Powerful Herbal Pain Relief

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the home of a gracious woman who deals in antiques. As I admired the many fine pieces displayed there, I came to realize that I, too, am something of a period piece a baby boomer who’s fundamentally sound but sporting the odd creaky hinge or two.
Fortunately, the herbal apothecary holds promise. Its medicines are good alternatives to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for chronic, mild to moderate aches and can reduce the need for prescription drugs.
More than 100 plants are known to have pain-relieving properties, but some are really outstanding. Reporting on herbal painkillers for arthritis, a review of clinical trials in the Clinical Journal of Pain says devil’s claw {Harpagophytum procumbens}, capsaicin from hot chiles {Capsicum spp.}, gamma-linolenic acid {GLA} from seed oils, and certain blended herbal extracts are especially good. Other studies indicate broader pain-relieving benefits from these as well as two traditional favorites, white willow {Salix spp.} and peppermint {Mentha x piperita}.

Herbal Rx: Devil’s Claw and Capsaicin. 

Devil’s claw

 Is a South African herb with medicinally active roots. This herb eases muscular tension or pain in the back, shoulders, and neck. A popular treatment for osteoarthritis pain, it may ease the rheumatoid arthritis pain as well. The herb’s active ingredients are harpagide and harpagoside, both iridoid glycosides with analgesic {pain-relieving} and anti-inflammatory actions. Devil’s claw extract has been shown to reduce osteoarthritic hip or knee pain by 25 percent and improve mobility within a few weeks. Rheumatoid arthritis pain may also be reduced and mobility enhanced within about two months. Devil’s claw extract is considered safe at the typical dosage of 750 mg {containing 3 percent iridoid glycosides} taken three times daily. It is also available as tincture {use 1 teaspoon up to three times daily} and tea. It should not be taken with blood-thinning medications and may not be safe during pregnancy or for young children, nursing mothers, and individuals with liver or kidney disease, or digestive system ulcers.

Capsaicin.

 Puts the heat in hot peppers. It manipulates the body’s pain status by hindering pain perception, triggering the release of pain-relieving endorphins and providing analgesic action. Commercial capsaicin-containing creams such as Zostrix, Heat, and Capzasin-P are used topically for arthritis and nerve pain. Creams containing .025 percent capsaicin can significantly reduce osteoarthritic pain when applied to joints four times daily. A higher concentration of .075 percent works best for peripheral nerve pain such as that from diabetic nerve damage, HIV, and pain following cancer surgery. When using topical capsaicin products, be sure to avoid touching your eyes and other sensitive areas.
Capsaicin also can be taken internally to help with chronic digestive discomfort, or dyspepsia: A daily dose of 0.5 to 1 grams cayenne, divided and taken before meals, reduces pain, bloating and nausea over a few weeks. If you like to munch hot peppers, rest assured that they do not aggravate stomach ulcers as is commonly believed, and they actually might protect your stomach from prescription-drug damage.

Herbal Blends and Other Old Friends.

We’re also hearing more about commercial herbal mixtures for pain relief. Two apparently promising ones are avocado/soybean unsaponifiable and Phytodolor, both from Europe. Avocado/soybean unsaponifiable is a complex mix of sterols, pigments and other substances found in the oils, and initial trials suggest that a daily dose of 300 mg soothes hip and knee osteoarthritis pain by anti-inflammatory actions.
Phytodolor, with a 40-year history in Germany, is a liquid extract of European aspen {Populus tremula}, European ash {Fraxinus excelsior} and European goldenrod {Solidago virgaurea}. The extract helps muscle and joint conditions, including osteoarthritis; it contains salicin and other chemicals with anti-inflammatory and possibly antioxidant properties.
Don’t discount the psychological dimensions of pain in everyday aches. For instance, most headaches have psychogenic causes {such as anxiety, depression, and stress}, rather than vascular causes {dilated or distended blood vessels in the brain}. Psychogenic headaches tend to be diffuse, often feeling more like pressure than pain, and often are accompanied by muscular tension. Vascular headaches, including migraines, respond more readily to painkillers, whereas emotionally induced ones might benefit more from herbs with calming or sedative properties, such as lavender {Lavandula angustifolia}, chamomile {Matricaria recutita} or valerian {Valeriana officinalis}.
It shouldn’t be surprising that pain is multidimensional, and our tools for combating it need to be also. When you’re suffering from creakiness or another discomfort, consider the possible causes-disease, physical strain, nutrient deficiency, chemical sensitivities, allergies or emotional stress. Then you can access the herbal apothecary effectively and appropriately, to fully restore your well-being.

