Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain


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The Hidden Dangers of Dry Mouth

Man getting back from vacation and switching gears makes it hard to get in a groove, and it seems nothing is right until about the second week you are back 2 weeks and everything falls into place and the fires go out. Halloween and holiday season is gearing up, and then our wedding anniversary snuck up on us and another weekend was lost to fun and relaxing times. Not that it was a bad thing but that definitely took a chunk out of my writing time ūüėÄ

I had a major blow to my pride recently, for almost 33 years I kept my pearly whites pearly, and the only work I had done on them was braces. I found out this week I have my first cavity and 2 trying to start. The dentist’s first question was –

“Do you have a really dry mouth?”

Well, I never used to, but the pain medications I am taking now definitely makes me dehydrated, but I hydrate with lots of water all the time (was my answer). It turns out that dry mouth is a lurking side effect that we all take as minor, when it really turns out to be a major issue.

I had no idea! I knew good oral hygiene was vital and I attempted to keep up my routine as best as possible. I¬†brush and floss as regularly as I can, despite my work from home jim-jams lifestyle, and the days where I am crippled in pain I can’t do anything but throw up and tell myself “this one will pass right? the others have…” I try to not let painOral hygiene is important but if you are suffering from a chronic pain disorder a lot of the medications will dry your mouth out. So big deal, just a little dry mouth right? Totally wrong.¬†

Oh so very wrong!

Oh so very wrong!

I thought I was safe and doing the right things, until my recent dentist check up. The previous question was asked, and I got the bad news that my teeth had been compromised. The Dentist told me that I had fantastic teeth and it was just the dry mouth that had led to my predicament.

Dry mouth is, I suspect, a major reason I see so often on support boards and support groups that “teeth are destroyed” or “major dental issues” are happening to a lot of the people with chronic pain disorders since a lot of medications dry you out or have dry mouth as a side effect.

I have great teeth I always thought, of course I won’t have dental issues. I have never even had a cavity, and I take calcium, I won’t be like one of the people I see posting about losing teeth. Plus I hydrate! Well friends, just that is not enough! Dry mouth removes the natural defense of your mouth, saliva is part of the constant cleaning system that helps prevent bacteria from over running things and attacking your enamel. Swallowing and the action of the tongue during swallowing is all part of this cleaning system. So, if there is no saliva, there is basically no vinegar¬†on your windows, and you are left scrubbing away with only newspaper. If you have ever cleaned windows, or mirrors, without some sort of chemical solution, you find quickly it doesn’t work very well. And same goes for saliva missing from the mouth, this constant washing mechanism helps prevent bacterial or worse, fungal (like Thrush), outbreaks as it¬†cleans it¬†keeps everything in check.

High bacterial outbreaks mean they produce more acids, bacteria sort of “poos” acids, which breaks down the enamel in your teeth. Teeth are the hardest substance in the body, so much so that often Anthropologists and Archaeologists only have teeth to go on for extinct hominids and primates since that is all that lasted in the harsh environments to exist in the fossil record. They are incredibly strong, and their outer coating of enamel is what makes them so time proof. This enamel though, is weak to acids, and long term exposure makes the teeth tacky and this is pretty much the start of a cavity. This tacky state can lead to deep cavities, tooth breakage, painful and expensive dental procedures, and in the worst cases dentures.¬†For a simple explanation, here is a little video.

So if you have a chronic pain condition brushing isn’t enough to combat the dry mouth symptoms, and could even aggravate it further!

“So what do I do?”

Well right off my Dentist suggested a product that you can get at most drug and grocery stores called Biotene. I got a sample and it seems to work OK, it doesn’t completely fix my dry mouth but hey, it was free! The best price! It IS expensive to keep using, and the mouthwash I find feels like minty saliva from a bottle. Plus, it isn’t the most natural thing to do. So I thought I would find my own way to treat my dry mouth and did a lot of research.

So here are a few diet and habit changes you can make to help combat dry mouth:

  • Hydrate! –¬†You should be anyway but keep as much water in you as possible
  • Avoid alcohol – alcoholic drinks, mouthwashes, anything with peroxide in it, any of these can dry the mouth out. Avoid them when making or purchasing oral care products.
  • Avoid salty foods & spicy foods – salt drys things out, and so does most spicy food.
  • Avoid caffeine – same as salt, its a diuretic.
  • Wear lip balm/chap-stick – it helps soothe things and ease dry mouth irritation. I have a special lip balm I have made that helps a lot that I will post about later.
  • Avoid acidic things – pineapple juice, grapefruit, tomato, anything that stings if you have a cut in your mouth is what you want to avoid.
  • Chew sugar-free gum, suck on ice or hard candy/lozenges – these help to stimulate saliva flow, any sucking or chewing motion will stimulate the salivary glands.
  • Use a humidifier – they are great to have and help with migraines, get one or two!
  • Soft toothbrush! – Gentle, gentle, gentle with your mouth, treat it softly. Think about getting a waterpik/water flosser too!

Being the curious sort though, I did talk to a lot of women that I know that has gone through “the change” and asked them what they use to treat their dry mouths, and others that had problems with dry mouth due to medications. A lot of them told me “Oh I tried that Biotene stuff, and it never worked!” So of course the follow up was, “What do you use?”

Number one answer was! *drum roll*

Oil Pulling!

Now I must say I am not advocating oil pulling just on it’s own, you need to combine this with brushing your teeth with a non-irritating tooth powder¬†or paste. You can make home made (another post), or you can use pre-made like Biotene, Tom’s, or even the YL product line.¬†Which¬†I have heard¬†good things on all of these toothpastes for dry mouth treatment, though Tom’s seems to be the bottom of the fan scale, with biotene in the middle, youngliving products and oddly old fashioned tooth powder as the most preferred. The only requirement of the tooth cleaning material is that it is non-drying, non-irritating. Then, after you brush and of course floss, you do your oil pulling. Think of it like sweeping your floors before you mop.

