Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain


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Pepper, The King of Spices

Migraines, migraines, migraines! Ugh, they sure slow me down¬†but, never stop me ūüôā¬†Luckily, there is black pepper to help with migraines, and it is great for other uses with a long, long history behind it.

I am sure if you went to an American public school that you learned that Columbus sailed the ocean blue, back in 1492, and he did so to find Spices. (If you didn’t I am sure you got a different story, and possibly more, or less, accurate depending on where you are.) Spices¬†were¬†that mystical substance found in the “East,” that were used to cover up rancid meat. Since apparently our “crude” European ancestors didn’t care if their food was off as long as it was coated in spices. Every country must have it’s creation myth, and this is the one taught here.¬†‘Murica!

Depiction of actual historical event, brought to you by American Public Schooling

But in all seriousness, spices are important. Important enough to attempt dangerous voyages, or commit horrible crimes upon the native owners of the fabled spice plants. I am looking at you VOC.¬†Spices may mask some of the early stages of food turning rotten, but would not cover them all once it has turned, or make it alright to eat without severe consequences later. Also rotted food is gross, really gross. (Which if that stuff is your fancy,¬†interesting stuff is being learned on disgust now and why we have it) Generally this myth about spices is not believed by actual historians, so while they weren’t used to make gross, inedible things edible, it did make edible things a lot more exciting. In the immortal words of¬†Emeril, they let you kick food up a notch. BAM! It was that excitement of the palate, the way they activate the senses, and rarity, that made spices so desirable. Spices make the meal, it adds complexity, depth, and helps us avoid the monotony of blandness. Even just adding salt and pepper can take a meal from¬†meh, to wow! But we, as a culture, hardly ever notice it as we dump massive amounts of both on our food, before even tasting it.

Spices usually¬†traveled great distances, and because of this commanded great prices, and were first used in small amounts. Sometimes used as precious medicine, and many of them were, even if they were not necessarily used in the right way all of the time. Of course some of them weren’t medicinal, or magical, but were still used as medicine since rare things are often claimed to have powers to add to its price. Also used in cooking, but sparingly and it makes the dishes from Richard II’s kitchen more luxurious when you realize that a small piece of ginger was not only crazy expensive so only nobility could afford it but it made it all the way to England, over possibly months or even years. A lot of these spices that traveled far and were known in the historical eras dried easily and were easy to transport. Some of the most important were cloves,¬†ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, in later years nutmeg, and of course¬†black pepper. Black pepper and cloves take the distinction of being the oldest traded, and most important of them all.

Pepper, most well known in its hard, small, bead-like black pepper form, is made from the berries of the Piper nigrum vine. This vine that grows native in India, but is a global crop now, and it is the little berries that are harvested to make what we know and recognize as peppercorns.¬†The berries (drupes to be precise, but I will use berries since most people understand what berries are ūüôā ) hang in long clusters, and turn redish orange when ripe. They are sort of like harder, larger seeded grapes, or coffee berries.

Pepper091

Hard to believe those shriveled little black things we know, started life like this

Harvesting at various stages of ripeness, and its preservation method, determines the color of the end product. The vines are quite beautiful, and they like to grow in tropical areas where there are lots of trees and things to support its vine-y growth. Since pepper and cloves were so easy to transport, they were some of the first spices to travel and make it over great distances. Pepper was once the sign of great wealth, and was extremely expensive, hence its epitaphs of the King of Spices, or the Master Spice. Even thought its price has diminished to allow it to be more accessible, it is still the most used and most traded spice in the world. It has even kept its name Black Gold, though it now shares that moniker with crude oil.

“Wait!? Pepper!? That common thing that we pay as little attention to as salt? That is on every table, be it fast food or fancy.¬†That pepper¬†was crazy expensive?!?” You are probably thinking to yourself.

You betcha.

It was not only expensive, it was used as a form of money it was so precious. Many sayings come from this use of pepper, like in England¬†¬†“peppercorn rent” came to be used for a token payment, or for extremely discounted rents. The Dutch phrase “peperduur” translates to “as expensive as peppercorns.” In the Middle Ages pepper was used to pay dowries, and even taxes. Now we have pepper everywhere, to the point we expect it and take it, and its low price, for granted. People purchase and use pre-ground pepper which is dry and bland, never getting to experience the complexity of white, or green pepper. Or¬†the wonderful taste of black pepper when freshly crushed. Next to water and salt (which we really under appreciate), black pepper is the most common ingredient in cooking. But, considering we have used pepper since 1000 BCE, it is sort of easy to see how it may have become common, and lost its luster and air of exoticism. Americans consume about .25 lbs (.11 kg) a year and Tunisia is the highest consumption at .5 lbs (.23 kg) a year, and most of it is the most common black pepper.

Pepper has a long history with humans, it has been around since at least 2000 BCE in India where it has been known to have been used by Indian cooking for generations. It was found dried and stuffed into the nostrils of Ramses II, most likely placed there during the embalming of his body. Pepper is native to India but only in a very small place in the region of Kerala, and pepper had to travel great distances to get to Egypt. It is still not known exactly how pepper got to Egypt from India, since there is no documentation of it prior to 600 BCE. The most likely suspect would be by dhow, a type of boat that has plied the seas between Africa, the Middle East and India for longer than humans have documentation for, leading to a lot of debate on how early they could have been used just in general. Using the cycle of the Monsoon winds, as is done now, it would have been fairly easy journey from India to the Middle East or the Horn of Africa with spices for trade. After the Kon-Tiki, it is very plausible that these trips were going on for many years before someone happened to write it down. This trip is still made today by the same type of boats, and it is an easier route than the over land, later known as the Silk Road.

By¬†about 400 BCE Greece was very familiar with black pepper, even if they could not always afford, or find it. They first¬†called black pepper peperi. Black pepper was not as popular as Long Pepper, in Greece and was not a huge feature in their foods.¬†The Romans later caught on to pepper and called it piper.¬†Once Rome conquered Egypt and a sea route to Malabar was possible, and as it became more available Romans grew to use black pepper more frequently in their cuisine. In fact, they almost became pepper fanatics. Pliny the Elder complained that vast amounts of Rome’s income was flowing to the East. Brennus, the original Hells Angel, after laying siege to Rome demanded as ransom for the city 1000’s of pounds of gold and silver, and 3,000 pounds of peppercorns. Vae victis indeed.

Pepper traveled more and more widely and gained popularity in every country it traveled to. Up to the Middle Ages, all black pepper in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa came from Malabar. As Europe grew a taste for pepper its popularity there quickly increased. There is folklore that Indian monks used them for energy, and the term pepper came to mean energy or energetic, and it is where the term “pep” came from. Like with Tea, when it was scare and valuable, many people kept their precious pepper supply under lock and key. People considered poor were the ones with “no pepper” and in Germany a term for the rich was “pepper sacks.” Pepper is what made the wealth of the merchants of Venice, and was what helped to drive the Age of Exploration. Pepper was one of ¬†the spices people sought to find a direct trade route to that started all those expeditions. If you were a merchant in Venice one of the ways to bribe a tax collector was with a pound of pepper. The oldest guild in London is the Guild of Pepperers, started in 1328 CE. Soldiers were given it as payment after battle, and when a wreck of a boat originating from England dating to about 1545 CE was found, all the sailors bodies recovered were found to have peppercorns on them. Not only was pepper wealth, it was easily portable wealth, which made it easy to carry during travel or trade. It was so highly prized, along with salt that you have fantastic items like the Cellini Salt Cellar being made. Which pretty much screams luxury at you, telling you how highly regarded pepper was, displayed in a golden and enameled chest next to a possible Earth goddess who faces her counterpart the Sea god and his boat¬†of salt.

From mybluedanube.com

The very definition of 16th Century table bling

If you have ever been to a spice store, you know there are more types of pepper than just black. And to make things more confusing there are different types of black pepper. So it is important to understand what is out there, what it is, and what is important for cooking and/or medicine.

Variants_of_Pepper

6 of the different types of peppers. Red (orange) pepper is not shown

All of the below listed versions are made from Piper nigrum, which produces most of the well known peppers.

Red Peppercorns –¬†(not to be confused with Pink (Rose) Peppercorns)¬†these are pickled in brine or vinegar, and sometimes called orange pepper. These are not imported into many countries, and¬†if they are, they are pretty expensive. Maybe I will get to try them eventually. The taste of these is said to be more mellow and similar to dried Tellicherry black pepper.

Green Peppercorns  much more affordable, than Red, but still expensive due to the amount of processing and all that work gives a small yield. These are made from the unripe berries from the pepper vine. They are then sometimes treated with chemicals to preserve their color and freeze dried, dehydrated, or canned. A more traditional processing means they are pickled in brine or vinegar. If you are making peppercorn sauce, this is the version traditionally required to make it.

White Peppercorns this is actually just the seed of the pepper berry with the fleshy outer coating removed. The berries are soaked in water until the outer fruit loosens around the seeds. They are then rubbed to rid them of the remaining fruit and dried. White pepper is often used in white sauces, to prevent marring the color where black pepper would stand out. White pepper since it lacks the fruit, does have a slightly different taste than black pepper since it retains its fruit coating. When I lived in Australia, this was commonly used in restaurants as the pre-ground pepper on the tables. I wonder if that is still done there? Muntok white pepper is grown in Indonesia, and generally hand harvested, soaked, and hand processed as well as sun-dried. It is the most common and best known white pepper, and is generally harvested well after ripening and then processed. It has a mild heat and almost wine flavor, it goes best with poultry, cream, and shellfish. Sarawak white pepper is from Malaysia and has more licorice or musk-like flavors, and is considered the better white pepper of the two. It is processed mostly the same as Muntok, except they are soaked in running water sometimes in jute bags which improves the taste. Again this is great for softer dishes and recommended for fish as well as all the things Muntok goes well with. Juila Child always said you should always use white pepper in a béchamel sauce to prevent unsightly specks.

