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Chronic Pain is Too Common

Chronic pain is all too common. It impacts about 20% of the American population and high impact pain effects about 7-8%. This means that if you don’t struggle with pain yourself, you likely know someone who does. Pain not only impacts one’s physical health but also their quality of life and emotional wellness. This is why it is imperative that we become empowered with safe, effective tools that can help us deal with this prevalent issue.

In this episode of The Essential Oil Revolution, an herbalist, ethnobotanist, naturopathic doctor, and Chinese medical expert discusses how he approaches pain management. He also happens to be my past botany and herbal pharmacognosy professor from naturopathic medicine school!

During the interview, Dr. Z reviewed a few common reasons for pain, such as autoimmunity and arthritis. We also discussed some of the most effective herbs and essential oils for pain, and their mechanisms.

Throughout the show, Dr. Z seamlessly weaves in how modern botanical and naturopathic medicine merges with traditional practices from ancient China, shamanic medicine, and Jamaican Bush doctors. He also provides us with many clinical pearls on using herbals and essential oils for pain and a very interesting essential oils DIY!

Dr. Zamperion (Dr. Z) is a genius at captivating your attention by weaving in stories as he teaches and shares his knowledge.

You’ll definitely want to tune-in and share this episode!

Below is an overview of the show.

(Note: There were delays in the internet connection in this episode, so sometimes it appears as if I’m talking over Dr. Z. I’m checking with the editors and publisher on this.)


Our Pain Pathways

Dr. Z and I do get a bit technical when describing the different pain pathways, but a general understanding of these concepts can give you a deeper appreciation of how essential oils and herbs can modulate pain on various levels.

At the basic level, pain is transmitted from the point of pain via the afferent nerve and travels through the spinal cord and into the brain as an electrical impulse. In the central nervous system (CNS) the signal then travels back to initiate a response via the efferent nerves through chemical signaling. The type of pain determines if the response is a reflex or requires brain interpretation.

Pain sometimes can be referred to a different location than the site of injury, because signals from several areas of the body often travel through the same nerve pathways in the spinal cord and brain.


How Herbs and Essential Oils Intercept Pain Pathways

Herbs and essential oils can act to interrupt pain through interfering with its transduction (shifts in chemical and electrical impulses), modulation (altering signals), transmission, and perception. The constituents in botanicals and essential oils accomplish this by affecting various neural pathways and pain receptors. These include their effects on substance P, glutamate, GABA, glycine, N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, norepinephrine, transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, histamine, hydrogen ions, and sodium and calcium channels.

Below are some examples of how specific compounds of essential oils interfere with pain perception (nociception) through their action at specific receptors:

  • wasabi and cannabinoids inhibit the pain receptor TRPV.
  • eugenol (found in clove oil) (1) interferes with transduction at TRPV4 (this receptor measures mechanical, thermal, or sensory pain), (2) inhibits voltage gate sodium channels, and (3) modulates the perception of pain. It is still used in dental medicine as a natural anesthesia.
  • mint and eucalyptus oil inhibit TRPV8.
  • peppermint contains menthol which acts on TRPV8. It also has evidence of impacting kappa opioid receptors, sodium channels, and calcium influx. The latter affects electrical transmission of pain.

My previous paper published by Townsend Letter further describes the details of how essential oils modulate pain pathways and what pain receptors various compounds within them interact with. I also explore their biochemical, physiological, and psychological effects in relation to pain. This means, as with herbs, essential oils can help to decrease the symptom while addressing the underlying biological and emotional imbalances.


Merging Traditional Chinese Medicine with Modern Botanical Medicine

Dr. Z provides a wonderful explanation on how he integrates naturopathic medicine with TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). Below are examples with which oils and remedies would be helpful related to the different TCM categories of pain:

  • Cold pain (pepper and cinnamon oils)
  • Warm pain (mint oils)
  • Blood stasis, stagnant blood (sage, frankincense, and myrrh oils, and hydrotherapy)
  • Chi pain (orange oil, it is good for digestive “stuckness” because it is high in limonene)
  • Wind pain (cinnamon, angelica, and fennel oils)


Herbal Medicine for Pain in the Clinic

Dr. Z also reviewed in more detail some specific herbs he has used for patients with chronic pain. These include:

  • Jamaican Dogwood
  • Dragon’s blood (the most powerful antioxidant discovered) combined with other resins such as frankincense and myrrh oils
  • Ginseng

Dr. Z also discussed his published case study which explored the use of California Poppy to help one his patients wean off opioids.

Finally, Dr. Z revealed that one of his go-to essential oils for pain is wintergreen oil. It high in methyl salicylate, the active ingredient in aspirin. Along with sharing his DIY, Dr. Z also emphasized how a simple topical application of ginger can be powerful pain buster.


Here’s a summary of what you will learn in the full episode:

  1. The background behind Dr. Z’s recent documentary on how he became a naturopathic physician and apprenticed with a Jamaican medicine man. This was the basis for his international “ EcoTours for Cures ™ “.
  2. What got Dr. Z so interested in pain management and treating arthritis, including how he fought pain and inflammation as a black belt martial artist.
  3. Some of the causes of chronic pain: trauma, arthritis, and autoimmune disease.
  4. How naturopathic medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), shamanic medicine, and integrative holistic practices converge to deal with the underlying causes of pain through the use of herbs and essential oils.
  5. A general understanding of various pain pathways and how essential oils and herbs intercept pain’s transmission as they address underlying causes.
  6. Some of Dr Z’s favorite herbs and essential oils for pain and their mechanisms.
  7. Closing Questions: What Dr. Z does every day for health and self-care and what he thinks we should ditch and switch out to be healthier.
  8. Dr. Z’s favorite DIY with essential oils: His salve for pain with allspice or pimento oil.

I felt so blessed to have Dr. Zampieron be our guest and I can’t wait for you to hear our conversation!

You will see why Dr. Z was one of my favorite professors in school.

Click here to listen in on this latest episode.


Links to learn more about Dr. Z and his offerings:


Dr. Z’s Bio:

Dr. Eugene Zampieron, ND., also known as Dr. Z, is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, licensed by the board of Naturopathic Medical Examiners in Connecticut as a Naturopathic Physician. Dr. Z is an authority in the Naturopathy field, nationally recognized for his radio programs on Health and Alternative Medicine, his best-selling books, his international “ EcoTours for Cures ™ “, his lectures and seminars, and also for his classes at the former University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine. He also has expertise in traditional Chinese Medicine and is a registered professional medical herbalist certified by the American herbalist guild. If that’s not enough, Dr. Z is also a black belt martial artist, horticulturist, award winning gardener, botanical formulator, and avid researcher in ethnobotany. Dr. Z’s won numerous awards for his work as a physician and for his dedication to teaching and training the next generation of naturopathic doctors.

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Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)

This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.

Thanks Pixabay and Canva.