Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain


Anise, hope you like licorice.

Anise, or sometimes written as anise seed or aniseed, is another herb that has been used and written about since writing was invented. It is one that may not be for everyone since it does have an extremely strong black licorice smell and taste. It was in the past frequently used as just a breath freshener, and chewing a few of the seeds works extremely well, even after garlic food or heavily spiced food.

It is mentioned in some of the most ancient medical texts for a variety of aliments by Hammurabi, Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Pliny the elder recommended it for sleeplessness, placing it next to the bed the smell would soothe you to sleep. They also thought it would ward off bad dreams.

Old timey-wimey picture of it, notice it looks a lot like Queen Anne’s lace, remember you want the seeds or the oil. Not the plant!

While it may not ward off bad dreams, it does ward off indigestion, and was often used by Romans in cakes to be eaten after meals, especially rich ones, to ease indigestion and flatulence. This cake could possibly be the ancestor of spiced wedding cakes. It was used as currency in some places, and in the 9th century Charlemagne ordered it grown on imperial farms. (Probably didn’t want to be called Charlie farty-pants.)

Anise is known as a great digestive as it is a mild antispasmodic, it also works really well for menstrual cramps. You  can massage the oil directly on to the abdomen and it should relieve cramping. If you are having cramping from gas or indigestion, rubbing oil on the abdomen works as well, I have used this myself a few times to help with tummy issues from medications and treat my lactose intolerance.

It also works well for lower back pain and other aches and pains from daily movement or exercise. It even works as well as clove for numbing and reliving tooth pain. Typical dose is a drop or two massaged into the affected location. I have made a topical spray though to help with dispersing it evenly across an area.

Personally my favorite use of anise is for its numbing purposes, it is very effective as a local anesthetic and I regularly use it prior to a session of Graston to be able to take more and longer in a session. Remember to get therapeutic grade anise oil where you can, if you can not locate a reputable dealer in essential oils, use the oils you find externally ONLY.

Anise Numbing Spray

  • 1 part anise
  • 1 part rubbing alcohol
  • 1 part distilled water (filtered is fine)

In a small 3 oz spray bottle combine the three ingredients for a travel sized spray, or in a larger bottle for home use. Just make sure you are using equal parts of all ingredients.

If you are unable to locate the oil, you can always use the seeds to make tea. Again do not use the plant part only the seeds.

Anise Seed Tea

  • 4 c boiling water
  • 2 tbspn crushed anise seeds – Crush with a mortar and pestle if you have one, if not you can use a clean coffee grinder (not ideal but it will do), but grind in quick pulses with breaks between to avoid heating the seeds too much
  • *optional* Milk or milk substitute

Add the anise to the boiling water, steep for 5 minutes in a preferably covered teapot or teacup, and add a tablespoon or two of milk if you like. This tea is supposed to be good for indigestion, sleep, and it should ease some pains. It is even supposed to aid with asthma, and can be a good daily tea to drink if you suffer from it in addition to your existing medications.

Warning! I really like the taste and smell of this herb, but if you are not a fan of black licorice this may not be the one for you!

As always you need to do your research yourself and see if this is right for you, do your own trials and see what works. Always check for interactions on sites like WebMD and if you are in doubt consult a professional!

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Cloves! Nail that pain down

Cloves are one of those ancient spices, most people are at least familiar with clove cigarettes. Or you may have seen clove and orange pomanders at Christmas time, my husband says that clove smells like Christmas food to him since it is a common ingredient in fall holiday foods. I used to love Clove gum as a girl, though it is harder to find now sadly.

Delicious I promise! Get some if you can find it!

Cloves are actually the dried buds of flowers from a tree, they were found on those infamous in European history “Spice Islands” and since they were so prolific they were harder to monopolize the trade of them. They have their name as we know it now derived from old french for “nail of a gillyflower” and they do look like tiny little nails.

Tiny, delicious smelling nails that is.

Europe quickly became obsessed with spices during the Middle ages, especially once they were brought back from the crusades. During outbreaks of disease, usually plague, or just generally existing in medieval cities could be quite smelly. Most medicine at the time believed that disease was caused by bad air or miasmas. So often sweet or strong smelling items were used to “fumigate” themselves from disease. One that has survived to this day is the pomander. Pomander can be used to describe a lot of things, but the main one most will recognize is an orange studded with cloves. I love these and they make great holiday gifts!

