Mother Nature has long since provided us with natural remedies and cures for everything from headaches and scrapes to fever and dis-ease.
The Difference Between Modern Medicine and Herbs
Herbal remedies use all the chemicals in the plants as healing agents. According to Eric Meyer in Mother Nature, MD (2001) Plants on average contain 30 – 150 different chemicals. Herbalists have long believed that if only a few of these chemicals are used, such as in modern pharmaceutical industry, healing will not have the same effect.
Many claim this is the reason for the harmful and sometimes deadly side effects of modern medicine. Pharmaceutical companies extract the “active ingredient” in herbal medicine and throw away the rest. Herbalists believe the parts that are thrown away are essential to whole body healing. By leaving out these parts over-the-counter and prescription medications only do part of the job.
Herbs contain phytochemicals or essential oils. Each herb has one dominant photochemical that primarily contributes to an herbs therapeutic value. Individual plants also contain a unique composition of essential oils. According to Carly Wall from Naturally Healing Herbs (1960), “the delicate balance of chemicals – one chemical helps a second work, a third ensures that the effect is not too strong, and a fourth does something else – creates natural, soothing healing.”
Below are several natural remedies to help ease pain and inflammation:
Willow Bark – Was recommended by Hippocrates Cos (460-377 BC) to ease the pain associated with childbirth. European health practitioners used this natural pain reliever for treatment of pain, fever and inflammatory conditions for centuries before.
The key ingredient in willow bark, also know as salix alba and white willow, is salicilin. Salicilin is a derivative of the active ingredient in aspirin. In addition to willow bark, salicilin and salicylic acid can be found in several fruits including cantaloupe and grapes as well as the spices thyme, paprika, cumin, dill, oregano, turmeric, and curry powder.
Capsaicin – When applied topically, it serves as a natural analgesic by blocking activity at the vanilloid receptor, which sits on pain sensory nerve endings. Look for a natural capsaicin cream at the local health food store for muscle aches, pains and sprains.
Ginger – There’s a very good reason you mom gave you ginger ale when you were feeling sick as a child (and no, it’s not because it was the only soda left in the house!). Turns out ginger’s active ingredient, gingerols, mimics the chemical structure of capsaicin (see above) to block the vanilloid receptor and reduce pain. Unlike capsaicin, which causes a small amount of pain before blocking the receptor, ginger provides pain relief without the burn. In addition, gingerols prevent the build-up of blood platelets to reduce inflammation and thin the blood and are more soothing on the intestinal tract than traditional aspirin treatments. Ginger is most frequently taken in the form of a herbal tea, however, researchers are currently exploring whether powdered forms may be more effective.
Omega-3s – For aches and pains including joint pain, injuries and menstrual cramps add Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplements to your diet. The key behind Omega-3s healing powers lie in its EPA and DHA content, which boost your body’s levels of the chemicals that minimize inflammation and its associated pain, particularly those associated with chronic back ailments, osteoarthritis and other chronic pain conditions.
Inflammation is the cause of most pain as well as many diseases. Fish Oil is a natural anti-inflammatory. Take it every day to maintain health and up the intake when in pain.
To increase your Omega-3 intake through diet, add cold water fish – such as salmon, tuna and mackerel.
Vitamin C – Although traditionally touted as the thing to take before you feel sick, Vitamin C – but more specifically ascorbic acid – has some pain-relieving properties too! Found in broccoli, black currants, citrus fruits, kale, parsley, and peppers, Vitamin C helps build collagen in the muscles to prevent injury, has diuretic properties that flush muscles of toxins, and has been shown in studies to help reduce the pain associated with musculoskeletal cancerous tumors.
Magnesium – The mineral magnesium plays an integral role in over 300 body processes, one of which is pain relief. Touted most frequently as a treatment for migraines, magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant and has been shown to reduce the intensity and duration of migraines as well as reduce reliance on prescription migraine medications. To make sure you’re meeting your magnesium requirements, be sure to add plenty of soy, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables to your diet.
Vitamin E – Although vitamin E is typically associated with improving the condition of the skin – particularly in preventing scarring and stretch marks – it is also an extremely effective treatment for menstrual cramps when taken 3-5 days before menstruation onset. Experts recommend taking about 500 IU Vitamin E daily, which can be achieved either by taking a supplement or high-quality vitamin or by upping your intake of Vitamin E-dense foods such as spinach, olives, nuts, and turnips.
Glucosamine – Most frequently touted as an anti-inflammatory, glucosamine has been shown to be as effective as ibuprofen at reducing pain (but with fewer side effects!). Because glucosamine is a naturally-occurring substance in the body and there are no dietary sources, experts recommend that patients considering taking supplements of glucosamine sulfate – which is thought to be the most effective form of the neutraceutical – in doses of either 500, 750, and 1,000 mg.
- Eric Meyer, Mother Nature, MD; NJ, Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference (2001)
- Carly Wall, Naturally Healing Herbs; NY, Sterling Publishing (1960)
- Laurel Sherer, Herbs: A Spiritual Approach; CA, University of Metaphysical Sciences (2005)