Ayurvedic Herbs for Pain-Control
Safe and tested, Ayurvedic herbs are available at low cost locally and online
Posted September 28, 2009
Why use herbs originally from India for pain? They are safe, tested foods that are available in capsules at your healthfood store and online.
Using an over-the-counter pain-killer may work temporarily, but will it actually address the cause of your pain? Hazardous side-effects such as bleeding ulcers are often the result of using daily aspirin. Ibuprofen, a common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that works by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain, should never be combined with alcohol: That combination causes liver damage. Ibuprofen can increase your risk of life-threatening heart or circulation problems, including heart attack or stroke. This risk will increase the longer you use ibuprofen.
Several Ayurvedic (East Indian) herbs can help to reduce everyday aches and pains, while supporting vitality and detoxifying the body from impurities. The type of food and herb remedy should suit the type and origin of pain. By the type of pain, we mean more than how it feels. It also refers to what body processes are involved to cause the pain. Do nerve irritation, inflammation or allergy, or overweight contribute to the particular pain? These are all important factors that help determine the quality and duration of pain. You wouldn’t sooth tooth pain with a skin salve. Choosing the right sort of pain-treatment, depending on its origin, can help prevent future pain.
To simplify, we can consider a practical 3 Dosha approach offered by Ayurveda. A Dosha may be considered a humour. Humours, such as black and yellow bile and phlegm, were used to explain illness in Westerm medicine until about 1900. They also explained a person’s predisposition to certain illnesses, temperament (bilious or phlegmatic), and the person’s body type. Western medicine got away from using the notion of humours with the wide-spread use of antibiotics. Antibiotics have their limits. Our understanding of pain, associated with an imbalance of humours, is useful for cooking and maintaining everyday vitality at home.
The three humours used in Ayurveda are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. When referring to the origin of our pain, they can be simplified to mean: nerve pain (Vata); Inflammatory pain (Pitta) and pain associated with overweight, poor digestion, and circulation problems (Kapha)
- Aching back and legs especially during cold damp or changeable, severe weather (monsoon), muscle weakness; numbness; nervous, jittery uneasy feelings; poor digestion with flatulence, dry skin; chills; depression; premature aging, poor memory; insomnia from pain, worry or anxiety. Pain is worse from drinking ice water, before eating, and with excitement. Osteoarthritis, malabsorption with mineral deficiency may be involved.
- Chronic pain and weakness of the elderly: Ashwagandha and Shatvari. Add ¼ tsp of each powder to water twice daily, or cook them with rice. Ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) and Shatavari (wild asparagus) are extremely useful rejuvenating herbs that support healthy muscles and joints, while supporting the nervous system, healthy sexuality and immunity. Cook foods using warming, digestive spices such as ginger, Garam Masala, clove, lemon and mint in tea.
- Chronic indigestion and bloating pains; poor memory and concentration; aches worse in cold weather: Saraswati churna, ¼ in water once daily. Saraswati churna, named after the Hindu Goddess of wisdom, culture, and beauty, is a combination of warming digestive herbs, including ginger and pepper, along with a nerve sedative calamus root to tone and rejuvenate the nervous system and reduce anxiety.
- Burning, hot, electric nerve pain such as facial neuralgia, sciatica; piercing headaches around the eyes, fevers, irritability, sinus congestion, overeating and drinking (hangovers), constipation, acne or inflammatory rashes. Pain is worse from hot spices, anger/frustration, hot rooms, stimulants such as caffeine. Inflammatory arthritis and allergies may be involved.
- Acidity and inflammatory arthritis: Neem, three 250 mg pills twice daily; steam the leaves and/or flowers in soups. Neem has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasite actions. It is useful for diabetes.
- Prostate swelling and pain; urinary tract infections: Punarnava, ¼ tsp in water twice or three times daily as needed. Punarnava (hogweed) is a cooling diuretic useful for ascites, sciatica, and inflammatory pain affecting the lower body. Avoid hot spices and alcohol.
- Heavy, aching limbs; edema and/or overweight; paralysis (unable to move easily), fibromyalgia; severe headaches on the top of the head that clog the senses and reduce mental clarity; oozing, slow-healing wounds, sinus congestion or asthmatic wheezing are signs of excess ama (poisons) and Kapha (slow digestion, cholesterol, lethargy, etc.).
- Indigestion pains and parasites from contaminated water or poor food combinations such as milk and fish; milk and meat; yogurt, rice, and beer; candy and meats that lead to weight gain: Neem, 3 - 5 pills each 250 mg twice daily. Avoid meat, dairy, and citrus. ParaCleanse pills, used as directed.
- Chest, arm, shoulder, and back pains, elevated cholesterol and heart disease: Abana (HeartCare), arjuna, a valuable astringent herb that strengthens the heart muscle and reduces cholesterol, as directed by your medical professional. Avoid salt, soda drinks and high sodium processed foods.
- Obesity resulting in chronic pain and varicose veins: A slimming diet adding as needed guggul, arjuna, aloe vera gel, and Hingvastaka churna. Guggul, a tree gum similar to myrrh, reduces fat, fibroids, and cholesterol. It is an important part of healthy slimming. Arjuna is one of the most important astringent herbal ingredients to protect the heart muscle and help prevent heart failure. Hingvastaka, a combination of hing (asafoetida, ginger, pepper and other digestive spices) can be added to soups, teas, or yogurt to help reduce bloating discomfort.
Trifala, a slimming, balancing laxative made from three fruits, is very helpful for maintaining health and beauty for all Doshas. Trifala should be avoided by pregnant women. However, amla, one of the ingredients in Trifala, is an excellent source of rejuvenating tannins that can be used during pregnancy. Using such supportive herbs daily is a wiser approach to pain-management than waiting for pain to strike. Why not improve vitality as you reduce pain?
Letha Hadady, alternative health expert and author, leads walking tours of Asian food and herb markets through New York Open Center. She is the author of many personal transformation books, including Feed Your Tiger: The Asian Diet Secret for Permanent Weight Loss and Vibrant Health. She is widely acknowledged as a top expert on natural health and beauty. Her website is AsianHealthSecrets.com.