So festive looking! They will think you spent days making them!

So festive looking! They will think you spent days making them!

Historical medical uses tend to focus on digestion, the mouth, and teeth. A Han emperor required people to chew cloves before addressing him, to sweeten their breath. Ibn Battuta, the famous Arab traveler, mentions them and was familiar with them as they were traded all around Arabia and India and everywhere in between. Most uses focus on using cloves for tooth pain, and the commonly known remedy, cloves and especially clove oil is great for easing tooth pain from any sort of issue, and is a mild anesthetic. The fabulous Sam wrote a great post about dealing with wisdom tooth pain using ginger and clove tea that you can read here. But I should caution that there has been laboratory tests on extended use of clove oil for tooth pain and if used over and extremely extended period of time there could be damage to gums, tooth pulp, and mucous membranes. Cloves are known as warming, and help with digestion due to this, and that is some of the reason it can be hard on the gums. Since it can be slightly irritating to delicate skin areas, nothing as bad as peppermint, but still not something you want on chapped lips, or near your eyes or other places. As a topical oil for external use it is fantastic for pain. I would rate it a close second to frankincense in speed and efficacy in reducing muscle pain from spasms. I have had some great success using clove oil in this way, and of course I use therapeutic grade oils so that they do not have adulterants. All I need is a drop or two, and rub it directly on the area that hurts. Remember everyone is different, so test this for yourself, see what works for you, and educate yourself! Know what you are putting in and on you before you do anything and always check for reactions like on WebMD. If you are ever in doubt about anything always check with a professional!

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A Plant Called Mitragyna speciosa

Kratom, is an evergreen tree, related to coffee, that grows in Southeast Asia. It has been used for a long time for its pain relieving and mild psychoactive ability to uplift the mood. It is gaining popularity in recent times as a pain reliever, recreational drug, and for weening off prescribed opiates.

So pretty as a plant! So amazingly useful as a medicine!

You may have started to see some stuff about this in the news. This is a herb that is fantastic for its therapeutic qualities, but lately it has become more well known for its recreational use that has led to addiction. It has become “controversial”  due to the recreational use of the plant. Most people point to it being illegal in Thailand as a good reason why it should be illegal here.

To all of that I have this to say – I was prescribed, legitimately, hydrocodone for two years and became physically addicted. Hydrocodone was much more addictive, and much more damaging to my body than Kratom, so really I feel this is very much the lesser of two evils. I was able to ween myself off of hydrocodone twice, I suffered greatly during those times, and tend to avoid opiates whenever possible. But with the amount of chronic pain I am in, pain medications are an unfortunate necessity in my life. If they have to be a necessity, why take ones with more of a chance of addiction, destruction of my organs, and side effects when there is a perfectly viable, cheaper, lacking in side effects, solution?

“Wow,” you say, “that sounds fantastic! Tell me more…wait you said that is illegal in Thailand? The place it is from?! Whatchootalkinbout Willis?!”

If you do your homework, I suggest you do, you will find that Kratom was only outlawed in Thailand because it interfered with the Opium trade, who’s tax revenue is vital to Thailand’s economy. So it was so much better than Opium it nearly killed the trade of it, to the point they outlawed its sale. Sound familiar?

I am not saying to take this thinking that you will never get physically addicted, that it is some wonder drug pain reliever you can take willy nilly. You can, and you could. So treat this drug with the same respect, and caution, that you would any opiate provided to you for pain management. I am currently prescribed Nucyenta (aka Tapentadol) which is the same type of opiate-like substance as Kratom, and binds to the receptors the same. These are known as μ-opioid receptors and like all opiates have their addictive qualities. If you are smart about your prescribed opiate use, you can avoid the physical addiction, same here. And with Kratom, unlike my Nucyenta, you can reduce and step down your dose to ween off.

So, you have done your homework, and are ready to venture into all that is Kratom. Great!

