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Natural Pain Relievers: Lavender and Arnica

I settle onto my couch with my favorite throw blanket and cup of tea, crack open my laptop, and stretch out my fingers—all poised and ready to share my best tips on herbal pain relief—and bam! I can’t help but notice the dull aches in my own body that feel like they are getting more persistent with time. Is it just because I’m getting older? Is it my diet? Stress? A repetitive strain from my side hustle? My left thumb, wrist, neck, psoas, and calf all hurt; providing me with ample fodder to reflect on how to go about lessening the presence of pain on that side of my body, not to mention forcing me to rethink what I know about pain in the first place.

While I have been reasoning with myself that my pain is relatively minor, I now realize that it’s been persistent...definitely over two weeks...okay, it’s been months, which puts it into the category of chronic pain, which merits some research and action on my end. Pain management and pain relief are big topics for which there are never-ending resources and advice on the Internet, not to mention from your doctor, so as always, it’s important to seek medical advice and treatment to try to get to the bottom of underlying issues—especially if the pain is creating a great deal of stress and interference in participating in your daily life.

Depending on the issue at hand, you may be asked to try out non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as a first line of treatment. These include over-the-counter medications like Advil, Aleve, or Motrin, which help reduce the swelling that is commonly associated with injuries and also block the chemical signals that tell your brain about the pain that’s occurring.

For many people, NSAIDs work well for short-term issues with pain (like a sprained ankle), but for others with more long-term pain, regularly taking NSAIDs might have some unintended effects like gastrointestinal issues, kidney damage, or high blood pressure.

Approaching Aches Holistically

Because of this, you might be interested, as I am, in alternative treatments to help you manage this pain and provide some relief. While NSAIDs are clearly proven effective, I know that these over-the-counter medicines might not be getting at some of the possible root causes of my own pain, which likely trace back to some lifestyle choices along with genetics.

In many cases of pain and stiffness, I’ve read that the culprit is chronic inflammation. Inflammation can be part of the healing process and beneficial for some injuries, but there are definitely times where it can be part of the problem. Inflammation might be caused by everything from stress, allergies, dehydration, lack of sleep, repetitive motions, and diet. I can see how all of these could come into play in my current issues because when I have a lot on my mind, I have a tendency of letting my preventative self-care slide.

Learning about Lavender

What’s a girl to do to get back on track? Since I’ve recently been trying to use lavender essential oils as a means for stress reduction via aromatherapy, I was delighted to find out that lavender has also historically been used for reducing inflammation and treating other pains.

Lavender is part of the mint family, and it’s name comes from the Latin ‘lavare,’ which means “to wash” or “to bathe.” Not only is it beautiful to look at and smell, it has long been hailed as a special herb for its medicinal properties. While more research is suggested for determining the extent of its efficacy, two recent studies stood out to me while I was researching its anti-inflammatory properties:

  1. A study performed in 2015 assessed the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties of lavender essential oils. Its results suggest that the oil can produce effective similar anti-inflammatory responses to NSAIDs without some of the more toxic effects.

  2. A 2016 study of 51 participants with rheumatoid arthritis suggested that an aromatherapy massage with a combination of essential oils, including lavender oil, helped decrease pain and fatigue symptoms in 17 patients over a 6-week period compared to the control group.

Based on this, I’m planning to incorporate lavender oils into not only a bathtime soak at least once per week, but into the next massage session that I book. I’ve set an alarm reminder on my phone to start winding down for bed earlier this week sans devices, and to use that time to stretch while using a combination of lavender essential oil and coconut oil to massage myself. This will have the benefit of helping with inflammation topically but also making sure I relax and get to sleep earlier.

Armed with Arnica

Arnica montana is a bright yellow wild flower that is in the same family as the sunflower. As far back as the early 16th century, arnica has been used to has been used to treat bruising, sprains, strains, and inflammation.

When the flower is dried, it can be used in a salve or a made into an ointment with other essential oils that can help bring a more pleasant sensation to the ache in question. It is not meant to be taken orally, and is not recommended for any open wounds.

While arnica needs to be more rigorously studied to determine its efficacy, I plan to use it during the day. Since I’m definitely guilty of sitting for long periods of time without much activity (or doing repetitive motions while sitting), I know I can set gentle reminders for myself to get up, drink water, apply the salve and stretch, and maybe take a brisk walk to keep myself in the right headspace. Now that I have a multi-faceted plan of how to go from feeling sub-par to returning to my usual state, I already feel a little more hopeful that there’s an end in sight or at least a gradual lessening of these issues. Maybe you’re like me and tend to overlook problems until they’re right in front of your face (or you need to write a blog post about them!) but for whatever reason you came to this site today, I wish you relief as well.

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