamins, turmeric, and cannabis eventually the pain subsided. It was never totally gone, but on good days it was 95% gone. Then suddenly, about 3 weeks ago, the nerve pain started to come back. I have no idea why although I stopped all therapy months ago. The pain relief I had lasted 1 1/2 years and now it's back. It isn't as bad but I now have about 50 - 60% relief instead of the 95%. I am 64 and in excellent health. I run 12 miles a week and eat an all organic diet. Was wondering if there are any herbs that might help me. Thanks.
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.
Sharyl Cobb - March 12th, 2014 at 10:08 AM
Jasmeet: I know of several possibilities. One, I had multiple car accidents and so much pain in my neck and left foot I had to give up a job at a school and cancel my beloved hiking for the rest of my life, I figured. However, in ONE VISIT, a MAT therapist (Muscle Activation Technique) cleared up my pain and left me feeling great again. (However, because I OVERDID from feeling so good, I was soon back for more treatment, but that was my fault!) I've had several accidents since then. In every case, MAT has rescued me. It is scientific testing and palpation of nerve endings to turn them back on. Also, in conjunction, a topical balm called simply, "The Rub," available fairly inexpensively from The Vitamin Shoppe, works well. Its active ingredient is Arnica, an herbal flower well known for its analgesic properties. You can also take Arnica 30C pellets from Boiron. Sour Cherry fruit-sweetened jam is supposed to be great for inflammation, which also accompanies most pain. Plain lemon juice in water every day is also supposed to help. Wild blueberry or ginseng is supposed to also help with NERVE REGENERATION, as is R-ALC, a natural component of food. Hope this helps! Look up "Muscle Activation Technique" on the Internet for a therapist near you. It's definitely WORTH IT! I went to chiropractors for years, also. They can only do so much....

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.

Candy - June 12th, 2015 at 10:46 AM
but be aware that catnip will make you drowsy. Don't use it when you need to be awake and alert.
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.
Gd - July 31st, 2016 at 2:44 AM
I tore my rotator cuff a year ago. I started with valerian root tea for several months. Then I switched to a blend of St. John's Wort and Scullcap. I also used wintergreen essential oil mixed with a carrier oil as recommended by my herbalist. I do my shoulder strengthening exercises everyday. Meditation helped me release my anger issues with resulted in my injury. I am now 75% better.
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.

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.
michele - December 24th, 2013 at 11:55 AM
I am trying to find pain relief for my mother. She has been suffering with shooting right groin/ upper thigh pain. Admitted to the hospital, released and no diagnosis. She has had 1 back surgery to repair T-11,T-12, L4,L5,L6 S1,S2, and suffers from OA and RA. Do you think St. John's and or Skullcap tinctures would help?
Thank you.
p - August 6th, 2016 at 4:48 PM
I have the same pain bout some st johns wort at Walgreen 30mg take 4 pills morning , evening and night by the 2nd day I felt the difference I was like wow
Nicole - December 28th, 2013 at 2:00 PM
Please... I was looking for herbs to grow when I cam across this page.. I have been in so much pain for so many years I actually think I'm dying. Last year they ( a "TOP" medical hospital/school on the East Coast area of the US") decompressed and removed then replaced my C1 through my T4 and my L1 through my L5 - since my insurance ran out right after the "life saving surgery" I was given no back brace, no wheel chair, no physical therapy.... and now I am so disabled and in so much pain I did not know the human body or soul could endure such pain. The cure was worse than the fix... but they say they saved my life and had the surgeries not been done I would have become a quadrapalegic and then had organ failure and died... I am in such need of help for this pain. I take opiates but hat them. I was an athlete before I became a chronic pain patient via a hysterectomy gone wrong... after that surgery I lost the use of my left leg ... no one knows why and I've been fighting for my life back ever since. I know I will not be an athlete again... but please, can you help me with my pain.. at least enough to get off of the horrible drugs I'm putting in my body. I truly feel as if I am dying... and sometimes want to... it is a good thing my constitution is strong and I have much to live for... I find joy in the smallest of things... but I feel over time I am weakening and I need help so very much. Thank you. I do hope I will hear back from you or anyone... please feel free to publish my email or not.. just someone reach out with suggestions please.
Wendy - January 25th, 2016 at 5:49 PM
Greetings, Nicole,