Now if you are a novice in this the first thing you need to know is you can NOT spit your oil in the sink or toilet, it goes in the trash. DO NOT swallow the oil either, it will contain all the gunk you are trying to get out so putting it further in the body only makes things worse. Also it needs to be done for at least 20 minutes, so¬†it is best to do it with your teeth routine since I learned you can do it on the go. A lady I spoke to who is a huge fan of oil pulling said she just takes an old grocery bag with her in her pocket if she leaves the house and will go shopping while she swishes! Then when done she just nips into a restroom, spits it out into her bag, and done!¬†Oil pulling won’t cure cancer, like some people claim, but I know that a good friend of mine use it to help treat her wisdom tooth pain, and she swears by it for all sorts of mouth related issues.

The reason this works is that bacteria generally have a membrane surrounding them that is made of lipids, which is fat. Oil is made of lipids (also fat) and you are basically swishing bacteria glue around in your mouth, they can’t help but bind to the oil. Then when you spit it out you are removing that bacteria, as well as moisturizing the delicate¬†skin of your gums and mouth. You can even rub vitamin E oil directly on your gums to help with inflammation and healing! Though this is an ancient remedy, dating back possibly about 3,000 years or more, it is still relevant and shown by the limited clinical studies that there is a real value to using this Ayurvedic traditional cure.

You want to use about a tablespoon of oil and swish it around in your mouth, if you can’t take that, its fine use less it is just enough for you to swish around easily. There are some oils that work better than others studies have found, Sunflower, Sesame and Coconut seem to be the top three oils that work the best for this sort of thing since they remove plaque, and help heal and clean the teeth. Also vitamin E oil and Olive seem to be close followers to the top three. You can buy pre-made Ayurvedic oils for pulling as well, that are sort of like a prescription for your body type (which I found to be highly spoken of). But you can probably get your hands on one of the above a lot easier (and sometimes cheaper). You don’t have to swish hard either, just a gentle swish from side to side in the mouth, occasionally sucking the oil through the teeth. The longer time spent swishing, the more gunk you pull out, so try to go as long as you can the first time since it can take some building up to go the full 20.

But, like Levar Burton says, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

You can read more from WebMD on oil pulling here and you can watch this video on oil pulling.

Fermented Foods!

Yup they aren’t just good for helping you get your vitamins¬†or helping you go by putting good bacteria back into your gut. This bacteria is also good for your mouth, and it can help if you have chronic bad breath that isn’t related to your teeth (gut smell can do that).¬†This can also help prevent outbreaks of fungal infections like Thrush, which no one wants Thrush. Plus it is an excuse to eat sauerkraut and kimchi all ¬†you want! wooo!

Again, the best thing to do is keep your teeth clean, brush regularly, after meals too. Floss gently, preferably with a water flossing device. Use no alcohol or peroxide mouthwashes, see your Dentist regularly. Watch your diet and add in some of these easy additional care steps and you should be able to be happy and healthy even without a pain condition.

Remember everyone’s body is different, experiment find the oils and combinations that work best for you and your body. Educate yourself, no one is going to do it for you and if you are in doubt at all in the slightest, ask a professional!

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Best Homemade Deodorant!

I guess you could say I have gone fully crunchy? I think that’s the term those wacky kids use these days *curmudgeons and shakes cane.* But mostly, I am thrifty, read as “cheap.” Making deodorant is super cheap, doesn’t take much time at all, and if you don’t want to bother with hand applications you can put it into twist-up tube for as good as store bought goodness. Best part is you can customize the smells to you as well as add in oils that will help you out. You know how I love efficient & double duty things! Also – huzzah making everything!

wooooo

Make all the efficient things!

When I tell people I make my deodorant they always joke about smell, but none of them noticed I had made the switch…this time. I had previously tried different things, I really did not care for the Tom’s deodorant – I felt like it was too thin and wore off after just an hour and it was smell city after that. I have tried a few other products and the two I have found work best are spray deodorants, and deodorants I have made myself. You need some basic ingredients and¬†knowledge of the simple chemistry behind why they work. The husband has obligingly sniffed my armpits and he has given the full approval of no smells for these recipes (which Tom’s got a horrible face and a “UGH” so this has to be a good sign).

Deodorizing – Baking Soda

This is your friend if you don’t want to smell, no one likes being smelly. But why do you smell? Well your body sweats to cool itself, and in the armpits there are 2 types of sweat glands the eccrine¬†and apocrine. Eccrine are the normal cooling sweat, mostly water and salt comes out of them and they help with evaporation. Apocrine glands generally are around hair follicles, and these release a more oily, or a sweat that has fat in it. They also happen to be those sweat glands that kick in when you are stressed out or nervous.

This oily sweat is a good food source for some single celled organisms, and bacteria in our armpits start to consume it. As they eat and the fatty substances are broken down they make waste which is acidic, and this starts to smell (the nasty smells in decomposition are from the production of acids from fats breaking down). So washing is always your first defense against armpit funk, no scent will mask this odor no matter how much you use. I am looking at you I-wear-too-much-patchouli person, thinking “I don’t smell like horrible.”

You do, you smell like a locker room full of teenage boys that have been sweating all day and then rolled about in a vat of patchouli. You aren’t fooling anyone.

Stop it you are only hurting the good name of patchouli.

So why baking soda? Or sodium bicarbonate as it is known in the chemistry nerd talk. If you remember your school days chemistry, baking soda is a base. If you mix a base and an acid, in the right amounts, they can neutralize each other that means the pH becomes closer to water, or neutral. You also get chemical reactions (think what happens when you add baking soda and vinegar) which creates new chemicals that are detrimental or unusable to bacteria attempting to chow down on your oily sweat. Baking soda has been around for ages, it was part of natron used to mummify bodies in ancient Egypt, and is naturally occurring. It has been used for ages to clean bodies, hair (great for dry shampooing), homes (baking soda will clean just about anything), and in modern times it even helps prevent a smelly fridge just by sitting around. It has also been well known for more than 50 years as being a great way to deodorize lots of things especially stinky humans. I even use it in my cat boxes and boy does it help! So baking soda is one of the best ingredients to add to a DIY deodorant. It is also Рsafe, (again) naturally occurring, cheap (3 $US for a giant box) and it mercilessly starves and slaughters stinky bacteria. Woo slaughter!

