Sometimes I struggle with the Western mindset of “What drug/herb can I take for [fill in the blank] condition?”
Our bodies are intended to be looked at as a whole – not parts to be treated. We’ve already discussed that pain exists to signal us that something is amiss. Why then, would our sole aim be to silence the messenger rather than tend to the real problem with a holistic approach?
I’m going to share some herbs and preparations that can be helpful, but I want to emphasize the importance of managing your pain with nutrition, lifestyle and bodywork while you work with herbs to get you through the journey a little easier.
Some herbs will act on your nervous or muscular systems, increasing relaxation and, if tension was your problem, can alleviate both the signal and the problem. However, if you something is out of alignment, if you have an injury, if you have bad posture or sitting positions, the herbs will help decrease the pain while you are tending to the root of the problem in the other ways I discussed previously.
Choosing an herbal remedy is a very personal experience. Depending on the type of pain, reason for pain, and other factors, different herbs may be more appropriate for your situation. Below I share four commonly used herbs for a wide range of pain. This is not a consult or personal recommendation, it is for educational purposes only.
St. John’s Wort
I love to make an infused oil that turns a beautiful red to use as a rub when my nerve pain flares up; I double its action by having a prepared tincture on hand. The unopened buds have the strongest medicine, but the open flowers and upper leaves are usable as well. When harvesting just pull the tops with these three together and use those for oil and tincture. To make an oil, let the herb wilt overnight. Both of these preparation help reduce the pain of neuralgia and reduce tension. I also take my pain as a signal that I’ve let too many inflammatory foods into my diet and do a major clean up. I also make sure I’m doing my Somatic Movement exercises which also helps relieve the pain.
Sometimes this herb gets mislabeled as a woman’s herb (along with Wild Yam). However, it is a powerful nervine, relieving tension and spasms. It is a wonderful herb to turn to in cases of muscular pain and neuralgia. The roots and rhizomes are harvested in the fall and dried. You can take this as a tea (1 tsp dried root to 1 cup water, up to 3 times a day as needed) or a tincture (3 ml 3 times a day)
This is probably one of the best-known herbs for pain due to its popularity status as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Try to add turmeric along with ginger and garlic to most of your meals to enjoy the benefits, it truly is the easiest way. Additionally you could try golden milk and see if that’s a drink you like.
Arnica is an herb you should only work with externally. It is highly effective in the relief joint pain and stiffness. It’s also very helpful to apply it immediately after an injury to decrease pain and bruising. If you want to take it internally, you will need to purchase it in homeopathic form. Harvest the open, mature flowers after the dew is gone. Dry flowers and use to make an oil. This oil can easily be turned into salve, ointment, lotion, or cream.
As with all herbs, if you are pregnant, nursing, taking any prescription medication, supplements, OTCs, or other herbs, please consult a knowledgeable herbalist or other practitioner to avoid unwanted side effects.