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Posts Tagged ‘black cohosh’

Pain happens. Headaches, backaches, wounds, broken bones, bumps and bruises. It is almost second nature for us to grab an aspirin, acetaminophen, an ibuprofen, or, for some, something a bit stronger. Unfortunately, even the safest of these options come with serious negative side effects. Liver and kidney damage, stomach or digestive issues, neurological damage. In extreme cases, even death.

The last few decades have conditioned us to believe that our options are not just limited, but non-existent. We either take the options on the market (or at the pharmacy), or we deal with the pain. Under no circumstances should we consider taking natural alternatives. Not only are they extremely dangerous, but they are quite ineffective. I’m still trying to work out the incompatibility of that last statement.

I gotta wonder, though…if natural alternatives are so ineffective, why did the medical world develop some of their best medicines from them? Aspirin from willow bark. Opium, morphine, codeine and laudanum from poppies. Digitalis from foxglove. The list is long and impressive, and pretty interesting, if you are into that kind of thing.

The point is, there is an abundance of exceptionally effective, natural alternatives for dealing with pain of all types. In truth, some of them work faster, more effectively and, well…better. These are a few of my favorites:

Castor oil packs

Most of us have heard horror stories of grandmothers forcing a spoonful of castor oil on reluctant children when they had belly aches. I simply cannot condone that level of torture, but castor oil is not without powerful medicinal benefits.

Of course, the above scenario is not without it’s benefit, either. Castor oil is a highly effective, exceptionally safe laxative for all ages. The biggest problem with this method is actually choking it down. The good news is, it only takes 4-6 hours in most cases for a dose of castor oil to completely cleanse the bowels. A little more good news, a single dose is only 1-2 tablespoons for adults, and 1 tsp for children. Mix it with a bit of fresh fruit juice and it really isn’t so bad.

Castor oil is a strong fungicidal due to its high content of undecylenic acid. Ringworm, athlete’s foot, jock itch…castor oil applied topically daily for a week will help tremendously in any of these situations.

Castor oil is exceptionally moisturizing. It attracts and holds in moisture, so it is the perfect addition to any beauty routine. Acne, dry hair, dry scalp, age spots, warts, and skin tags are just a few of the issues that can be improved with regular use of castor oil.

However, one of the very best ways to administer castor oil is through the use of a castor oil pack. I don’t know all the science behind castor oil and how it does what it does. What I do know is that I have seen it work over and over again to help the body heal, to provide relief from pain of every kind, in every part of the body. I have seen it help people who were in liver failure to detox. I have seen it help shrink cysts and tumors. I have seen it perform nearly miraculous things. But, that’s just MY experience with it. Sore muscles? Use a castor oil pack on them. Arthritis? Try a castor oil pack. Painful period? Use a castor oil pack. Seriously. You gotta try this!

Castor oil packs can be a bit messy, but are relatively simple to use.  All you need is:

  • a bottle of castor oil
  • 2 pieces of natural cloth like wool or cotton. One should be large enough to completely cover the area you intend to apply it to. The second piece should be larger by about 4 inches in both directions.
  • a piece of plastic
  • a towel that you don’t mind getting stained
  • a hot pack or heating pad

Here’s what you do with all of that:

  • Thoroughly coat the smaller piece of the cloth with castor oil. You want it wet, but not dripping. The piece of cloth should be large enough to completely cover whatever area of the body you are treating.
  • Cover the castor oil soaked cloth with a piece of plastic.
  • Cover the plastic with the larger piece of dry cloth. This piece is going to help hold in the warmth so it should be something heavy and natural like wool, cotton or flannel.
  • Place a heating pad on top of your cloth. That’s it. Now just kick back and relax for a spell. Leave the pack on for at least 20 minutes, but I like to leave it on overnight. You will want to put an old towel or sheet under you, because castor oil will stain whatever it touches.

You can use an ace bandage or strip of fabric to secure the castor oil pack in place.