 Chamomile

 Aromatherapists use chamomile essential oil to promote relaxation and pain relief.

 Herbs and Liver Damage.

Herb expert James Duke, PhD., points out that many more herbs protect the liver than harm it. In fact, one of America’s favorite over-the-counter drugs, acetaminophen {Tylenol and other brands}, is riskier than most herbs. Although safe within recommended dosages, acetaminophen overdoses {some of which occur among people simply trying to relieve their pain} are the main cause of acute liver failure, and contribute to 500 American deaths a year.
That said, the following herbs should be avoided, particularly in people with the known liver disease, heavy drinkers {or recreational drugs}, and those taking liver-taxing drugs, such as acetaminophen {Tylenol}, aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories {such as ibuprofen}, corticosteroids, statins, tetracyclines and others.

Herbs that contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids:

comfrey, coltsfoot, Senecio, borage leaf, and germander. Comfrey has gotten the most media attention for its connection to liver injury. In 2001, the Food and Drug Administration advised manufacturers to remove from the market comfrey products intended for internal use. Because this herb is a good wound healer, it’s often an ingredient in first-aid salves. Another PA-containing herb, butterbur, is available as a PA-free extract {Petadolex} for the prevention of migraine headaches and hay fever.

Kava {Piper methysticum}

For many years, people of the South Pacific have consumed kava beverages with the single side effect of a scaly, yellowish skin condition with excessive use. Research showing concentrated kava extracts reduced anxiety spurred its widespread popularity. Although human studies didn’t register liver toxicity, cases of liver injury {some severe} cropped up several years ago. Most involved ingestion of kava extracts made with acetone or alcohol, and often along with alcohol or drugs that can be hard on the liver.
Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, says, “no convincing proof of an inherent toxicity of kava exists,” despite ongoing research. And, while he believes kava to be relatively safe, “the jury is still out as whether kava might cause liver injury, particularly in susceptible individuals.”
Steven Dentali, PhD., Chief Science Officer for the American Herbal Products Association, adds, “Considering the widespread consumption of kava beverages and the long history of apparent safe use, any toxic liver reactions are of course serious, but extremely rare.”

A general guideline:

Don’t take herbs that have even a suspicion of harming the liver if you already have liver disease or regularly drink alcohol or use recreational drugs. Also, avoid herbs if you take a medication that can be toxic to the liver.
Consult your health-care provider if you are unsure.

Compress For Bruising and Anti-Bruising Oil

A wet compress can relieve some of the pain of a bruise and help the healing process. This simple formula will have you feeling better in no time and for very little money.
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup witch hazel or cider vinegar
2 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops rosemary essential oil
2 drops peppermint or juniper essential oil
1. In a bowl, mix the water, witch hazel or vinegar, and the essential oils. Soak a flannel cloth in the liquid, wring it out until nearly dry, and then place over the injured area.
2. Cover with plastic wrap so the skin absorbs the essential oils and cover the whole thing with a towel. Apply the compress for 30 minutes up to three times daily.