SensitiveSkinProTip: If you have sensitive skin, baking soda can be irritating you may need to increase your thickener or reduce the baking soda if you have irritation. You can make up for the loss of this bacteria fighting power with essential oils.

Absorbent Powder –¬†Corn Starch or Arrowroot Powder

These are more than just thickeners by adding corn starch or arrowroot powder to you baking soda mix it helps ease some of the irritation that baking soda could cause to the more sensitive skin types. This also helps absorb sweat as well leaving you feeling dry and comfortable, when water and these powders mix you get a non-Newtonian fluid. This is some wibbly-wobbly, slimey-wimey stuff. It is a solid and a liquid, all at once! And loads of fun to play with, but is also fantastic at absorbing moisture from your armpit areas. That means that you should stay dry and comfortable all day. And, may I just say, if you never did it in school, mix water and corn starch (or arrowroot powder) and let the fun begin! If you are too lazy to do so watch the video and be amazed! SCIENCE!

Science overload bitches!

Science overload bitches!

Essential Oils

Basil, eucalyptus, orange, lemon, lime, lemon grass, frankincense, tea tree (melaleuca), peppermint, thyme, oregano, lavender, geranium, marjoram, clove, rosemary, clary sage, bergamot, pine, black pepper, sage, cedar wood, vanilla,¬†sandalwood and of course, patchouli. All of these oils work well on their own, or blended together. Really this is up to you, what smells good to you, or if you want to add in some oils that help with pain or anything else (skin conditions, etc). You can make a chai smelling one, which can help with antibacterial as well as smelling fantastic (for chai equal amounts of black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, optionally add star anise or other anise-like oil). Or manly smells like frankincense, cedar wood, lemon grass, black pepper and sage can be mixed and matched into a deodorant that doesn’t smell “girly.”

But wait! There’s more! These oils I listed don’t just help make you smell nice, they all have anti-bacterial properties, so that means they can also help to keep body smells under control. So you read that right, they help you smell good, they can help with pain, AND they can keep you from smelling like a comic book store on table top gaming night.

Fancy Stuff

This is where you get to add that fancy pants stuff in, things like oils (coconut works best due to its going solid at room temperature, but you can use small amounts of others for moisturizing) cocoa butter, shea butter, clay, beeswax and anything else you would like to add. Aloe can be added to create a more gel like deodorant, I am working on a gel that can work for a twist up tube as well. Butters like shea and cocoa help with moisturizing and keeping irritation from baking soda or from shaving down, coconut oil does the same as well, and all three help form a convenient paste with the powders for ease of application. You can also use things like bentonite clay, which is highly absorbent if you are one of those that sweats a lot, beeswax helps to sort of bind things like coconut oil and makes it more solid for ease of application if you are going with the twist bottles. Beeswax also helps retain shape if you live in a hot place like Texas!

Recipes

Lets start with the harder ones, which will be followed by ones that anyone can make from things that you would likely have around the house.

Spray Deodorant

  • Spray bottle
  • 2 parts Witch hazel, rubbing alcohol or grain alcohol
  • 1 part aloe vera gel
  • 10 drops Essential oils per ounce of liquid
  • Baking soda –¬†¬Ĺ teaspoon per 1 cup of witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, or grain alcohol)

For a spray bottle, check out your local stores travel section there are lots of empties around there that are great for spray deodorant, but a spray bottle with a mist setting is just as good. Mix the baking soda and witch hazel (or alcohol) well, make sure to crush and completely dissolve all lumps. Combine liquid with aloe vera, if you are using natural aloe from the leaf (or even if not) you may want to give it a blitz in your food processor or blender. Add essential oils, and put in a spray container. Spray on and allow to dry, if you don’t like how long that takes, omit the aloe. This works very well with vanilla, cedar wood, and lemon grass scents since they can stand well on their own. Frankincense, lemon, and clary sage are also good.

Jar or Stick Deodorant

  • 1 part Baking soda
  • 1 part Corn starch or arrowroot powder (see directions¬†for clay modifications)
  • 1 part “Fancy” stuff (see below for breakdown)
  • 10 drops Essential oil per ounce

Mix the powders well, if you want to include clay reduce the corn starch or arrowroot to a half measure and make up the rest with clay. Then add 1 part “fancy” stuff, that would be coconut oil, or other items to the mix. This is where it gets a little more complicated.

If you want to form these into cakes or into a twist up bottle you will need add something that solidifies things more what I use is shea butter (or cocoa), coconut oil, and beeswax all in equal amounts to make this last 1 part. That means if you have 1 ounce baking soda, 1 ounce corn starch, then you will need 0.3 ounces of shea butter (or cocoa), 0.3 ounces of coconut oil, and 0.3 ounces of beeswax. Melt the beeswax and the oil and shea butter (or cocoa) in a double boiler (I like the mason jar in a water bath idea, since any that doesn’t fit in the containers¬†can just be stored with the lid on for later use) once melted and blended well, add in the powders and combine thoroughly. Add essential oils, allow to cool slightly and then pour into your twist up container. If you are making a cake sort, pour into a muffin tin dusted with corn starch.

If you want to use a jar for this, you may want to reduce the amount of beeswax and increase the oil or butters you are using so that you have a creamy paste you can apply to your under arms. You make it the same way as the stick sort just with less, or without the beeswax. You can add aloe to this one too just make sure its pureed well if you are using it straight from the leaf.

ProContainerTip: You can order empty deodorant bottles online (BPA free even), or you can just wash and reuse one you have already. Jars are also easy to get and you can reuse pretty much any convenient container to hold this deodorant. I find the easiest way to figure out how much volume each container has is to fill it with water and weigh it, or pour the water into a very precise measuring cup.

