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Natural Anesthetics For SHTF: Natural Pain Relief For Every Day and Extreme Circumstances

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: August 1, 2022
Natural Anesthetics For SHTF: Natural Pain Relief For Every Day and Extreme Circumstances

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Way before there were modern pain medications, there were plants.  While the effects of a plant may not have the extreme pain killing capabilities of what some use in the modern world, they can take the edge off when you are hurting.

Natural anesthetics are out there, but it is important to realize the limitations and not expect too much out of legal anesthetics you can get yourself. The things I am going to talk about may help take the edge off, but they are not going to offer the impact that man-made and concentrated pharmaceuticals offer. In a lot of cases that is a positive thing.

Very strong painkillers should be limited to cases where they are truly needed. Later on in this post, I will talk about how narcotic painkillers after a total collapse of society could be possible but still not quite the same.

What You Need To Know About Essential Oils and Purity

Unfortunately, there are no guidelines or laws that require essential oils to be held to a high standard. You have to be careful about what brands you choose, or you risk getting adulterated oils that offer little medicinal benefit.

You do not want to play around with your health and well being. It is not worth a few dollars saved because you are not getting something that is effective. Do you want to mess around when you are in pain?

Sparks Naturals

This company offers extremely high-quality potent oils. Backdoor Survival has been part of the Sparks Naturals family for a long time. If you intend on using oils for medicinal or aromatherapeutic use, this is the company to look for. This is Gaye’s choice for oils used for medicinal use.

Good Brands On A Budget

If you are using oils to clean with or are on a tighter budget, here are a few choices that are easy to find. I have used these brands myself, and Gaye personally recommended looking for these brands during our conversations.

Now Foods

Edens Garden

Plant Therapy

Carrier Oils

I consulted with Gaye on what she thought was the best carrier oil for when you want to dilute essential oils down for use on your skin. Gaye specifically mentioned that jojoba oil from Plant Therapy is her choice. She went on to tell me that jojoba mimics the sebum in our skin.

Remember that essential oils and plant extracts can be very strong so pay attention to this when mixing and using for any medical or beauty purpose.


This is one of my favorites for relieving muscle pain and soreness. Boiron is a popular manufacturer of these products. You can get Boiron gels and creams as well as extract pellets that are dissolved under the tongue. For those that are not familiar with them, they also make Oscillococcinum which is the 1# prescribed homeopathic flu medication in France. In the recent flu outbreaks this past winter, it was difficult to find this remedy! As far as I know, there is no drug interactions and arnica can be used by those of all ages. It does help with bruising and discoloration on top of relieving soreness and muscle pain.


This is well known for relieving tooth pain. It is inexpensive, and a little goes a long way. It has been found to be a very effective numbing agent for topical use on all but the most sensitive areas of the body.

For a more extensive list of the benefits of clove oil, check out the previous post 20 Ways To Benefit from Clove Essential Oil.


A common remedy for skin pain such as insect bites and stings is to wet a tobacco leaf or some dried tobacco and apply like a poultice. This takes the sting out. Just be aware that tobacco can be toxic so don’t do anything that might encourage dogs to eat some of it or apply on kids that might eat it out of curiosity.


This plant grows throughout the Midwest and the east coast. It is 1-4 feet tall and found in thickets or shores near water. Traditionally Native Americans used the root as a tea for pain and menstrual irregularities. The name snakeroot is often used, but it is also known as Black Sanicle. The root can be made into a poultice for applying to snakebites, so it got a popular and easier to remember second name!


I don’t eat much candy anymore, but I used to love to get the giant boxes of Red Stripe horehound candy up in Rockport, WA. It was the only place around to get it. There was a lot of people from NC living there, and that store knew how to sell it!

Analcohol extract of horehound can reduce pain, and it will ease the muscle spams that can occur when you have an upset stomach. Fresh leaves can be made into a poultice for a topical pain reliever. Use caution when using on the skin though because the juice of the plant can cause a slight reaction in some people.

Horehound candy was a popular way to soothe a sore throat and what better way than a little sugar to get kids to take medicine easily. It is very easy to grow.

