Worth It: A Homeopathic Pain Reliever That Actually Works

Much unlike many a magazine editor who recommends you buy all sorts of crap that they most likely got for free, your Jezebel staff doesn't get jack shit (other than books, unsolicited). And that's how it should be. But on our own time, in our personal lives, we still buy stuff. So this is Worth It, our recommendation of random things that we've actually spent our own money on. These are the things we buy regularly or really like, things we'd actually tell our friends about. And now we're telling you.

Eight years ago, I developed an allergy to aspirin. It sucked for a number of reasons, but most of all because it meant no more Advil for me. The prospect of not being able to pop a few of those miraculous pain relievers at the first sign of a headache, or cramps, or backache seemed terrifying—but, of course, not as terrifying as the prospect of my airway closing up and my entire body breaking out into hives, which was what happened if I took anything with aspirin in it. So I threw out my Advil and moved on with my life, fearful of developing even minor pains.

Tylenol worked some of the time, for a hangover or for a fever, but what it never seemed to help with was muscle soreness. If I pulled a hamstring or got a neck ache (an all too common occurrence when you sit hunched over a computer all day), I could never get decent relief. And then one day, a friend recommended I try arnica gel. I went to Whole Foods, and got myself a tube of it. The next time my neck was stiff, I massaged a little in, and low and behold, it helped! Since then I have become a serious arnica connoisseur.

About a year ago, I took my addiction to the next level. I'd started a new, much more intense exercise regimen that left me totally crippled with muscle soreness. My legs were so sore that I was yelping loudly when I tried to lower myself onto the toilet, and I could barely lift my arms above my head—super pathetic. I slathered myself with arnica gel, but it wasn't giving me the whole body relief I needed. It was then that I discovered you could take arnica in pill form. Holy shit. Game changer. I got a little blue tube of pills and took them before bed. The next morning my soreness was greatly improved. I continued taking them three times a day while my body adjusted to the new workouts, and they were a godsend. They took me from a hobbling, sore mess to a functioning human being again.

Arnica remedies are made from the Arnica Montana plant, a flower that looks a bit like a daisy or sunflower and has anti-inflammatory properties. I'd recommend the gel for a localized injury like a strained or stiff muscle. The pills are better for more widespread pain. Obviously, if you have any health problems, check with your doctor before taking it. But it hasn't given me any side effects, and it's a very well established homeopathic treatment.

There are several brands to choose from, but I mostly use the stuff made by Boiron. You can get both the gel and the pills at health food stores and even some pharmacies. A tube of gel will run you from $9 to $13, and it'll last you for a good long time. (They also make a cream and an ointment, but I've found the gel is absorbed better and is less messy.) A tube of 80 pills can be had for about $9. The pills are actually little pellets, and you put 5 of them in your mouth and dissolve them. They have a slightly sweet taste and come in various concentrations. I take the 30x. Sometimes if the pain is bad, it takes a few doses to get total relief, but it's worth the wait.

Even if you're one of the lucky folks who can take Advil, you should give Arnica a try. It's much easier on your stomach than painkillers and gives great relief. You can even use it in addition to Advil for maximum healing. Seriously, next time you've got a stiff back, a sore foot, or an achy joint, slather yourself up or pop some pellets, and you'll be an Arnica convert in no time.

Boiron Arnica Gel , 2.6 oz, $11 at Amazon.
Boiron Arnica Montana 30c pellets, $8.29 at Amazon.

Worth It only features things we paid for ourselves and actually like. Don't send us stuff.