Though it be a few years, I came across your comment; due to researching. I'm so very sorry to hear of your story; how much I have heard of similar as yours. How are you doing now? Nicole, I wish you the best, keep searching, and keep getting 'up'. Enjoy and be thankful for every little thing you do have and has not been taken from thee.

With prayer,
Someone whom cares.
Shelley Caltrider - January 12th, 2014 at 8:39 AM
I have been recently diagnosed with Tarlov Cysts disease, which is a cysts that grows on the spine and fills up with spinal fluid damaging the nerves. I had surgery the end of September to confine them which they found it already eroded the bone a good ways. They put me on Cymbalta and pain pills but my stomach abd body does not agree eith them. My nerve pain, numbness, tingling is the worse!! Its in my lower back, kegs, feet, toes, arms, hands, and fingers. Please help and letting me know typically or oral what I could do?? Thank you so much!!
Zac - January 22nd, 2014 at 10:28 AM
I have a question. I have been trying to find more natural was to relieve pain. I was in an ied blast on Afghanistan nine months ago resulting in losing my left arm and leg and severely damaging my right leg. I have had severe cronic nerve pain sense with numb tingely spots all over more so my right leg and foot but the worst is my left side. It feels as if I slapped my hand on hot asfalt like a stinging burning throbbing pain that nothing so far will help. Anyways would herbs like the above article mentions help? Even with the severity of my injuries? Thanks.
Rachel - February 19th, 2014 at 11:41 PM
My hubby has buldging disks in his back as well as myofacial pain syndrome. He hates taking prescribed pain meds due to them making him either overly tired or just dulling the pain not ending the pain. Would saint johns wort help with the nerve receptors but turning off the pain signal? He was hurt in afghanistan. The pain in his back can get so bad he can't sleep.
Mark - April 4th, 2014 at 5:25 PM
I have PHN from shingles I got 3 weeks ago. I have it on my face....extreme pain in ear, face, jaw and lip. What do you recommend?
Shri - April 7th, 2014 at 11:21 AM
I met with an accident 3 years ago that has left me nearly disabled with one of my arm due to unbearable nerve pain. I am on epilepsy and antidepressants to ease the pain but its not helping much. Even Er visits during extreme flare ups cannot help much. Do you have any suggestions. Actions such as writing, lifting, wringing, typing are just unbearable. I have undergone physical therapy, accupuncture and chiro. Nothing seems to be effective.
Please advise.
Bill Close - April 19th, 2014 at 7:24 PM
Natalie Osborne - August 11th, 2014 at 4:51 PM
Hi I am in desperate need of some help please ?
I have nerve damage from having a front tooth out !!
So I feel like I have tooth ache in my front teeth all of the time.
I am on ampytriptline 50mg a night but it doesn't make the pain go away completely plus it makes me feel awful really drowsy and spaced out
Any advice would be greatly received
Many Thanks
Steve Astles - September 6th, 2014 at 8:04 AM
I have been in pain for the last seven years....back.hip.legs. The pain is everywhere all the time. Arthritis from neck down the back, lot of pain in my knees , feet ankles. Any help would definitely be appreciciated!
julie - September 23rd, 2014 at 7:47 PM
Hi Julie here have tennis elbow and have lost full range of motion been working with bluevervain wood betony;St john worth got kola in mysmoothies any suggestions on doing something else
Sheila - October 11th, 2014 at 6:19 PM
After many years of the doctors insisting that I had pulled a muscle in my left shoulder, finally one ordered an MRI and found that I had a severe herniated disc in my neck. The surgeon did a neck fusion/w bone graft on C5,6, & 7. I experienced some relieve for a couple of years before C3, & 4 started showing signs of moderate herniation. I am now experiencing pain in my right shoulder which swells up at times and radiates pain down my right arm with some degree of numbness. I have been in this position before when they keep giving me medicines which are proven to be very harmful and addictive. I wish to take a safer route this time and try something natural and less harmful to my physical health. I also have fibromylgia which causes a fair amount of pain by itself. There has got to be a better way than the toxic drugs being given to the people today.