Some of my solid twist up deodorant with some oils :)

Some of my solid twist up deodorant with some oils ūüôā

Now on to the easy ones that you can make from things you should have just around the house.

Lazy Dry Deodorant

  • 1 part Baking Soda
  • 1 part Corn Starch or Arrowroot powder

Put it in a container and shake well, apply with talcum puff, cotton balls, old baby powder bottle, or the good old hands. This works if you are desperate, but it doesn’t make me feel secure about not being smelly which is more mental than the actual performance. You do need to reapply though I feel since it just doesn’t do the job for an extended period of time.

Lazy Spray Deodorant

  • Witch hazel, rubbing alcohol or grain alcohol, enough to fill your container
  • 10 drops Essential oils per ounce of liquid
  • Baking soda (slightly optional)
  • Spray container

Mix the baking soda with the liquids, you don’t have to use it if you have sensitive skin, or you just don’t like it. But I suggest using it since it really does a great job at odor control. Add essential oils, pour it all in the spray container and you are good to go!

If you don’t want to bother making¬†it and are in the Austin area support local Green Skunk¬†they make a great product I have tested them out and they really work and are all natural.

Lazy Cream Deodorant

  • Coconut oil
  • 1 part Baking soda
  • 1 part Corn starch, arrowroot powder

Mix the powders well, and heat coconut oil, you want 2 tablespoons of oil per 1 cup of the soda and starch mix. Mix well until you have a uniform paste, you can increase or decrease the oil to reach a consistency you like. Pour into a jar, and apply with fingers.

There is a lot of stuff added to deodorants these days, and¬†while the scientific juries are still out on just exactly how bad a lot of that stuff is for you, why not know all the things in your deodorant? Plus it is really satisfying to make it yourself. Did I mention it was cheap? It also usually doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to whip up a batch. ūüôā

Remember everyone’s body is different, experiment see what works for you and what scents and products work with your body best!


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Bumps, Bruises, Sprains and Pulled Muscles Salve

Oh the rain in Spain is mainly falling on our Texas plains. Which has been murder for my head, and body, though not nearly as crippling as usual since I found a new way to help combat it (which will be the subject of an upcoming post) and it has seriously slowed down my experiments and research on Licorice, which will be the topic of my next post. So to tied you over I figured I could share a little about myself, and a nice little fix for some general injuries and pain that anybody with or without a pain condition could have. You gotta make sure you take care of those little bumps and bruises so you can handle the big stuff. Plus all those scars and bumps add character.

Cause all I know how to be is like a boss.

Cause all I know how to be is like a boss.

Now, if you don’t already know, I am always a sucker for a sob story, and I am exactly the sort of lady that brings home or rescues any stray or injured animal. I am still being made fun of the baby opossum I rescued, he was just so cute and helpless, I mean look at his widdle face!

Awww lil possum snuggled into my jacket! He was successfully released from the rescue center and will live his lil possum-y life in the wild because I saved him ūüôā

Well,¬†maybe that is a face that only a mother and/or a crazy animal lady could love, but I know what I am ūüôā and I am OK with that.

I have a student in the school who injured his shoulder pretty badly (he does other martial arts) and that was sort of what prompted me to write this post, since I had to make more for him to help with the pain. Also since my husband and I have not been able to have kids yet (hopefully), I tend to adopt people to mother that I feel need some extra love. We took in and “adopted” a young gentleman that had suffered some of the cruel shunning practices that are a part of some sects of a certain type of book religion. I couldn’t stand seeing his rejection and “adopted” him, and now he is like a son to me. He was recently injured, his shoulder while playing soccer, and the pain was bothering him and wouldn’t go away. Both him and my husband are soccer players and soccer fans (Come on Arsenal!), which means both end up with bumps, bruises, scrapes, sprains and all sorts of soccer related injuries. We are also¬†very active in martial arts, and while T’ai Ch’i isn’t high impact and not prone to injury, my husband does a harder style and the usual sports injuries occur there too. Though the soccer ones always seem worse…

This was the top google image for “soccer injury,” I don’t think the salve will fix this though….

So I started making salves to help with those issues. I made the first batch fortuitously, since it happened to be right when my “adopted” son had hurt his shoulder and he said that this helped more than using tiger balm, and other things, for reliving pain and helping it heal. It is also great for bruises, sprains, or any injury you get where bruising and swelling is present.

ProMuscleSpasmTip: If you have a muscle spasm that is really giving you sass, use the salve and a lacrosse ball. Rub the salve in well then have a friend rub the spasmed muscle with a lacrosse ball giving firm pressure. If you don’t have a friend put the ball on the wall or ground and use your body weight or your body pressure to press firmly into the complaining muscle.

What do you put in a Pain Salve?

The best thing for bruising and pain is Arnica, so this is one of the first things I grab when I am going to make something to help with bruising. Arnica is also great for alleviating swelling as an anti-inflammatory since it has helenalin. This will also take care of making bruises disappear faster, since no one likes unsightly bruises. Then you have wintergreen, wintergreen is a fantastic natural pain reliever since it has methyl salicylate, and reduces inflammation.

Another ingredient I use is copaiba, as resin or oil though I find oil easier, if you use resin use about teaspoon up to half a tablespoon, and reduce the amount of beeswax by the same amount you add. Another good oil to add is peppermint, which helps to warm and soothe tired muscles, and help alleviate pain as well, with the wintergreen this will be nice and minty spicy, and not good for applications near the eyes.

If the addition of peppermint is too much you can always substitute another oil, recently I used JuvaFlex blend oils, since it I had a bottle lying around I hadn’t been using and it had a lot of oils in it that were great for injuries that I could add in small amounts. It has a lot of stuff¬†¬†in a carrier oil, things like – fennel,¬†rosemary, Roman chamomile, geranium, blue tansy, and helichrysum. You could add any of these individually but you would want to keep the addition to about 10 drops. Tarragon I add to help numb and ease the pain, and it helps warm and soothe the area as well.

