Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain


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Valerian the Pied Piper of Sleep…and Cats

Valerian, while a fairly pretty plant to look at has a rather foul smelling root. It’s name was, in historical texts, generally rendered as Phu or Foo, speculated to have been called such, due to the distinctive smell. Pew! This means it is possibly the source of all laser cat powers…

Pew Pew Pew!

The smell is quite seductive to cats and rats (like Anise for dogs), and was supposedly Valerian was used by the Pied Piper, either rubbed on or secreted about his body, to lead the rats from Hamelin. During most of its historical continental European use, it was thought of more as a spice than a herb and was frequently used for cooking and even used in perfumes! There are supposedly more pleasant smelling versions but that sounds, to me, quite a smelly perfume idea.

It was used in some places to protect a person from thunder and lightening, also for ridding people of “demons.” Which could possibly be taken to mean that it eased symptoms of epilepsy, since possession was often the diagnosis for sufferers of epilepsy and other mental disorders before they were fully understood. Valerian would definitely provide a calming effect for nerve issues, agitated people, those suffering from general nervous disorders, and was often used to treat hysteria. But surprisingly for most of early history medicinally, it was not held in high regard, it was mentioned by Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and others for various complaints and ailments almost in passing. It was only Galen that remarked on its sedative effects, and it took many centuries before that was re-discovered in the West.

Valerian was also known as nard, Amantilla, “Capon’s Tail”, and Setwall (or Setewale). It’s present name is thought to come from the Latin for courage (valere), or possibly strength (valeo) or “good health” (valere), but there is no definitive answer on the name origin. Arab doctors knew of its uses and post-Crusades, as Arab knowledge filtered west, more knowledge of this plant grew and usage grew. A great recipe mentioned in the 14th century capitalizing on its relaxing properties was “Men who begin to fight and you wish to stop them, give them the juice of Amantilla (Valerian) and peace will be made immediately.”

More recent historical usage was for during bleeding to calm the person, and promote healing (bleeding was commonly used up until the 19th century as a treatment for many issues), and as a nervine. It was even used during World War I for the stress trench combat, civilians for air raids constant stress, and was still used during World War II to treat “shell-shock.” It is also widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayerveda, and even the W.H.O. recognizes the nerve relaxing qualities of Valerian.

While Valerian is a pretty little plant, most preparations use the root, which just happens to be the smelliest bit. It generally helps most people sleep,  it can reduce anxiety, depression (from stress or nervous tension), works on the central nervous system to help relax the body, and also can help calm the lower intestine smooth muscle and alleviate gas and cramping. The main purpose I find it useful for it, is its antispasmodic properties, this is a great way to treat lady cramps, muscle cramps and pain, and will help with symptoms of cramps and spasms, like tension headaches. Since it helps muscles and nerves to relax, it helps with blood pressure by relaxing the vein and artery walls, improving circulation and reducing blood pressure.

It is pretty to look at, but smelly!

Tea is always a great way to take Valerian, you can prepare the fresh root, or what is more frequently available, dried roots. You can drink this tea about a half hour to two hours before bed time, and it should help bring sleep faster. You can also make a double batch to add to bath water, two cups, will help bring on sleep and help with painful muscles. This is also a great cup of tea (like Fennel Tea, Anise Tea, Ginger Tea, or Peppermint Tea) for this time of year when over indulgence leads to digestive distress. Now, like most good medicine this can be very bad tasting for some people and bitter, others not so much, but if you find it bitter bust out your favorite local honey when you make this.

Valerian Tea

  • 1 teaspoon Dried (or Fresh) Valerian root
  • 8 oz Hot water (just before boiling)

Steep for 5-10 minutes in a covered teacup, or teapot if you decide to make a bigger batch. Remember covering it helps to keep those essential oils that make this all work in your tea instead of in the air. Again this is great after exercise, to ease spasms, and to help you get restful sleep. Where you don’t feel sedated or fuzzy in the morning.

If you don’t want to have tea in your bath you can always make a relaxing bath salts with Valerian essential oils (remember therapeutic grade only!).

