Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain


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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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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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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!


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Begin at the Beginning, Turmeric

We all have to get started somewhere, so let’s begin at the beginning of my treating my pain naturally. One of my first remedies I came across is turmeric. Turmeric is wonderful, and has been used by humanity for a long time, pretty much since written records existed. I heard some of the more senior in age ladies at my T’ai Chi Ch’uan class discussing their use of it for reduction of arthritis inflammation, and this inspired me to start looking into it myself.

So pretty! And so useful!

An extremely brief history of turmeric is that it originated in South Asia and quickly spread throughout the region and as far East as Hawaii. It has been used as medicine, dye, preservation, and for spiritual/religious needs and ceremonies. Manners of ingestion also vary as well from smoke inhalation to an application of turmeric paste. I personally have three favorite ways of ingesting it.

Food

If you like to cook I am sure you have run across Turmeric it is in a lot of yellow foods we consume most commonly plain old yellow mustard. You can sprinkle it on most foods, like meat or eggs, but I like to cook Indian and South East Asian food so it is a frequent ingredient in those recipes. The only downside to adding it to food is, everything tastes of turmeric. Which if you don’t care for the strong taste, can be off putting, and you can start to quickly tire of turmeric everything.

Tea (or Coffee)

I first came across this while watching Grow Your Own Drugs with James Wong (I love him so!). He has an amazing recipe for a Turmeric Teh Halia which inspired me to give it a go. It is a bit time consuming as a recipe, there is a listed quick-fix version but it still involves a pre-mix and heating milk. So being the on-the-go sort of lady I came up with my own “quick” recipes. If you can find it, it is best to use loose black tea, but most supermarkets these days only sell them in sachets. I like to use one sachet of a good Earl Grey, or if you are a die hard coffee drinker and can’t start your day without it, you can use coffee too! You just brew a cup of tea or coffee as you normally would, then you can add:

  • 1 tsp ground dried Ginger
  • 1 tsp ground dried Turmeric
  • 1 pinch Black Pepper
  • Honey (or other sweetener) to taste
  • Milk (or your preferred Milk substitute)
Everything you need! Normally I use "So Delicious" Coconut Milk but my store was out :(

Everything you need! Normally I use “So Delicious” Coconut Milk but my store was out 😦

You can start with a half tsp and work up to a full one if you find the turmeric too over powering. If you want to make the premix without the tea portion, just follow the linked quick-fix recipe but leave the tea out and add about 2 tsps to the cup. Up to 3 tsps can be added but more could be overkill). It is great in tea, but I really love it in a good cup of coffee in the morning.

Best way to start your day, Turmeric Coffee!

Best way to start your day, Turmeric Coffee!

I am extremely lactose intolerant and have used a few different substitutes and I find that coconut milk adds a nice flavor and most of the time sweet enough to where I don’t need to add any honey. Also, I usually have trouble with low blood sugar in the morning and generally find myself without an appetite for breakfast, but turmeric can be slight appetite stimulant and has helped me become better about eating in the morning. Overall as long as I work turmeric into my diet my inflammation is less, and I have found that if I miss a day or even a few days that the inflammation and pain levels slowly start to increase.

Capsules

When I don’t have time to make a cup of coffee before I dash somewhere or dive into work, turmeric capsules are a fantastic backup. These are almost laughably easy to make, so much so I really do wonder why most people do not do this for themselves. There is a great tutorial on how to fill them by Mountain Rose Herbs (whom I highly recommend if you do not have a local herb store, or they don’t carry what you are looking for).

I generally use size “0” capsules at home and for myself I have been taking about a gram of turmeric a day. If you want to make larger capsules or smaller (I definitely recommend smaller if you have a difficult time swallowing pills) you can, I generally make mine about as close to half a gram each so two capsules are about a gram. For more information on capsule sizing, and general capsule information) try here.

Now, I will say this for the first time and definitely not the last (you may actually get sick of me saying it) each person is different, you should start with small doses and work your way up. Always, always, always, educate yourself and make sure that you are not taking medications that will interact negatively with the turmeric. I generally trust WebMD, and will review interactions and side effects they list on their site for whatever I am looking into taking.

If you are ever unsure about anything, consult a professional! You will be glad you did!