Black¬†Peppercorns –¬†the still unripe berries are harvested and cooked briefly in hot water, they are then dried usually in the sun since the heat helps to change the color as well as dry the berries. These are what most of you fill your pepper mill with, or if you buy the pre-ground stuff your pepper shaker. ¬†Tellicherry (which is a city in Kerala) black pepper is from the same vine as other black peppers, but it is allowed to stay on the vine longer until it is just about to ripen before it is harvested, giving it a more fruity or floral characteristic. Malabar peppercorns are from the famed Malabar coast in Kerala, and are basically the most well known black pepper taste, it is more bitter than Tellicherry more citrus and pine flavors. Black pepper can be used in anything from ice cream. the crust of your finely grilled steak, or just a¬†sprinkle on your mashed potatoes. There are other types than just the two listed, usually based on what country they are grown in.¬†Black¬†pepper is the most valuable medicinally, since they still contain the black peppercorn oil, and this is the oil used for medicinal purposes.

ProTip:¬†It is¬†highly suggested that when buying a pepper mill one should invest in preferably of plastic or metal models, since wooden ones can actually suck the oil from the berries causing them to be less fragrant and potent over time. I have to admit though I have a wooden one myself that I don’t have the heart to get rid of since it was a gift, and since I use pepper a lot I haven’t noticed that much degradation.

Pepper has some sometimes impostors, useful cousins, and replacements – if pepper isn’t available. They have their own uses, and names should be noted if you are looking for medicinal items, to prevent confusion, since these do not have the same characteristics as black pepper and shouldn’t be substituted in medicinal preparations.

All of the below listed plants carry a common name of pepper, but are a different species from black pepper.

Long Pepper – made famous more recently by Sam Adams if you are a beer nerd, since it was used along with grains of paradise in a beer he made that brought back some old fashioned beer spices. Long pepper is usually tied (or confused) with black pepper and seems to have been used interchangeably or preferred over black pepper for its similar taste but slightly hotter kick than normal black pepper

Grains of Paradise – also made famous with long pepper in Sam Adam’s beers, this is not actual of the same genus as black pepper. This plant is more closely related to ginger and is sometimes known as African pepper, or alligator pepper. While it has a peppery flavor the chemicals in it are more closely related to the same chemicals produced by cardamom. Common in West and North African cooking, it is used in brewing as well as flavoring gin and sometimes¬†akavit (a Norwegian alcohol).

Pink (Rose) Pepper – this can be one of two species Schinus terebinthifolus or Schinus molle, both of these are native to South America and is generally the pink-red peppercorns you can buy in peppercorn blends. This is a great culinary spice and I highly recommend keeping a black pepper, and a black, green, pink, and white peppercorn mix on hand for cooking. I love the taste of this mix on eggs the most. Pink peppercorns are antiseptic, and good for wounds but we will not be discussing its uses in depth in this post.

Jamaican Pepper – (aka allspice) I am including this one here since it was thought, when first discovered by Europeans, to be black pepper or some near relative of it. It is used in a variety of cuisines in savory and sweet dishes. Its current name allspice comes from its flavor which the English when first experiencing it thought it smelled of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg combined.

Adulteration & Substitutions

Peppers have been adulterated for pretty much as long as people were figuring out how to cheat others. Sometimes dried juniper berries were used, sometimes papaya seeds, which sounds a bit better than wooden faux nutmegs. If it was already ground, there are horror stories of people using dust from floor sweepings to adulterate pepper.

Some places use pepper substitutes because pepper either does not grow there, or it is too expensive to import. The desire to use plants that have this spicy effect to jazz up food, almost seems to be universal.It should also be noted that chilies are called peppers some places but are completely different, we will go over them in the future.

Because I love cooking, and these are all interesting substitutes. Not to mention possibly useful to people who have a pepper allergy. So here are some alternatives to pepper:

Why are they called corns though? 

They aren’t made of corn! Just like corned beef, or corned gunpowder, corn is a term for any small seed-like item that originates from Old English, and possibly proto-German. So since pepper berries once dried look like small seeds or beads, corn was applied to them and the term stuck.

So, OK, pepper is awesome, but also way more complicated than it looks.

How do you use it medicinally?

In the Ayurvedic tradition it was used to treat migraines, using a paste made from crushed black pepper cooked in milk and then smeared on the forehead. Ayurveda used it as a digestive, and for gastrointestinal distress, which the Europeans found the same uses for it too. It is also great for colds, since it increases mucus flow and can help get things moving again. It was also used in other traditions as a skin treatment to relieve hives and other skin issues. Black pepper is a natural antiseptic and is actually a great source of vitamin C. It should help to strengthen the immune system and is why its included in the turmeric tea recipe. You can always add a pinch of pepper to your turmeric teas, or ginger teas to help with pain and inflammation.

Black pepper has¬†analgesic properties as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodics, its warming effect on the skin also feels lovely on sore achy muscles. Black pepper oils carry a lot of the same chemicals we have discussed with previous plants, camphene, őĪ-pinene, linalool and other sesquiterpines are present which account for its medicinal versatility. It can also irritate the gut in larger doses, aiding with¬†slow digestion or constipation, but small amounts help with digestion and “prevent wind.”

Pepper Oil for Sore Muscles and Migraines

  • 1 oz Carrier oils (any good quality oil will do)
  • 15-20 drops Black Pepper essential oil

Mix well, store in a dark bottle. Massage into a spasmed muscle, or just exhausted ones after a workout. It works great for areas of neurological pain, and massaged into the temples or a spasmed neck to ease the pain of migraines. The warmth and drawing blood to the area helps heal muscles, as well as ease pain. It works great for inflamed joints as well. You can always reduce the amount of pepper to 10 drops and include 10 drops of other oils like eucalyptus, lavender, copaiba, juniper, clary sage, clove, ginger, fennel and frankincense not to mention many others. Most scents smell nice with pepper (a good bet for a mix is floral or citrus) but will provide additional relief.

Black pepper is also good in a salve, which makes it easy to use on the go. So these are great to keep in your gym bag, or near where you work out.

Black Pepper Salve

  • 1/3 cup Oil (Sunflower, Almond, Apricot, just should be of vegetable origin)
  • 1/3 ounce Bees Wax, granulated, or grated
  • 5-10 drops of Black pepper¬†oil

Heat oil in a double boiler, and slowly add bees wax. Stir constantly until fully melted and everything is combined. Remove from heat, and slowly stir in, by hand, the essential oils. Pour into small, preferably glass, seal-able containers and store in a cool dry place. This is great for arthritic pains, rheumatoid or otherwise, and good for muscle pains on the go.

You can always make the cheater version by whipping 2 oz of solid at room temperature coconut oil in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, and adding 10-20 drops of the black pepper essential oils. You can also make a chai spice version which smells fantastic as well as helps with pain, and with the addition of raw honey is good wound healing and for your skin too.

Chai Raw Honey Salve

  • 1/3 cup Oil (same as above, just make sure it is good quality)
  • 1/3 ounce of Bees Wax
  • 1/3 ounce Raw Honey
  • 2-3¬†drops ginger
  • 2-3¬†drops cloves (start with 2 and add more if you like since clove can over power things)
  • 2-3¬†drops of nutmeg
  • 3-5 drops cardamom
  • 3-5 drops cinnamon
  • 2-3¬†drops black pepper

First heat oil in a double boiler, and slowly add bees wax, like above then add raw honey. Stir mixture until fully melted and all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Remove from heat and stir in by hand the essential oils. Pour into small, preferably glass, seal-able containers and store in a cool dry place. This is a great salve for painful cracked skin to help it heal, to put on a wound before bandaging, and is great massaging into painful joints and muscles. Also a great gift idea!

Home made chai tea is also fantastic, and there is a great recipe here you should definitely try, and I have more fast and loose recipe I like to use.

Chai Tea from Scratch

  • 1/2 inch to inch piece of ginger peeled and crushed
  • 2-5 peppercorns, cracked but not ground to powder (start small and increase to get it to where you like)
  • 2 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
  • 2-3 cloves, slightly crushed
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup milk (or milk substitute, coconut cream goes well here, go for the full fat options if you are bold)
  • 1 teaspoon of Black tea (others are fine, and if you don’t have loose 1 teabag will do, Earl Grey will work in a pinch too)
  • Honey or sugar to taste

You don’t want the ingredients completely broken apart but crushed enough to allow maximum surface area for the flavor to disperse into the liquids. Throw it all in a saucepan cold, let it heat up slowly until just before the boil, making sure to stir or swirl the pan constantly. Strain and serve. This is great on a cold morning to warm the hands and ease stiffness and pain. But frankly it is good any time, and well worth the effort ūüôā

Black pepper oil is also good, in my opinion, rubbed directly on the skin. Just a drop or two into one of my painful spasmed muscles brings soothing warmth as well as a smell that helps keep me alert. I enjoy it the most massaged straight, with no carrier oils, into my neck and spasms in my face when migraines are an issue. Which if you have sensitive skin this may not be the application method for you.¬†I also don’t recommend using this near bed time as I have found the smell isn’t so great when you are trying to sleep. It is also good for the hair and a drop with rosemary on the hairbrush and brushed into the hair smells quite nice.

