For thousands of years, people all around the world have been using herbs, spices, roots and flowering plants to treat a wide variety of pains and ailments. However, these mysterious substances are not limited to far-off lands or kept as secrets through countless generations of families. You can benefit from these natural remedies, too. Just turn to your garden, the wilderness outside or the health food store in your town and begin to ease your nagging and unrelenting pains. With a little bit of knowledge, you will soon put your pharmacy visits on hold and allow nature to lend you its powerful healing hand.

Eucalyptus & Juniper

When the effects of the common cold or flu produce clogged nasal cavities and thick congestion in your chest, turn to eucalyptus and juniper berries to aid in the removal of excess mucus. Use the herb itself or a few drops of eucalyptus oil to create a steam bath. The warm, herb-infused vapor will loosen the clogged nasal cavities and improve breathing. Eucalyptus is also known to have very strong antiseptic characteristics, which helps to decrease the effects of respiratory diseases and infections. Juniper berries, when added to boiling water to create a therapeutic tea, produce valuable expectorant properties to help clear chest congestion and coughs. Juniper is believed to stimulate the production of white blood cells (the body’s infection fighters).

Root Out Body Aches

Sometimes referred to as “nature’s tranquilizer,” valerian root has been known for centuries to reduce pain throughout the body. It does so by decreasing the sensitivity of nerves to provide relief to body aches, tooth pain and headaches. Pour boiling water over the chopped root and allow the tea to steep; drink the tea warm.

The substance, Capsaicin, is found in many different types of “hot” peppers, including jalapenos. This natural reducer lessens pain sensations by decreasing the intensity of pain signals found within the body.

Tonic & Pepper Pain Relief

For headache pain specifically, use tonic oil rich in camphor, peppermint, eucalyptus and fennel oils, and rub gently onto the forehead. Use a circular motion to massage the oil over the skin, or any part of the body that needs nagging pain suppressed. Capsaicin, the substance in hot peppers that creates the “heat,” can also act as a pain reducer. It does this by decreasing the intensity of pain signals in the affected area. When applied, the pain may increase slightly at first, and then gradually lessen as more applications are used. Capsaicin can be used in a cream or ointment form and rubbed into the area that needs attention. You can also use a variety of hot peppers and add them to your meals, eat them raw, or create a powerful pain-reducing drink, to aid in digestion and to help fight bacteria in the stomach and digestive tract. Use caution when handling raw peppers as they can burn your eyes and irritate your mucus membranes.

Taming Toothaches

Tooth issues are not only painful, but they can also distract you from normal daily activities due to constant throbbing throughout the eye, neck and mouth areas. Initially, try food-grade clove oil, or ground cloves, and place directly onto the affected tooth. Echinacea root is also a wonderful tooth pain reducer. Widely known for its uses against colds and the flu, echinacea can be made into a tincture (tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts that are made using alcohol and chopped herbs) and then added to juice or water and swished inside your mouth, coating the affected tooth. 

Drop tea tree oil into water and rinse your gums to decrease inflammation and increase your resistance to bacteria. Yarrow and plantain leaves make excellent instant pain reducers when crushed and placed directly on the problem tooth. In case of a lost filling, create a paste of slippery elm powder and water, and pack it into the hole of the tooth with the lost filling. This will temporarily ease the ache until you can get to the dentist.

Drinking tea made from herbs, such as Chamomile, is a great way to relax

De-stress With Ginseng & Tea

Stress is a part of nearly everyone’s daily life, but too much stress, tension and nervousness is detrimental to the wellbeing of your body. Luckily, the choices of herbs, roots and tonics to counteract this condition are plentiful. Ginseng is an adaptogen (a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress by exerting a normalizing effect upon bodily processes) which protects the body from stress. Chop up the root and add about 2-3 grams to your tea cup (or a pinch of ginseng powder). Pour boiling water over the ginseng and allow it to steep for about 5-10 minutes. Add other herbs for flavor and sweeten with honey, if desired. You can use slices of the root to make your tea, and once the root is softened by the water, it can be eaten. 

Chamomile tea is universally known and has proven to be one of the safest herbs on the market to relax and calm the body’s muscles as well as reduce stress and anxiety. Lavender, too, has powerful sedative capabilities to promote relaxation and reduce irritability and nervousness. Steep lavender tea and drink it before bedtime to achieve a restful night’s sleep, or add its oils to your bath or body lotions for an overall calming effect.

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Burn And Blister Beaters

Whether hiking too long under the blazing sun or you have an accident by the campfire, burns can be extremely uncomfortable and, if left untreated, are prone to infection from bacteria attacking the exposed skin. One of the most effective natural burn ointments is the clear, gel-like interior of the aloe plant. If your burn is relatively small, just break off one of the leaf tips and squeeze the goopy liquid onto your skin. For larger burns, split the thick base of the leave (be cautious of its sharp thorns!), scoop out the inside and apply heavily on the burn. Repeat as many times as necessary as its cooling properties begin to wear off. 