Healing Ointment

You can have this ointment on hand to treat everyday cuts and scrapes as they arise, just as you would a tube of pricey commercial antiseptic.
1-1 1/2 ounces grated beeswax
1 cup olive oil or almond oil
2 capsules vitamin E, 400 IU
30 drops tea tree essential oil
20 drops spike lavender or French lavender essential oil
10 drops chamomile essential oil
10 drops fir essential oil
1. In the top of a double boiler over low heat, melt the beeswax. Stir in the olive or almond oil. Remove from the heat. Pierce each vitamin E capsule with a needle and squeeze the contents into the mixture. Then stir in the essential oils.
2. Pour into a small sterilized jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in a cool, dark place. Use as needed on wounds. Should last a year.

Cleansing Soap

Here is an antiseptic soap you can trust to clean out wounds properly and stave off infections. It smells good and costs very little.
Liquid castile soap
Lavender essential oil
Rosemary essential oil
Tea tree essential oil
1. To the castile soap, add lavender, rosemary, and tea tree essential oils {10 drops total per 2 ounces of soap}. Dilute with more soap if the skin is especially sensitive to any of the essential oils.
2. Use to clean off cuts and abrasions.

First-Aid Antiseptic

Here is an all-natural solution with germ-killing properties that will help soothe a minor cut or abrasion. Be sure to wash the affected area well before applying it.
2 ounces Calendula Ointment {recipe below}
40 drops lavender essential oil
20 drops tea tree essential oil
10 drops chamomile essential oil
10 drops lemon essential oil
1. In a small sterile jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the calendula ointment with the essential oils, mixing thoroughly.
2. Apply a small amount to the cleaned injury. Keep the remainder in a cool, dark place for up to two weeks.

Calendula-teaCalendula Ointment.

Use the old-fashioned calendula flower {Calendula officinalis} for this therapeutic salve that has many uses.
3 tablespoons fresh calendula petals
1/3 cup light olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped beeswax
1 capsule vitamin E, 400 IU
1. Put the calendula petals in a double boiler and crush slightly with the back of a spoon. Add the olive oil and simmer for two hours over low heat.
2. Strain the liquid into a bowl, pressing against the strainer with the back of a spoon to extract all the oils.
3. Return the liquid to the double boiler. Over medium heat, add the chopped beeswax and stir until it melts. Remove from the double boiler and beat the mixture until it cools and becomes creamy and thick. Pierce the vitamin E capsule with a needle, squeeze in the contents and mix.
4. Spoon into a sterilized 4 1/2-ounce jar with a tight top, seal, and keep in a cool, dark place for up to two weeks.
gardeners-salve-blog

Gardener’s Hand Cream

This hand cream is especially beneficial for those hard-working hands. Because you are using unpreserved vegetable oils, if you don’t have a cool, dark place to store the hand cream or a friend to share with, consider making only half this recipe at a time. To make calendula tea, pour a cup of boiling water over half a teaspoon of dried calendula flower petals and let it steep until cool.
3 tablespoons beeswax, grated or shaved
1/2 cup sesame oil
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons calendula tea
3 drops lavender essential oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1. In a small microwave-safe bowl, mix all the ingredients. Set the microwave to a medium heat and cook 30 seconds or until beeswax is melted. Remove from the oven with hot pads and allow to cool.
2. Pour mixture into a wide mouth, sterilized jar with a tight top. Store in a cool, dark place until ready to use.
calendula-oil-760x428

Calendula

Calendula Ointment

Use the old-fashioned calendula flower {Calendula officinalis} for this therapeutic salve that has many uses.
3 tablespoons fresh calendula petals
1/3 cup light olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped beeswax
1 capsule vitamin E, 400 IU
1. Put the calendula petals in a double boiler and crush slightly with the back of a spoon. Add the olive oil and simmer for two hours over low heat.
2. Strain the liquid into a bowl, pressing against the strainer with the back of a spoon to extract all the oils.
3. Return the liquid to the double boiler. Over medium heat, add the chopped beeswax and stir until it melts. Remove from the double boiler and beat the mixture until it cools and becomes creamy and thick. Pierce the vitamin E capsule with a needle, squeeze in the contents and mix.
4. Spoon into a sterilized 4 1/2-ounce jar with a tight top, seal, and keep in a cool, dark place for up to two weeks.
mouthwash

Refreshing Mouthwash’s

For just a few cents you can cook up a potful of this rinse that tastes good and can be safely used as often as you like. Unlike more expensive commercial mouthwashes, it has no alcohol.
1 cup water
2 tablespoons angelica seeds
Dash of peppermint oil or lemon verbena
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat. Stir in the angelica seeds and peppermint oil or lemon verbena. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. Strain off and discard the solids.

