Posted on: July 4, 2017 at 10:14 am
Last updated: July 6, 2018 at 9:26 am

This fantastic article is written by Dr. Josh Axe. Check out his website or follow him on Facebook for more great information!


Whether it’s due to a medical condition, a brutal workout, or life in general, most of us are all too familiar with joint pain. When it strikes, it can be really tempting to pop medication to help ease the pain. But sometimes that can do more harm than good.

For starters, traditional pain meds are often addictive. It can be difficult to tear yourself away from a medicine that offers a quick relief, even if it’s not doing anything to address the underlying issues causing the pain. In fact, more than 2 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers and healthcare providers expect that figure to continue to rise. Medications can also be expensive and cause unwanted side effects.

As a result, natural pain relief should definitely be explored — and when it comes to treating joint pain, an herbal compress is an excellent bet.

Herbal Compress for Pain Relief


An herbal compress is often used in massages to loosen muscles, increase blood flow, and provide relief from aches and pains. Luckily, you don’t need to visit the spa to enjoy the benefits of an herbal compress. In fact, you can make one right at home. Using the right herbs is key to making an effective herbal compress, and when you want to relieve pain, there are four herbs that I recommend.


Though it has a funny name, mugwort is a powerful herb that’s been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. And for those suffering from joint pain, mugwort is really effective. In fact, one North American strain of mugwort has been proven to reduce pain in arthritis patients. The Chinese often burn dried mugwort and place it on the body to ease pain.

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Mugwort also provides a double whammy in that it can also be used to treat mild depression and anxiety. So if your joint issues are affecting you mentally as well as physically, including mugwort in your herbal compress can help.

Stinging nettle

When applied directly to the skin, the fine hairs of the stinging nettle plant do, in fact, sting. But if you need joint pain relief, stinging nettle products just might be the answer, as it is known to reduce pain and is often recommended as an effective, all-natural treatment for arthritis.

Additionally, for people taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to manage their pain, using stinging nettle in conjunction with the medicine can actually help reduce reliance on NSAIDs. Because long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to serious side effects, using stinging nettle can help mitigate those effects.



You may already be enjoying turmeric in your curries and lattes, but if you suffer from joint pain, turmeric is another spice you’ll want in your herbal compress. When taken orally, curcumin, the main compound in turmeric, has been found to be just as effective as medication in treating inflammation—one of the primary causes of pain and health conditions like arthritis. Curcumin is one of the strongest anti-inflammatory compounds, while medications like aspirin and ibuprofen are actually some of the least effective.

Curcumin also activates our body’s own pain-relief system, so that the body acts as its own painkiller


You might not have heard of boswellia before, but you likely are familiar with frankincense oil, which is derived from the plant. In the days before painkillers and other pharmaceutical medications, boswellia was used to treat diseases stemming from inflammation, like arthritis.

One chemical compound in boswellia, AKBA, is especially useful in fighting pain. It works similarly to NSAID pain relieving medications, but because it doesn’t eat away the stomach’s lining, it’s much safer and poses less risk to the body. This might be why research has shown that boswellia extract is effective at treating arthritis and osteoarthritis symptoms like joint pain in the knees.

Making Your Compress


You can’t go wrong including these ingredients in your herbal compress, and if you’ve never made your own compress before, read on. It’s really simple!

First, prepare a strong herbal tea with all of your herbs (I recommend using one tablespoon of each herb) by steeping them for about 10-15 minutes in 1 ½ cups of hot water. If you are making a hot herbal compress, dip a clean cotton cloth into the herb infusion now. The cloth should be hot but not scalding — it’s going on your skin, after all! If you want a cool compress, make the tea and let it cool to your desired temperature, then dip the cloth into the liquid.

Finally, place the cloth on the painful areas and let the compress work its magic for about 15-20 minutes.

Josh Axe
Doctor of Natural Medicine
Doctor of Natural Medicine at Exodus Health Center Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. Dr. Axe is the author of Eat Dirt and Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine , and he's also the founder of , one of the world's top natural health sites that draws more than 11 million visitors each month.

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