Article edited for scientific accuracy by Illuminate Labs Blog Editor Taylor Graber MD
Relief Factor is one of the most popular natural pain supplements in the U.S. and advertises heavily on TV. One of our most popular supplement reviews is of another product targeting an older demographic called Balance of Nature, so we wanted to review the ingredients behind Relief Factor to see if the product is likely to be effective based on medical research.
In this article we’ll review Relief Factor’s formulation based on medical research and assess whether it’s likely to work. We’ll also offer some alternatives which may be more effective for natural pain management.
There are four active ingredients in Relief Factor: epimedium 200 mg, turmeric phospholipid 667 mg, Japanese Fleeceflower 70 mg, and 900 mg Omega 3 fatty acids. We’ll break each ingredient down and look at medical studies to determine if it should work.
Relief Factor Ingredient Review - Epimedium
Epimedium is more commonly known as horny goat weed, and is typically used for aphrodisiac (sexual stimulating) effect rather than pain management.
There does exist some medical research suggesting that icariin, the main chemical compound in epimedium, may be effective for pain management, but it appears to be significantly underdosed in Relief Factor.
The studies linked above are animal studies, and we couldn’t find any medical studies proving icariin is effective for pain management in humans. The minimum dosage used was 50 mg/kg/day, which equates to 4,250 mg for an average weight male of 85 kg.
Relief Factor contains 200 mg epimedium which is standardized to 20% icariin, which makes an icariin dosage of 40 mg.
Since we’ve established the minimum daily effective dose to be 4,250 mg based on medical research, we can assume this ingredient will be ineffective because it’s dosed at less than 1% of what research shows to be effective for pain management.
Relief Factor Ingredient Review - Turmeric
Relief Factor uses turmeric phospholipids rather than standard turmeric powder or extract, which is a more novel delivery mechanism.
Phospholipids are generally used because it’s thought to make turmeric and its active compound curcumin more bioavailable, and it is proven to do so in medical research. One study found 3.4x increased absorption by using phospholipids.
In our opinion this delivery mechanism is overcomplicated and unnecessary because black pepper is already proven to increase curcumin absorption by 2,000% in a human study.
Turmeric extract is effective for pain and is one of the most well-studied anti-inflammatory compounds in the world, and the amount in Relief Factor appears to be effective.
One meta-review of turmeric for pain management overviewed many different medical studies on the topic and found the herb to be effective, but the dosages of curcuminoids were between 400 and 6,000 mg.
Another review on turmeric for pain in arthritis patients found it to be an effective treatment in dosages ranging from 93 mg to 2 g per day.
A third study found that 500 mg turmeric extract and 20 mg curcuminoids reduced pain in patients with knee joint pain.
Relief Factor contains 667 mg turmeric extract and 120 mg curcuminoids. This ingredient appears to be effectively dosed.
Relief Factor Ingredient Review - Japanese Fleeceflower
This exotic herb is standardized to 96% resveratrol. The fleeceflower dosage is 70 mg in Relief Factor, so the resveratrol dosage is 67 mg.
Resveratrol has been shown to reduce pain but appears to be underdosed in Relief Factor. Most studies on the compound include doses in the hundreds of mg per day. The lowest dose study we found to be effective used 75 mg/day.
Since Relief Factor publishes no medical research suggesting this dosage is effective, and we can’t find any, we can assume it’s not.
Relief Factor Ingredient Review - Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids, which usually come from fish, have a wide range of health benefits. We published a review of fish oil benefits recently, and we have read lots of medical research on these compounds.
Omega 3s are proven to be effective for pain, but the dosage in Relief Factor appears to be too low to be effective.
We found 3 studies (1, 2, 3) on omega 3 supplementation for pain relief with human subjects. All three clinical trials found the supplementation to be effective, but the lowest dosage used in any of the three was 1.8 g/day. Relief Factor contains 900 mg a day, or about half of what appears to be the minimally effective dose.
Omega 3 supplementation may be effective at the dose in Relief Factor but if there’s no strong medical evidence proving so, it would make more sense to just supplement omega 3s alone at a proven effective dose of 1.8 g and above.
Lack of Published Testing or Clinical Trials
Relief Factor makes bold health claims on their website (“How tens of thousands of Americans are getting out of pain”) with no proof. The company has funded no clinical trials proving their formulation is effective, and they publish no existing medical research on their site explaining why they chose the ingredients and dosages they did.
This doesn’t lead us to believe this is an effectively formulated product.
The company also lacks any published testing of their products proving they’re safe and accurately labeled.
Contaminated supplements are a huge issue in the U.S., and without published test results of ingredients and contaminant levels, consumers have no way of determining if a supplement should be safe and effective.
No Public Team
There are no public team members listed at all on the Relief Factor site, which is always a red flag. Any company with medical professionals involved in their product formulations would highlight them on their site, so we will assume there were no doctors or experts involved in this formulation.
Some research indicates the founder of Relief Factor is a man named Pete Talbott, who is a serial entrepreneur according to his website. There is no mention of any relevant medical credentials or who helped him formulate this product.
Generally we’ve seen a trend in our reviews of supplements formulated by companies with no medical professionals to be ineffectively dosed, and that trend seems to continue with Relief Factor.
More Effective Alternatives
We’ve already established above that turmeric extract is effective for pain in doses around 500 mg and above. We believe it would be much more cost effective to take turmeric extract with black pepper instead of taking it in an overpriced supplement with other underdosed ingredients.
Since turmeric has a fantastic safety profile, taking 1 g daily in a supplement that includes black pepper extract or piperine (the active chemical in black pepper extract) would probably be a safe bet for natural pain relief.
Similarly, omega 3s may be effective for natural pain management but are underdosed in Relief Factor so it would make sense to supplement them separately at an effective dose of 2 g or above.
As we concluded in the fish oil article we recently published, Costco’s fish oil supplement has passed testing by ConsumerLab (an independent testing lab), and is extremely cheap at $14.99 so that’s the brand we recommend.
Magnesium may be one of the most cost effective and safe supplements for pain management. This mineral has been shown in medical research to be protective for chronic pain. It can be consumed in food, but unfortunately soil levels of magnesium have depleted due to modern farming practices.
We recommend chelated versions of magnesium such as magnesium glycinate instead of the cheaper magnesium oxide supplements, because we know from prior studies that magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed.
Magnesium can also be used topically in the form of epsom salts or magnesium oil, which allow small quantities of magnesium absorption directly into the bloodstream.
Relief Factor generally uses effective ingredients for pain relief, but many of the doses appear to be too low to be helpful based on medical research.
We believe it would be more effective to use studied compounds in doses proven to be effective for natural pain relief, like turmeric extract with black pepper, fish oil and magnesium.
We don’t believe Relief Factor is actively harmful, but we see it as a mediocre formulation that’s cost-inefficient for pain management.