If you know anything about Italian food, or if you are an Anthony Bourdain fan, you probably have heard of Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe. A dish that’s deceptive simplicity can highlight ingredients, or mistakes. You can never go wrong with Lidia’s recipes so I have provided her’s. This is my sort of simple comfort food, and reminds me of home since Mom would make this often. It also is a good way to get a good dose of pepper in your diet that isn’t a beverage.

Lidia’s Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, or more to taste
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • salt for the pasta water
  • 1¬Ĺ cups Pecorino-Romano, freshly grated, or more to taste¬†

Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil. 

Grind the peppercorns very coarsely, preferably crushing them in a mortar with a pestle or in a spice grinder. 

Warm up a big bowl for mixing and serving the pasta-use some of the pasta water to heat the bowl, if you like. 

Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Quickly lift it from the pot with tongs, let it drain for an instant then drop it into the warm bowl. 

Immediately scatter a cup of the grated cheese and most of the ground pepper on the pasta and toss in quickly. As you mix, sprinkle over spoonfuls of hot water from the cooking pot to moisten and amalgamate the pasta and condiments-add more pepper or cheese to taste. 

Serve right away while the spaghetti is very hot.

There are also some great recipes for Black Pepper Ice Cream, or a more advanced Black Pepper and Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream you should try.

All this time that little humble pepper shaker on your table has held all of these secrets, you may not take it for granted the next time you shake, or now hopefully grind, it.

Remember, do your own research and educate yourself before trying anything, and everybody’s body is different. Make sure this won’t have interactions with your medications by checking sites like WebMD, and if you have any doubts at all if this is for you, ask a professional!¬†

 

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Juniper, Not Just for Making Gin

We took a small vacation, it was nice to get away, and just have some fun. Fun was much needed since I have been going through a lot of tests again, and it was nice to be away from all the poking and prodding. Even if it has slowed down my posting rate, it was worth it! We saw Santa Fe, it was beautiful and such a friendly town with a lot of Native American, Spanish and Mexican history, as well as US history. People usually think the East coast of the US will have the oldest structures, but the Southwest is the place to go for old. Especially if you like Native American history, which I do!

And I apologize it took so long to get this out. So since it has been a while, make sure you have some tea and a comfy chair, because this is not gonna be a short read…

Cherry tree with rosaries, Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe

Cherry tree with rosaries, Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe

Ram Petroglyph from Three Rivers National Park

Ram with arrows Petroglyph, Three Rivers National Park

Something I kept noticing, while scrambling around the¬†park looking for the 20,000 petroglyphs they have, and in the little towns that dotted the vast landscape, was juniper. It was everywhere, and they are all over here in Texas too. I have always liked juniper, I love looking at the blue-grey berries (I know, I know, technically they’re cones. But I don’t know anyone that calls them anything but¬†berries. Deal with it.), and they are a fantastic addition to meatloaf (or any meat dish, especially game meat). Seriously, throw some in (3-5), its great. They also smell so good and in Texas, where not many things are green all year round, they are a welcome bit of green life in the gold-brown summers and gold-brown winters.

Juniper “berries” of the Juniperus communis, one of the most common edible species. Notice the deep shade of the berries and the spiked shape of the leaves.

Juniperus ashei in Texas, often confused or called colloquially cedar, notice the difference in the shape of the leaves.

Juniperus ashei in Texas, often confused or called colloquially cedar, notice the difference in the shape of the leaves.

This is a tree that is so ubiquitous¬†they worm their way into almost every culture, but like the thing hidden in plain sight, so much so you may not have noticed or thought about them much. Juniper¬†is a conifer that has different species almost on every continent, it is widely used in medicine, myth, and cooking. The Greeks, first documented it as medicinal, and only later did it come to become a culinary spice. Eaten by early Olympic competitors, they were thought to improve stamina which some are high in sugar and it may have been an early form of use of a sugar rush¬†for quick energy. Dioscorides¬†wrote, that rubbing the crushed berries on genitals¬†before intercourse would prevent conception, it doesn’t but I sure bet it made things smell nicer. Romans used it as a cheaper alternative to pepper or long pepper, since these were imported and therefore far more expensive. Probably why it was also used to adulterate pepper sold in Rome since they are quite a powerful flavor, ranging from sweet to surprisingly bitter. Pliny the Elder even mentions that

“juniper berries, which have the property, to a marvelous degree, of assuming the pungency of pepper.”

He also wrongly asserted that pepper and juniper were pretty similar trees, which if you know your spices pepper grows on vines. But considering he did get it correct that it grew on a plant, he is doing a little better on accuracy than Herodotus with cinnamon.

Cinnamon birds you say? Sounds legit.

Egyptians used juniper as well, possibly imported from Greece, was found in the tomb of the most famous Egyptian king, Tutankhamen. It is mentioned in medical papyri that juniper was good for chest complaints, tapeworms, and as a digestive aid. There are other recipes mentioned in the Egyptian medical writings, there were interesting recipes like juniper mixed with honey and beer as a laxative. Or for a headache combine juniper with frankincense, cumin, and goose fat, boil well, and rub on the head. Whether or not these worked is not mentioned, but there is a strong recommendation to collect the fee prior to providing the cure.

Those from the Scandinavian areas tended to use the wood and the berries for food and medicine, as well as fermented drinks, which we will go over in detail. In Europe it was yet another remedy believed to help with the Black Death, it was used whole or burned (for its purifying smoke) and was yet another herb placed in the bird like plague doctor masks to help ward off the illness. There are also creepy fairy tales about juniper as well as the belief that the hamadryad, Frau Wachholder, that inhabits juniper would assist you with recovering stolen property. This is also another plant that was to have sheltered the holy family in their flight to Egypt, and was used in some areas as Christmas greenery for this reason.

Over in the Americas, Native Americans in many areas had loads of uses for the many types of juniper (and cedar) that grow there. Its inner bark was used as a sweetener, and the berries of different varieties were used to treat everything from the normal sprains, wounds, arthritis, digestive issues and ulcers, to treating the more extreme tuberculosis. They are a great antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, which is why it is so great for chest colds and kidney issues, it also had diuretic properties. Some tribes in South America used the pulverized berries to ward off a parasitic catfish (yes THAT catfish). Back in the north, some tribes used a specific species berries as a starvation food, and some even used certain species barks that they ground into powdery flour and used as starvation food as well. The wood, like in most of the rest of the world, was burned for the smoke to purify, protect humans and animals from disease, and ward off evil spirits. It was also well known as a muscle relaxer and used to not only treat spasms but also ease childbirth since it helps muscles relax and would ensure a safer delivery. Some tribes associate the juniper with youthfulness or immortality since it always seems to remain green, even in the worse droughts.

“Charles Sitting Man, a Cheyenne, said that the Great Spirit has much respect for juniper because it seems to never grow old and remains green the year round. It therefore represented youthfulness, and they accordeingly placed it centrally in many of their holy rites and purification ceremonies. Indians also admired it for the durability of its wood, which they found desirable for lance shafts, bows, and other items, and for the dark red, seemingly dyed-in-blood color of its wood.” – S. Buhner, Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers

Early US pharmacology included juniper berries in its pharmacological listings, and there is an old American usage of using it to “force out measles.” This may have actually been a good application of juniper since the berries of some species contain deoxypodohyllotoxin¬†which is an anti-inflammatory, and possibly (not enough studies to say 100% yet) an anti-viral. Sadly though like many other natural remedies it has fallen out of favor as a treatment option in the US, but that does not mean its value as medicine has diminished in any way.

Most people know of juniper through gin, one of my favorite adult beverages, especially a cold gin and tonic with lime on a hot summers day. Gin has a long history, and like other healing “waters” and herbal aperitifs has been around as a drink as well as a medicine for ages. Gin was probably not the first alcoholic beverage made with juniper though, since brewing came long before distillation. Juniper was used in brewing by many Scandinavian peoples, either directly added to the beer as a bittering agent, or the branches used for straining the beer. Juniper is used in sahti, which is a very old type of Finnish ale (though it may go under different names depending on where it is made), is a simple ale to make, and used to be quite common, branches of juniper were used for bitters since hops were not commonly used in brewing¬†then.

After distillation was discovered, gin was able to be produced. Well a version of it, gin started most likely as jenever, which may have started as a digestive or maybe just because people like the taste. Sadly those answers are lost to time, the name eventually gets corrupted into many different forms (or may come from other origins) but we have finally ended up with modern gin. Which requires juniper to be considered gin, and there is distinctions between how it is added, either post distillation, or in a second distillation process. Either way gin is delicious, and has a lovely juniper taste. In the 17th century, a Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius, claimed that he is the father of gin. Even though there are much earlier documentations (back to the 13th century) showing that gin, and jenever, have much older histories than Franciscus claims. A more contemporary reference to Franciscus is a play that would have been performed when he was about 9 years of age, unlikely he was inventing alcoholic beverages at that age. Seeing as how this bogus claim led to a persistence to name him as the Father of Gin incorrectly (for real, it causes some seriously international butthurt), he probably should have stayed with his job of poking around inside people, instead of claiming to invent things like gin, and probably the question mark. Due to gin being inexpensive, and a way to drown ones sorrows in later years gin gained a bad reputation and fell out of popularity for a while, mostly due to Gin Palaces, and its association with the poor and the seedier parts of society. In the time since, it has waxed and waned, as alcohol trends do, and has recently gained a resurgence in popularity.

