There are a lot of different herbs people use for pain but there are three that I focus on because they work through three different methods in the body to support the relief of pain and inflammation. Before I get into the herbs let me tell you a little bit about pain and its relationship to inflammation. I could go all science-y here but I will save you from that. Come join one of my Herbs for Pain classes to learn more about the science.
In the alternative medicine community there are a large number of individuals that see that inflammation is the main problem we have in our bodies. Inflammation is what happens when we get sick, when we are tired, stressed or anxious, eat the wrong foods, the list just goes on. It is how our body responds to stress or things that are not ‘normal’ for us. Inflammation is seen as heat, redness, swelling, loss of function, and pain.
Now think of when you get sick. You get a fever (heat), your nose gets stuffy (swollen), you may be tired and unable to do your normal work (loss of function), you may also experience headaches and redness in your face. All of these are signs of inflammation, a response to something that is not ‘normal.’
Now we all know what we should do when we get sick but there are other times we also get inflamed and at those times there are some general things we can do to help reduce our inflammation. The most effective long term inflammation reduction tool is eating high quantities of antioxidants. We have a blog entry just dedicated to these so go search for that for more info there. In contrast, high meat consumption can actually counteract our antioxidant benefits around reducing inflammation.
Hydration and sleep greatly support our inflammation states by reducing much of our stress and keeping our body fluid and flushing out many molecules from our body that can cause inflammation and irritate us. Consistent exercise can also benefit you in reducing your general inflammatory state in your body but this is often where we are held back with the pain portion of inflammation.
Herbs can be great at supporting reducing inflammation to reduce this pain that often stops us from exercising and moving to keep our inflammation down. It is a bit of a circle we can get stuck in. We can’t exercise, so we get inflamed, so we experience pain, so we can’t exercise. Herbs can defiantly help stop this cycle so you can get back on your feet and move to support keeping your inflammation low. Herbs get expensive long term so use them as a way to get moving again to keep the pain away. With challenges like arthritis, the best way to keep the pain away long term is to make sure the associated joints get frequent movement and herbs can help you start that.
There are two herbs that I want to mention that help with supporting inflammation reduction. The first is calendula. If you are not yet familiar with how this herb works we have a separate blog entry for this herb so you can check it out. Calendula supports reducing inflammation by reducing the molecules that inflammatory cells product to tell the body that more inflammation is needed. Simply, calendula helps to reduce the production of inflammation in your body. This is good if you are choosing to support long term pain due to long term inflammation because it will be helpful, if you use it consistently, to reduce your body’s inflammation state overall.
Arnica, another herb that we have a separate blog on as well, also works on inflammation. It works a bit differently and research on this herb is still bringing more information to light about how it works. How we are generally understanding how arnica works is that it directs it’s actions to where it is applied so do not ingest this herb unless you are looking to get a bad stomach ache or end up in the hospital. I caution this seriously because at inappropriate internal doses there have been records of death due to arnica toxicity. When it is used topically it’s action is local to where it is applied and it causes inflammatory cells to go through apoptosis, a term referring to a clean cellular death. This is great because it means that it reduces local inflammation quickly and reduces the pain and pressure associated with the inflammation. A word of note. In my experience, arnica is better for acute conditions of inflammation within 24 hours of injury to the location of application. Not everyone has this experience, this is a generalization. (Note, this is not how homeopathic arnica works.)