Use of herbal therapies to relieve pain: A review of efficacy and adverse effects

James H. Wirth, J. Craig Hudgins, Judith A. Paice*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


To find holistic treatment with effective pain relief and few side effects, Americans spend billions of dollars annually on complementary and alternative medicine, including herbal therapies. Despite extensive use, the lack of regulatory scrutiny of these herbal supplements contributes to the paucity of reliable clinical data assessing their efficacy and safety. This review summarizes the existing studies investigating the efficacy of herbal therapies as a treatment for pain. Possible side effects, potential drug-herb interactions, and information about common herbal therapies are also summarized. MEDLINE, AMED, and the Cochrane Library databases were searched for the period from January 1966 to June 2005. Uses, dosages, routes of administration, and side effects were summarized. Strength of empirical evidence also was evaluated. This review found few well-controlled clinical studies. Furthermore, these studies documented limited efficacy of herbal therapies to treat pain. The information presented here may be used to further educate nurses and patients on the use of herbal therapies as well as direct future research efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-167
Number of pages23
JournalPain Management Nursing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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