Valerian Epsom Salts

  • 5 cups (40 oz) of Epsom Salts
  • 5-10 drops Valerian essential oil
  • You can add additional oils like Eucalyptus, Lavender, or others to help promote sleep or muscle relaxation. 5-10 drops of any additional oils.

Add a cup at a time to bath water and enjoy a lovely soak, in relaxing goodness.

Valerian is great teamed up with hops, they work well in concert with each other since Valerian is a more mild sedative hops give it that extra punch for a super knock out combo. Hops are thought to work on the body the same way melatonin does, and Valerian acts like adenosine which is a inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps with sleep. So when you combine the two you have a great combination that is non-narcotic, and won’t leave you feeling bad and groggy the next morning.

Super Knockout Sleepy Tincture – Hop & Valerian

  • 2 parts Valerian root
  • 1 part Hops flowers
  • Large Mason Jar
  • Vodka or other clear alcohol, enough to cover

Fill jar with the Hops and Valerian mixture, with gap at the top for expansion, cover with alcohol and seal tight. Let sit for at least 4 weeks, or up to 6 in a cool, dark, and undisturbed place, but shake once a week. Strain and store in dark bottles. You can take 1/2 teaspoon (6 drops) to 1 teaspoon of this about an hour or so before you want to go to bed.

You could make a straight Valerian tincture, make it the same way just leave out the hops, and you can take 1/2 teaspoon to 3/4 of a teaspoon daily (up to 3 times a day) for anxiety, and to help with circulation and blood pressure. You can take up to 1 teaspoon to assist with sleep.

You can also make a great headache and sleep aid by adding more herbs such as lavender, passion flower and chamomile.

Headache & Sleep Tincture

  • 1 part Valerian root
  • 1 part Hops flowers
  • 1 part Passion Flower
  • 1 part Chamomile
  • 1 part Lavender
  • 1 part Skullcap

Take about a 1/2 teaspoon at onset of migraine and increase if pain does not recede, not recommended taking more than 1 teaspoon. This will alleviate migraine pain and help bring sleep, which is great when you wake up at 2 am like I do with migraines.

With any tincture you can add it to a cup of hot water, or tea, if you are concerned about the alcohol. You can always do the under the tongue delivery, or even just into a cup of water or juice. If the taste is too bitter you can mix this into a tablespoon of honey and take it.

Since it is that holiday time of year! Valerian hot chocolate is a great way to ease the tension and stress that holidays can bring. I love this recipe from James Wong

James Wong’s Valerian Hot Chocolate

  • 3 tablespoons fresh valerian root
  • 3 3/4 cups full-fat milk
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon balm leaves
  • 3 teaspoons fresh lavender flowers
  • 6 leaves & 3 heads of fresh passion flowers (or 1 teaspoon)
  • peel of 1 1/2 oranges
  • 1 3/4 oz dark chocolate (min 50% cocoa solids)
  • “dash” (1/8th or less of a teaspoon) of vanilla

Chop the top and bottom from the fresh valerian root, and then place in a saucepan with the milk, lemon balm, lavender, passion flower, and orange peel and gently heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain. Pour the infused milk back into the pan, and then add the dark chocolate and vanilla extract and stir until melted. Drink at once.

Colds and coughs are frequent this time of year and if you are sick while you are in pain it only makes things worse. A great cough syrup you can make is a variation of another of James’ recipes but it has my own special touches. Because Valerian works to relax and prevent spasms its great to help suppress coughs.

Valerian Cough Syrup

  • 4 tablespoons dried Marshmallow root
  • 2 dried Licorice roots, broken up
  • 3 heads of fresh elderberries (if you can get them, if not about a tablespoon of dried or you can substitute 2 tablespoons wild cherry bark, or just leave it all out entirely)
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon Anise seed
  • 1 tablespoon Fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons Valerian root
  • 2 c water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 5 tablespoons glycerin

Put everything except the honey and glycerin in a pot with the water and simmer unit liquid reduces by about a fifth. Remove the licorice, and pour mixture into blender and blend until smooth. Pour back into pan and add honey, lime juice and glycerin, stir and simmer for 2 more minutes. Store in bottles. Take 2 tablespoons 3 times a day for no more than 5 days. The Valerian in this helps to relax the smooth muscles helping to suppress the cough. Remember, if your cough persists you need to see a professional, don’t neglect colds and illnesses during the holidays!

