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Penicillin is not useful as a pain reliever, and willow bark contains a chemical that is much like aspirin, but it actually more irritating to your stomach than aspirin. It contains nothing resembling penicillin, which is only produced by molds such as those that grow on oranges and are greenish white.
 

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And yes I know of a natural way to relieve pain, but opium poppies are illegal in the US and many parts of the world, you cannot get opium without a doctor's prescription, and doctors always prescribe one of its "unnatural" derivatives or synthetic copies, since prescribing raw opium is quite out of style among doctors. Poppy-straw tea is also a very effective pain reliever, and is easier to obtain from poppies than opium. However it is pretty much entirely unavailable in any market place in the US, either legally or illegally.

Poppies are not extremely difficult to grow, but all the species which are analgesic, are illegal to grow in the US, as far as I can tell. Further, despite being "natural" they can have profoundly damaging effects if used unwisely.

Poison ivy is perfectly natural. So is tobacco. But drinking too much tobacco tea can kill you. It can even get into your blood stream and kill you if you merely handle moist tobacco for a long period of time, like all day. Several tobacco pickers have died this way, many have gotten excrutiatingly ill. Tobacco is no more or less natural than basil leaves, or parsley leaves.

In my opinion, taking aspirin tablets is much easier to do safely than taking willow-bark tea, as the amount of salicylates in willow bark tea is hard to predict. Too many of them can cause permanent damage to your hearing, as well as to your gastro-intestinal tract. I would not want to take willow bark tea unless I had the chemistry knowhow to estimate the amount of salicylates in any batch.
 

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All commercially sold aspirin is made from coal, not willow bark. Aspirin could be made from willow bark, but it never is. It is cheaper to make it from coal. Much.
 

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I don't think aspirin has ever been made commercially from willow bark. I suspect that when aspirin began being produced commercially from coal tar, around 1900 or so, its makers (mr bayer) may not have been aware that a similar chemical naturally occured in willow bark. Apparently only after coal-tar aspirin became a commercial success, was it discovered that the willow bark that people from various ethnic groups had used for 1000's of years, for reduction of fever and pain and swelling, contained a substance similar to aspirin.

This is in contrast to morphine. which Fredrick Serturner isolated from opium, and in doing so developed a degree of understanding of morphine's chemical structure. This was in 1805, and it wasn't until about 1940 or 1950 or so that 2 competing chemists, building on the experiments of other chemists, were finally, at about the same time, able to produce morphine from a non-poppy source, and published their similar methods, even tho its structure had been pretty well understood for about 60 years, by that time, and even tho similar, but not identical, chemicals, had been produced from non-poppy sources, experimentally, over the past few years before that.

It wasn't until 195x that morphine-like chemicals began being produced commercially from things other than opium poppies -- from coal tar I think. However today, most opioids are still extracted from poppies -- it's cheaper than making them from coal tar. All commercial morphine comes from poppies. All commercial codeine too. Oxycodone also comes from poppies, butis not present in poppies. It is made commercially from the non-analgesic constitutent of poppies called thebaine.

Fentanyl, used less frequently than morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone, is, I believe, made entirely from non-poppy sources, as is methadone, and also I think meperidine (demerol).

Apparently it is cheaper to make aspirin from coal tar tho, than to extract it from any plant. Aspirin is a simpler molecule. Interestingly, salacylic acid exists in manyl kinds of plants, not just willow bark. Acetylated salacylic acid (aspirin) s gentler on the stomach lining than the salacylic acid which is the chemical that I think exists in a number of plants. I need to check these details out more thoroughly. Morphine, on the other hand, is known to be produced in significant quantity by only one species -- Papaver somniferum. Other plants (such as romain lettuce) produce chemically very similar chemicals, which are however totally useless as an analgesic. Lettuce's opioids don't even enhance morphine's analgesic effect, much less have an analgesic effect of their own.
 