Bumps, Bruises, Sprains & Pulled Muscles Salve

  • 2¬†¬Ĺ¬†tablespoon Coconut oil
  • ¬Ĺ¬†tablespoon Arnica infused oil
  • 1 tablespoon¬†Beeswax, granulated or grated
  • 10 drops Wintergreen¬†essential oil
  • 10 drops Copaiba essential oil (you could use resin, just use less beeswax)
  • 10 drops Peppermint essential oil
  • 10 drops Tarragon essential oil

Add beeswax and oil to a double boiler (a mason jar set in a pan of water works best I’ve found), and stir well. When thoroughly combined remove from heat, and add essential oils. Pour into two 2 ounce tins, and allow to cool. This has less beeswax, so it will be less solid than the rosacea salve I wrote about last, so it will spread easier and work better for massaging into sore muscles. More like the consistency of Tiger Balm (which if you are not big on the DIY thing is a great pre-made muscle pain salve). Remember, wash your hands after application and don’t touch your eyes or sensitive skin areas with this or it will be unpleasant.

You can modify this as your injury requires, and if you are looking for lots of warmth, you can always add capsaicin in for some extra heat kick. You can use different oils, whatever suits your needs and/or fancy.

Always do a patch test to make sure you don’t have any reactions to the ingredients before applying to large areas of the body. You should always check WebMD for interactions with any medications you might be taking with any ingredients you use, and remember educate yourself and do your own experiments. No one can educate you for you, you have to do it yourself. Remember if you have any doubts what so ever you should always ask a professional!


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The Curse of the Celts, Rosacea

My poor long suffering husband, who does so much to care for me, suffers a lot of stress. Stress is a major trigger for rosacea, which he has on his cheeks, and the more stress he has the redder his rosacea gets and sometimes it spreads. Now I don’t think he looks any less handsome, he is just wonderful no matter what, but after suffering from horrendous acne as a teen,¬†I know what it is like to have a face you feel uncomfortable about. So I rolled up my sleeves and decided to make a salve for him to help with this.

Rosacea is a very old and well known skin disorder, nicknamed the “Curse of the Celts” due to a belief it has a higher rate of occurrence in the British Isles, or Northern European descent. My husband being of Black Irish and Welsh descent is unfortunately of the right genetics to inherit this skin issue. Though is is being found that it is more common in other genetic groups but people with fairer skin tend to be more susceptible to it, and the redness shows more. Oh the curse of being pasty white!

An Old Man and his Grandson painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio in about 1490. His rosacea is unmistakably displayed on his nose.

In France, since it was thought to be linked to hard drinking (though now we know it is just a trigger that can worsen symptoms), it was known as “pustule de vin” or “pimples of wine.” Rembrandt had it, and painted his symptoms in great detail.

Rembrandt never left out any details of his skin affliction.

Bill Clinton as well had it and was unable to hide its effects from the camera during his terms. Shakespeare references the skin issue in Henry IV part 1 & 2 and Henry V, and one of my favorite author/poets, the delightfully rude Geoffrey Chaucer, mentions it in the prologue to the Summoners Tale.

A somnour was ther with us in that place,

That hadde a fyr-reed cherubbines face,

For sawcefleem he was, with eyen narwe.

As hoot he was and lecherous as a sparwe,

With called brows blake and piled berd;

Of his visage children were a ferd.

Ther nas quik-silver, litharge ne brimstoon,

Boras, ceruce ne oille of tartre noon,

Ne oynement that woulde clense and byte,

That him might helpen of his whelkes whyte,

Nor of the knobbes sittinge on his chekes.

Wel loved he garleek, oynons and eek lekes,

And for to drinken stron wyn red as blood.

Which describes well the symptoms of rosacea, and blames it on his diet of garlic, onions, leeks, and hard drinking of blood red wine. As well as having too much salt phlegm (sawcefleem) in his constitution, and that nothing available at the time to treat it could reduce the obvious symptoms of the skin condition. Luckily, in modern times we have many more options for treatments and it is much easier to control the symptoms than in the days of Chaucer or Rembrandt.

Rosacea is redness on the face, usually cheeks, chin, around the eyes, and forehead are most affected, but it can go to the chest and other places. It can be just redness of the skin, to pustules, papules, dilation of blood vessels close to the surface of the skin, red & gritty eyes, as well as¬†Rhinophyma¬†which is what causes the enlargement and hardening of the skin on and around the nose. Which as you can imagine doesn’t do a lot for self esteem when you look in the mirror, and if left untreated rosacea can spread and become a real issue.

Now before I get into the salve making for treating this,¬†I thought I would go over a few triggers for rosacea, since while it isn’t physically painful it does stem from mental pain, and like migraines can come from environmental or food triggers. Known rosacea triggers are:

  • Sun exposure – so wear those hats and sunscreen
  • Emotional stress – stress kills, and causes so many issues in the body. Reducing stress, and trying to avoid it when you can is a good way to prevent flare ups. Which if you have a partner that suffers from chronic pain, this may be harder to avoid, try seeking out care giver support groups, or speaking with people that have spouses that suffer. Knowing there are people out there that are going through what you go through helps.
  • Alcohol – this seems to cause the most flare ups from what I have seen, but every person is different. Try to avoid or limit your alcohol intake
  • Weather/Environment¬†– hot, cold, wind, humidity, lack of humidity, all the elements outside (and some inside) can trigger flare ups, so try to avoid too much exposure to extreme weather.
  • Foods – spicy foods, stimulants (coffee, tea, etc.) all of these can cause flare ups they have less of an effect in some cases than others. Try an elimination diet, and see if a specific type of food is causing your flare ups.

How to Treat Rosacea

Now there are some foods though that help with rosacea, number one is probiotics – which I went over in my post about helping with how to care for your gut and issues with lack of pooping. Probiotics we have found to help a lot, and I put them in as much food as I can for him, even his butter. It made a huge difference, he had a bad bout with it where it spread and pustules started to appear, and after we started the probiotic regimen a lot of the pustules reduced in size or disappeared.