You can find Valerian in a lot of prepackaged ways, tinctures, teas, but mostly as capsules. You can purchase these already made, or you can make your own, just like in the turmeric post.  You don’t want to exceed 600 mg a day of Valerian, also due to fillers some pre-made pills may work better than others.

ProTip: You should never take any sleep aid for more than 4 weeks straight, or you could have issues sleeping.

Mythbuster Tip: Valium and Valerian while sounding similar are different completely, and Valerian is much safer to use. Remember though, everything in moderation. Too much of anything is bad.

Each person is different and you will need to do your own trails to see what works best for you. Check for interactions with your current medications, and WebMD is a great resource as usual. Make sure you educate yourself on everything you take! If you are ever in doubt, ask a professional!

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Arnica, a klutz’s best friend

Arnica is a member of the sunflower family, with soft furry leaves that are most likely the origin of its name since arna is lamb in Greek. Only the flowers are used in herbal medicine, and while rare is a large part of local medicine where ever it grows. It is a fairly global phenomenon, growing in the more chilly higher elevations across Europe, Siberia and North America. Used for centuries for topical treatment of bruises, sore muscles, and healing. It is a great anti-inflammatory and analgesic, and personally I use it quite often to treat bruises and sore muscles.

 

photo by lunatik2811

Plus look how happy it looks! 🙂

It is great for after a session of Graston, after some intense exercise, or will even alleviate the irritation of sunburn. Graston sessions tend to produce bruising, and the application of arnica means less time between visits and therefore faster improvements in my mobility or reduction in pain. 

One of the common ways to find arnica is as an oil infusion. You can apply this directly to any painful area, or sore muscles. Any bump or bruise is a good candidate for treatment. As an oil it isn’t easily portable for use on the go or at work, so when I am traveling I carry a spray version of it.

Arnica Bumps & Bruises Spray

  • 2 oz spray bottle
  • witch hazel or rubbing alcohol
  • distilled water
  • 1 tablespoon arnica infusion oil

Put the tablespoon of arnica oil in the spray bottle, fill halfway with witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, and the rest of the way with water. Shake well before using and just spray and rub into sore areas.

If you would like to make your own oil infusion, it is fairly easy.

Arnica Oil Infusion

  • Clean mason jar (of any size)
  • Arnica flowers (enough to fill the jar shaking them down but not packing tightly but leaving about a half inch from the top of the jar)
  • A good quality oil (olive, avacado, jojoba, coconut, etc)
  • A sunny spot
  • citric acid (optional, will help to preserve and extend shelf life)

Fill jar with flowers, leaving gap at top for expansion, and then cover completely with oil. Sit in a sunny spot and everyday turn the jar over once and back then set it back in its spot. It is ready for use in 2-3 days but if you let it sit for six weeks it will be at its most potent.

You can also prepare a good salve for soothing achey muscles or bruises with this recipe, by WellnessMama.

WellnessMama Arnica Salve

Directions: Warm oil in double boiler. Add beeswax and stir until melted. Add Wintergreen Oil in desired amount (warning-wintergreen is very strong!). Pour into desired storage container (we use small tins or little jam jars). Let cool.

Can be used on bruises, sprains, strains, head bumps, etc.

Sometimes if it is a particularly sore or difficult bruise or painful area a tincture works great. You can apply it to a towel for a compress, or directly on a gauze for all day application. You can make a tincture just like you do the oil, except replace the oil with vodka or grain alcohol and store in a cool instead of sunny place. It is also commonly available at herb stores and online in pre-made bottles.

Arnica Tincture for Bumps and Bruises

  • 1 tablespoon arnica tincture
  • 1 pint water (warm but not boiling if you are using a compress)
  • gauze pad or towel

Combine tincture and water and then dip towel in and wring out and apply for a compress, or dip gauze pad into it and wring out and tape to affected area.

Warning! Warning! Warning!