First step! Find a good, and preferably, inexpensive dealer in Kratom. There are many online resources but if you can locate a local herb store that carries it, go local! You may also want to check the “head shops” in your area, they tend to carry it for recreational use and sell it at a premium price, but Kratom is Kratom. As long as you know it isn’t adulterated, have pesticides, etc. the location you purchase it from matters not.

There are multiple strains, some go by multiple names and each has different levels of effectiveness.  Also have found that most of the names besides the Maeng Da, can be arbitrary and you should test them yourself to find out what works best for you. Maeng Da is the most frequently touted as the best around, but it is more for recreational use. Yes that name is Maeng Da, which means “Pimp Grade” (funnily the word for pimp directly translates to cockroach)…

Yes I, said cockroach, and no, you don’t have to say the whole thing.

This is why you must, must, must do your research! I have tried a few strains myself, and have found for myself as a general rule white vein is more mellow than red (but I must add here that everyone is different, and the general consensus is that red is more mellow than white, so definitely try these yourself and see what works best for you). I have found Maeng Da doesn’t have as much of an effect on my pain levels as say, my personally preferred strain of Borneo “Super” Red Vein, but many people swear by Maeng Da. A site with a good briefing about the strains by region is this one, but definitely use multiple sources and read up as much as you can before taking anything (just like you should before you take any medication or supplement!) A good rule of thumb for dosing of the powdered herb is:

Low dose

Around 2-4 grams of plain dried leaf, I find that when I take lower doses there is more of the “perking up” feeling and no sleepy feelings.

Moderate dose

About 3-6 grams, this I find does the most for pain but you start to have more of the sleepy feeling and less of the uplifting effects.

Strong dose

5 grams or more, when you start going above 5 grams you need to be careful. Extreme sedation can occur, as well as digestive issues, nausea and vomiting. Some even experience extreme itching all over the body, very unpleasant and should be avoided. Personally I do not recommend going more than 6 grams ever, but there are numerous blogs and sites that recommend taking more than 6 grams and saying they don’t have an issue (which I think is shenanigans).

Powdered form of Kratom, you know it is good medicine – mainly because it tastes SO bad.

No really, it tastes horrible. There are tinctures and extracts and all that, but the taste! Oh the taste! Good medicine is supposed to taste bad, so it must mean this is great medicine. To avoid the taste, get Kratom powder and you can make pills just like you do with Turmeric. Making pills is a little bit more accurate on the dosage since you can make sure you are taking more exactly measured doses. But for the caviler, you can do the “toss & wash” method of taking an equivalent spoonful of the weight of powder you need (if you do, you have steelier balls/ovaries than I). Then “toss” the powder in, and “wash” that nasty stuff down with a chaser. Preferably one with a strong taste to counteract the Kratom taste. Yuck.

The liquid forms are faster acting, but when you are used to waiting an hour for your pills to kick in, waiting an hour for this to kick in isn’t that different. I recommend starting small with a half gram, wait an hour and see how you feel. Queasy? Look for any other reactions. Then slowly increase, and monitor your response. Some people have reactions to very small doses so it is good to work up slowly. I find for pain, about 3 grams will do enough to make me feel alert and reduce my pain enough for me to work most days. An average day ranges from 3-6 currently on a pain scale of 1-10, which everyone’s sense of pain is different and I have been told I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, so you may want to take that into account.

I really prefer taking Kratom first, before my Doctor provided drugs as I can take just a bit, and up the dose if my pain is still there without feeling drunk or unable to focus on work. When pain is bad I will take Kratom first, then take my prescribed pills after about 4-5 hours if my pain wasn’t dealt with satisfactorily. The one personal downside I have experienced is, Kratom burps. Not too tasty but it at least won’t effect the rest of the room if it happens.

Like any opiate-like drug do not drive, or do anything dangerous (leave pots boiling on the stove, perform brain surgery, put babies on cliff edges, or the like) or do anything you couldn’t fall asleep doing and… well, you know… not die. Make sure you discuss your use with your doctor, and as always educate yourself before taking anything. Always check for reactions too! WebMD is almost always great for that, but here they don’t list anything about Kratom except support for addiction on the forums. So I recommend this site and just using caution and common sense. Don’t drink alcohol, or take other drugs, yes caffeine IS a drug while taking Kratom. Be smart folks.


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!