Top 10 Natural Pain Killers When SHTF

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Top 10 Natural Pain Killers When SHTF

Modern medicine has given us many tools to rely on when our health takes a turn. From headaches to broken bones, we have access to medication and doctors to help us.

But what if you lost all that access? Perhaps you are backpacking far away from any grocery store or medical facility. Maybe you were snowed in at your cabin and someone needs medical attention. What if it’s a true SHTF scenario and going to a doctor or buying medication is not even an option?

These are all very possible scenarios where modern medicine might not be accessible. This is why it’s important to know about natural herbal remedies. Knowing how to recognize and find these remedies in nature could save your life. 

A great place to start is natural pain killers. Learn how to identify these top 10 natural pain killers and where you can find them so when SHTF you know what to do.

Please note that these remedies should be used under guidance of an herbalist or a healthcare professional.

1. Willow Bark

Contains Salicin, Which Is Similar to Aspirin

Tablet Shelf Life: 2 Years 

Willow bark, which comes from the white willow tree, has been used for centuries as a natural pain reliever. Its active ingredient (salicin) is similar to the active ingredient in aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). To use willow bark as a painkiller, you can take willow bark supplements or make a tea by steeping it in hot water. It is not recommended to use it as a painkiller if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have any other medical conditions, it is best to consult your doctor before taking willow bark. 


Willow trees can be identified by their long, narrow leaves that are typically green on both sides, and long, drooping branches. The bark of willow trees is often smooth and gray, and the tree may have a distinctive "weeping" appearance. The tree also produces catkins, which are long, drooping clusters of flowers that appear before the leaves. Additionally, these trees are often found near water sources such as streams, rivers, and wetlands.


Willow trees can be found throughout much of the United States, as they are able to grow in a variety of different climates and soils. They are commonly found in damp or wet areas, such as along streams, rivers, and lakes. They can also be found in swamps, marshes, and other wetland habitats. You will find them in almost all states as they do not prefer a specific region.

Turmeric powder in a bowl and spoon scattered across a table.

2. Turmeric

Contains Curcumin, Which Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Tablet Shelf Life: 2 to 3 Years

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and is often used as a natural remedy for pain. To use turmeric as a painkiller, try the following:

  • Make a turmeric tea: Boil water and add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes, then strain and add honey or lemon juice to taste.
  • Apply a turmeric paste: Mix turmeric powder with a little water to make a paste. Apply the paste to the affected area and leave it on for 20-30 minutes before washing it off.
  • Incorporate turmeric in your foods by simply sprinkling it in: Add turmeric to your cooking to avail its benefits.
[Related Read: The Golden Glow of Turmeric]

    3. Devil’s Claw

    Used For Back and Joint Pain

    Tablet Shelf Life: 2 to 3 years

    To pack devil’s claw in your go-bag or wilderness pack, you’ll need to purchase the herbal supplement.

    Devil's claw is native to the arid regions of southern Africa, and it can be found in the wild in countries such as Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. The plant typically grows in sandy or rocky soils and is drought-tolerant. It has large, lobed leaves and produces large, claw-like seed pods that give the plant its name.

    Devil's claw is an herbal supplement that is commonly used as a natural remedy for pain, particularly in the lower back, joints and muscles. It is typically taken in the form of capsules or tablets, and the recommended dosage will depend on the specific product you are using.

    4. Ginger

    Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

    Tablet Shelf Life: 2 to 3 Years

    Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce pain. To use ginger as a painkiller, you can try consuming it in the form of tea, supplements, or by adding fresh ginger to your food. You can also apply a ginger compress or ointment to the affected area for localized pain relief.

    5. Arnica

    Used for Bruises, Sore Muscles, and Joint Pain

    Tablet Shelf Life: 2 Years

    Arnica is a plant that has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for pain and inflammation. It is available in various forms, including creams, gels, ointments, and tinctures. To use arnica as a pain reliever, you can apply the cream, gel, or ointment to the affected area and massage it in gently. For best results, it is recommended to use the product several times a day.

    You can also take arnica in the form of a tincture by dissolving a few drops in water or juice and drinking it. It is important to note that arnica should not be used on broken or irritated skin, and it should be avoided by people who are allergic to the plant. As with any medicine, you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist before using arnica if you have any concerns. 