Like all remedies herbal or otherwise, treat this with respect. Arnica should never be taken internally. It is highly toxic, as it contains helenalin, and cause severe issues – liver, heart and kidney issues. No one wants those. Topically if you have sensitive skin it can cause irritation, always do a test patch first to see how you react before using it. Never use on open wounds, or take it internally at all.

Some sites do recommend that you can take homeopathic versions of it internally, since there is no actual molecules of the plant in most preparations they are basically safe. Personally, I do not encourage or endorse any homeopathic remedies, since they are proven through many clinical trials to do no better than a placebo, or contain even a molecule of the herbal item it is claimed to contain. So it is just a bit of a waste of time and your hard earned money.

Remember always do your research, check for interactions on sites like WebMD. If you are ever in doubt, ask a professional!


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What to do with Chamomile?

Chamomile, an herb I am sure everyone should have at least heard of once. It is a common ingredient in most prepared “sleepy” teas, you know things like cubby wubby womb room…

wooooooooah-man!

But chamomile is so much more! Historically it has been used by the Egyptians, who associated the sunny flowers with the sun gods, used it to treat fevers. The Romans used it for headaches and urinary tract disorders. Pliny the Elder also wrote about and recommended it to his students. It has been grown for generations in English gardens and used for stomach disorders and treating intestinal parasites on the European continent. In Spain and Mexico it is known as Manzanilla, which means little apple, a common name due to its smell, and is used for hair rinses. If you have blond hair, it will enhance highlights and makes a great addition to shampoos or a rinse. But sadly, it is another one of those plants that everyone seems to know of, but not much about.

First we need to make clear the different types of chamomile.

What?! There are different types of chamomile?!

whatchoo

Yes! There are many types of chamomile, in fact nine in all, but there are only a few that we will be concerned with here. The biggest problem with chamomile is that it has so many common names, that it can become confusing to a novice. So I will be listing the Latin names, and then the most common “vulgar” names. You will notice that these are different species, but the properties of some are extremely similar.

ProTip: You will find that most packaged chamomile is only labeled as just Chamomile, and it will probably be either a blend of the Roman and German, or more likely just German. Roman is slightly more difficult to find, but most good quality herb stores will carry it and designate between the two.

Matricaria chamomilla – A.K.A. German Chamomile, Hungarian Chamomile, scented mayweed

the mugshot

Like all chamomile, this is a well known sleep aid, it is great to add to skullcap teas, holy basil teas, or mix the oils (or flowers) with lavender and Epsom salts for a relaxing bath. It is noticeably different as an essential oil from its Roman cousin, as German has a distinct blue color and Roman oil is yellow to pale yellow, or pale blue even. German is better for anti-inflammatory, but shares most of the same properties as Roman.  You can use both internally and externally, but this specific species is the most studied strain of chamomile by modern science. Remember – if you try one, and don’t get good results, you can almost always try the other and see if it works better.

It has a lovely straw scent, apple if you use Roman, that goes well with lavender and hops in herb pillows to help with sleep. My all time favorite uses for this is an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic, and a mild analgesic. A hot compress of chamomile can ease spasmed muscles reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and a hot compress is just about the loveliest thing you have ever experienced when you have nagging persistent muscle spasms. If you don’t get good results with any of the below remedies, scroll down to Roman.

Chamomile Hot Compress

  • 1 tablespoon of dried chamomile
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • towel (or other absorbent cloth)
  • bowl

Steep the chamomile in the boiling water for 1o minutes, remove herbs and reheat if necessary and soak towel in warm liquid (or go as hot as you can stand, be careful not to scald yourself). Apply the towel to the affected area and leave on until cools and re-heat and apply again as necessary. It also works great if you have puffy eyes!

As I said before you can mix this with lavender, or other herbs for a relaxing bath, but it is great just on its own.

Chamomile Bath

  • 8 tablespoons of dried chamomile
  • 4 cups boiling water

Steep chamomile in boiling water for about 10 minutes and add to a drawn bath. You can include the chamomile itself in the bath to help increase its potency. This is great not only for sore or spasmed muscles, but also great for alleviating stress. A great bath to have right before bed to ensure a restful sleep.

ProTip: If you can only find chamomile tea in pre-made tea bags you can use 8 teabags for the bath, and 2-4 for the compress.