2. Store the liquid in a clean, covered container in the refrigerator and use every day. It should keep indefinitely.

Spicy, Minty Mouthwash.

This simple recipe offers a kick that will make your mouth feel wonderful for hours. Use as often as you like it’s very inexpensive and doesn’t burn like commercial mouthwashes with alcohol in them.
1 cup water
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 teaspoons parsley
1. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the cloves, cinnamon, peppermint extract, and parsley. Let mixture sit for 10 minutes. Strain off the solids.
2. Pour the liquid into a clean, tightly covered container and store in the refrigerator, where it will keep indefinitely. Use as a gargle and mouthwash.

Bacteria – Fighting Citrus Mouthwash.

Fight the damaging bacteria that dwell in your mouth with this lemon-tasting mouthwash with an alcohol base that acts as a disinfectant. It is as effective as any mouthwash you can buy and much less expensive.
Rinse and swish or gargle, but don’t swallow the liquid.
3/4 cup vodka
30 drops lemon essential oil
25 drops bergamot essential oil
1 1/4 cups distilled water
1. Place the vodka and the lemon and bergamot essential oils in a sterilized 16-ounce glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Shake the mixture vigorously to combine.
2. Add the distilled water and shake until well blended. Leave in the refrigerator for 1 week to mature, shaking from time to time.

3. To use, shake the bottle and mix 1 part of the mixture with 3 parts lukewarm distilled water in a small drinking glass. Rinse, but do not swallow the mouthwash.

herbal first aid kit

Herbal First Aid Kit: What To Buy

Being prepared with my favorite remedies gives me peace of mind on the road or trail, and keeps me from having to search out herbal products in an unfamiliar town — or from having to resort to padding my heels with mullein leaves to ease the agony of a broken blister while on a backpacking trip.

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to put my first-aid kit to use, from treating blisters and bug bites to motion sickness and colds. I choose simple, multipurpose remedies and store them in a small padded nylon lunch box that’s always ready to toss into the car. For backpacking trips, I pare my kit down to arnica gel, echinacea, peppermint and chamomile tea bags, crystallized ginger, insect repellant, a tin of herbal salve, a tiny bottle of lavender essential oil, and an assortment of bandages and moleskin.

With the following herbs and essential oils, you should be able to treat just about any common condition you are likely to encounter in your travels.

The Herbal First Aid Kit: What to Buy

These are my favorite remedies — the ones I consider indispensable for a travel first-aid kit. All of the remedies are available at any well-stocked health-food store and by mail-order. Be sure to buy pure essential oils, not fragrance oils. To prevent breakage, wrap glass bottles in small pieces of thick flannel. 

• Aloe vera gel: Cooling and healing, aloe vera (Aloe vera) soothe the inflammation of sunburn and common kitchen scalds and burns.

• Arnica gel or cream: Arnica (Arnica montana) flowers have anti-inflammatory and circulation-stimulating properties; the gel or cream is excellent for sore muscles, sprains, strains, and bruises. Do not apply arnica to broken skin. 

• Calendula-comfrey salve: The bright yellow-orange blossoms of calendula (Calendula officinalis) have astringent, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) contains allantoin, a compound that stimulates the growth of new tissue and helps heal wounds. 

• Chamomile tea bags: With its delicious distinctive flavor, chamomile (Matricaria recutita) makes a tasty tea. Gentle enough for children, chamomile has mild sedative, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It promotes relaxation, relieves indigestion and, when applied topically, soothes skin irritations.