Narrow-Leaved Plantain

This is an amazing plant that is common in the Eastern and Central US. Not only does it reduce inflammation and the heat like pain associated with it, but you also get some mild antibiotic effects which could be quite valuable when treating blisters and burns or mild cuts and abrasions that are at risk of becoming infected. This is a good one for treating insect bites like bee stings because it reduces the inflammation.

Wild Parsnip

This stuff grows like a weed. The roots were used by Native Americans to treat sharp pains and those associated with menstruation. The roots can be used as a poultice for treating boils, sores, and inflammation of the skin. During my research I did see a warning about avoiding a lot of direct sun when using it due to a risk of photodermatitis which while not incredibly serious in most cases, is still not pleasant to deal with.

Queen Of The Prairie

This plant is thought to be the precursor to aspirin. Its European equivalent is called MeadowSweet and was the plant that yielded the first extraction of salicylic acid which contains salicin. This is normally extracted from willows now, but MeadowSweet helped lead to the discovery that gave us modern day aspirin.

This is a beautiful plant that while providing some pain relief also helps stop bleeding. Free flowing wounds is one of my big fears during a SHTF scenario, so I am going to remember this plant.

Purple Poppy-Mallow

Here we go with another herb that has a gorgeous bloom and a lot of great benefits for your health. It is most commonly found in Prairies, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

The Dakota used the dried root by burning or smoking it. Just exposing muscles to the smoke can help relieve pain but a lot of them chose to smoke it for increased results.

European Vervain

This is a plant with a lot of quality uses. Not only does it relieve pain and inflammation, but it can also help control symptoms of malaria and will kill blood flukes. It is supposed to be milder than the common blue vervain that you may have heard of.

Cayenne Pepper

While it may sound crazy to put hot peppers anything on your skin, the truth is that it causes your body to release one of the main substances that send pain signals to your brain. Of course cayenne has a lot of other uses as well. It is great for your blood pressure and heart health.  You can get caplets that are designed not to give you a burning feeling when taken.

Check out Gaye’s past post  Make an Awesome Cayenne Salve for Pain Relief!


While lavender is soothing and smells great, a salve or muscle rub made from lavender can help alleviate those tired and aching muscles and associated soreness. Scrapes and cuts are also soothed by salves or poultices made of lavender.


Although the effect is mild, wintergreen can soothe toothaches and some other minor aches and pains.

Willow Bark

See the source image

The bark of the willow tree contains salicin. This is very similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). You can get willow bark extract in tincture or pill form. Those that use salicylic acid for skin care might be interested to know that willow is a natural source. Burt’s Bees and other natural cosmetic companies use willow.


Like any intoxicating substance, moderation is key, but I have to mention alcohol as an anesthetic since it is legal, readily available, and fairly easy to make. Years ago a bottle of whiskey was all some people had for major pain relief. Even if you don’t normally drink, you might consider putting back a few bottles for trade or take the edge off. If someone is bleeding or has lost a lot of blood or has a major wound, alcohol does have some blood thinning abilities, so you have to exercise some common sense.

Alcohol that is very pure like Everclear can be used for making tinctures, so it has other uses. I wouldn’t recommend drinking it unless mixed with water or something else.

I did a post on distillation that might be of interest. My grandfather made a lot of moonshine, and that got him through the Depression and helped bring him and my Mamaw out of poverty. What was known as Thunder Road is not very far from our place!

Best Water Distillers For At Home Use

Making Your Own Salves and Balms

I recommend organic extra virgin coconut oil and organic beeswax as a base for balms. If you don’t use animal products, you can use soy wax. The main purpose of the wax is just to make the balm hard enough to stick together well. The more wax, the harder it will be.

Preserve some herbs and make some salves before times get tough.

I suggest that you try to preserve herbs in olive oil or in tincture form for survival situations or to preserve the medicinal value.

Trying out different recipes for healing balms or tinctures to see what results you can expect or how your skin handles it may be for the best.

Some of the best products are blends that use many different plant extracts and oils. Just make sure the scents are complimentary. There are plenty of combinations that might be great medicinally and if they smell a little bit different or off in combination you might consider just dealing with it.