Now, you can’t go outside and find a juniper tree/bush and just start eating berries, there are about 40-60 species of juniper (depending on who you ask) and there are only certain ones that¬†are safe to consume, which I will list with some of their traditional uses. If you are going to be collecting wild juniper, make sure you are absolutely sure that you know what species you are dealing with. If you are wrong it could end up with some extremely bad consequences ranging from some very uncomfortable bathroom time, to a very painful death. So be smart people, use that (un)common sense!

  • Juniperus communis(aka Common Juniper; includes sub species Juniperus communis montana) Berries are bitter to consume raw and are usually dried first, great for meat, sauce and as a stuffing. Traditionally used to season game due to its strong taste. In traditional medicine¬†they are antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and a diuretic, and was used to treat diabetes traditionally, this berry is high in dextrose (d-glucose) and treats low blood sugar quite well, also why it was a famine or starvation food.
  • Juniperus drupacea –¬†(aka Syrian Juniper) While considered edible, I have never had it, this is a threatened species in some areas and thrives in others, and its growth is restricted to the Mediterranean area. It¬†is mostly used now for wood thought it’s berries are still highly prized in the East.
  • Juniperus horizontalis –¬†(aka Creeping Juniper, Creeping Cedar) Berries are roasted, and can be used to make something like coffee, which also could be used to treat kidney issues. The berries like other species are good for stuffing, like in Turkey, and were used like beads when dried. You can also make a tea from the young tips, it was traditionally used for coughs, chest issues and fevers. These could also be used as a steam treatment for the same, or you can use the branches in clothes storage to keep bugs out.
  • Juniperus monosperma (aka One-seed Juniper)¬†Berries were¬†traditionally added to chopped meat, usually game, and then put in a clean deer stomach and roasted (think deer-juniper haggis sort of thing). The berries on their own are fairly bitter and not very tasty to eat. Its roots and leaves were used for their medicinal properties, good for muscle relaxation and reducing inflammation.
  • Juniperus occidentalis¬†– (aka Western Juniper, Sierra Juniper) The berries can be eaten raw or cooked and is rather sweet, it is very nutritious even when dried. It can be ground, mixed with other flours, and made into a type of bread. The tips, or leaves are used to make the tea that contains the muscle relaxant that pregnant women used prior to birthing. This is a most versatile plant (and used almost as much as the J. communis species) since it is an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and used in many traditional medicine preparations.
  • Juniperus phoenicea¬†(aka Phoenicean Juniper, Ar√Ęr) This is high in the sesquiterpene thujopsene which is possibly the source of its anti-inflammatory powers. This is most likely the species used by Romans to adulterate black pepper, so it follows the berries are a bit spicier. Best to use this topically if you are able to harvest the berries, or if you purchase an essential oil of it since not enough research has been done on its internal effects and this can become quickly poisonous if ingested in large amounts.
  • Juniperus deppeana(aka Alligator Juniper, Checkerbark Juniper; includes subspecies/varieties¬†J. pachyphlaea, J. patoniana,¬†J. robusta, J. sperryl, J. zacatecensis) No real known medicinal uses but the berries are sweet, and don’t taste too bad they can be dried and ground and added to cakes or made into them or a porridge like substance.
  • Juniperus californica – (aka¬†California Juniper, Desert White Cedar) Berries can be eaten raw or cooked, they have a sweet and dry, and can be pounded and added as a pulp to stuffing or as stuffing on its own in game dishes. The leaves have analgesic properties, as well as muscle relaxing and was used as like other species prior to childbirth to help with delivery. They are also good for hypertension and is a diaphoretic – which causes sweating and means it helps with fevers.
  • Juniperus virginiana – (aka Eastern Red Cedar, Red Cedar, Eastern Juniper, Red Juniper, Pencil Cedar, Aromatic Cedar, Chansha; includes subspecies J. silicicola) Berries are edible raw or cooked, and can be added crushed as a spice to soups and stews, they are rather bitter though and should be used sparingly. There are teas that have been made of the branches, but this species and the subspecies you should avoid doing so unless extremely experienced or directed by a professional herbalist, they can quickly turn toxic.

SPECIES YOU SHOULD ABSOLUTELY AVOID: Juniperus sabina, Juniperus oxycedrus, and most other species, or any unknown species.

So now you are in the know about some juniper species, and to be sure you know the species if you are planting or planning to harvest your own juniper. You can also buy pre-dried juniper and as long as they are sold as edible they should be fine to use in cooking. If you are going to purchase them for medicinal use, make sure you get clarification on exactly which species you are buying to make sure you will get the right properties, as they do vary species to species.

Again, if you are collecting any plant in the wild, be absolutely sure that you know what you are collecting and/or consuming. I haven’t personally done it yet, but I hear dying has a rather¬†hard effect on life, so don’t hasten that transition by not being smart about what you eat. Ok?

/soap box

Now we can get down to how to use juniper, I mentioned earlier that it is great in meatloaves, throw a few (3-5) slightly crushed berries into the next meatloaf you make, you will love it. You will always want to buy or dry your berries whole to preserve their oils and only crush right before using, so all the below recipes you will want to crush the berries right before using them.

As always a tea is a great way to use a plant’s parts as a medicine, and these can be used internally as a beverage, or steam treatment, or externally in compresses. Naturally you would want to opt for the sweeter berries to make teas with, and avoid the more bitter ones (unless you are into that sort of thing¬†¬¨_¬¨ ). You want to again crush these slightly before using, and since berries take longer to steep this will be a slightly more involved process.

Juniper Berry Tea

  • 1-2 teaspoons Juniper berries
  • 4 cups Water, it is important to be cold or room temperature
  • Tea pot
  • Strainer
  • Saucepan

Crush the berries slightly and add to the saucepan covering with the cool water, bring gently to a simmer over low heat and allow to cook like this for about 10-15 minutes, then strain into a teapot and enjoy. Depending on the species you choose this would be a great way to treat inflammation (from colds or otherwise), treat painful spasms, and if you are having digestive or kidney issues. It is also great as a digestive to ease painful gas or cramping. Some of the sweeter berries are just nice to have as tea just because, if this is a more bitter berry you are going with for the medicinal value, try adding honey or some other sweetener to this (a teaspoon at first and then add more as you need) to make the medicine more palatable.

ProTip: If you are using this as a compress, you can reduce the water by half and just soak a cloth or towel in the liquid and apply when warm, but not hot, to the painful or swollen area.

Juniper plays well with others and is an easy addition to make an existing tea more exciting. Green tea goes well, but black can work here too. White is too delicate, in my opinion.

Juniper Berry Tea Blend

  • 1 tablespoon¬†Green Tea (same if you choose black)
  • 2 teaspoons Juniper berries
  • 4 cups Water
  • Honey or other sweetener as desired

This is made almost exactly the same as the above tea, the only change is to add the tea leaves to the teapot prior to straining the berry mixture into it and let it steep for an additional 4-10 minutes. This tea has all beverage uses of above tea as well, but is not recommended for external use. This can be a good way to take juniper if you find you don’t care for the taste of it on it’s own.

ProBranchTip: If you want to try a species that has beneficial components in it’s branches use just the very young tips of the branches the greenest, newest parts of the plant. About a tablespoon to small handful added to a teapot and steeped from 5-10 minutes will make a sufficient tea, and compress liquid. As always, make sure you know the species the rate of toxicity in the branches is much higher than the berries, and their¬†use requires much more caution. This was used to treat asthma in the past (specific to species) and they generally have anti-inflammatory properties good for coughs and chest colds. You can include the tips in with the berries during the slow simmer to make the tea as well.

Something you will see a lot of online is sites touting the benefits of eating gin soaked raisins. Now, I for one am not so sure of this “cure” but I have seen it a lot on forums and on sites dedicated to treating chronic pain. I am fairly sure this is a combination of alcohol (which does have the ability to numb pain, if you have ever seen some drunks fight or fall you will know how powerful it gets the more you take) and possibly the placebo effect. There is depending on the brand you select juniper essential oils in the alcohol, and oils are alcohol soluble so logically this would be the best way to impregnate any dehydrated fruit with a seemingly beneficial substance. Most modern gins don’t contain enough juniper to be considered, in my non medical opinion, efficiently medicinal. If you were to up the oil content, by say adding your own berries to the gin this might be a better route than an off the shelf type. Again I have not tried this yet so I am not sure, and if this has been working for you, great! Keep using it until it doesn’t, just remember this is alcohol – so no pain medications, and be smart about it.

If¬†I was going to attempt this for a basic recipe for¬†a more “berried” gin add berries to gin and allow it to infuse for a few weeks. A ratio of about 1 part slightly crushed berries to 2 parts gin should do it, and let steep for a few weeks, 4-6 would be ideal.

Gin Soaked Fruits

  • 1 cup Dried fruit (raisins, dried apricots, prunes, whatever you prefer)
  • 1-2 cups Juniper Berry Gin (the one listed above, and you want enough to cover the fruit and a bit more, you may need to top up if they fruit absorbs too much)
  • Large mason jar
  • Optional: more juniper berries (slightly crushed)

Add fruit and gin to jar and close tightly, give a shake and then set in an undisturbed dark place. Let sit for at least a week,¬†and you will need to let them soak longer the larger the fruit you use. Remember to eat less if you are using larger fruit, since you will be getting more gin per piece of fruit. After they are good and infused with gin, they can be eaten. The recommended dose seems to be about 8-10 raisins per day, for pain, and there is mention that it takes a while for it to work. If you are using this or try it out let me know, I am planning to try it sometime in the near future when I am not so dependent¬†on medications that don’t mix well with alcohol.