• Citronella-based insect repellant: Most herbal repellants contain citronella, a pungent citrus-scented essential oil distilled from an aromatic grass that grows in southern Asia. Herbal insect repellants work well, as long as they’re applied liberally and frequently (as often as every two hours).

• Echinacea liquid extract: Rich in immune-stimulating chemicals, echinacea (Echinacea spp.) can be used for any type of infection. Liquid extracts are the most versatile because they can be used both internally and externally.

• Elderberry capsules or liquid extract: Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is essential for stopping a cold or flu from ruining your vacation. The berries contain compounds that prevent cold and flu viruses from invading and infecting cells. If you’re flying or otherwise potentially exposed to viruses, taking elderberry is a good preventive. If you do come down with a cold or flu, taking elderberry can hasten your recovery time. 

• Eleuthero standardized extract: An excellent adaptogen, eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) can help prevent jet lag; it was even used by Soviet cosmonauts to help them adjust to space travel. Standardized extracts guarantee that you’re getting sufficient amounts of eleuthero sides, which herbalists consider to be the herb’s active compounds.

• Eucalyptus essential oil: A potent antibiotic and antiviral, eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) are excellent for treating colds, flu, and sinus infections when used as a steam inhalation. Dilute with oil or witch hazel extract before applying to the skin, and do not take internally. 

• Ginger capsules, tea bags, and crystallized ginger: The antispasmodic and gas-relieving properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale) soothe digestive upsets. Ginger also has been proven to relieve motion sickness better than Dramamine, the conventional drug treatment.

• Goldenseal capsules or powder: A powerful antimicrobial, goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis) is effective against a variety of microorganisms that cause traveler’s diarrhea. The powder has antiseptic properties and can be sprinkled onto cuts or wounds to stop bleeding. Do not take goldenseal internally during pregnancy.

• Grindelia poison oak/ivy tincture or spray: Grindelia (Grindelia camporum), also known as gumweed, contains resins and tannins that help to relieve the pain and itching of plant rashes. It’s available as a tincture and also as a spray specifically for treating poison oak/poison ivy rashes.

• Lavender essential oil: Virtually an all-purpose remedy, lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has sedative, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. It’s helpful for anxiety, insomnia, headaches, wounds and burns. For most people, lavender essential oil can be applied directly to the skin. Do not take more than 1 to 2 drops internally.

• Laxative herbal tea bags: Travel constipation is a common complaint. Most herbal laxative teas rely on senna (Cassia senna), which contains compounds called anthraquinones that stimulate intestinal activity. Because senna has a bitter, unpleasant flavor, it’s often combined with tasty herbs such as cinnamon, fennel, licorice, and ginger.

• Peppermint essential oil and tea bags: With its high concentration of menthol, peppermint (Mentha xpiperita) soothes an upset stomach, clears sinuses and curbs itching from insect bites. If you have sensitive skin, dilute peppermint oil before applying. Taken internally, peppermint may aggravate heartburn.

• Valerian tincture: The sedative properties of valerian (Valeriana officinalis) make it useful for relieving anxiety, insomnia, and tension; it’s also a mild pain reliever.

• Witch hazel extract: Distilled witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) has mild astringent, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful for insect bites and skin irritations. It’s also an excellent base for diluting essential oils for a variety of simple, topical herbal first-aid remedies. Do not take it internally.

Additional First-Aid Essentials

• Adhesive bandage strips: Various sizes, including butterfly closure bandages.

• Alcohol: Small plastic bottle for removing poison oak/ivy oils from the skin.

• Bandage materials: Sterile gauze pads, a roll of gauze, adhesive bandage tape.

• Cosmetic clay: With drying and drawing properties, clay is useful for healing skin rashes and insect bites. Store in a small plastic container.

• Elastic bandage: For sprains or strains.

• Electrolyte replacement: Powdered drink packets such as Emergen-C.

• Moleskin: Blister treatment.