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I'm quite convinced that aspirin is safer and more effective than willow bark. Willow bark's salicylic acid content varies, and too much salicylic acid can give you a stomach bleed even faster than aspirin, which is acetylated salicylic acid. The acetylation makes it much gentler on the stomach, allows it to get into your blood stream faster, and makes it both safer and more effective. And as well you can get easily get a precisely measured amount. With willow bark, you don't know how much salicylic acid you are getting unles you know how to make a homogenous batch of willow bark extract and how to chemcially analyse a sample for salacylic acid percentage.

The only advantage of willow bark is that it probably has some nutritional value including micronutrients, in addition to its aspirin content. But I doubt it has any nutrients that you can't get elsewhere.
 

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You also didn't say what kind of pain you have. While aspirin is helpful in ameliorating many types of pain, it can make your general condition worse if you have certain other types of pain -- gastric pain for example. I would avoid it if I had pacreatic pain also. I would scrupulously avoid acetaminophen if I had any liver-function abnormalities. I would want to avoid aspirin and all salicylates if I had any loss of high-frequency hearing, as aspirin can cause this kind of hearing loss, and if you already have some, you don't want to risk any more. Hearing loss from aspirin is generally thought to only be a problem with doses near the high end of the recommended daily maximum, over a number of years. Stomach problems from aspirin can be sudden and unexpected.

Morphine and other opioids tend to cause continual gastro-intestinal problems, but not life-threatening ones like aspirin can sometimes cause. Morphine is not known to cause any liver or kidney damage. It has not been proven to cause brain damage, or any irreversible brain changes -- but common sense tells me that long term use can cause irreverable brain changes. However these seem to rarely cause any overt physical or mental disfunction. Dizzyness and alterations of consciouness from morphine are minimal or non-existant, except perhaps after the first few doses. That is why people who take opioids for the change in consciousness find they must frequently increase their dose if they want to continue to get a change in consciousness. Then eventually there is no way they can get "high" any more, but instead need morphine to avoid feeling "low." People who take opioids from pain tend to find that they do not need to raise their dose no matter how long they continue to have the same amount of pain. Some people with chronic pain actually report that they "learn" how to get the same pain relief from a smaller dose, or how to get more pain relief from the same dose.

That said, I think opioids should tend to be considered only as a last resort. Tho it might be preferable to surgery if medical certainty about the effectiveness of suggested surgery is not high.
 

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Perhaps you shouldn't take vicodin if you have liver problems, as it contains acetaminophen as well as hydrocodone. If by addiction you mean a continual need for the drug, even if the pain goes away by itself, I suppose that is possible, tho statistics show that in those cases most people are able to gradually get off the drug. If you continue to have pain, you will continue to need the drug to get pain relief. Some people like to call this "addiction." I think it is better to call it lifelong dependence on the drug for pain relief. Are diabetics "addicted" to insulin? By the definition of addiction people use to describe pain patients who depend on pain-relief medications, diabetics would be addicted to insulin injections. The rest of us would all be addicted to food and water and air.

Indeed hydrocodone will have side effects in many people, but they don't seem to cause permanent damage that anyone knows of, unlike tylenol which can cause liver damage, and of course many nsaids can produce sudden unexpected stomach hemmorages, when taken in the high doses sometimes used for arthritis relief. I would stick to a combination of low levels of antiinflammatories for the arthritis, and supplement that with single-ingredient opioids such as preferably morphine, oxycodone, or fentanyl patch.

You could also try gabapentin (Neurontin) tho this is appears to usually recommended for neurological pain -- post herpatic neuralgia, "phantom limb pain -- as opposed to the pain arthritis or spinal injuries. It may help with any pain. I'm not sure. But it tends to have more[/b] changes in consciousness than opioids. It doesn't appear to be terribly damaging to the tissues, but we don't have 1000's of years of experience with it, like we have with opioids.

If you get lots of surgeons agreeing that surgery would have an almost undoubted success, for the herniated disks, I would find the best surgeon. If they say things like 75 percent chance, that really means 50/50, and personally I would stick with the opioids -- supplied by multidiscipline pain-relief center, along with counseling on how to manage pain, and exercises to keep joints flexible, if prescribed -- not by the specialist that treats your back or your arthritis.
 
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