By Gina Mohammed, Ph.D.
Healthy Oils Help Relieve Aches and Pains
Gamma-linolenic acid is one of the good fats. It may help the body produce the kinds of prostaglandins and leukotrienes (hormone-like substances that influence the immune system and many other processes) that can reduce inflammation. It curbs rheumatoid arthritic pain, relieving morning stiffness and joint tenderness. Some evidence indicates that GLA also can help migraine headaches and mild diabetic nerve damage. Borage (Borago officinalis) and black currant (Ribes nigrum) seed oils are the richest sources of GLA, containing up to 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively, while evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), a traditional source, delivers 7 percent to 10 percent. 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 is not an overnight fix and may take up to six months for significant relief. Also, long-term use may lead to inflammation, blood clots or decreased immune system functioning. A safe route to introduce a little GLA into your diet is by eating a handful of black currants regularly or spreading the preserves onto your morning toast—you might as well enjoy your medicine!
More Pain-relieving HerbsTo complete your anti-pain arsenal, consider these herbs:
• Arnica (Arnica spp.), available in creams and tablets,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.
• Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic boswellic acids that can soothe pain from sports injuries and also can help osteoarthritic knee pain. Take 150- to 400-mg capsules or tablets (standardized to contain 30 percent to 65 percent boswellic acids) three times daily for two to three months.
• Clove oil (Syzygium aromaticum) is a popular home remedy for a toothache. Apply a drop or two of this excellent anti-inflammatory directly to your aching tooth or tooth cavity.
• Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seeds are stocked with 16 analgesic and 27 antispasmodic chemicals. It makes a pleasant licorice-flavored tea and is especially good for menstrual cramps. But avoid the herb while pregnant or nursing because of its estrogenic effects.
• Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a remedy many people swear by for headaches, including migraines. Feverfew can reduce both the frequency and severity of headaches when taken regularly. It is available in 60-mg capsules of fresh, powdered leaf (1 to 6 capsules daily), or 25-mg capsules of freeze-dried leaf (2 capsules daily). You can also make tea—steep 2 to 8 fresh leaves in boiling water, but do not boil them, since boiling breaks down the active parthenolides.
• Gingerroot (Zingiber officinale) has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate digestive cramps and mild pain from fibromyalgia. You can take 1 to 4 grams powdered ginger daily, divided into two to four doses. Or make tea from 1 teaspoon chopped fresh root simmered in a cup of water for about 10 minutes.
• Green tea (Camellia sinensis) is great for stiff muscles—it has nine muscle-relaxing compounds, more than just about any other plant.
• Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is recommended by the German Commission E for sore throat. Not surprising, considering its nine anesthetic, 10 analgesic and 20 anti-inflammatory compounds. To make tea, simmer about 2 teaspoons of dried root in a cup of water for 15 minutes; strain. Do not take licorice if you have high blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes, kidney disease or glaucoma.
• Oregano (Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) are herbs you should be sprinkling liberally onto your food, as they are replete with analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory compounds. (Oregano alone has 32 anti-inflammatories!) Mix and match these garden herbs into a pain-relieving tea: Pour a cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of dried herbs, steep 5 to 10 minutes and strain.