You can also use juniper berries in the previously discussed Four Thieves Vinegar just add about a handful (2-4 tablespoons) of the slightly crushed berries to the mix.

Since we are talking about more adult themed beverages, we will go back to sahti. Brewing a homemade sahti is not only delicious but satisfying, like all home brewing. This is a recipe for Finnish sahti from the Scared and Herbal Healing Beers book (if you don’t own a copy I highly recommend buying it). This is a version from that book that was adapted from a 1901 recipe book, also note this is a full grain version, and is a pretty involved recipe.

Finnish Sahti from Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers

  • 11 pounds Malted barley
  • 1 pound Malted rye
  • 8 gallons water
  • a “fist full” of hops (about 2-4 oz)
  • juniper branches (amnt originally undefined, but depending on species about the same amount as the hops. you can also line your “strainer”¬†with them)
  • yeast

“Moisten malts with cold water, mix, cover and let sit overnight. In the morning add two scoops of hot water to the malt. Boil the remainder of the water and add a scoopful at a time to the malt, mixing well until the mash has the consistency of porridge. Add the remainder of the water and allow the mash to stand for one hour.

Bring the clear portion of the mash to a boil four to six times by alternating between two kettles and adding the porridge at the conclusion of each boil. Mix, allow the grains to settle, and pour off the clear wort and reboil.

[If you want to be extra authentic set up a large cooler with spout, or if you have a barrel with a hole and plug at the bottom, with rye straw that has been rinsed in hot water and juniper branches alternating layers until it is half full] During the final boil prepare [your] container…dump porridge on the straw [and juniper filter] and pour liquid from the final boil on top of it. Let the wort flow through the tap into the fermenting vessel. Pour clean juniper water, made by boiling juniper branches and berries in water, over the porridge, and through the tap. Boil the liquid with hops. When cool add yeast and ferment. [For at least 2 weeks, month is better]

To make juniper berry Sahti, take one-half gallon (2 liters) of cleaned juniper berries per quarter gallon (liter) of liquid, macerate in cold water for 10 hours and use this liquid to moisten the malt. Follow the remainder of the procedures above.”

Juniper essential oil is sold on many sites, and many species are available, I suggest very strongly only using the oils externally unless otherwise directed by a medical professional. You also need to make sure you know what species the oil is made from, this can be a lot easier than harvesting your own berries sometimes and it is a lot easier to carry around for on the go applications. This essential oil is great for treating skin conditions, as well as topical pain relief for swollen muscles, swollen joints, and spasms.

Juniper Massage Oil

  • ¬†1 ounce Carrier oil
  • 10-20 drops Juniper Essential Oil

Mix well and store in a dark bottle, apply directly to painful areas and massage in. You can as always use this as a plain oil or mix with other essential oils (reduce juniper amount to no more than 10, and limit other oils to 10 drops or less) rosemary, clary sage and other oils go well with juniper.

Also you can follow the instructions in the copaiba post for making a salve for this which works great for applying to hands and joints to ease the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis or other swelling or pain issues.

Finally you can’t really talk about juniper berries and not mention its most famously associated recipe. Sauerkraut is actually a great way to get vitamins and minerals that you cant get in other foods. I found this recipe on Real Fermenting¬†and it seems to be the closest to traditional Bavarian sauerkraut I can find. If you know another, please feel free to share in the comments!

Juniper and Caraway Sauerkraut by Real Fermenting

  • 1 Green Cabbage, about 2 lbs
  • 6 Juniper berries
  • 1 teaspoon Caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon Salt (Pacific sea salt is listed originally but any salt will do here)

This is a very similar process to the¬†Basic Sauerkraut. I used a slightly smaller cabbage than before. It was a nice looking one, heavy for its volume (juicy), plus I have a little sauerkraut collection going in my fridge so I don’t need too much. Hoping to be able to give some away this weekend.

Grate the cabbage in a food processor and knead it in a wide bowl with the salt. You should knead away until your hands cramp up, and then take a break. Knead some more. You need a good amount of cabbage juice (water from the broken down cabbage cells) in the bottom of the bowl. Once the cabbage is starting to get soft and really giving up the juice, you can pour the whole lot into a wide mouth jar or crock. You just need something with enough room for the sauerkraut plus whatever you are going to use to hold the cabbage under the brine

Stir the the juniper berries and caraway seeds and push down the sauerkraut until the brine comes over all the cabbage. You may need to return to the sauerkraut in a couple of hours to push it down again. Once the sauerkraut is submerged, cover the container with a breathable piece of material and set it somewhere out of the way.

Check on the sauerkraut in about a week and every few days after that. It has only been taking a week or so recently for me, but it has been really hot. Whenever it reaches a sourness that is to your liking, go ahead and put it in the fridge. It’ll keep for months at those cool temperatures.

So as you can see juniper is a really versatile plant, and has loads more uses than I list here. Do your own research and educate yourself on juniper to see how it can improve your life. I can not repeat enough, always be careful and know which species you are using, no one likes to end up dead. Check for interactions on sites like WebMD, and make sure that if you have any doubts, even in the slightest, that you ask a professional!

If you would like to learn more about Native American’s use of Juniper go here.

If you ever want to learn about the Nordic brewing, or ANY brewing really, no one is better than Michael Jackson (not the one you immediately think of, this guy) he is pretty much the Franz Boas of Brewing (and if you get that reference without googling it, you get a cookie! If you didn’t check him out ūüôā ).¬†For an easier, more modern,¬†all grain Sahti go here, for a super packed with information, and pictures, traditional version go here.


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The Brain, It’s Not As Smart As You Think

We all like to think humans are at the top of all food chains, because we have our smarty smart pants brains, and this lifts us above the other animals on the planet. Our brain though, is not as smart as we would like to think, and it can easily be tricked. This is not always a bad thing, I have talked about how you can use your brain’s ability to be tricked to your advantage. Things like your mindset, having a supportive and caring Doctor/Healthcare provider, and things like the power of the placebos and prayer.

Luckily there is a wealth of information coming out all the time on new studies done on the brain, that are widening our understanding of how it and our nervous system work. If you haven’t read My Stroke of Insight¬†you should, everyone should. Chronic pain or not, it is just a fantastic book with great ideas everyone should know. The author also did a 20 minute Ted Talk on the concepts and covers them broadly. If you aren’t the reading type, please watch her Ted Talk below. Even if you are the reading type, watch it before you read the book. Her passion about people being kinder to themselves, and others, is something everyone should strive to achieve.

Jill Bolt Taylor – Stroke of Insight TED Talk

Her ideas about preventing negative thoughts, letting those appear and letting them go rather than feeding into a negative thought loop is something everyone can benefit from.  She has a lot more to say in her book, and it only took me a few hours to read. I highly recommend it.

There is also a lot of information coming out about placebos and their powerful effect on the body. What a wonderful world it would be if I could take a sugar pill that worked as well as an opiate, with no chance of addiction or side effects. Placebos are a fascinating thing, and the effect is easy to trigger. I have used the information I have learned on placebos to help treat my pain, like with migraines, and had almost unbelievable results. A great place to start with your understanding of placebos is with this quick Horizon documentary.

Horizon – The Power of the Placebo

There is also a really fun to watch series by National Geographic, called Brain Games, that explores the brain and gives you interesting ideas you can experiment with. Another book with a lot of information on nerves, pain and on mirror box therapy (which is one of the treatments used to treat CRPS) is Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran.

Why does all this information on brains, and nerves, and stuff matter? Well firstly, because pain is a neurological signal. If you are in chronic pain, you need to understand how the body, brain and nervous system all function so that you can not only better understand procedures and your own pain, but you can also help to minimize it in other ways. Secondly, knowing as much as you can about pain helps with coping with it, naming your demons gives you a way to fight them. Acknowledging and accepting your pain is part of the healing process and understanding it helps the whole process. Pain, as we like to say in Tai Chi, is there for a reason, it is telling you something is wrong. Learning to listen to the pain, and what your body is asking for helps you convey better information to your doctors, helps you to better treat yourself at home, and this overall will improve your condition and mental state. If you feel a bit rusty on biology, here are two great videos, the first will give you an overview of nerves, and the second is a great visual example of how pain signals are triggered, and then blocked by opiate pain medications.

Nerve Cells

Animation of Pain Signals and Opiates

Remember educating yourself, helps you more than anything. Knowing what you are fighting helps you to keep those positive thoughts and positive mindset to deal with your treatments, and your pain.


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Eucalyptus It Comes from the Land Down Under

Having lived in Sydney for a while in my youth, the smell of eucalyptus is extremely nostalgic for me. Many memories of smelling that sweet, pungent eucalyptus smell while playing cricket at school, playing in our backyard, traveling through the Blue Mountains. I loved the smell of eucalyptus, and remember often breaking those silvery, green leaves just to inhale that pungent and unique scent. If you have been near one, you can not help but love gum trees, and most Australians do. They form a large part of the iconic landscape of the land of Oz, and are now part of the modern mythology of Australia after May Gibbs wrote about tiny fairy children that lived in them.

Gumnut Babies!

The Blue Mountains get their name from the blue haze that hangs over them from the trees releasing their oils in the air, and its possibly this oil that scatters the blue light waves . This oil is what makes these trees so fragrant, and so useful medicinally. Eucalyptus was historically used by the native Aboriginal peoples of Australia for as long as their history records, and they used it for many of the same complaints that we still use it for today. They used eucalyptus as a tea, or infusion, of the leaves for body pains, wound care, sinus congestion, colds and fevers. It was seen as a general “cure-all” by most of the different tribes.

