natural cures for common ailments

Just got the cover of my new book with mercier press.


here’s a sneak preview/excerpt

Many visits to the local pharmacy are to find remedies for sundry aches and pains. These are also perhaps the most common complaints for gardeners due to the physicality of maintaining a garden and the potential for repetitive strain or just plain old injury – never mind the headache of greenfly. Whatever the source or intensity, help is at hand. Yet it is good to understand that pain is your body’s way of saying something is wrong. If you know that it was just the incorrect lifting technique from earlier today or the way the hammer just hit that thumb, then, OK, reach for some natural ‘aspirin’ from the garden. If you are unsure why you have stomach cramps or severe pain anywhere in the body, then a visit to the GP is timely. I will explore the best options for specific pains under the relevant sections (see neuralgia on page 208, sprains and strains on page 198, backache on page 48, headaches on page 149), but here is some general advice that covers pain sensation.

Garden treatments
The garden can produce many herbal analgesics (pain sensation suppressants). Some are best taken as herbal teas, while others make great rubs or topical treatments. My favourite pain- relieving tea is fennel seed – the seeds are magic bullets packed with at least sixteen analgesic and twenty-seven antispasmodic phytochemicals, all yielding up into a cup of boiling water. Liquorice root is also excellent, with as many as ten analgesic and twenty anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, and you can’t beat meadowsweet tea, hot or chilled. Meadowsweet was the inspiration for aspirin – in fact the word ‘aspirin’ takes its middle letters from meadowsweet’s old botanical name Spiraea Ulmaria – and its similar compounds shut down pain receptors in a comparable manner to the drug.

Feverfew, as the name suggests, lowers fevers, but it also decreases the frequency and intensity of migraines and other headaches. Borage, evening primrose and blackcurrants are potent sources of pain-dampening gamma-linolenic acid (see more below). Daylily flowers are edible and a tea of the petals is slightly sedative and somewhat analgesic – it is used for pain relief in the ethnobotany of its indigenous growing regions. Topically, arnica – long lauded for shrinking bruises – with its phytochemical compound helenin delivers analgesic and anti-inflammatory results. Wintergreen is found even in over- the-counter creams for muscle and backache.

Kitchen support
Coconut oil is analgesic both topically and internally (don’t go swilling it; just a little will suffice in a curry or other culinary affair). Cayenne pepper and chillies contain capsaicin, which has a marvellous ability to naturally dampen pain perception, but its heat also triggers the release of pain-relieving endorphins. It is great in dietary terms and also in rubs, liniments, salves and massage- oil blends. Stem ginger or ginger root in cuisine or infusion (both oil and herbal tea) is analgesic and anti-inflammatory.

Turmeric powder or root contains a compound known as curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties comparable to cortisone. It similarly acts upon pain receptors to lessen their communication potential – especially the neurotransmitter substance P that signals pain. Many of the common culinary herbs – thyme, rosemary, basil and oregano – have analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory compounds. Even ordinary tea (black or green) is subtly relaxing and dulls pain perception.

If you are in prolonged pain then you might consider increasing your intake of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid which has a role in repairing nerve damage and works to decrease inflammation and pain perception. You can obtain it from blackcurrants, hemp seeds, spirulina and other dietary sources. GLA encourages the production of leukotrienes, prostaglandins and other hormone-like substances that stimulate and support the immune system. This helps to target underlying triggers of pain and plays a role in neutralising toxic accumulations in the system. A couple of weeks should show a remedial difference, but it can take four to six months to fully kick in.

Pain-relief Cuppa
Camellia sinensis, which is the source of green and black tea, contains nine muscle-relaxing compounds, while the tops of meadowsweet are packed with pain-suppressing salicylic acid.

Depending on how strong you like your tea, add a teaspoon or tablespoon each of tea leaves and chopped meadowsweet to a pint of boiling water. Steep for a minimum of 5 minutes before straining. Honey and lemon are OK to flavour it with, but sip without milk or sugar. This is delicious as iced tea too.

About The Holistic Gardener

author of wellness books, columnist, keynote speaker.
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