    Arnica is a perennial plant that belongs to the sunflower family. It has yellow, daisy-like flowers and hairy, green leaves. To identify the plant, look for a stem that is usually unbranched, and flowers that are usually 2-3 cm across, with yellow ray florets and yellow or brown disk florets. The leaves are typically arranged alternately on the stem and are lance-shaped with toothed margins. The plant can grow to be about 30-60 cm tall.


    In the United States, Arnica montana can be found in the western states such as Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, California, Oregon, and Washington, as well as in the Rocky Mountains. It can typically be found in rocky or gravelly soils, in meadows, and along stream banks at elevations between 1,500 and 3,000 meters. It is also found in the Appalachian regions in North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. It is important to note that Arnica montana is a protected species in some states, and it is illegal to harvest it without a permit. Additionally, it is important to make sure that you can positively identify the plant before harvesting it, as there are other plants that resemble Arnica montana that are not safe for use.

    Aloe Vera plant in a bright yellow pot sitting on a counter.

    6. Aloe

    Used For Burns and Skin Irritations

    Shelf Life: Varies, 2 Days to 2 Years

    Aloe vera has been traditionally used to treat a variety of skin conditions and as a pain reliever. The gel from the aloe vera plant is often used to treat burns, including sunburns, and can help to reduce pain and inflammation.

    To use aloe vera as a pain reliever, you can:

    1. Break off a leaf from an aloe vera plant and squeeze the gel into your hand.
    2. Apply the gel directly to the area of pain and massage it gently into the skin.
    3. Repeat this process several times a day, as needed.

    It's important to note that Aloe vera gel should not be ingested, as it can cause harm to the body. 


    To identify aloe in the wild, look for the following characteristics:

    • Thick, Fleshy Leaves – Aloe leaves are typically thick and fleshy, with a waxy coating that helps them retain water. They are usually arranged in a rosette pattern, with the leaves radiating out from a central point.
    • Spiky Edges – The edges of aloe leaves are usually sharp and spiky.
    • Yellow, Tubular Flowers – Aloe plants will produce yellow, tubular flowers that grow on tall spikes. These flowers usually bloom in the summer or fall.
    • Aloe vera's leaves are usually green or gray-green, while the leaves of other species can vary from green to reddish-brown or purplish-black.
    • It can grow up to 80-100 cm in height and spread around 90 cm.

    It's important to note that not all aloe species are medicinal, and some of them are not safe for consumption, so it's best to consult with a botanist or healthcare professional to identify the species before using it.


    Aloe vera is not native to the United States, but it can be found in many parts of the country as a popular ornamental and medicinal plant. Here are some places where you may be able to find aloe in the US:

    • Home Gardens – Many people grow aloe vera in their home gardens as a houseplant or in outdoor gardens.
    • Nurseries and Garden Centers – Aloe vera is commonly sold at nurseries and garden centers, especially those that specialize in succulents and cacti.
    • Health Food Stores and Natural Food Markets – Some health food stores and natural food markets sell aloe vera gel or juice, which is often used as a dietary supplement.
    • Online Retailers – Aloe vera plants and products can also be purchased online from a variety of retailers.

    Keep in mind that some states in the US have regulations on the sale and cultivation of aloe vera, and it's best to check with the local authorities before purchasing or cultivating it.

    [Related Read: The Benefits of Honey]

    7. Echinacea

      Used to Boost the Immune System and Reduce Pain

      Tablet Shelf Life: Two to Three Years

      Echinacea, also known as coneflower, is a herb that has traditionally been used to boost the immune system and to help with respiratory and urinary tract infections. While it is not commonly used as a painkiller, some studies suggest that echinacea may have anti-inflammatory properties that could help to reduce pain.

      To use echinacea as a pain reliever, you can:

      • Take Echinacea Supplements – Echinacea supplements, such as capsules or tablets, can be found in most health food stores. It's important to follow the dosage instructions on the label.
      • Drink Echinacea Tea – Echinacea tea can be made by steeping echinacea leaves or roots in hot water. It can be consumed several times a day.
      • Apply Echinacea Tincture Topically – Echinacea tincture can be applied topically to the area of pain.


      Echinacea typically grows to be about 1-3 feet tall and has a distinctive cone-shaped center surrounded by purple, pink, or white petals. It typically blooms from June to September.

      It's important to note that wild harvesting of echinacea, or any other plant, can have negative impacts on the population of the plant and the ecosystem. It's best to consult with local authorities and botanists before harvesting any wild plants. Also, not all echinacea species are medicinal, and some of them can be toxic, so it's best to consult with a healthcare professional or botanist to identify the species before using it.