You can also use, and guys you will have to get over what it is marketed as used for, yeast infection cream. You want to purchase a cream with 2% or more (preferably 4%) of Miconazole Nitrate. Now I know this seems silly, it is supposed to go on lady parts as it says on the box, so think outside of the box! The level of medication used in most stuff for lady parts is a lot stronger than what you can buy for treating other yeast blooms on the skin. That means the infamous jock itch or athletes foot can be much better battled with this than other over the counter preparations made specifically for those issues. Since it is an anti-fungal, this can also battle ringworm! So many uses for just one over the counter product! Five in one!

You’re flippin’ right Moss!

But we have, in our experiments, found what seems to be the best topical way to treat this, and has had some seriously amazing results. It has improved enough to where he is just taking probiotics and using this salve, and it is difficult to get him to use even an aspirin and he uses the salve everyday without complaint. So must be working right?! Also, since he has very sensitive skin this is a very bespoke salve, but you can adapt it easily for yourself with some of the notes I include below the recipe.

Rosacea Salve

  • 1 ounce Beeswax, grated or pellets
  • 1 ounce Coconut oil (Shea butter or Cocoa butter, something moisturizing)
  • 10 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 10 drops Rosemary essential oil
  • 10 drops Pine essential oil
  • 10 drops of German chamomile essential oil

Melt the beeswax and oil in a double boiler, again I really like the mason jar technique now that I have discovered it since scrubbing this out of bowls is a real pain in the behind, so you can dedicate a mason jar to each salve and prevent cross contamination from a poor scrub job. Once you have the wax and oil sufficiently melted and blended, remove from the heat and add essential oils and stir in well.

This is designed for two 2 ounce tins, and you can modify this to fit any container by using 1 part beeswax to 1 part moisturizer (coconut oil, cocoa butter, or shea butter). You can also use pine resin for this instead of essential oil, but you would want to reduce your beeswax by half and make the rest up with the resin.

Now if you are less sensitive skinned than my dear husband, you can use Roman chamomile, or even Tea Tree oil. We found though for him, Tea Tree is much too drying and causes irritation. Frankincense is also a good option here, but he just doesn’t care for the smell and we found it didn’t do as much for him as the other oils.

Why This Works

The lavender helps to reduce the red, and inflammation, and is great for just generally healing the skin. The rosemary which is also antiseptic, antibacterial, and it has vitamin E which is fantastic for the skin. Pine helps as an anti-everything in fighting fungal and anything else that could be creeping about on the skin as well as providing vitamin A and E which are fantastic for healing scars and skin issues. Pine also provides yet another anti-inflammatory to help calm the skin inflammation. German chamomile is gentle and helps to sooth the skin like the lavender, and is a better anti-inflammatory than the more astringent Roman.

The chamomile and lavender also help to reduce stress, and soothe the mind, which I know he needs with everything he has to go through. I often tell him that I think this is worse for him than for me, since I just have to get through the pain, he is the one that has to watch the person he loves suffer and is helpless to do anything to ease my suffering. So it makes me feel better that I am helping him fight that in some small way. Plus the less noticeable it is the happier he is, and more confident he feels, and what is better than that?

Remember to check for any interactions for these ingredients¬†on WebMD,¬†and always do test patches for any salves or topical preparations to make sure you don’t have and adverse reaction. Reducing stress is important and exercise, diet, and a good nights sleep is all important for keeping stress at bay. Meditative practices too, he has started doing Tai Chi himself and I like to think it helps him. Most importantly, see a dermatologist, self diagnosing can lead to improper treatment we consulted one first to make sure what we thought was rosacea really was that and not something else. So, if you aren’t officially diagnosed, ask a professional!


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Devil’s Claw

Lots of things happening, and I have had a severe downturn with spasms in my face making things very difficult when it comes to eating and, well, functioning overall since it feels like my head is trapped in this perpetual vice. But I am still getting around and cramming as much life into my better than bad days as I can!

Nobody.

You are right Sweet Brown, nobody.

Like Fishfuddle, this has a scary sounding name, but unlike it Devil’s Claw is much less hazardous while just as helpful. Devil’s Claw, or for you people that like Latin names,¬†Harpagophytum procumbens,¬†which¬†is found through much of¬†Africa and¬†has been known there for ages and used to treat a wide range of illnesses, fever, malaria, stomach issues, constipation, but mostly used to treat various inflammatory pain issues. It was well known for treating diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, and it is its anti-inflammatory abilities that make this a great herb to use to treat a lot of pain issues.

Devil's claw, it would almost look harmless if you didn't know those light parts will dry hard and spiky.

Devil’s claw, it would almost look harmless if you didn’t know those light parts will dry hard and spiky.

The parts of the plants used are the large roots, but this herb gets its name from it’s seed case.¬†Which looks like a wicked painful thing to step on.

Dem spikes.

It is also known by other names like grapple plant and wood spider. Which I think accurately describe this vicious looking spiked pod. It is a craftily designed shape though, which David Attenborough explains in his informative dulcet tones.

Africa was lucky enough to have this plant readily¬†available and it was used in Africa for centuries. Then, later on in history, there was an uprising against the German colonialism and it is a pretty horrible story to read, but it allowed the interaction (according to myth) between a local healer and a soldier/farmer,¬†a guy named G. H. Mehnert. It seems that this is a constructed legend that has possibly been debunked.¬†What we do know for sure is that it did make its way to Germany, and then had a boom in interest during the 1970’s in Europe. It was quickly noted that it treated inflammatory diseases, and it grew in popularity, sometimes to where demand could not be met with supply in some areas.