Chamomile Bath Salts

  • 5c Epsom Salts
  • 5-10 drops Chamomile Essential Oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried Chamomile flowers per cup of salts (just like lavender you can add as much or little of these as you like)

Mix well and store in dry place, you would use about a cup per bath. You can add the additional items listed in the lavender post if you like, but this works great as is. This and the plain chamomile bath are great for menstrual cramps.

As we have said, chamomile works great for muscle spasms and you can use it to treat cramps, you can also use the essential oil topically on the abdomen to treat cramps or stomach issues, as well as for muscle pains. It works great as an addition to massage oils as well to help de-stress and relieve tension.

I highly recommend this German chamomile oil, if you go with another brand make sure it is a therapeutic grade essential oil.

Chamaemelum nobile – A.K.A Roman Chamomile, Noble Chamomile, camomile, English Chamomile, garden chamomile, ground apple

the mugshot

This is a brother from another mother of German chamomile, it has all the great antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, stress, sleep and pain relief properties and will work measured in the same amounts for all the above listed recipes. It is much better, I find, at lifting the mood, soothing sore muscles and topical pain. Both are good for sleeping, menstrual pain, and really are almost interchangeable.

Chamomile Tea for Sleep

  • 1/2 oz of dried chamomile
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • honey or other sweetener to taste

Steep for 10 minutes for a sleepy tea, preferably in a covered teacup or teapot multiply all amounts by 4 if you are brewing in a teapot. It is said that if you suffer from persistent nightmares this is a sure-fire remedy for sleeping well.

Chamomile Tea for Digestion

  • 1/2 oz dried chamomile
  • 2 cup boiling water

Steep this for 20 minutes and drink to settle the stomach, if it is upset from medications or pain. A few slices of ginger can be included and is rather pleasant with chamomile. This tea is great for cramping in the digestive tract or other digestive muscle issues, since it will deal with the muscle spasms as well as reducing inflammation.

Chamomile helps in healing wounds and is a great antibacterial wash for cuts, or surgery incisions if you want a mild way to help keep them clean. Just make the tea for sleep and wash affected area, or for some whole body healing from something like chicken pox, to help with healing the skin, the bath recipe in the German chamomile section works quite well.

Again, the topical application of the essential oils is great for topical pain, and I personally prefer this over German for my pain. You can apply directly, with a carrier oil, or with a hot compress (listed above).

Chamomile Essential Oil for Topical Pain

  • 1-2 drops of chamomile essential oils
  • slightly damp hot towel

Rub oil directly into painful area, or place a few drops on heated towel and apply directly to painful area. This works well for menstrual cramps too.

I have read of but not used a topical pain compress that can be made of 10 parts chamomile to 5 parts poppy flowers steeped in water and then applied for pain. I hope to give this a try sometime soon to see how effective it is.

For the Roman chamomile essential oil I use go here, again if you go with another brand make sure it is a therapeutic grade essential oil.

Additional Reading:

For information about chamomile by Georgetown school of pharmacology on German and Roman chamomile are a great read and informative.

For more medical information about the chemicals chamomile contains by a PhD from Campbell (pharmaceutical university) go here.

Warning!

If you are allergic to Ragweed, you should do a skin test patch prior to using chamomile. You should test ALL herbal remedies for allergies and interactions, but this one especially so for Ragweed. You should be careful with chamomile (and peppermint) if you suffer from acid re-flux and should consult a professional before taking chamomile. Also as chamomile can cause uterine contractions it is best for pregnant women to avoid taking it internally, though if you are absolutely set on using it speak with your doctor first.

Always check for interactions, resources like WebMD for Roman and WebMD for German are useful. Do your own trials and find what works best for you, and if you are ever in doubt about anything at all, ask a professional!


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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 tarkhūn 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 🙂 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.


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Lavender, not just for Grandma’s closet.

Lavender, if you are like most people, it’s one of those scents that you don’t think of as medicinal or really think much of. It is in perfume’s, room sprays, soaps and lotions. You see it in those sachet’s in your Grandma’s closet or in some Herbs de Provence. It is the ubiquitous “spa” lotion, massage oil, eye pillow flower, but do you ever really stop to think how kick-ass this small purple flower is?