• Scissors: Small pair for cutting bandages, adhesive tape, moleskin.

• Thermometer: Instant-read type.

• Tweezers: For removing ticks and splinters.

• Waterless hand sanitizer: Travel-size bottle.

Quick Natural Remedies for Common Conditions

Anxiety:
• Drink chamomile tea, 3 cups a day.
• Take valerian tincture, 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon up to 3 times daily.
• Take a bath with 10 drops of lavender essential oil or place a drop of lavender oil on a tissue and inhale as desired. 

Blisters:
• To dry a blister, soak a gauze pad in witch hazel, lay it over the blister and cover with an adhesive bandage. After blister has broken, wash with a mixture of echinacea extract diluted with an equal part of water. Finally, apply calendula-comfrey salve and cover with an adhesive bandage.

Bruises:
• Immediately apply ice to relieve pain and swelling.
• Apply arnica cream or gel twice daily. 

Burns:
• Immediately immerse the affected area in cold water until the burning sensation subsides. Then apply aloe vera gel mixed with lavender essential oil (5 drops of lavender oil mixed with 1 tablespoon of aloe vera gel).
• For sunburn, soak in a cool bath with 10 drops of lavender essential oil.

Colds and Flu:
• Take 1 dropper full of echinacea extract four times a day until symptoms subside.
• Take 1 dropper full of elderberry extract four times a day until symptoms subside.
• To relieve congestion and soothe a sore throat, drink hot ginger tea with honey.
• To ease congestion, add 2 drops each of eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils to hot water; inhale the steam vapors.
• Add 1 dropper full of echinacea extract to 1⁄2 cup of water as an antiseptic wash.
• To stop bleeding, sprinkle goldenseal powder directly into the wound and apply pressure with a clean cloth.
• Apply a salve made from calendula-comfrey — only after a scab has formed, to prevent trapping bacteria.

Diarrhea:
• Replenish lost fluids and soothe the digestive tract with chamomile or ginger tea.
• For diarrhea caused by infectious microorganisms, take 1 capsule of goldenseal three times daily for up to two weeks.
• To boost immunity and fight infection, take 1 dropper full of echinacea four times daily.

Headache:
• Drink chamomile tea as often as desired.
• For more severe headaches, take 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon of valerian root extract; repeat every two hours until pain abates.
• Take a warm bath with 10 drops of lavender essential oil.
• Massage 2 drops of diluted peppermint essential oil onto temples, forehead, and neck. Keep away from eyes.

Indigestion:
• Sip warm chamomile, peppermint or ginger tea.
• Chew on a piece of crystallized (candied) ginger.

Insect bites and stings:
• Cleanse the bite with echinacea extract.
• Apply a drop of undiluted peppermint or lavender oil to relieve itching and as an antiseptic.
• Mix clay with enough water to make a paste, and apply to the bites to relieve itching and draw out toxins.

Insomnia:
• Drink a cup of warm chamomile tea.
• For stronger sedative action, take up to 1 teaspoon of valerian tincture before bed.
• Take a warm bath with 10 drops of lavender essential oil.

Jet lag:
• Take eleuthero (100 mg of standardized extract) three times daily for one week or more before traveling and for one week or longer following the flight.

Nausea:
• Take 1 to 2 capsules of dried ginger every 15 minutes until symptoms abate.
• To prevent motion sickness, take 6 to 8 capsules of powdered ginger about 45 minutes before departing.
• To calm a queasy stomach, chew on a piece of crystallized ginger.

Poison oak/ivy:
• Immediately wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and cool water, or sponge with alcohol to remove the oily resin.
• If a rash occurs, spray with grindelia extract several times a day.

Strains and sprains:
• Immediately elevate and apply an ice pack to the affected area to reduce swelling and inflammation. After 24 hours, apply hot compresses to increase circulation and speed healing.
• Soak in a hot bath with 5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil.
• Apply arnica cream or gel to the affected area three times daily.

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