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Pain is something I understand very well. I have been dealing with it for the majority of my life. I have spent the last two decades studying and testing out all sorts of pain relief medications, exercises, salves, creams, drugs, and more. The secret to my own pain relief wasn't in any pill bottle. It included ditching all kinds of foods and cosmetics that contain neural-toxins, yoga 3-5 times a week, and my own homemade herbal infused salves massaged all over my back and legs.
I haven't fully escaped the pain. When it gets really cold, a terrible rainstorm is on its way, or I have been on my feet for far too long, I find myself having to pull out all the stops to take the pain away. That usually includes an Epsom bath, a massage with my Muscle Mender salve, and a heated pack on the area. It's my fool-proof method to soothing my sore own sore back!
Using herbs to mend your muscles
My go-to solution whenever I have any sort of muscle cramps, spasms, or pain, is to treat it topically using an herbal infused salve. Many herbs have natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can be used to help mend your muscles and soothe the pain. There are many herbal options that work for muscle pain relief, with each having their own benefits. I have tried all sorts of combinations of muscle soothing herbs and found a use for many of them, to soothe my own pain. If you don't have one of the herbs in my recipe, you can always substitute another that you might have on hand. You can also combine certain “hot” and “cold” herbs to create your own variations of Icy Hot. These are some of my favorite herbs to use in muscle soothing infusions:
- Arnica flowers – Native to the mountains, arnica flowers have been used in European folk medicine for centuries. Arnica is a well known anti-inflammatory herb that really works miracles on sore muscles, sprains, arthritis, and bruises by helping to improve the local blood supply and speed up healing.
- Calendula flowers – Calendula isn't just awesome to help heal your owies, it's also a superb anti-inflammatory and works very well in salves and bath salts for muscle pain and spasms.
- Cayenne powder – The main ingredient in this salve, cayenne pepper has a really ancient history dating as far back as 7,000 years ago. Naturally anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic, cayenne pepper contains a constituent called capsaicin. The reason that Cayenne works so well for muscle and nerve pain is because the capsaicin in it blocks a neurotransmitter, called Substance P (SP), that transmits pain signals from the nerves to the central nervous system. When cayenne is used topically, it can help relieve all sorts of pain, from neuropathy, back pain, muscles spasms, menstrual cramps, and even arthritis.
- Chamomile flowers – Chamomile is such a soothing and gentle herb, great for use for all ages. Its natural anti-inflammatory properties make it great to help relieve muscle tightness, spasms, and nerve pains.
- Comfrey leaf – Also known as “knit-bone” because of its ability to naturally heal muscle and tissue back together, comfrey is a fantastic addition to any muscle salve, helping to repair tears and strains, while also reducing inflammation and soothing pain.
- Cramp bark – I love to use cramp bark for muscle spasms and inflammation and is fantastic in salves for menstruation, I always use it in my oil for my Aunt Flo's Soothing Salve.
- Eucalyptus leaf – The fresh and cooling feeling that eucalyptus brings is perfect to go along with its natural anti-inflammatory properties and it's abilities to calm a spasm.
- Ginger root – Used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine for all sorts of ailments including arthritis and muscle pain, ginger has undergone all sorts of clinical studies for its anti-inflammatory abilities. The warming abilities of ginger help to improve circulation and relieve tension in tired muscles.
- Lavender buds – This analgesic herb is one of my favorite herbs to use in pretty much any salve I make. Lavender is great at calming and soothing muscle pains and spasms, and even helps to calm you down, which is helpful when your muscle spasms are due to stress!
- Lemon balm – A natural relaxant, lemonbalm has fantastic anti-spasmodic properties. Lemonbalm is great at relaxing the body and calming spasms, making it perfect for any muscle mending salve!
- Mint – Peppermint leaf, spearmint, and many other plants in the mint family are fantastic for use in muscle soothing salves. Naturally anti-inflammatory and analgesic, most members of the mint family help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. The minty fresh cooling effect can really help the pain go away too!
- Pine, cypress, cedar, juniper, birch – You can use the needles, leaves, and bark of any of these wonderful trees in baths, salves, and more to ease muscle pain and loosen stiff muscles. Many of them carry a mild analgesic helping to soothe the pain deep in the muscle.
- Rosemary leaf – Rosemary is a well-known muscle pain reliever, and can help reduce swelling in strained muscles. The herb has four anti-inflammatory properties, which can help calm inflamed muscle tissue and speed healing.
- St. John's wort – Well known for its abilities to help lighten a mood and ease depression, when infused into oil, St. John's wort is a fantastic analgesic and anti-inflammatory. One of the best nervine's around, St. John's wort is also great for nerve pains and spastic muscles.
- Turmeric – One of the yummiest spices that give curry its distinctive flavor and color, turmeric has numerous healing properties to it that not only help to ease muscle strain and pain, but also arthritis and joint inflammation. One of the constituents that give turmeric its superhero status, is curcumin, which naturally helps to lower the levels of enzymes within our body, that cause inflammation.
- Willow bark – Naturally rich in salicin, a chemical compound similar to the main ingredient in aspirin, willow bark is a superb analgesic and anti-inflammatory. Used to help treat headaches, tension, muscle spasms, cramps, menstrual cramps, and more, willow bark is nature's personal aspirin!
