Natural Remedies for Your Medicine Cabinet

Use these natural remedies for minor aches, pains, bruises, burns, cuts and more for a healthier family, home and planet.

| July/August 2014

Do you carefully stock homegrown, local and organic food in your kitchen, make your own cleaning products and recycle just about everything only to open your medicine cabinet and find over-the-counter medications, throw-away cotton balls and chemical-laden toothpaste? Let us help you create a healthier medicine cabinet for yourself and the planet by choosing these natural, reusable and sustainable alternatives for your aches, pains and daily care needs.

Natural Pain Relief

We often turn to over-the-counter pills when we are in pain from headaches, sore muscles or painful joints, but natural alternatives may be equally effective and safer. Try these on for size.

Relieve Muscle and Arthritic Pain

• Arnica: Available in creams and tablets, arnica relieves osteoarthritic pain in the knee and pain following carpal-tunnel release surgery. It contains helenin, an analgesic, as well as anti-inflammatory chemicals. Apply cream twice daily; use tablets according to package directions.

• Devil’s claw: A South African herb with medicinally active roots, devil’s claw can ease muscular tension or pain in the back, shoulders and neck, and is a popular treatment for osteoarthritic pain. It may also ease rheumatoid arthritic pain after about two months of use. Devil’s claw extract is considered safe at the typical dosage of 750 mg (containing 3 percent iridoid glycosides) taken three times daily. It is also available as tincture (use 1 teaspoon up to three times daily) and tea. It should not be taken with blood-thinning medications and may not be safe during pregnancy or for young children, nursing mothers and individuals with liver or kidney disease, or digestive system ulcers.

• Capsaicin: The heat element in hot peppers, capsaicin manipulates the body’s pain status by hindering pain perception, triggering the release of pain-relieving endorphins and providing analgesic action. Commercial capsaicin creams such as Zostrix, Heet and Capzasin-P are used topically for arthritic and nerve pain. Creams containing .025 percent capsaicin can significantly reduce osteoarthritic pain when applied to joints four times daily. A higher concentration of .075 percent works best for peripheral nerve pain—such as that from diabetic nerve damage, HIV and pain following cancer surgery. When using topical capsaicin products, be sure to avoid touching your eyes and other sensitive areas.

• Gamma-linolenic acid: GLA may help the body produce the prostaglandins and leukotrienes (hormonelike substances) that can reduce inflammation. It curbs rheumatoid arthritic pain, relieving morning stiffness and joint tenderness. Some evidence indicates GLA also can help migraine headaches and mild diabetic nerve damage. Borage and black currant seed oils are the richest sources of GLA. The recommended daily dose for rheumatoid arthritis is 1 to 3 grams GLA supplement, and for mild diabetic neuropathy, 400 to 600 mg daily. GLA may take up to six months for significant relief. Note: Long-term use may lead to inflammation, blood clots or decreased immune system functioning.

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