And the favorite food of some furry marsupials.

And the favorite food of some furry marsupials.

After the discovery of Australia by Europe, the use of eucalyptus was quickly adopted by the Europeans, and even more so once it became a penal colony. Surgeons from the¬†First Fleet¬†used oil of eucalyptus that they distilled themselves, to treat convicts, and the military men of the fleet, during the difficult early years of the convict colonies. During the 19th century it was even used as a disinfectant and planted in “fever districts,” which encouraged more research into, and production of, this valuable oil. Though its reduction of fever in those areas is less likely from the trees releasing oils, and more comes from the tree’s ability to quickly absorb available ground water. Thus reducing habitats for fever, and malaria, causing mosquitoes. Eucalyptus trees can absorb vast amounts of water, making them ideal for planting in marshy areas rife with sickness. A famous instance of this is¬†St Paul at the Three Fountains¬†that was in¬†Roman Compagna¬†–¬†which if you know anything about Italy’s history was an area that was abandoned and labeled as inhospitable in some eras, due to malaria. After the planting of a eucalyptus tree there in 1870, it was inhabitable year round.

Eucalyptus oil, once it hit the world market, was highly desired for medicinal uses and preparations. Soon it was being mass produced, and found its way into surgeries as an antiseptic, in cold remedies, to treat respiratory infections, and for general disinfecting.¬†The person that can be credited with the spread of eucalyptus, and the knowledge of all its many uses, is Ferdinand von Mueller. It was his interest in botany, and his observations that started the western world on the path to using eucalyptus. He noticed the similarity in smell to Cajaput oil, which led him to speculate that the oil of these eucalyptus trees could be¬†antiseptic, or fever reducing. This speculation, and desire to treat malaria, led to the Western interest in this new plant. Seeds were sent to France,¬†and through France to Algeria, and eucalyptus trees helped to get rid of marshy, swampy areas of fever causing mosquitoes, making it much more inhabitable. Because of Ferdinand’s work eucalyptus oil, or sometimes called “Sydney Peppermint,” became fairly widely used in the medical community around the world. It was well known for its use as a catheter cleaner in 20th century medicine, but it also was used during World War I for fighting¬†meningitis, and during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.

That multipurpose usefulness has kept eucalyptus in the modern medical repertoire, in fact most people have probably smelt eucalyptus in chest salves for colds, and in some throat and cold lozenges. There have been scientific studies into its effectiveness as an antibacterial, and is well known for being great for fighting staphylococcus aureus. It is great for clearing a stuffy head, and soothing the aches and pains of chest colds, but I find it also works great topically for muscle pain, and migraines as well. But before we get too deep into uses, like chamomile, there are a few different species of eucalyptus available…well more than a few really. There are about 300 species of eucalyptus, and even more if you count sub-varieties. So lets break it down.

Eucalyptus globulus РAKA Blue Gum, Tasmanian Blue Gum

This is one of the oils that has some of the highest cineole (or eucalyptol) content, about 80%-70% on average, and this is the chemical that gives eucalyptus its distinct smell, as well as camphor, rosemary, and other similar plants. This is a very common species in its native Australia, and it has spread around the world due to its rapid growth, and ease of cultivation. This species is virtually phellandrene free, which makes it a favorite for internal preparations (usually flavoring), but I would strongly suggest not taking any eucalyptus oil internally since it can rapidly become toxic, always better to be safe than sorry! Topically it is a great anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, decongestant and deodorant. I personally use it for its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties, and I find it is great for migraine pain and rheumatoid arthritis as well. All forms of eucalyptus are warming oils, so like peppermint and other warming oils, you want to avoid application to sensitive skin areas. This is the most powerful of the oils, and should really be diluted in a carrier oil if you are going to apply it topically.

This is also great for burns, blisters, cold sores, bug bites cuts and abrasions. It helps in healing, and it helps to fight infection as an antibacterial, and as an antiviral. It works great as a decongestant and provides relief from coughs when applied to the chest.

Eucalyptus radiata РAKA Narrow-leaved Peppermint, Forth River Peppermint

This oil is the second highest cineole content, about 75%-60% on average, and is a much gentler oil than the E. globulus eucalyptus. It is slightly more floral and citrus in scent than E. globulus. You tend to find this more in mouthwash and dental preparations due to its more gentle nature. It is an excellent antibacterial, and a competent antiviral as well. Like E. globulus it is a great topical analgesic and anti-inflammatory, as well as a great for fighting colds and as a decongestant. This oil, while still warming, I find gentle enough for direct application for pain or sore muscles, but you do still want to avoid sensitive skin areas.

This is a great addition to any acne regimen, direct application or adding it to other oils in a skin cream is a great acne fighting solution. This is also a great addition to any hand sanitizers, disinfecting sprays or for cooling sprays.

Eucalyptus polybractea РAKA Blue Mallee, Australian Tea Tree

This has probably the highest cineole content ranging from 80-90%, and you will notice this has more of the camphor-like medicinal scent that most people associate with eucalyptus. This is like the other species, a great topical pain, anti-inflammatory and just all around good for sore, tired muscles.  The downside is the more medicinal smell to this than the more plant like E. globulus or E. radiata species. You do want to dilute this with a carrier oil if you are going to apply it topically. This is a good addition to a lotion bar, or pain bar, for post-activity aches and pains. This is, like the others, a warming oil still and can bring warmth and relaxation to tense muscles with massage. With the high levels of cineole, this is the best antiseptic available of the different species, and works well as an antibacterial for wound care or general cleaning. Which means it is a great addition to sanitizing sprays, gels, and great for after illness cleaning. It is also lower in chemicals that irritate mucus membranes, and is a great option for inhaling to help with congestion or coughs.

This is also a great addition to a cleaning or laundry routine. It helps to remove grease stains, and it also can remove gum or other sticky things from clothing or glass and the like.

Eucalyptus dives РAKA Broad-leaved Peppermint, Peppermint Eucalyptus

This is a strong species, with 70-80% cineole, and should only be used topically and not be ingested. It can also be more irritating for people with very sensitive skin. It has higher phellandrene and piperitone than other species, which gives it that peppermint like smell. This means its best used for colds and coughs as an inhalant or part of a chest salve or plaster. It can be used topically, if diluted in a carrier oil, but it is better used as an insect repellent and cold aid, than for pain relief. This is still a great warming oil that works well to warm and soothe muscles after stretching or exercise. It a great antibacterial, and like other species can be added to cold and sanitizing preparations, external only though!

Eucalyptus bicostata РAKA Eucalyptus Blue

This is a topical only again, and is the best eucalyptus for respiratory issues. it contains high levels of alpha-pinene, which is also found in pine and rosemary. This can be added to a massage regimen if diluted in a carrier oil, and it has great muscle relaxing properties. You should though, combine this oil with other oils, for the most pain relieving ability. This is a bronchodilator and is great for chest cold preparations or even asthma sufferers can benefit from this being diffused in the air.

Combined with other oils like rosemary, lavender, or others this is a great addition to a massage oil blend. Otherwise, use this when you need your head cleared from a bad cold, or to just aid with breathing issues. This can be applied closer to sensitive areas like the eyes, without the eye watering effect of the others.

How To Use It

So now you know about the different types, time to discuss how to use it. Since most of these have similar properties, I am just going to list eucalyptus oil in the ingredients. You should select the oil you add to this based on the properties you need most. And remember, warming oil, never put this on sensitive skin areas!

First off, a massage oil blend.

Eucalyptus Massage Oil

  • 1 oz Carrier oil
  • 15-30 drops of Eucalyptus oil
  • optional: add 10 drops of other eucalyptus oils, or add other oils (Lavender, Rosemary, Peppermint, Frankincense, etc) for additional pain relief or anti-inflammatory properties.

Mix well and store in a dark container, apply directly to painful areas, or sore muscles, and massage in. You can use just eucalyptus and massage this into the chest and neck area for chest cold relief. You can also rub this oil on exposed areas as insect repellent.

ProTip: If you do a test patch first to make sure that it won’t cause issues, you can use a drop or two of the essential oil of eucalyptus directly on your skin for insect repellent, and pain or cold relief.

Eucalyptus Salt Soak

  • 5 cups (40 oz) Epsom Salts
  • 5-15 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oils
  • optional: any additional oils for any additional properties needed

Mix well and store in a water proof container, add about a cup of mixture to a hot bath and soak in delicious muscle relaxing bliss. This is a great soak for muscle pains, and helps with migraines from muscle tension or spasms.

“After Sports” Eucalyptus Soak

  • 1/2 cup Citric Acid
  • 1 cup Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Epsom Salts
  • 20-30 drops of Eucalyptus Oil

Mix well and store in airtight container (or it will lose its fizz), add a few tablespoons to a hot bath. It should be fizzy, and is a wonderful soak after a hard work out session. It helps relax and soothe both the skin and muscles. You can add an additional cup of sea salt to this as well.

Eucalyptus is fantastic in salves & balms, which if you would like to read a good explanation on what salves and balms are, with some good instructions on how to make a few types, go here.

Eucalyptus Salve “Cheater” Version

  • 2 oz Coconut oil
  • 10-20 drops of Eucalyptus oil

Use whisk attachment in a stand mixer, and whip coconut oil until soft and creamy. With machine still whisking add in a drop at a time the essential oil. Store in airtight jar, or clean reused jar lotion container, this will have the consistency more of a body butter but it gets the job done and is easy to make. This is a great for massaging into muscle pains, or applied to the chest for colds.