Make an herbal infused oil for maximum healing benefits
Making an herbal infused oil is extremely simple. All that you need is an organic healing carrier oil (olive, coconut, almond, grapeseed, hemp, etc.), the herbs of your choice, a mason jar, and some heat via the oven, sunshine, double boiler, etc. as long as it’s very low heat (100-140 degrees F) so that you don’t destroy the healing properties within the oil. When you steep the chosen herbs into your oil, you will be transferring those medicinal benefits from the plant into the oil. You can then use that oil in your healing recipes such as salves, massage oils, and even body butter. There are several methods that you can utilize to extract the herbal healing benefits into your oil.
- Solar Infusion – This is one of the best methods to extract the healing benefits that your chosen herbs have. Not only are you charging your oil with naturally healing sun rays but this is the gentlest method of infusion. Some people also like to steep their herbs in moonlight, this can give it an extra boost as well. To infuse your oil solar style, just fill your jar 1/3 full of your herbs. You can do a single herb or even a combination depending on what you are planning to use your oil for. Fill the rest of the jar, to the top, with your carrier oil (you can even do a combination of oils if you like. In all of my salves, I steep my herbs in a combination of extra virgin olive oil and extra virgin coconut oil) and cover with a lid. Set out in the sun or a sunny window and give a good shake to the jar ever day for 2 weeks. Using a cheese cloth lined strainer, strain the oil from your herbs and squeeze out any remaining oil to get the most of the oil as possible.
- Stove Top Infusion – This is a good quick method if you don’t have the time to wait 2 weeks for a solar infusion to complete. In a double boiler drop in 1/3 part herbs to 1 part oil and allow to steep over the heat for several hours. I see people saying to leave it overnight, but there is no way to do that with a double boiler. Only do this if you are using a crockpot (which you can also use instead of the stove). Using a cheese cloth lined strainer, strain the oil from your herbs and squeeze out any remaining oil to get the most of the oil as possible.
- Oven Infusion – When I don’t have sunshine out here in Texas, this is the method I like to use the most. I find it the easiest to leave it be without having to refill water in the bottom of a double boiler like the stove-top method. Turn your oven on the lowest setting that you can. I like to use a 1/2 gallon mason jar but this can be done in smaller. Fill your jar 1/3 full of your herbs and cover with oil to the top and cover with a lid. Set the mason jar on its side on a cookie sheet (I use one with a rim so that any oil that might leak out from the lid won’t fall onto my oven’s heating element) and put in the oven on the middle rack. Every couple of hours, pull the jar out of the oven and give 2 or 3 shakes. Leave in the oven for 24-48 hours. Using a cheese cloth lined strainer, strain the oil from your herbs and squeeze out any remaining oil to get the most of the oil as possible.
Muscle Mender Herbal Oil
I use this herbal infused oil in many different applications including a massage oil and in my Muscle Mender Salve. You can substitute herbs that you have on hand or to tailor it to your own muscle mending needs. This oil is fantastic to help with muscle pains, strains, bruises, arthritis, menstrual cramps, and more!
- 2 parts arnica flowers
- 1 1/2 parts st. john's wort
- 1 part ginger root
- 1 part comfrey leaf
- 1 part peppermint leaf
- 1/2 part cayenne powder
- carrier oil of choice (I like to combine 3 parts olive oil to 1 part unrefined coconut oil for maximum muscle healing benefits!)
- Using one of the oil infusion methods of your choice, infuse arnica, St. John's wort, ginger, comfrey, peppermint leaf, and cayenne into your carrier oil. My favorite method when we don’t have a lot of sunlight outside, is in a mason jar, in the warmed oven overnight.
- Once your oil is infused, using a cheesecloth and wearing gloves, strain the herbs from the oil. Be sure to squeeze out every last bit of oil from the cheesecloth! You do not have to make a salve with this oil if you do not want to. Keep this as a massage oil if you do not have the beeswax on hand. It even works well as a spot treatment, when you put this oil into a roll-on bottle.
- Store your Muscle Mender oil in a mason jar, sealed tightly, in a cool dark location, to have on hand to use in all sorts of muscle soothing recipes.
Muscle Mender Sore Muscle Salve
This salve utilizes essential oils that are not safe for use on children under 10 yrs. of age and pregnant or nursing women. You can substitute essential oils safe for your use into this recipe! My next post will be on muscle and growing pains in small children, so keep your eyes peeled! For more information on safety and use with children, go here. This salve is made at a 5% dilution, which is the norm for intensive salves used on adults. For a fantastic massage oil, you can omit the beeswax, replace it with more Muscle Mender oil, and simply add the essential oils. Please be advised that you should avoid massaging near any orifices, as the essential oils in this blend can burn!
- 4oz. metal tin (or you can split this between two 2 oz. tins and share it with a friend!)
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. muscle mender herbal infused oil
- 2 Tbsp. beeswax pastilles
- 25 drops peppermint essential oil
- 20 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 20 drops marjoram essential oil
- 20 drops lavender essential oil
- 20 drops clove bud essential oil
- 15 drops ginger co2
- 10 drops turmeric co2 (optional)
- In a double boiler (or makeshift one) combine beeswax and herbal infused oil. Melt ingredients.
- Once ingredients are completely melted, mix in your essential oils and pour into containers to cool.
- Once cool, store in a dark cool area for maximum shelf life.
Massage a small amount of salve onto sore achy muscles, bruises, and cramps. Use as often as needed.
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