Don’t throw out your castor oil pack after one use, either. The same castor oil pack can be used 10-15 times. Just store it in the fridge between uses and add a bit more castor oil if it begins to dry out.

This is one of those great treatments that work immediately. By the time you remove the castor oil pack you will be feeling better. When dealing with long-term and/or chronic conditions,  I have used this treatment daily for two weeks with absolutely no negative effects. For things like menstrual cramps, arthritis flare-ups, and muscle aches/spasms, we use it as often as we need to. In most cases, we are back up and moving comfortably after an hour or so.

Sometimes we need something that works a bit faster, right? And,  maybe more convenient? After all, I doubt the boss is going to approve of you taking a break to apply a castor oil pack that you will need to wear around the office for a while.

It’s cool. I have this one covered. Herbs. The answer is herbs.

Quit rolling your eyes. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. Let me try to impress upon you the unbelievable power of herbs to help control pain when used properly.

I live on a farm. I do yoga. I garden. I paint. I write. I bead and sew and crochet and knit. I spend HOURS in the kitchen. I make soap. I build fires. I play with grandsons. I spend unfathomable amounts of time staring at a computer screen.  None of these activities seem especially dangerous, right? Look a little deeper.

Yoga and gardening are the source of many muscle aches, strains and sprains. Crafting, writing and gardening require the use of my hands, which are prone to attacks of arthritis, small cuts, big cuts, cuts from stems and tools (because, you know, why wear gloves like any rational person?). Hours in the kitchen can occasionally produce burns, cuts and other injuries that we need not name, as can building and maintaining fires in the wood stove. Computer screens give me massive headaches. Living on a farm covers everything from shins bashed into trailer hitches to broken limbs. Playing with grandsons…well…the danger potential there is unlimited. So, you see all of the levels of pain that my family may experience at any given moment. Keep that in mind when I make my next statement.

We have not needed a ‘conventional’ pain reliever since we started using herbal pain-relieving options. No aspirin. No acetaminophen. No prescription pain killers.

What is this miracle herbal pain-reliever, you ask? Well, it isn’t one herb. Or even two. It is a combination of herbs. While each of the herbs we are about to discuss work reasonably well for minor pain all by themselves, combining some of them can be far more effective than many of the dangerous synthetic pain pills flooding the market and killing people by the millions. Unlike prescription or OTC pain relievers, there is no risk of organ failure, heart issues, digestive issues, neurological issues…no negative side effects for a normal, healthy person. Did you catch that? These alternatives should not be used if you have some pre-existing conditions. Some of these herbs can interfere with medications, which can cause big problems. Some of these herbs should not be taken long-term. If you are not trained in the use of herbs, don’t just go taking these herbs willy-nilly. Consult a Certified Herbalist. Really. Don’t be stupid.

Okay, you’ve been warned. Now, let’s move on. I have found a beautiful blend of herbs that works fast (it has never taken more than 10 minutes to feel relief) on every kind of pain we have thrown at it. I’m going to tell you the herbs. Not the formula. The formula, Nerve-Ease, took me a long time to perfect, and is easy for an amateur to mess up.