Eucalyptus Salve

  • 1/3 c Oil (Sunflower, Almond, Apricot, just should be of vegetable origin)
  • 1/3 oz Bees Wax, granulated, or grated
  • 5-10 drops of Eucalyptus oil

Heat oil in a double boiler, and slowly add bees wax. Stir until fully melted and combined. Remove from heat and stir in by hand the essential oils. Pour into small, preferably glass, seal-able containers and store in a cool dry place. You can test to see if your salve will set with the method listed on Whispering Earth, using a spoon to dip out a small amount to see if it sets correctly. If you find it does not, you can add more beeswax a few grains at a time until the right consistency is achieved.

This like the “cheater” salve is great for muscle pains, and for chest colds.

You can make a sanitizing spray and a sanitizer as well (like with rosemary). Below is a purse, or travel friendly, version of a sanitizing spray and gel, either can be used on the hands or on surfaces that you wish to disinfect.

Eucalyptus Sanitizing Spray

  • 2 oz spray bottle
  • 10-20 drops Eucalyptus essential oil (or oils if you would like to use more than one eucalyptus)
  • 1 3/4 to 2 oz Witch Hazel
  • optional: any additional oils you would like to add to boost its germ killing ability

Mix well and store in spray bottle, mist on to hands and rub in, or mist directly onto a surface to disinfect.

Eucalyptus Sanitizing Gel

  • Pump or squeeze container
  • 1 oz aloe gel
  • 10-30 drops Eucalyptus oil
  • 1 oz Witch Hazel

Mix well, I prefer to give this a spin in the blender to make sure it is of an even consistency, you can use a food processor too. Store in a squeeze container in purse, or carry on, for a quick squirt of hand sanitizer gel.

Of course there are a lot of sites, and stores, that offer pre-made blends of oils, or other preparations with eucalyptus in them, and those are a great way to¬†easily¬†use eucalyptus if you aren’t the DIY type. The down side is there are literally tons of them. So I would say, if you¬†want to go this pre-made path, do some research on the ingredients, species used, and amounts, and see if this will work for your issues cold, pain or otherwise. Also I would also recommend trying a few brands before sticking with a specific one.

Remember these are all warming oils, and should not be used on sensitive skin. They also should not be used internally unless under the direct supervision of a healthcare expert. Always do your own research and trials to see what works best for you, since everyone is different! Check for interactions on WebMD. And like I always say, if you are in doubt, ask a professional!


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Fennel, Aniseed’s More Famous Cousin

I have written before about anise¬†and fennel is like it’s better known cousin. Fennel is used more for culinary purposes than medical but just like anise, it has a lot of uses. Some are similar to anise, and some are not. One big similarity is the smell and taste, this is another one of those licorice-y plants.

In historical texts there is a bit of confusion between fennel and anise, and that can cause a modern mix up when researching benefits for either. The do have some similarities in how they help but for pain the really the big difference you need to remember if you are taking this for pain – is anise is for numbing and fennel is for spasms.

Fennel was used and grown by historical cultures, Romans grew and ate it. Pliny wrote about it and had multiple uses, and believed serpents ate it before shedding. Most traditional uses are for stomach complaints, or for other culinary uses. Romans ate the young shoots, and it was frequent in French and Anglo-Saxon cooking prior to the Norman conquest. Otherwise, it is usually added to foods for the same stomach calming effects, like if you are eating cabbage, or other “hard to digest” foods like anise assists with.

Fennel though is great for spasms, the oil is great to use for those painful spasms that just won’t release. For me a massage of fennel oil into a tight muscle helps alleviate some of the pain and helps it to let go. It is also great to rub into muscles that feel tight after intense stretching or working out. I do like to rub the oil direct into muscles but you can make a massage mix for sore muscles with other oils for added muscle relaxing goodness.

Sore Muscle Massage Oil

  • 1 oz Carrier oil – any good quality oil will do, just make sure it is as pure as possible.
  • 20-30 drops Fennel oil

This is just for a straight fennel oil, which is warming, so it can be too much for delicate skin. So you may need to increase or decrease from 20 to 50 as you find works for you, but you can add in other oils in the below lists to add any of their properties.

The amounts below are in parts, you should not go above 50 drops per 1 oz of oil, so use this measurement to determine the amount of drops for each part to go in your ounce of oil. This should make it easier to increase these recipes to make larger batches, and easy to calculate if you chose to only use one oil or multiple oils depending on your needs. Make your own blend that works best for you, get creative!

Remember some of these oils are warming as well and you will need to test and find out how sensitive you are, and a few of these oils we will be covering in later posts.

As I said previously, fennel is also great for easing stomach complaints and you can make a tea from fennel seeds to ease stomach cramping and pain.

Fennel Seed Tea

  • 2 teaspoons Fennel seeds, slightly crushed
  • 8 oz Boiling water
  • optional: add a teaspoon of coriander seeds, chamomile, or¬†peppermint¬†to increase relief

Steep for 5 to 10 minutes and drink, should ease pain fairly quickly and is a great remedy for holiday over indulgence as that time of year is fast creeping up on us.

You can also include fennel in your food preparations to help with digestion, extra boost of pain relief, and even lactose intolerance. I like to include fennel seeds on pizza when I make them to help deal with my lactose intolerance, and it helps to reduce the pain and cramping that comes with eating dairy. You can also include it with things like the previously mentioned cabbage to decrease the “wind” that most cabbage causes.¬†Another way is eating the fennel bulb, it does contain the same oil but you do need to consume more. It tastes so good though that is not much of a chore, as long as you don’t hate licorice, and I love this recipe I got from Williams-Sonoma, Braised Fennel with Olive Oil and Garlic¬†and since it has garlic, it is a great meal to help take the edge off pain.

  • 4 fennel bulbs, about 2 lb. total
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground fennel seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lemon peel strip, about 2 inches long
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges for garnish

Directions:

Cut off the stalks and feathery fronds from the fennel bulbs. Reserve the stalks for another use. Chop enough of the feathery fronds to measure 1 Tbs. and reserve some of the remaining fronds for garnish. Set aside. Remove any damaged outer leaves from the bulbs and discard. Cut each bulb into quarters lengthwise and trim away the tough inner core.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute; do not brown. Add the fennel quarters and the fennel seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel begins to soften, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the water and lemon peel, cover and cook until the fennel is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fennel to a serving platter and keep warm. Increase the heat to high and cook until only 3/4 cup liquid remains, about 5 minutes. Discard the lemon peel. Add the lemon juice, then taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the sauce over the fennel and garnish with lemon wedges. Sprinkle with the chopped fennel tops and garnish with the whole fennel fronds. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Autumn, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).
One final use I personally love fennel for is just 2-3 drops in a capsule prior to eating, and I can eat any amount of dairy I want. The pain and stomach cramping that comes with eating dairy doesn’t come on after taking fennel. It is strong enough that I can eat alfredo sauce, which I couldn’t previously using over the counter medications for lactose intolerance.
Remember you always need to do your own trials and tests and make sure you are checking for interactions with anything else you take on sites like WebMD. Educate yourself and make sure you understand what you are taking, if you are ever in doubt ask a professional!


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Your Mindset Matters

I recently got some bad-ish news. I may be looking at a yet another surgery in my future, it isn’t terrible news but not the most fun. Surgery is really an inevitable thing with my current issues, but it is disheartening that it is so soon. Plus no one (well I would hope no one) gets excited about going under the knife.

Stuff like this happens, such is life, especially in chronic pain issues. There are times where it feels like all the hard work, emotion, effort, blood, sweat, tears and ground you have gained is lost with one fell swoop. It could be a fall, a really bad pain day/week/month after a reprieve, or even just a bad day at work. Small things can seem HUGE when you are in pain or low on sleep or just feeling like you have reached your limit. There are two choices when you are feeling emotionally and physically pushed to the extreme.

First choice – give up, throw your hands in the air and just throw in the towel on life. Things like “it’s too hard,” “it’s not fair,” “I can’t.”

Second choice – knock the lemons out of life’s hands, punch it in the solar plexus, pull it by its hair to the ground, and sit on its chest force feeding it the lemons until it whistles Dixie. ( 9 ._.)9 bring it!

If you can’t tell, I am more inclined towards the latter. It wasn’t always so, I struggled in my early years with depression and nearly lost the fight a few times. And I admit I tried to give up a few times, but thanks to having good people in my life, I made it through all of those times. Learning along the way, with failures and successes, I came to understand that those who give up will always lose. Those the fight for everything with all their body, mind and soul, will always succeed in what they set their mind to.

Everyone has heard a news story or heard of someone who was told they wouldn’t be able to walk, or use some limb, live past a certain age, and then out of sheer determination were able to. If you look at the people who do this, they all are incredibly focused on regaining what was lost, or keeping what they have. Some even seem to accomplish their healing through sheer force of will. And it is scientifically possible that their mind actually did play a large role in their healing.

Really. No joke.

There are tons of psychosomatic disorders, where a belief in the mind actually causes a physical manifestation in the body. One of the most dramatic (or at least I think so) is Pseudocyesis. This is a false pregnancy that due to the strong belief in the mind that the body is pregnant, and the body starts to display symptoms of pregnancy. There have been studies that prayer, of any sort, can help heal where other conventional means couldn’t. The religion doesn’t matter, praying for your self, or knowing others are praying for you really does help. You don’t even need to believe it seems in some cases, it seems just knowing that people are praying (and therefore caring about you) can help with healing. Prayer has been studied for the past few decades by medical science, and we still do not know why it works, but it does. There are also lots of studies being done with phantom limb pain and the mind, by tricking the mind to believe that the body is whole with mirror visual feedback or through other methods pain and other issues are able to be treated. ¬†People who study martial arts, especially in a traditional way, will know that you can use “brain hacks” to trick your or your opponents body into behaving the way you want it to. The most famous mind trick is the placebo effect, scientists still don’t fully know why a sugar pill in some cases works as well as the actual medication. The mind is a powerful thing, but it can be fooled, and you can use that to your advantage.

