The Herbal Trinity

You can kickstart your pain-free journey by quitting processed junk food that creates pain in your body. Unfortunately, the modern diet is comprised of highly addictive and refined foods, sugars, and refined carbohydrates. A diet devoid of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, herbs, etc., is going to block the ability of other non-pharmaceutical remedies to halt pain. Once you begin to understand you are what you eat, you can use the many herbs that truly deliver pain reduction.

Herbs are safe to use and are without significant side effects; they are medicines – act accordingly.  Each different herb may have interactions with certain prescription medications. For example, some may not be safe if you have a bleeding disorder or take blood-thinning drugs. Therefore do your research and speak with your doctor before deciding if one or both herbs might be useful for your situation. Also taking these herbs by mouth in medicinal amounts is likely unsafe in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Just as an example, those who need to undergo surgery may have to stop taking turmeric since it could slow blood clotting.  Always inform your prescribing doctor about your plan to include herbal supplements and seek their advice.

Herbs and Pain Reduction

One of my favorite allies in pain reduction is herbs. So many plants have pain-relieving properties. There are over 60 different essential oils that have analgesic properties, which means that a substance has shown to relieve or reduce pain.

Ginger, Turmeric, & Holy Basil form a sort of trinity in Ayurvedic medicine, which is practiced especially on the Subcontinent. All of them have anti-inflammatory properties.  Ayurveda, a system of holistic healing, is at least 5000 years old.

Ginger

The root of the ginger plant has amazing therapeutic properties that have made it valuable in pain management as well as an aid to good health. This spice flourishes in tropical South India.

Ginger
Harvested hand of ginger, ready to use.

It is in many treatment protocols, formulations and home remedies. You can sip ginger syrup or apply a warm ginger poultice to help ease the pain and inflammation of arthritic joints.

In Ayurveda, a distinction is made between fresh ginger root and dried ginger root, since they have different action and effect inside the body when consumed. They also taste different.  Ginger root contains large amounts of a volatile oil called zingiberene, which gives the herb its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Of course, ginger, a natural anti-inflammatory, has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese to reduce pain. Ginger relieves nausea from meds, arthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps and muscle soreness.

How to Take:

If you have not used ginger before, start slowly and use it outside your body, not inside. Introduce it to your system slowly, especially fresh ginger hands.

  • Relieve cramps: pour one cup boiled water over one tsp dried or one tbsp. of fresh chopped ginger root. Cover the water with a lid, steep the infusion for at least five minutes and then strain. Drink this infusion three or four times a day or after meals.
  • Relieve joint pains: mix 3 drops of ginger root essential oil with one tsp of sweet almond oil; for a small area of discomfort create as much oil as needed. Or use dried ginger and warm water to make a poultice for your joints if you cannot find essential oil. Rub it on your inflamed or painful joints then cover the mixture with a dry cloth to hold in the heat.
  • Relieve migraines by using two tbsp. of dry ginger powder in warm water preferably before the pain intensifies
  • Reduce sinus congestion: take 1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice with 1 teaspoon honey 2-3 times a day if you like add fresh lemon 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; let it cool and place on the affected area for 20 minutes.

In order to make fresh ginger tea, you can cut up the root, boil it for 10 minutes, then strain the water and sip as tea. In a pinch, you can use ginger tea bags, available in most health food stores.

Especially when using ginger, sweat lodges, saunas, water baths, and steam baths are deeply penetrating and initiate healing energy. Ginger compliments so many foods like vegetables, marinades, and sweets; just add it to your food. Ginger is delicious and is good for you in general. For example, during colder days, ginger spices up your circulation.