  • Black cohosh – this root is most often used for female complaints related to the menstrual cycle, menopause, and female organs. This is because of the fact that it has many natural estrogens. What many don’t realize is that is also has a mild sedative effect, is anti-inflammatory, and acts as a mild anti-depressant, just to name a few of its benefits.
  • Catnip – yeah, the same herb your cat flips out over. Catnip is a fabulous pain reliever, and one of the safest option available for all ages, including small children. It is a mild relaxant, it settles the stomach, it calms the nerves, it reduces pain, and it promotes relaxation and sleep without any drowsiness.
  • Cayenne – there is a lot of science behind this herb, and how it works is a whole lesson in itself. We will just leave it at this: cayenne is a powerful pain reliever, and it boost the ability of any herb it is working with. One of the many additional benefits of cayenne is its ability to stop bleeding. There are very few of my formulas that don’t contain a bit of cayenne for very good reason. It is safe for all ages and requires only a small amount to be effective.
  • Chamomile – this is a wonderful sedative herb that works powerfully, but mildly, on the body and mind. It, like catnip, promotes relaxation without making  you drowsy, so you can go to sleep easier without waking up feeling foggy or disoriented. It soothes the nerves, so it is good for anxiety and depression. It is anti-inflammatory. It soothes muscles and joints. Chamomile is safe for any age and can help control just about any type of pain or discomfort you may be having. It is pretty tasty, too!
  • Hops – while best known for its use in beer making, hops has a long history of medicinal use. As with many herbs, hops has a variety of uses. Herbalists often use it for its ability to calm the nerves and promote sleep without causing drowsiness or brain fog. It is an anti-inflammatory, so it also helps with nerve pain, or pain caused from internal inflammation.
  • Mistletoe – the same plant that we stand under for a chance at a free smooch is a most excellent nervine. That means that it helps soothe frazzled nerves and helps rebuild damaged nerves. It is an anti-inflammatory, as well as an immune system builder.  Mistletoe has so many healing benefits that we can’t cover even a fraction of them here, but it also has some warnings attached to it. It is a fantastic pain reliever, but must be properly prepared and used only under the supervision of a Certified Herbalist or natural health practitioner.
  • Mullein – one of my all time favorite herbs, I could spend hours extolling it’s many virtues, not the least of which is it’s pain-relieving capabilities. It doesn’t matter what the pain stems from; Mullein will help soothe it. This is an especially useful herb for dealing with pain from broken bones, sprains and strains, as well as pain from inflamed, irritated mucous membranes in the lungs and respiratory system.
  • Skullcap – if you are looking for power and performance, this is the herb to go to. It’s pain-relieving properties are well known among herbalists, and this is one of the first choices for helping promote sleep, calm anxiety, reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being. It is not an easy herb to work with, though, and is best used fresh, as it loses much of it’s ability with drying.
  • Turmeric – If you have been on the internet in the last couple of years, you have heard of turmeric and all of it’s health benefits. It is used for everything from cancer treatment to dental care. More than 6,000 peer-reviewed studies have been done on this herb, and more are being done daily in an effort to understand it’s range of healing. Even among standard medical groups, turmeric is gaining popularity because they are finding that it is more effective than many prescription drugs for treating a variety of health issues. Pain, depression, heart issues, inflammation, stomach issues, cancer, diabetes and cholesterol are just some of the issues that turmeric is having a profound effect on, all without a single negative side effect.
  • Valerian root – this is easily one of the smelliest herbs known to mankind. Fortunately, it is also one of the best pain-relievers ever. It is a mild, but highly effective nervine that helps calm anxiety, promotes relaxation and sleep, soothes pain and promotes a general sense of well-being.
  • Willow – this is where aspirin comes from, in case you didn’t know. A long time ago, some scientist got the bright idea to extract what they believed was the active pain-relieving constituent in willow bark, then called it medicine. If they would have just left the herb alone they would have gotten much farther. Willow bark has all the phenomenal characteristics of aspirin, but it also has built-in protectors that keep it from harming the liver and other organs. It is not without dangers of its own, though, and should only be used under the supervision of a Certified Herbalist or alternative medical practitioner.

The world of herbal medicine contains a vast array of other effective pain-relievers, but these are the ones I prefer. When used together, they have the ability to fight pain stemming from nearly every source imaginable. They can replace anti-depressants, sleeping pills, nerve pills, stomach pills….pills, pills, pills. They can even help you wean off many of those pills without suffering the symptoms often seen from withdrawals.

