In our massage practice, in addition to dealing with injuries and pain, we see many people who suffer from common health issues for which western medical practitioners often don’t have solutions. The space between wellness and clinically diagnosed illnesses/health issues (subclinical health issues) is where herbs and natural remedies are the most helpful.
Scars Cysts, & Cramps
Cold pressed castor oil is one of the best topical remedies for injuries, scars, cysts and cramps. Make sure you purchase a cold pressed oil and rub a small amount over the area you need to treat 2x a day. If you have the time and/or you have cramps and aching pain, make the effort to put a piece of absorbent cloth over the area and then a heat source over it. Leave it in place for 10-60 minutes, judging by your comfort level. Cysts are hard to dissolve, but with consistent application with heat daily generally works in 4-6 weeks.
Beneficial Flora: stress, illness, medications, travel, etc. all deplete the healthy bacteria in our intestines. If you want to optimize the absorption of nutrition from your food, add a good probiotic daily (and with every meal for 4-6 weeks if you’re in really bad shape) and until your system is moving well.
Most Americans don’t get enough vegetables, health fiber or fats into their daily diets. A good way to fill that gap is to 2-7 days/week make yourself a “green drink” that consists of vegetables, seeds or nuts and fruit. Use the greens you like and/or have on hand, making sure you have at least 2 varieties of dark greens. If this is too much work, purchase a green powder from the health food store that has dried and pulverized the vegetables/greens for you and add about a tablespoon of whole seeds or nuts (soaked overnight if you want a very smooth drink) and whatever fruit (frozen or fresh) or fruit juice and enough water to make about 8-20oz of a smoothie. This is the equivalent of a good quality, food-based, multi-vitamin and gives you plenty of all the nutrition you need to have good energy and repair daily wear and tear on tissues and internal organs. Play around with what tastes good to you and add honey, maple syrup or a natural sweetener (nothing artificial) to make it tasty. If you have had a lot of mucus, coconut is a good food to add. Papaya is great for those with acid reflux issues. Mango and peaches work well for those with kidney issues. Carrots and plums are the best foods to help with congested livers. You will find combinations that taste good to you and then will get tired of them; be creative and willing to try new fruits and veggies as well as to throw a bad drink in the compost now and then.
A good multivitamin will be greens-based and the tablets or capsules required for the RDA will be between 3-6/day in order for them to be small enough to swallow. This is a good thing because taking less is necessary when your nutritional levels are good and you are well. Watch your morning urine and your first urine after you take your vitamin. If it is brilliant/fluorescent, cut back on the amount you are taking or skip a day or two. It is best to take a multivitamin that is made without iron, as it often causes constipation. If you need extra iron, take it as a separate supplement, as recommended by your health practitioner.
Mix a handful each of sea salt and baking soda (both are generally sold for cooking) in a bathtub. Set the water at a comfortable temperature for 20 minutes. Move and rub any of the areas of your body where you are aching/sore or know you have congestion while you are in the water. Rinse off with clear water. Apply arnica, castor oil and/or salves on clean, dry skin after your bath. This will also relieve muscle cramps, as it is good for balancing electrolytes and hydrating the system. If mobility issues prevent full-body bathing, consider using a small pan and soaking only your feet, as this is an excellent way of removing water-based waste products from the entire system.
Local Pain, Inflammation & Bruising
Arnica is the best thing to apply topically in combination with an ice pack immediately following an injury and for the next 24-48 hours. After the first 2 days, keep using the arnica alternate hot and cold packs or soaking the area. Adding castor oil to arnica helps to pull dead cells out of the area and aids in healing. Don’t drink arnica or take it internally unless it is a homeopathic remedy, which can be taken along with the topical arnica. The strengths are as follows: 6x—babies; 12x—small children; 30C—adolescents and adults; 200C severe injury/blows, pre-surgical and post-surgical every 4 hours to reduce pain and swelling; 1M—1xweek for chronic inflammation to help your herbal and other pain management taken internally work better. Gels and alcohol based formulas penetrate joints and vertebral discs better than creams or oils, but if you take the time to massage the area well, most any type will do the job. Don’t be afraid to use too much; every 30 minutes up front works well and after that anytime you feel swollen or experience pain, do it again. The gels and creams are safe for children and fragile adults.