Turmeric

Another one in the trinity of Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric literally tames your pain. It is amazing and healing. More research about it is being published daily. It is an ingredient in curry that gives curry its distinctive flavor and coloring. The healing power of turmeric comes from its active ingredient, curcumin. It lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation. Curcumin, which is a diferuloylmethane, gives pain relief.  It is used especially in the treatment of pro-inflammatory chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, pulmonary, and other diseases.

tumeric
Powdered Turmeric

It eases inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. Turmeric has been used in traditional medicines for easing the pain of sprains, strains, bruises and joint inflammation, as well as for treating skin and digestive issues.  In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to treat arthritis. It is claimed that turmeric reduces arthritis joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness related to arthritis.

Turmeric is sold in supplement form. Individual turmeric dosage varies based on factors. It is not like the dosage of modern medicine. A usual dosage for osteoarthritis is 500mg twice a day of commercially available Meriva or Indena, turmeric extracts and 500mg four times a day of non-commercial turmeric extracts. The usual powdered turmeric root dosage is 0.5 – 1g that can go up to 3g daily.

Some suggest that turmeric capsules have greater efficacy than tablets because usually a stabilizer is added and the tablets go through a heating process. Unfortunately, this can reduce their potency. One of the best ways to use the healing value of turmeric is to include turmeric as part of your regular diet. This acts as a preventive and curative method, preventing from possible future disorders while helping cure the existing ones.

How to Take:

There are precautions with turmeric to consider.  When used as a spice in food is generally safe for everyone. When taken as a supplement, turmeric in high doses and long-term use could cause indigestion, dizziness, nausea or diarrhea. Those with gallbladder problems or are taking medications for diabetes or anti-coagulants must avoid turmeric supplements. High doses have resulted in liver problems in laboratory animals, although similar effects have not been seen in humans.

New research suggests that turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and also helps to improve circulation and prevent blood clotting. Don’t eat turmeric by the spoonful; just keep a jar of the powdered spice in your kitchen.  Then add a little to your cooking instead of salt and pepper.

Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum, O. tenuiflorum)

The final plant in the trinity of Ayurvedic medicine is Holy Basil. Its pain relief power has stood the test of time.  In Asia, holy basil has been cultivated for medicinal use for over 5,000 years. Particularly, in India, holy basil is considered one of the most powerful herbs. It is sacred to the Hindu god Vishnu, and classified as a rasayana, an herb that promotes long life and personal growth and health.

KONICA MINOLTAxKONIC
Holy Basil. You can grow your own!

Today, Western scientists have caught on to the herb’s natural anti-inflammatory properties. Basil’s aromatic extracts have also proven to eliminate swelling and pain from arthritis. In fact, research has demonstrated that basil works just as well as anti-inflammatory drugs. For example, a study concentrated extracts of two types of basil taken orally reduced joint swelling by up to 73% in just 24 hours.

Basil’s efficacy against such a wide range of ailments is due not only to BCP but also to the cinnamanic acid it contains. Cinnamanic acid is known to enhance circulation…stabilize blood sugar…and improve respiration. Most research on basil has focused on those 3 areas. In animal studies and human clinical trials, basil has proved to be a powerful adaptogen with potent benefits that are neuroprotective, stress and anxiety reducing, antibacterial and antiviral among others.

How to Take:

Several studies have confirmed holy basil’s anti-inflammatory action. Its compounds inhibit the production of inflammatory prostaglandins—molecules that produce pain and fevers. By reducing prostaglandins, basil reduces pain and inflammation in the body. Most users focus on the adaptogenic and anti-stress properties of a medicinal herb. With regard to holy basil, recommend taking a single dose of 300mg to 600mg of dried leaves daily as a preventative therapy and immune system support.

For a curative therapy, most herbalists suggest taking 600mg to 1800mg in divided doses. Alternately, holy basil can be prepared as a tea (2 grams per cup). This brew is an excellent preventive remedy against common illnesses. It also works to treat many of the health issues described earlier.

There are biological and neurological effects of taking holy basil, such as increased stamina and a heightened immunological defense, and they may take anywhere from one week to one month to develop. However, once basil’s effects take hold, the improvements can last as long as one month even after discontinuation of the therapy.

Basic info and good links

Time lines and lists

FDA precautions on medical products

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