This is by no means a complete list of the many ways natural health practitioners approach pain management, especially long-term. However, reaching for a more natural option for every day aches and pains seems like a no-lose situation. If it doesn’t work for you, there is always the option of running to the drug store for a bottle of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but why start there if you don’t have to? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If a menopausal woman has pain or makes trouble, pound her hard on the jaw ~~ Egyptian Proverb, 2000 bc

I laugh every time I read that quote.  While in the throes of a menopausal attack of hot flashes and mood swings,  I have more than once asked my husband to knock me unconscious.   A sore jaw seems a small price to pay for a bit of relief!  To date, he has strongly refused.

The truth is, I know how to control them.  Its implementing the necessary tools that causes me a problem.  I mean, really…between running a business, keeping up a blog, playing in the Etsy forums and being a wife and mom, where would I ever find 20 minutes to do a round of yoga and drink a cup of herbal tea?  Well, okay, maybe it’s a bit more complicated than that.  I should really meditate more often and cut back on the coffee.

Let me just clarify something up front.  I’m an herbalist.  That pretty much means that I believe in the power of many natural healing methods.  So, while my attitude may seem flippant, I assure you that I am entirely serious.  I also want to be clear that the following post is what has worked for me.   That does not mean this particular regimine will work for you or your sister or your sister’s best friend.

Early menopause is predominant in the women in my family.  For me, it started at 33.  It was mild, at first.  Hot flashes here and there, memory blips, occasional night sweats.  No big deal.  I smiled to myself, wondering what all the fuss was about.  At 35, I finally understood.  I woke up one day drenched in sweat.  Suddenly, no matter what the temperature might be, it was too damned hot.  I was becoming intolerably crabby all the time and I could barely remember to go to the grocery store, let alone what I was supposed to get once I was there.

I had to do something and my options were relatively limited.  Hormone therapy or natural alternatives.  Dude, I’m an herbalist, but I’m human, too.  I wanted relief and fast!  So, I decided to read up on hormones.  See just how they worked, where they came from, what were the side effects.  It took me about an hour to solidify my decision.  I wouldn’t take hormones if they coated them in chocolate and wrapped them in dollar bills.

This information is simply the result of my research that led to my decision.  I didn’t write the information and if you have some solid proof against any of the info presented, I would dearly love to be made aware of it.  To date, despite 2.5 years of further research I have found nothing to dispute any of my original information.

First, I checked out the top choice for menopause help.  Estrogen.  I went to this website and read up on one of the most popular estrogen treatments.  I learned that it can cause heart attacks, strokes, breast and uterine cancer and blood clots.  It can also increase your chances of developing dementia, especially in women over 65.  The good news was that, since I was well under 65, I probably wouldn’t have to worry about the dementia.

The next problem that I had with estrogen pills is their origin.  I’ll admit that I laughed when I first read about it.  I thought it was one of those crazy rumors.  Surely it was wrong.  But it wasn’t.  Fresh Pregnant Mare Urine, anyone?  Think I’m lying?  Spreading tales?   Check this out.

Patent info on obtaining estrogen from mare urine

PETA‘s info on the subject

Project Aware

Another informative website

Another great resource that goes deeper into the research that led to the use of animal urine is the book, “The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed On Women‘ by Barbara Seaman.

After thinking it through, I realized that it really wasn’t so far fetched.  For many decades, medical testing was done on animals freely and openly.   They were fed toxins and untested medicines, injected with diseases, untested ‘cures’ and things we never want to hear about.  Every imaginable part of their bodies were used in the name of ‘finding a cure’.   Why not the urine?  The principle behind it is sound and there is no question that the mare urine contains potent estrogens.  It is what it is and no one is really disputing this fact.

Not wanting to be accused of only looking at one side of the issue, I wanted to check out a few pro-estrogen places, too.  I couldn’t really find any, except for the websites of the companies promoting the estrogen.  Bio-Medicine says don’t take it.  A Consumer’s Report says way back in 1976 that estrogen is dangerous, too, which really makes me wonder why it is STILL being offered, but I won’t go there right now.  I found lots more sites, medical and alternative, warning against estrogen, but didn’t really come up with any pro’s on the topic.