It has started to gain more interest as it is studied more, and has had promising results in treating back pain as well as rheumatoid arthritis and other arthritis like disorders. Of course there isn’t enough evidence to say 100% this is the best thing to do but it looks like this could be a new promising direction for new anti-inflammatories and treatment for back pain and even possibly migraines. The active chemicals that seems to be the source of the plants ability are¬†harpagoside (an iridoid glycoside – which chemicals common in medicinal plants), procumbide¬†(also iridoid glycoside) and plant sterols (which are basically plant steroids – think similar to cortisone). These have all been studied and results are, again not 100%, but looks good. The current theories are that like some NSAIDS the chemicals in Devil’s claw¬†block the uptake of the chemicals the body releases to start inflammation, so that means it would behave similar to a COX-2 inhibitor. There is a caution though that comes with this, it has been found in some people to aggravate stomachs, and could cause irritation with ulcers. Also it can thin blood so if you are on blood thinners, or are doing anything were blood thinning could be dangerous, make sure you consult or notify your doctors, which ever applies best.

As I said earlier it is the tubers produced by this plant that has the medicinal properties, and you can actually find quite a few pre-made preparations in teas, pills, extracts and other forms. If you go this route, make sure you are following the directions on the box, or if you are taking extracts no more than 500 mgs of a 5% extract 3 times a day.

If you have the raw herb it is best to use this as a tea,which is a great way to deal with pain and inflammation that is chronic, you can drink this once a day and it is a fairly powerful anti-inflammatory, and mild pain reliever.

Devil’s Claw Tea for Pain & Inflammation

  • 2 – 9 grams of Dried roots, chopped roughly
  • 8 oz Boiling water

Steep for at least 8 minutes, maybe 10, and drink once a day. If you are using a pre-made tea, please always follow the directions on the packet.

Tea for Stomach Issues

  • 1 teaspoon of Dried roots, chopped
  • 16 oz Boiling water

Steep for 20 minutes and drink, can be used to alleviate constipation but does also calm stomachs if you have never had, or currently have an ulcer avoid this, or at least consult your doctor first.

Devil’s Claw Tincture

  • Mason jar
  • Devil’s claw root, chopped, enough to fill 3/4 of the jar
  • Grain alcohol, enough to fill the rest of the jar

Cover the dried root with the alcohol, allow to sit in dark undisturbed place for 4-6 weeks. Shaking every day (or when you remember). Strain and bottle in dark bottles, dose is 15-20 drops in water, spoonful of honey, or tea.

If you purchase an extract or a powder, remember to check the percentage of harpagosides, and know the amounts you are taking. If you need an example on how to make your own capsules there is a tutorial at the end of this post about turmeric, another great anti-inflammatory.

There is also an indication that Devil’s claw can help with atherosclerosis, which is something that can happen if you have had a lot of cortisone. So this may be something good to start looking into if you relieve a lot of cortisone injections to help manage your pain.

Remember though everyone’s body is different, do your own research and experiments. Educate yourself no one will do it for you. Check for interactions with medications on places like WebMD, and always remember if you are ever in doubt about anything at all, ask a professional!


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Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are.

“Dime con qui√©n andas y te dir√© qui√©n eres” or in English¬†“tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are,” its an old Spanish proverb. It is one that you should take to heart though, the people you surround yourself with are important. If you surround yourself with negative people, it becomes like a negativity cancer and begins to eat at you from the inside. Surround yourself with people that are positive, and be as positive as possible and your spirits will always be lifted in the darkest hours.

This holds true for everything in life, but it is even more important if you suffer from any sort of chronic pain disorder. If you are in a low place, you need to have as much positive stuff around you as possible. This sounds like something that would be common sense, but we all know that common sense isn’t so common. So how do you do it?

Watch What You Take In –¬†Environment

 

Make it your cardinal rule.

Make it your cardinal rule.

Watch comedians, funny movies (or TV shows), or just movies (or TV shows) that make you happy. Read uplifting, happy, or silly books (Paulo Cohelo’s Alchemist is a great place to start), comics or mangas (or manwhas and all other variants) keep it funny nothing dark. Listen to happy music, or a funny podcast, but make sure it is lighthearted fun, dark humor, while fun now and then, can be OK,¬†but never in a low point. No shows that get you emotional or make you cry or really experience anything but a positive emotion.

You may have to start censoring things, like songs on the radio – song too too sad? Turn that dial! I have started¬†avoiding listening to or watching the news, especially these days news can add more things to be sad than happy about to your day. It may make me a poor subject to discuss current affairs with, but when your load is heavy why add more things to carry? If you DO watch the news, watch fluff pieces, you know cat dress up shows and that sort of thing. You need to wrap yourself visually, audibly and mentally with positive things. Like a warm, fuzzy positive security blanket that will keep the monsters of depression at bay. Put up things around you that make you happy, like art, or make you recall fond memories. Creating things gives the satisfaction of accomplishment, so it doesn’t matter what you make as long as you feel all “yeah I made that!” and are proud about it in the end (this means even if it doesn’t come out right the first time, there is always another go you can have at it).

Do things that bring you pleasure, even if they are small things. Those small things become huge things when you need something happy. Eat a comfort food meal, take yourself out to a movie, for ice cream, parks, zoos, museums, belly dancing shows, whatever blows your hair back! Just make sure it brings you pleasure. On bad days, look out the window every cloud and ray of sunshine is a personal gift to you enjoy it take it in and appreciate it. I have a lot of cardinals that live near me, and there is a superstition that seeing them means you will have a lucky day, when I see one I think about that and even something small like that can bring my thoughts from doom and gloom to happier pastures. Also, exercise daily, and that means even days that hurt. Do some amount of exercise every single day, even if the exercise is a lap or two around the house. Do some yoga, do some meditating, do some Tai Chi, just do something to get the body moving, this is the best way to beat the blues.

Watch What You Take In – People

I meant it, their negative will become yours.

I meant it, their negativity will become yours.

We all know a “negative Nancy” or a “Debbie downer,” or a general moaner and complainer that always is being negative¬†about something. People who complain and want people to generally be as miserable as they are. This sort of person is definitely not the type of person you want to expose yourself to a lot during bad times, or even good times really. People who drag your spirits down¬†when you don’t have enough positive of you own are worse for you than your pain condition (or depression) in my humble non-medical opinion. You need people that tell you the good things, the ones that make you smile and feel good around you to bring you out of your blues.

