Physicians find neuropathy difficult to manage. This nerve pain can easily become chronic if it is not interrupted early in its course. When pain originates in the nervous system itself, relatively few treatments can quell it effectively. People taking medications such as duloxetine (Cymbalta) or pregabalin (Lyrica) that are prescribed for neuropathy may end up with unanticipated side effects. Little wonder, then, that many people are searching for natural remedies for nerve pain.
Can Turmeric Ease Neuropathy?
Q. I suffer from nerve pain (neuropathy) in my toes and feet. I am looking for a natural approach to dealing with this problem.
Is there any research to suggest that turmeric could be helpful? If not, what do you recommend?
A. As far as we can tell, there are no clinical trials demonstrating that the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can ease the pain of neuropathy. That said, there are theoretical reasons that this natural product might be helpful (Zhang et al, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Nov. 24, 2013). Curcumin appears to affect opioid sensors in the nervous system (Banafshe et al, European Journal of Pharmacology, Jan. 15, 2014).
Other Natural Remedies for Nerve Pain:
There are some other possibilities worth discussing with your physician. First, make sure you are not deficient in any nutrients that could contribute to neuropathy, such as vitamin B6 or vitamin B12.
Check Out Benfotiamine:
Then, ask about benfotiamine. This synthetic version of thiamine has been used to treat diabetic neuropathy (Javed et al, Therapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease, Jan. 2015).
Might Marijuana Help?
If medical marijuana is legal in your state, it might be worth considering. A meta-analysis of five randomized trials “suggests that inhaled cannabis may provide short-term relief for 1 in 5 to 6 patients with neuropathic pain” (Andreae et al, Journal of Pain, Dec. 2015).
Another option is cannabidiol. It is a derivative of marijuana but does not make people high. You might want to listen to our interview with Dr. David Casarett on the medical uses of marijuana.
Expressive Writing Is Another Option:
We recently interviewed Dr. David Hanscom about his approach to chronic back pain. In addition to adequate sleep and good nutrition, Dr. Hanscom advocates a practice of expressive writing: putting down your thoughts and feelings about the pain on paper, then tearing it up. If you would like to listen to Show 1071 with Dr. Hanscom, here is a link.
Like other natural remedies for nerve pain, expressive writing may work better for some individuals than for others. At least, that is the conclusion from a study of expressive writing for lymphadenopathy, a complication of breast cancer treatment (Sohl et al, Psychology & Health, March 30, 2017).