      To find echinacea in the wild, look for it in open grasslands, prairies, along roadsides, and in fields in the central and eastern regions of the United States, particularly in states such as:

      • Kansas
      • Missouri
      • Nebraska
      • Oklahoma
      • South Dakota

      [Related Read: 15 Medicinal Herbs To Grow, Harvest & How to Use Them]

      A drooping White Willow tree.

      8. White Willow

        Contains Salicin, Which Is Similar to Aspirin

        Tablet Shelf Life: 2 Years

        White willow bark is a natural pain reliever that has been used for centuries. It contains salicin, which is chemically similar to aspirin. To use white willow bark as a pain reliever, it can be taken in supplement form or as a tea. It is important to note that excessive use can lead to stomach irritation and bleeding, similar to aspirin.


        White willow (Salix alba) is a large deciduous tree that can grow up to 50-70 feet tall. It has a characteristic pendulous habit and can be identified by its long, narrow, pointed leaves that are green on top and silvery-white on the bottom. The bark is gray and deeply fissured. The branches are long and drooping. The tree produces catkins (flowers) in the spring before the leaves appear. 


        White willow (Salix alba) is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but it has been introduced and naturalized in other parts of the world, including the United States. In the US, it can be found in many states, particularly in the eastern and central regions, as well as in the Pacific Northwest. It thrives in moist soils, near streams and rivers, and in other wetland areas.

        9. Feverfew

          Used for Headaches and Migraines

          Tablet Shelf Life: 9 Months

          Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is an herb that has been traditionally used to relieve headaches and migraines. The active ingredient in feverfew is believed to be parthenolide, a compound that may reduce inflammation and constrict blood vessels in the brain.

          To use feverfew as a pain reliever, it can be taken in the form of supplements, teas or tinctures. It is recommended to consult a healthcare professional before taking as a supplement, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you are taking any medications, as it may interact with certain drugs. 

          When using feverfew supplements, the typical dosage is between 50-150 mg per day. When using a tincture, the typical dosage is between 2-4 mL per day.

          It is also important to note that feverfew may take several weeks to months to take effect, and that some people may experience side effects such as mouth ulcers, stomach upset, and allergic reactions.


          Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a perennial herb that can be found growing wild in meadows and along roadsides. To identify feverfew in the wild, look for a plant that has:

          • Leaves that are deeply lobed and fern-like
          • Daisy-like flowers that are typically white or yellow
          • A strong, distinct aroma
          • A height of about 2-3 feet

          Additionally, you can also look for the following characteristics:

          • The stem is hairy and branched
          • The leaves and stem are covered with fine white hairs
          • The leaves are lobed and feathery
          • The flowers are arranged in a flat-topped cluster

          It is important to note that while Feverfew is considered to be a medicinal herb and is used to treat a number of conditions, it is also toxic in large doses, so identification and proper usage should be done with care.


          Feverfew can be found in some natural food stores or herb shops in the United States. It can also be found online through retailers that sell herbs and supplements. Some health food stores might also carry feverfew. It is also possible to find at farmers markets or through local growers. 

          10. St. John's Wort

            Used for Nerve Pain and Mild Depression

            Tablet Shelf Life: 3 Years

            St. John's Wort is an herbal supplement that is believed to have pain-relieving properties. It can be taken in various forms such as capsules, tablets, or liquid extracts. The recommended dosage varies depending on the product, so it is important to follow the instructions on the label or as advised by a healthcare professional.


            St. John's wort is a perennial herb with yellow flowers that typically grows in sunny, dry areas. The leaves are opposite, oval, and have small black dots on the upper surface. The flowers have five petals and are usually about 1 cm wide. To positively identify St. John's wort, you should look for the following characteristics:

            • Opposite, oval leaves with small black dots on the upper surface
            • Yellow flowers with five petals, about 1 cm wide
            • Long, thin, woody stems that are often red or purple in color 


            St. John's Wort is a wildflower that can be found in various parts of the United States, including the East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast. It typically grows in fields, meadows, and along roadsides. It can also be found in some natural food stores, herbal shops, and online as a dietary supplement. However, it is important to note that the quality and potency of supplements may vary, so it is best to purchase them from reputable sources.

            Want to learn more about medicinal herbs? Checkout our book The Complete Medicinal Herbal.

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