The people that are unhappy with life, and themselves and want to pull you down into their hole instead of pulling you out, have no business in your life, frankly pain condition or not. Sometimes, as in my life, that means some of your family. I haven’t cut them all out of my life but I do have some that have no re-entry policies, and if I become upset I attempt to extract myself as gracefully as possible from the situation. Sometimes you have to do this, and it does suck. But afterwards, you always know you made a good decision it will become so much easier to be positive without them dragging you down, like a stone tied to your foot while you try to swim. The effect is sometimes instantaneous, like a massive weight being lifted all at once or others it is long and drawn out and difficult – but so worth it in the end.

Remember, you and your happiness is like one of those eggs you get in health class in American High Schools you have to take care of and fail if it gets dropped or cracked. It is fragile, and needs protecting daily and vigilantly. To not do so is to suffer at your own risk.

What if all that doesn’t work?

If you have been doing this and still are having issues, you may want to look into trying Cognitive Therapy it does a lot, and has done a lot for me and people I know in treating their issues (WebMD also has some neat info). If this still doesn’t help you may want to seek the help of a professional. If you need help finding one try searching here or here.


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Chronic Pain is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

I don’t often delve into how I feel about my own illness, some of it is that I mostly try to not think about it. Or try not to every day that I am not experiencing pain to forcefully remind me. It seems to be easiest to just not think about things unless you have to or it all becomes too sad. But to be brutally¬†honest, some days I wish I had a better known and understood condition, I have had a lot of those days lately. I had to find a new chiropractor, and finding any health professional that has worked with someone, or is knowledgeable about my condition is hard enough, but finding people who understand what I have is even harder. You start to wish you have something that is known, anything that is known and treatable, you even begin to envy people with cancer. At least they are treatable and people know what it is, and how to treat you, or at least more would seem to. With CRPS¬†I seem fine on the outside, and no one, but my husband and close friends, knows how hard I work to keep up that appearance. Sometimes I get the mottled skin, and swelling which can be¬†hard to hide. The symptoms are so subtle right now to the casual observer, most would never know anything was wrong with me.

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Remember you can’t always see the pain someone is in.

This frustration is what leads to a lot of what I would call white lies, and the oh so common Southern method of avoidance by not mentioning things. You find yourself avoiding discussing¬†your level of pain, or even saying you have something wrong, since that could lead to a depressing discussion. Or just simply avoid discussing things by answering the compulsory “how are you” questions with some version of “I’m fine,” which most of the time you really aren’t.

When people don’t seem to understand my condition, or when you feel like people can’t understand how you feel about everything that happens to you, it can be extremely frustrating. It is mostly stems from the fact that¬†I have to patiently explain for the nth time what I have, and the why’s and the how’s. The frustration leads to isolation,¬†since there seems like there is no one to talk to¬†to who really understands everything, and a lot of people don’t understand your physical limitations which puts strains on relationships. You begin to become¬†trapped in a double prison, the confines of your living space, and your corporeal prison. If you are at all like me, canceling on anyone already makes you feel badly, but also means you are not able to go out…yet again. Even though you really, really want to. It can be very upsetting to have to cancel things you want to do, even more so when it seems that you have to do it more often than not. Then sometimes people aren’t understanding of you having to cancel, or think you are doing it on purpose. Social life becomes crammed into the good days, and it sometimes hard to not over do things and end up right back where you were.

You start to feel like this

You start to feel like this

Even when it isn’t like that it can feel like it is, but the days you do get to do what you want are so precious it can seem overwhelming. Some days are better than others, and on those days do as much as you can, and try not to overdo things. This year has been a harder year than usual and it has been more difficult to deal with, luckily though I have looked and found a support group and am already feeling¬†more positive about my predicament since there are people out there that are dealing with CRPS in most of their body, like me. I am glad I have more people that I can add to my wonderful support base that I am already more than thankful for.

Sometimes, people can take you discussing your symptoms as giving up, or that I have resigned myself to the worst. I have read about the symptoms and I decided that I will emotionally prepare myself for all that could come my way. Just reading the treatments, especially the ones about amputation, can be scary or a bit of a downer, but I would rather embrace them emotionally now than have them hit me when I am unprepared. That way if the¬†worst ever does¬†happen, I have already mentally prepared for it, and I hope by doing this to not be crushed under anything horrible hitting me unexpectedly. I have been told that my acceptance of symptoms can come off as me giving up. I think it comes from their fear of me giving up, or their fear of my decline, but ultimately it comes from their care for me. So because of that I try to not let it get me down too much, but I think it should be said that if you know someone who has a condition that causes deterioration for their body, encourage them to see that the bits lost does not make them less of a person inside. I have found from personal experience the¬†more you accept them and are at peace with them, the less painful the loss will be. Life will not end with pain, or loss of ¬†limb, or mobility, or anything really. Life goes on in different ways, as the saying goes if one door closes, another opens. Don’t ever give up, it is always worth the fight to keep going even if you have to accept limitations.

roberts-bradstreet-winter

There is the other problem of when you mention a symptom some people jump to conclusions that it is something else and attempt to press you to be treated for something they think you have. Then you have to explain how CRPS is diagnosed and that it is a diagnosis by exclusion, which means you have to rule out any, and everything, it could be that is not CRPS. It is pretty a much less dramatic House episode, lots of tests and “well that is ruled out” sort of thing over months. I know inside that it comes from the hope that it could be the treatable option, and again from a caring place. It can be hard to deal with but, keep reminding yourself (as I do myself) that it comes from love and not to frustrate you.

Overall, yeah it sucks to have what I have, but I still very strongly feel my accident, and my condition, have made me a more peaceful and compassionate person. It has helped me find out who real friends are, ones that you want to keep around you, and the importance of keeping things positive. Try not to dwell on the can’ts, and dwell on the cans. Even I have bad days but there is always tomorrow, and I truly believe that.