aches & pains
Solution: LAVENDER (Lavandula angustifolia)
Dose: Dab a few drops of essential oil on each temple and rub some around the hairline. Breathe deeply and relax; repeat as needed.
Proof: “The scent triggers a calming response, releasing tension in the scalp muscles a bit, which eases the pain,” explains Kingsbury. Gladstar recommends using lavender oil in a pain-relieving foot soak: Add a few drops to a hot footbath, and then put a cold lavender-infused pack on the forehead. “This draws heat away from the head, and is guaranteed to make you feel better,” she says.
Problem: MUSCLE PAINS & STRAINS
Solution: ST. JOHN’S WORT (Hypericum perforatum)
Dose: Make a liniment by mixing equal parts St. John’s wort tincture and St. John’s wort oil. (Most concoctions come in two-ounce bottles.) Mix vigorously before using, apply topically to affected area (avoiding the eyes), and massage into skin as needed.
Proof: “Long before it was ever used for depression or anxiety, St. John’s wort was used as a pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory for muscle pains, burns, and bruises,” explains Gladstar, adding that blending the oil with the alcohol-based tincture helps draw the active constituents into the skin for faster healing.
Solution: BOSWELLIA (Boswellia serrata)
Dose: Take one 300 mg capsule three times a day, with food.
Proof: Also known as Indian frankincense, this gummy resin has been clinically proven to have strong anti-inflammatory effects. “Boswellia is known to reduce congestion and heat (kapha and pitta elements in Ayurveda) in the joints,” says Foster, adding that boswellia is also used to promote appetite and digestion.
Solution: GARLIC & MULLEIN OIL (Allium sativum L. and Verbascum densiflorum)
Dose: Put three drops of oil in each affected ear, two to three times a day as needed. (The oils are sold in a premixed formula.)
Proof: This combination of herbs is powerful— and has been found in medical studies to be potentially more effective than antibiotics in treating ear pain in children. “The garlic is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, so it will treat any infection,” says Kingsbury. “The mullein is soothing, and helps draw out fluid to relieve pain and decrease pressure.”
Contraindication: Don’t put these drops—or anything else—into your ear if you think the eardrum may be perforated.
WHERE TO FIND IT
FOR BULK HERBS, TEAS & TABLETS
Mountain Rose Herbs (mountainroseherbs.com)
Frontier Natural Products Co-op (frontiercoop.com)
Banyan Botanicals (Ayurvedic) (banyanbotanicals.com)
FOR HERBAL TINCTURES, OILS & GLYCERITES
Herb Pharm (herb-pharm.com)
Gaia Herbs (gaiaherbs.com)
Local Harvest (localharvest.org)
FOR READY-MADE REMEDIES
Echinacea root glycerite (windriverherbs.com)
Umckalaobo drops, syrup, or chewable tablets (Umcka at naturesway.com)
Marshmallow tea (Traditional Medicinal Throat Coat Tea at traditionalmedicinals.com)
OUR HERB EXPERTS
MARK BLUMENTHAL, executive director of the American Botanical Council
MARGI FLINT, author of The Practicing Herbalist (EarthSong Press, 2005)
WILL FOSTER, L.Ac., an Ayurvedic herbalist in Knoxville, Tenn.
ROSEMARY GLADSTAR, founder of Sage Mountain Herb Center in Barre, Vt., and author of Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health (Storey Publishing, 2008)
SHEILA KINGSBURY, N.D., chair of the Botanical Medicine Department at Bastyr University