Lavender oil can also be used to soothe burns; just rub it gently on the affected area. If your burned skin has blisters that pop, dab a bit of tea tree oil on them to disinfect the wound. To treat a burn from the inside out, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, citrus fruits, leafy greens and a wide variety of melons, which are rich in vitamin C and promote skin growth.

Heartburn Cures

Many foods that you eat are delicious and flavorful, yet they can also cause the discomfort of heartburn. Heartburn is felt when acid in the stomach enter upward into the esophagus. Your throat and chest area will experience a burning and slightly sour irritation that can last for hours. Marshmallow root negates the effects of acid by covering the stomach and esophagus with mucilage, which is essentially a slimy yet soothing coating. Steep the marshmallow root in cold water (2 cups) overnight. This will create a thick, viscous liquid that should instantly soothe the burn when ingested. Furthermore, marshmallow root can repair excess acid-damaged areas with regular use. The spice turmeric can also be used to ease heartburn by gargling with a mixture of 2 teaspoons of turmeric, warm water and a dash of salt. Though not pleasant tasting, try to avoid rinsing your mouth with water. Instead, let some of the mixture stay in your mouth, and swallow a bit to further heal the digestive tract.

Licorice can be chewed to help ease heartburn pain, but always use licorice with the component glycyrrhizin already removed. This substance is not safe for people with high blood pressure or those subject to bloating and water retention. Once removed, it’s safe for everyone.

Lavender is a powerful herb with many healing qualities. Try using Lavender oil on a burn to relieve the pain

Rash Relief

The unbearable burning and itching of poison ivy or poison oak can be eased using dried chamomile, tree tea oil (also known as melaleuca oil) or plantain leaves (not to be confused with the banana-shaped fruit of the same name). For an initial onset of the rash caused by a plant’s poison, steep dried chamomile in boiled water for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool and apply generously over the rash. Repeat as often as needed. Next, use the tea tree oil straight, or dilute with water, and swab directly onto the irritated skin for nearly instant relief. Continue using over the next few days and the rash should lessen and ultimately disappear. Plantain, which is regarded only as as an invasive weed, can be used by steeping the crushed leaves in boiling water, then spraying the cooled liquid onto the affected skin. In a pinch, chew up the leaves in your mouth and then rub over the irritated area for an “on the spot” remedy.

Caring For Cuts & Bruises

For nicks, cuts and bruises, the fresh herb yarrow works wonders to stop bleeding when placed on a wound, as does a sprinkling of cayenne pepper. Use cinnamon and clove oil to reduce the pain, and then apply a honey-rubbed gauze dressing over the injured area. Pure honey contains vitamins and minerals to aid in the healing process. 

For bruises, crush the leaves of lavender, chamomile or St. John’s wort and apply directly to the bruised area. Fresh parsley, used as a compress or made into a poultice (a mashed, wet mixture of soft plant material) can ease the pain of a tender bruise.

Sore Throat Soothers

A sore throat can be caused by the onset of a cold, voice overuse or a persistent cough. But no matter what the cause may be, that burning and persistent pain can be alleviated with a proper herbal gargle mixture. Make a tea using goldenseal and echinacea. Pour boiling water over the goldenseal herb and steep for about 10 minutes. Strain the mixture and allow cooling to a comfortable temperature. Add a few drops of echinacea oil and use as a mouthwash, and gargle with the mixture over a period of two to three days. Fresh sage may also be prepared and used in the same manner; it acts as an antiseptic on the affected areas. 

Two normally potent culinary ingredients, garlic and cayenne pepper, provide bacteria-fighting and pain-reducing properties, respectively. Chop up fresh garlic and add plentifully to your meals, while cayenne pepper can be added directly to your gargling solution.

Reset Your Upset Stomach

Used by the Chinese for thousands of years, ginger root is one of the best natural anti-inflammatory agents to ease stomach and other gastrointestinal pains and aches. Peel, chop and add fresh ginger to your meals. Or, for quicker relief, boil the chopped root for about 10 minutes, then strain and drink as a tea. Use 1 cubic inch of peeled ginger for every cup of boiled water. To intensify the effectiveness of your tea, add chamomile. Chamomile helps to control gastric spasms and calms the nerves inside the digestive tract.  Stomach pains related to stress are significantly reduced by the addition of chamomile. Use honey to sweeten your tea, and add peppermint, if needed, to decrease intestinal cramping and bloating.  

Author’s note: This article is for informational purposes only. Before using any herbal remedies to treat your ailments, you should first consult your physician.      

This article originally published in AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN®  2014-#158 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN®  magazine are available here

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