Marla - October 27th, 2014 at 10:09 AM
Hi Cory, I have trigeminal neuralgia. The medication I'm on only helps so much. How much Skullcap would you recommend and should it be oral or topical? Thanks so much.
Gary Holt - November 1st, 2014 at 1:13 AM
I have nerve damage in my back, feels like at times my right toe 's on the end feel like their being hammered, I've almost taken a whole bottle of Corydalis, and it's not working. What other herb's are they out there for this kinda pain;-? Text me back at 501-541-6310, Gary
Pat gallon - January 28th, 2015 at 8:40 PM
My husband recently had lung surgery and now has some nerve pain which we have been told is common & will go away. Is there anything we can use topically to help calm the nerves.
Margaret Neal - February 10th, 2015 at 5:54 PM
I was in a car accident and have internal nerve damage is there any herb that will help, damage affects bladder and bowels
Rose - February 13th, 2015 at 12:41 AM
I have internal nerve pain from a violent pelvic examination . . Acupunture improved it by 50% but I can't sit down on a regular chair yet unless it's well padded. If I sit on a hard chair the pain is excruciating. I have tried numerous herbs including St John's Wort internally but it hasn't helped, neither has turmeric. What do you suggest?
Ancy12 - March 20th, 2015 at 8:15 PM
Wondering if you have any suggestions and/or experience with bladder nerve pain, which seems to cause a constant strong urge. No leakage or anything, just seems like the nerves and bladder muscle are spasming and irritated. WAny ideas?
Adriana - June 12th, 2015 at 5:47 PM
My husband has had excrutiating pain going down his leg from the buttocks for the past 12 days and nothing seems to give him releif. Percocets do nothing. SI joint injection did nothing. I need to find something topical to help with the pain. Doctors try to mask the pain but did nothing to find out why it was happening.
Peter - July 3rd, 2015 at 2:38 PM
I have been suffering from neuropathic pain which manifests itself as intense burning sensation in my right leg. My GP has put me on the drug Gabapentin to treat it, however I do not like all the side effects, plus the fact that the drug gave lab rats adreno and pancreatic carcinoma's during lab tests. I would like to give St Johns Wort, Skullcap and Motherwort a try in a combination tincture, however would I be able to take this whilst weaning myself off Gabapentin because it is recommended that Gabapentin is slowly reduced over the course of at least one week, and whilst doing this I would like to get the herbal tincture into my system.
BARBARA - April 26th, 2016 at 8:38 AM
dave - September 4th, 2016 at 11:47 AM
barbara, i was on gabapentin for a short time and it was also told to me to to wean myself off it instead of stopping abruptly. peter i hope you followed those instructions successfully.
Debbe Wilson - August 24th, 2015 at 6:44 PM
Just found your site and enjoyed reading all the comments. My situation is in May all of a sudden I began having stabbing pain on the left side of my back moving around my left side into the front left side of my stomach.After 2MRIs and multiple doctor visits the ortho dr says I have two slightly protruding disks but he was not really too concerned about. My systems also have mimicked shingles though I have not had a rash so we do not know if I truly have had them or not. There is apparent nerve damage and dr. Prescribed Tramodol and Gabepentinmedication. I have really struggled with taking these meds. Also have had two steroid injections last one being this past Monday. Some relief. Prefer a natural method hoping to restore nerves . What do you suggest. Really appreciate your imput. Also supposed to have third injection in Sept. And concerned about that med too. Never had to take meds like this. Many thanks!
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