Cleansing the Digestive System
A quick and effective way to clear old debris from the liver and intestines is to make a smoothie of equal parts (approximately) carrot juice (bottles from the store work fine) and raspberries (fresh or frozen) and fast on this drink for an entire day. You will need about ½ gallon of carrot juice and 3-4 bags of frozen raspberries. The only other things you take in are plenty of water; your regular medications, and herbs you are using for medicinal purposes. If you feel exhausted or start to ache or have nausea, stop the fast and eat a simple meal of well-cooked grains and cooked vegetables and try the fast again the next day or in another week.
Kidney stones are a big issue wherever the water is hard. If you have not made a habit of filtering your drinking and cooking water, chances are you have mineral deposits in your kidneys that can lead to kidney stones over time. If you’d like to preventatively clear out mineral deposit from your kidneys, spend a day fasting on peeled peaches or nectarines. You can blend them with water to make a smoothie or just eat as many of them as you can handle and drink plenty of water. You can also make a quart of tea using a minimum of 3 of the following loose herbs: calendula, horsetail/shavegrass, corn silk, oat straw, palo azul, marshmallow plant (malvas), hydrangea root, juniper berries and burdock root. Chop and mix the herbs well and take about 4 pinches to 1½ liters of water and simmer them (covered) for about 5-10 minutes. Strain off the herb and drink the tea throughout the day. Do this for 10-20 days, or until you feel your urine is clear and flowing well and any tightness in your kidney area is gone. Rub castor oil on the kidney area at bedtime and add a hot pack with castor oil to that if you have pain and that will speed up the process and help you to feel better. Sometimes this process moves stones and if you feel sharp pain, a hot pack with castor oil along the kidney and the tract of the ureter and bladder can often dissolve anything that’s moving. If you think you are moving stones, drink a cup of hydrangea root tea every hour (can be found in a tincture at the health food stores or from my office). If the pain doesn’t subside within a few hours or gets worse, it’s time to get yourself to the hospital and have them help you get the stone moved.
Allergies: both digestive and environmental allergies respond to taking cedar berries (many people call them juniper berries here in New Mexico) with all meals and upon rising and waking daily. This is a tonic that slows and eventually reverses the body's allergic response to irritants in the air and the GI tract. Steaming yourself with aromatic oils like eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint and camphor will help open sinus cavities so they can drain. A neti pot with sea salt/baking soda am/pm will also lower chronic sinus inflammation and reverse the chronic inflammation that affects breathing and causes pain.
The digestive system tightens up and doesn’t move well under stress. Good warm teas to try for this are: lavender, any type of mint, chamomile, and when it has been a long term problem and is affecting your sleep the combination of ginger and peppermint is an excellent tonic and should be taken with all meals and at bedtime until your system is back on track.
Women's Reproductive Health
Red Raspberry Leaf tea is a tonic for the reproductive system. Add a teaspoon of Red Raspberry Leaf Tincture to a quart of water. Drink 1-4 cups of the mixture per day until you have normal, regular menstrual cycles without PMS. You can drink it for the rest of your life. It is especially helpful during pregnancy to tonify the uterus and help with iron and reduce bleeding during and after and reduce the length of labor.
Acid Reflux/Heartburn: If you aren’t on a medication for heartburn, it is simple to get it under control with apple cider vinegar and honey. Combine the two in equal parts and store in the refrigerator in a glass jar. Before all meals, mix 2 tablespoons of the mixture in ¼-1/2 cup of warm water and drink. The mixture will last for about 3 weeks refrigerated and carrying enough for the day with you out of the refrigerator will work as well. Being consistent for 3 weeks is generally all people need, but if your stress level is consistently high, taking a dose with your first food of the morning is a good practice for life. Don’t take it with coffee on an empty stomach.