Nothing says winter like the morning twinge of joint pain or the bad back that’s made worse by shoveling snow. If pain has you feeling older than your years, you will be happy to know there are many natural healing herbs that can bring relief without the side effects. Here are 5 natural herbs—some that you may find in your own kitchen—that will bring you relief from head to toe!
A word of warning: The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthen the body and treat disease, but always discuss with your physician before treating conditions with herbs and spices to avoid any adverse interactions; for example, because turmeric and ginger possess natural blood-thinning properties, individuals about to undergo surgery and those taking blood thinners should take extra precaution.
Ginger, a natural anti-inflammatory, has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese to cure pain. Ginger helps relieve nausea, arthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps, and muscle soreness; and in these colder days, ginger can help spice up your circulation, too!
A perfect compliment to vegetables, marinades, and sweets, ginger is also delicious in tea. To make fresh ginger tea, you can cut up the root into 1/4" slices, boil for 10 minutes, then strain the water and voilà—tea. In a pinch, you can use ginger tea bags, available in health food stores.
You can also reap relief from pain by applying a ginger compress to the affected area. Grate the root, wrap the ginger in cheesecloth, place it in hot water for 30 seconds, then let it cool and place on the affected area for 20 minutes.
Sometimes called "nature's tranquilizer," valerian has been used for centuries to regulate the nervous system and relieve insomnia, tension, irritability, stress, and anxiety. Valerian is also a natural pain reliever that reduces the sensitivity of nerves. Try a cup of valerian tea the next time you’re in need of pain relief!
Turmeric, the spice that gives curry its distinctive flavor and coloring, also has plenty of pain relief benefits. New research suggests that turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties and it also helps improve circulation and prevent blood clotting. Turmeric has been used in traditional medicines for easing the pain of sprains, bruises, and joint inflammation, as well as for treating skin and digestive issues. The healing power of turmeric comes from its active ingredient—curcumin, which lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to eat turmeric by the spoonful! Just stock your kitchen with the powdered spice and add a little to your cooking in place of salt and pepper. Turmeric is also sometimes sold in supplement form.
Tonic oil, which consists of oils of camphor, peppermint, eucalyptus, fennel, and wintergreen, can be applied to your forehead and massaged gently in a circular motion for relief from headaches. Apply tonic oil to any body part for relief from minor aches and pains.
Bonus tip: If you don’t have a lot of essential oils hanging around, you can find traditional blends of tonic oil, like this tonic oil that is in a pure sesame oil base.
This anti-inflammatory is traditionally used to relieve painful inflammation in the joints. The pain-relieving properties of white willow bark come from its content of salicin, the same compound found in aspirin. While the actions of white willow bark may be slower-acting than over-the-counter aspirin, the results last longer. A major advantage of using willow bark over its pharmaceutical cousin, aspirin, is that it does not cause gastric upset and erode the stomach lining. White willow bark has also been found useful in reducing the intensity of migraine attacks. One warning: people allergic to aspirin should not use willow bark. Talk to your physician to be on the safe side.
While these herbs and supplements can alleviate pain, I always recommend looking at your health from every perspective. In other words, treat your whole body, not just the painful symptom. How? With dietary therapy, supportive physical exercises—especially tai chi, which is gentle on the joints—acupuncture, and stress release techniques.
You can find out about many more natural healing herbs in Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, which is now available on Kindle. In addition, The Natural Health Dictionary makes a great companion to your quest for longevity. It is a comprehensive guide that answers all your questions about natural remedies, healing herbs, longevity foods, vitamins, and supplements.
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