So, that left natural therapy.  Ah, well, I suppose I knew the answer before I ever started my research.  I chalked the experience up to a re-solidification of my choice to be a naturalist.   I put back on my herbalist-mantle and got to work.

My new line of research included going as far back in history as I could.  How did the Ancients treat menopause?  Did they even have menopause back then?  Yes, they did.  And they used some crazy, but effective, means of treating it.   Ever heard of Ovariin?  It was offered by Merck (yes, the some pharmaceutical company that we have in this century) in 1897 and was derived from the dried, pulverized ovaries of a cow.   It worked, but it was really gross, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t have a dead cow handy, so Ovariin was kinda out of the question.

I turned to my herb cabinet and found a few answers.

Black Cohosh:  Great for help with hot flashes, mood disturbances, palpitations, and vaginal dryness.  It is believed to work by binding estrogen receptors and has been used for centuries.  Black cohosh is being investigated for a possible link to liver damage, but so far, all of the cases involoved have other medical conditions that are believed to contribute to the situation.  Read this article for more info.

St John’s Wort Works wonders on the mood swings.  The down side of taking St Johns Wort is that it will interfere with the effectiveness of other medications you may be taking.  It speeds up the breakdown of the medicines so they become less effective.

Ginkgo This herb is fantastic for those memory lapses.  This herb has been studied in-depth and has proven effective for help with improving brain function.  Ginkgo has been shown to thin the blood, so don’t take ginkgo if you are currently taking other blood-thinners, natural or synthetic.

Sage contains plant estrogens and works well for helping with night sweats and  hot flashes.

These are the herbs traditionally used to treat menopause.  However, there is something within me that forces me to look outside the traditional means.  I have added these herbs to my personal list of ‘menopause’ herbs.

Peppermint I use peppermint a lot.  It is a system stimulant and has an effect of nearly every major organ of the body.  It prods the system into working correctly, promotes circulation, soothes and invigorates.   It eases belly aches, diminishes cramps, soothes a headache, calms heartburn and helps cleanse the system.

Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc.  Dandelion roots and leaves have been used to treat liver problems,  kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, stomach upset, digestive disorders, appendicitis, breast problems (such as inflammation or lack of milk flow), fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, diarrhea, as an appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and for liver and gallbladder function and  to stimulate the excretion of urine.   I think that about covers the entire system.   No negative effects have been reported.

So, I had my herbal concoction ready.  I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t work immediately.  It took almost a week to really notice a difference.  That’s the only negative I can come up with.  Even the prescriptions don’t completely knock out the symptoms of menopause, so I don’t complain too much about the occasional hot flash.

But, I did want to get rid of it completely, so I set out on another research mission and found that several yoga poses are recommended for help controlling menopause.  This site has some fabulous suggestions that I have incorporated into my yoga routine.  I try to do 25 minutes of yoga at least 3 times a week.  I said I try.  I don’t always succeed, and I definitely feel it when I don’t take the time to do it!

I’ve also changed my diet, but I have been doing that for the last 10 years.  I find I have much more energy and I’m more alert and coherent when I get plenty of fresh fruits and veggies.  Canned and frozen do NOT provide the same level of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

And, finally, I try to meditate whenever I get the chance.  Simply quieting the mind and breathing properly provide amazing benefits, both physical and spiritual.   This site has some great info on meditation and other alternative health issues.

I’ll leave you with this quote that I ran across.  It is by George Napheys in his 1869 book, ‘The Physical Life of Woman:  Advice to the Maiden, Wife, and Mother’.  He says, “After a certain number of years, woman lays aside those functions with which she has been endowed for the perpetuation of the species, and resumes once more that exclusively individual life which has been hers when a child…The evening of her days approaches, and if she has observed the precepts of wisdom, she may look forward to a long and placid period of rest, blessed with health, honored and loved with a purer flame than any which she inspired in the bloom of youth and beauty.”

I like that thought.

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