So much bad assery, packed into something so small.

While there are many types of lavender the type we are concerned about is Lavandula angustifolia. This is the one used in most herbal preparations. A brief history about the famous purple plant, it has been used by humanity for over 2,500 years, and is well documented in use in Egypt, Phoenicians, in the Hebrew Bible, and New Testaments. The present name most likely comes from Rome, and the Roman use of lavender in bathing preparations. The Latin root for the name is either lavare– to wash, or livendula– livid or bluish. It was used by Judith in the Bible to seduce Holofermes, and by Cleopatra to seduce Julius Caesar. There is even a song referencing it, I am sure you know the “Lavender Blue, dilly dilly” song. It always seemed vaguely naughty to me, boy was I right. Lavender’s seductive qualities was not lost in 17th century England. According to the Traditional Ballad Index (oh internets, you never fail to amaze me) the song is about:

“”Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly…” Singer tells his lady that she must love him because he loves her. He tells of a vale where young man and maid have lain together, and suggests that they might do the same, and that she might love him (and also his dog)”

History having more sexy time than Showtime, since always. “Come on baby, let’s lavender diddle diddle!”

It should be your most loved and used too. Lavender is something I try to keep on me all the time. It is great for:

  • Skin preparations for daily use
  • Skin preparations for acne
  • For daily hair use – shampoo, etc.
  • Can encourage hair regrowth especially in people with alopecia areata
  • Treating bug bites – best thing ever for itchy fire ant, flea and mosquito bites, but useful for all bites
  • Keeping bugs out – a good insect repellent, or for daily use (does increase sun sensitivity make sure to add sun-blocking agents) and can be used on bed linens for bed bugs, fleas, or other uses where bug spray is needed
  • Burns! Yes, never get nasty scars from burns, and you will love it on a sunburn. Soothing!
  • Well known as a sleeping aid
  • A mild muscle relaxer, that may also help reduce pain in general
  • In massage can reduce anxiety and increase relaxation
  • Delicious baked goods, and savory dishes, really it can go in anything
  • Teas, or even infused water/spa waters

I could go on and on about its uses! As you can see it, like peppermint, is just more than useful to have around.

Personally I use lavender to help soothe muscle pain, relax, and as a sleep aid. I do use it in cooking a lot, and when I make my own shampoo (which if you haven’t you should, I use this recipe) but mostly the before mentioned uses.

Baths & Bath Salts

I love a hot bath, and with my muscle spasms it helps a lot of things to release and with lavender you can really help those muscle spasms relax further. Sometimes I find that just taking a hot bath with lavender can reduce a lot of aches and pains. If you don’t have the time to make your own, buy some good quality ones. There are lots of brands out there, I prefer Dr. Teal’s Lavender, it is on the more expensive side and there are cheaper or more expensive versions out there. Just make sure you review the ingredients.

If you would like to make your own, it is super easy to do and doesn’t take long.

Lavender Epsom Salt Recipe

  • 5 cups (40 oz) of Epsom Salts
  • 5-10 drops Lavender essential oil
  • A few teaspoons of dried lavender flowers (I just add them until I like the amount, based on previous baths, but I would say a teaspoon a cup ratio to start)

That’s it! You want to make sure you mix it well, breaking up any lumps, and store it in a dry spot in a sealed container. You could add different oils for different effects. You have the option of reducing the Epsom salts to 4 cups and adding:

  • 1 cup Baking Soda OR 1 cup Powdered Milk
  • 1 cup Sea Salt
  • Soap colorants/dyes, don’t use food coloring as it could stain your tub

If you use powdered milk you need to make sure you rinse your tub well. You could even make cheap Christmas or Birthday gifts with this too, great for large group gifts and people will think you spent a ton of time on it!

Sleep Aids

Where to start with these? There are just SO many things you can do with Lavender to help you sleep. So to keep it simple, I am only going over my favorites that happen to be so because they are the easiest.