How does this all relate to you and your pain? Well in loads of ways, I used to study Yoga, currently practice Tai Chi and have thoroughly studied many meditative practices. The one thing in common is the harnessing of the mind and the senses, and bending them to your will. Yoga itself means to harness, to rein in the senses. Basically actively taking steps to control your emotions and stress you will improve your mood, it will help greatly with pain, and has a positive impact on recovery. You are worth the effort, and you deserve to live well. So how do you start?

The positive man will pass. 

The positive man will pass. The positive man will pass.¬†The positive man will…

Oh Indy! *swoon*

Anyway, your mindset matters. In all of your treatments and most importantly in your everyday life. Have a positive outlook on everything- your pain, your mood, even painful procedures. This can mean the difference between a great recovery and a mediocre or even a poor one. Trust me it is difficult, to be positive all the time, but this is something you can “fake it ’til you make it”. I remind myself constantly that I have no choice in what I have wrong with me, but I DO have a choice in whether I am going to be happy or not. You decide to or decide not to be happy, it is all up to you. You are completely in control of this and no one can do it for you.

Again I struggle to make that choice some days, there are many mornings when I wake up in horrible pain, and I know I have to push on through a long, long day. I could just give in to being grumpy, it would be so easy to, and a ton of excuses to back it up. But if I am the people I interact with will be grumpier, the day will get worse, and I will spread my grumpy malaise faster than an influenza virus. I stop looking for the things that make me happy and you can easily fall into the trap of wallowing in your pain. Some migraines make me so short I will cause more stress on myself just due to the pain I am in. The grump takes hold, the pain takes over and then when friends reach out to you…

I am…Nacho!

If I consciously make the choice to not do that, and to be happy instead, I usually have a super day and my pain decreases, and better controlled by whatever method I am using. Plus I just feel better overall, you really do start to feel happy pretty fast even if you are just faking it at first, and the grump just melts away. 

Just the simple act of smiling releases endorphins and we all know how great those free pain chemicals are. Plus if you are smiling people automatically smile back at you, they really can’t help it sorta like yawning. Try it! Go to a grocery store and just wander around with a smile, you don’t even have to make eye contact, and count the people that turn their frown upside down because they looked at you. You will be surprised, and you will feel kind of good about it. Like you’re a smile ninja.

Take pleasure in the small things, delighting in the small things uplifts the mood and reminds us that not everything is horrible. Look for that silver lining, if you think you have it badly, remind yourself that things could be worse. You remember the old “eat your green beans there are starving children in China” routine your parents tried? Well, remember it always, it is very true, not everyone has it as good as you do. If you have one form of something, there is bound to be someone much worse off. Don’t let yourself be negative, eliminate it!

Don’t Stress it!

If you are thinking positively, it is much harder to be stressed out. Stress, as we all know, is one of the worst psychosomatic “illnesses” one can have, but it is also the most common. Stress literally kills. But stress is not something that you have to have, you can take the bull by the horns and kick it out of your days.

There are lots of things you can do to combat stress, the big three ways to combat it are:

  1. Exercise – get up and MOVE. Do it! Even if you can not move far or very much, movement is vital. The saying “move it or lose it” is so, so true. If you stop moving you lose flexibility and muscle mass, so do your physical therapy, get exercise, park at the back of the parking lot and hoof it, just move as much as you can. Regular exercise is key to a healthy body and mind, and is something that everyone needs to make time for. No excuses about you are too busy!
  2. Sleep – it is so important to get enough sleep, your body heals when you sleep. With the lives we live these days, it is difficult to get your 8 hours, and even more when you are in pain. Set up a bed time routine, this helps the body realize “hey, I should shut down” at the right time. Keep glowing screens and phones out of the bedroom as much as possible, try to not use one at least 2 hours before bed time. Make your sleeping area as dark as possible, wear an eye-mask or get light blocking curtains if you need to. You can diffuse calming smells, things like lavender¬†work great, and so do “sleepy” teas. Remember keep the bed area for sleeping only, and if you have trouble try some of the sleep aids I list.
  3. Environmental/Action – assess your surroundings, and daily activities. Where can you make improvements to reduce stress? Can you take a break and do some exercise at set times? If you sit all day, can you exercise at your desk? Do you get up and stretch at least once an hour? Are you taking mental breaks through out the day to think about something that is other than work? Can you diffuse/burn relaxing smells? Even if you are in a highly restrictive workplace you can sit and be still for 5 minutes and meditate, pray alone or with people, do focused relaxation exercises, or deep breathing.

Reducing your stress, at work and at home, forcing yourself to make active changes to improve your mood will help make life over all easier, and less stress a habit. And that is a habit I am sure we all need.

There isn’t a lot a sufferer of chronic pain can control, and your mood is sometimes the easiest, and sometimes the hardest to do. But it is worth it, most chronic pain syndromes have very high suicide rates, and low return to work rates, I think choosing to be happy and not becoming one of those statistics is not only worth it but so important. The main reason is it makes the sufferer’s life that much easier, but also their loved ones who suffer in different ways. When you, and the people around you are happy, everything else will follow too.

If you are interested on more information on phantom limbs and the brain check out this video with V.S. Ramachandran


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Tarragon the little Dragon

This little herb has been a bit overlooked historically, which makes me a bit sad since it really is quite useful and versatile. It is mentioned by Hippocrates, and was eaten frequently as more of a vegetable than a herb. There is mention of its use as a cure for toothaches in Greece, but other than that it is not really in the spotlight. It originated most likely in Siberia, or Mongolia and was brought West via trade, and probably made it to continental Europe through the return of the Crusaders (lot’s of stuff made it to Europe this way, and thank goodness, I hate using Roman numerals for maths). The Tudors were known for planting this in their gardens, and the French are well known for loving Tarragon and using it liberally in cooking. It’s common name in French is Esdragon, in the Middle East it is know as¬†tarkhŇęn both names mean “Dragon” or “little Dragon” and this most likely alludes to the belief that it cures poisonous bites. Even in English it is sometimes referred to as Dragon Wort.

Great with fish, eggs, and poultry ūüôā I really love it stuck under the skin of a roasted chicken. Mmmmm dragon chicken

Tarragon has been a little overlooked in herbal medicine, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have great uses medicinally. Tarragon has eugenol the same chemical that makes cloves¬†work. Eugenol helps with pain and has a slight numbing effect, and this is why both work so well for tooth pain, and other pain, topically. Tarragon like clove, works great for muscle pain, but this is a warm oil like Peppermint¬†and it can sting a little if you have sensitive skin. So you can mix it into a good carrier oil and apply to any painful areas topically. A carrier oil means any good quality oil to dilute the essential oil – olive oil, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, V6 oil, etc. For a quick fix just mix a drop of the essential oil to a little bit of the carrier and apply. For more regular usage you may want to make your own blend.

Tarragon Essential oil blend

  • 10-30 drops Tarragon Essential oil
  • 1/2 fl oz of carrier oil

Mix the oils and place in a preferably dark or amber glass bottle, best done with a pump dispenser or if you have a roll on that works well too.

I highly recommend this method since it smells fantastic and the smell definitely brightens my spirits as well as alleviating the pain. Remember to purchase therapeutic grade essential oils, and apply externally. You can ingest the oil, but I find for pain topical application has the best results.

You can purchase therapeutic grade Tarragon essential oil that I use here and use 1453322 as your sponsor number.

Tarragon oil is also great for settling the stomach, you can rub the above oil blend right on the abdomen. Or you can take an empty capsule, put in a few drops of Tarragon, close and swallow. This works great for those stomach issues you can get from taking medications, or the nausea that can come from pain.

Tarragon works great for settling the stomach, it calms that upset queasy feeling you get when you are in pain, or the upset stomach you can get from taking pain medications or the like. I prefer tea to the oil for stomach settling, I find it is just a more pleasant way to take it.

Tarragon Tea

  • 1 handful (or a heaping tablespoon) of fresh Tarragon leaves
  • 8 0z boiling water
  • Covered teacup

Steep for 10 minutes for stomach settling or to reduce stress, or up to 40 minutes for a more sedative draught to help with sleep. I am listing the recipe for just a single cup here but if you want to increase it just use the same amount of tablespoons of Tarragon that you do cups of water. It is best to use fresh for this since the oils that work so well in this plant to ease pain are diminished when dried and deteriorate over time. You can used dried though if that is all you have available, if possible add a drop of the Tarragon oil to dried Tarragon tea to increase the effectiveness.

This tea will settle the stomach and with the stronger infusion will have a mild sedative effect. With its strong flavor, of anise or licorice, it is a good herb to add to any sleeping teas you make with bitter herbs.

I have also read of but not tried a similar infusion with apple cider vinegar instead of water but only a teaspoon is needed and it should settle the stomach. If you try this and it works, let me know!

Tarragon while tasty, is also a great medicine but always check it out for yourself and do your own trials to see what works for you. Remember to check for interactions, things like WebMD. Do your research and educate yourself, if you are in doubt in the slightest about any of it, ask a professional.