Backdoor Survival founder, Gaye wrote more than a few posts on making your own soothing balms. I advise looking back at the following posts for some advice and basic recipes for getting started. You may also want to look at some posts on how to preserve herbs for further use. Here are a few links to help get you started.

Custom Healing Salves the Easy Way With Spark Naturals

How To Preserve Your Herbs

DIY Miracle Healing Salve

Creating Custom Healing Salves on the Fly

Natural Narcotic Painkillers For SHTF

You may wonder why I am even going to talk about substances that are of questionable legality or outright illegal but I think it is worth mentioning because it things really hit the fan, there may be a time when people need a method of growing and making painkillers for major situations such as treating major wounds, surgeries or relieving the suffering associated with terminal illnesses. 

Some may be wondering about growing narcotic painkillers if there is a major event that disrupts life as we know it for many years. Nature does have a lot to offer, but it also offers up substances that can cause a lot of trouble.

Dosage is very important even when dealing with unrefined natural substances. During SHTF it is important to be extremely cautious.

Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

The US has a major opioid epidemic. Clearly, there is a major problem when so many people are dying. It is so sad to see the state of the younger generation in the county I live in. My husband and I are careful about associations and friendships because it seems like so many are addicted.

Please know that I am not advocating abuse but rather trying to point out that circumstances could make it necessary to think outside the box a bit and also realize the difference between what modern factories produce and what nature can. If someone is in major pain, arnica and clove oil are not going to be enough to do much in a major SHTF situation.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with narcotic painkillers if they are used only when needed. The problem in the US is that they are handed out like candy for very minor or nonexistent injury or illness when they should be used only for major pain and suffering.

Nature doesn’t concentrate substances like the pharmaceutical labs.

That being said it is important to remember that the concentration of active ingredient in the pills doctors are handing out is extremely different than the concentration that occurs naturally in the plant that it is extracted from.

There is a big difference between the juice from a poppy and the refined heroin plaguing the country.

A lot of you have at least seen pics of the goo that is scraped off poppies. This is just raw sap. While it is very potent, it is not a refined product like morphine. You can also make tea out of the poppy heads.

All poppies contain some opioid compounds, while some have very high amounts. The term opium poppy is often used and refers to the ones grown in places like Afghanistan.

Coca leaves, and tea is not the same as refined cocaine.

Coca leaves are chewed by a lot of people in the Andes or made into a tea. The coca leaf is where Coca-Cola gets it’s flavor. Refined cocaine is so much stronger and leads to a lot of problems.

From what I can gather you can order coca leaves and tea pretty easily but shipping can take awhile.

The leaves can numb your gums, or if applied as a poultice you can use it as a local anesthetic. Novocaine and benzocaine are derived from the coca leaf and are probably two topicals you have used if you have been to the dentist.  While the leaves are mildly stimulating, it is not that much different than strong coffee.

Marijuana & Cannabis Extracts

Marijuana is legal in some states, but the difference in concentration levels of THC varies. Oil extracts can be much stronger.

There is a big difference between marijuana oil and the CBD extracts that are legal and readily available in all states and a lot of drug stores. The extracts in states where marijuana is still illegal do not produce any narcotic effects.

Do you have any natural anesthetics to add to this list?

I realize that what you choose to put in your body and use for family members is a big choice to make. I have tried to educate in this post so that you can have the tools to make the right decision based on your situation and values. If I have offended in any way by addressing some more controversial substances than I am sorry, but I do feel that regardless of your stance on narcotics, it is good to have a knowledge base. I try to think of worst-case scenario TEOTWAWKI a lot of the time. A TEOTWAWKI situation would test anyone and probably lead to plenty of us making choices we normally would steer away from.

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]

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3 Responses to “Natural Anesthetics For SHTF: Natural Pain Relief For Every Day and Extreme Circumstances”

  1. What about Wild Lettuce? My Master Herbalist /chiropractor told me that the milky substance which exudes when you break the stem is as good a painkiller as opium. Just put it under your tongue. It is somewhat bitter, but it works.

  2. The inhaled smoke from the crushed seeds of the Prickly poppy plant will relieve a headache instantly.

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