  • Lavender Essential oil (therapeutic grade as always) – couple deployment methods here, my preferred is to take a drop and rub some on your temples and smooth the rest over your pillow. You can also put a drop in 6-8 oz. of warm milk (or milk substitute) or water.
  • Dried or fresh Lavender tea – you can get food grade lavender lots of places, or grow your own. I would start by mixing this into a chamomile tea at first since lavender can be bitter, and a little goes a long way. Start with a 1/4 teaspoon and work your way up. You can do just pure lavender if you are brave enough. (Also works the same in infused waters, just use cold water and let sit for a few hours in the fridge.)
  • Lavender (or lavender and hops) pillows – I will go into more detail about the hops version in later posts, but just a small sachet of dried lavender placed in your pillow while you sleep will greatly improve quantity and quality of sleep.

As always test things out on yourself, it is always trial and error finding out what works best for you. Make sure to check reactions on WebMD. Always educate yourself before taking anything and when in doubt, consult a professional!


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Frankincense, no not that guy that’s afraid of fire and walks with his arms out.

This is maybe one of my favorite pain remedies, it smells so amazing that you almost want to just wear it all the time. That distinctive smell is what sent people, and this wonderful resin all over the globe after it was discovered.

Who knew such a crusty rock could be so cool?

It probably helps my love of this fragrant resin, that one of my personal heroes has a story about her attempting to get Frankincense directly from the source. Hatshepsut, first female Pharaoh of the land of Km.t and all around bad-ass lady, proudly documented on her tomb walls the excursion to the land of Punt to obtain valuable frankincense for their temples. This was so very important since the remaining charred frankincense was then ground and was called Kohl, that lovely black eyeliner the ancient Egyptians are so famous for. Frankincense being a hard resin was used frequently in their cosmetic preparations and in religious ceremonies. This usage is pretty much how it was used in other cultures as well, most well known in the Judeo-Christian world as a consecrated incense, or as one of the gifts to the wee baby Jesus. It’s current Western name comes from the Frankish crusaders that brought the precious resin back and re-introduced it to Europe. Herodotus mentions it, and along with cinnamon, its story is one of my favorite lies that developed to protect the trade secret.

“When they gather frankincense, they burn storax (the gum which is brought into Greece by the Phoenicians) in order to raise a smoke to drive off the flying snakes; these snakes, the same which attempt to invade Egypt, are small in size and of various colors, and great numbers of them keep guard over all the trees which bear the frankincense, and the only way to get rid of them is by smoking them out with storax.” – Heroditus 3.106-116.

This is the sort of history they should teach in schools!

The original controversial historian, best recognize.

Modern medicine has just caught on to this and there have been studies starting in 1996 and continuing on that show that Frankincense has had proven lab results with pain. I can definitely verify that through my personal use, I have found that it is almost instantaneous relief when applied to muscles in spasm, or just general soreness. (I have been using therapeutic grade essential oils, I plan on covering why you want therapeutic vs other grades in later posts so if you can’t wait google it, and you will see why I have this preference.) I have been using the Young Living brand oils myself, I trust their purity, and though this is a pricier remedy this is one that you truly get what you pay for. (Distilling essential oils and why that is difficult is another upcoming post!)

Pro Tip: Always remember to check the labels of any essential oils you buy and avoid any with adulterates, these reduce the effectiveness of the oil. Think of it like watering down your cough syrup, if that helps. You get more product, but you lose potency. (I will go into what the difference is between essential oils and other oils you may come across as well in future posts too.)

Young Living Frankincense Essential Oil

Now, frankincense is well known for its skin healing properties and I have to say it fixed my KP as a happy side effect of my pain treatments, but other than it making my skin more lovely, I haven’t had any bad reactions and have only experienced a significant reduction in pain with its application. Which is generally one drop rubbed into the sore area. This totally beats the prescribed topical pain gels I had been provided in speed of pain relief, no drunk feeling side effects, and frankincense smells loads better than pain gels! You can again make capsules (see the Turmeric post for info on that) for it, and they work well I have heard, but I have not used that personally. I have spoken with a woman that also uses YL oils that suffers from Crohn’s disease and swears by frankincense pills for pain.

As always, each person is different so go through your own trials and see what works best for you. Always educate yourself, check reactions on WebMD and consult a professional if you are ever in doubt!