I am a huge sissy when it comes to pain. The older I get the more pain there seems to be. As an aspiring herbalist, I am always looking for a proper way to deal with all of the issues that I encounter. I have formulated an arnica balm for topical use on my aches and muscle pains.
In my studies, I have found quite a few herbal alternatives to over-the-counter medications. Colds, coughs, flus, urinary tract infections, minor cuts and abrasions, upset stomach, and other nasties have all been covered. My last “holdout” is pain relief because the truth is, I am afraid of experiencing pain.
However, after finishing the Introductory and Intermediate Herbal Courses at Herbal Academy, I’m feeling like I can figure this out. I want to pull together some real solutions for the various aches and pains I experience.
Pain Isn’t an Option for Me
When I experience physical pain, I tend to run to the cabinet for my naproxin or ibuprofin. For me, pain is unbearably distracting. It really stops me from getting anything done. Being a person who loves to be productive, it’s really depressing when I this happens.
It’s for this reason that I have been relying on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). For severe pain, I’ve even been known to take half a vicodin so I can get proper healing sleep. Using these drugs is a problem for me. For one, I am a firm believer in natural living, and I don’t believe these drugs fit into the lifestyle I want to live. Secondly, I am aware that they can be hard on one’s liver. Not to mention that vicodin is addictive.
Out of desperation for relief from pain, as well as NSAID drugs, I began looking into anti-inflammatory and pain relieving herbs. There are many herbs that fit the anti-inflammatory “bill”, but the one that seems to have a particular affinity for pain as a result of injury is Arnica Montana (flowers).
Arnica Montana to the Rescue
Arnica Montana has significant anti-inflammatory and mild pain relieving qualities. It is usually applied topically in the form of infused oils, salves, or creams. It is great for bruises, strains, or sprains. This herb encourages healing and reduces pain and swelling, and also relieves sore and aching muscles.
Using Arnica Balm
Satisfied that Arnica Montana was the herb for me to try first for my pain, I formulated an anti-inflammatory pain balm. I made it a few months ago for some semi-severe shoulder pain that I was experiencing for a few weeks. It was helpful!
It isn’t as fast a pain killer as ibuprofen, naproxen or vicodin, but it does work to relieve it. It also works well to bring down inflammation when used consistently over a few days. Over the past few months, I have been using this balm instead of pills. I am much more aware of when the inflammation goes away because the pain goes away as well.
Arnica balm doesn’t mask the pain the way pills do because it doesn’t relieve the pain completely. That may sound counter-intuitive, but it actually this is good. We should be able to feel a little of the pain still so we know when the herbs have finished their job of reducing the inflammation. This enables me to treat for the proper amount of time, without having to take anything that is hard on my liver, or that has side effects that I don’t want.
Arnica Balm for Pain
- 1/2 oz chamomile infused oil anti-inflammatory; affinity to smooth muscle tissues
- 1/2 Tbsp castor oil anti-inflammatory and analgesic
- 1/2 Tbsp emu oil helpful for sore muscles, aching joints, or inflammation
- 1/2 Tbsp rosehip seed oil anti-inflammatory
- enough arnica infused olive oil to make 3.5 oz oil total
- 1/2 oz beeswax grated
- 40 drops rosemary EO relief of muscle cramps and spasms
- 20 drops clove EO anti-inflammatory
- 10 drops white thyme EO helps relieve sore muscles
- Add your chamomile, castor, emu, rosehip seed, and arnica oil to the top pan in a double boiler.
- Boil your water to warm the oils and melt the emu oil down completely (the emu oil is a bit thick, but the rest shouldn't need melting down, really).
- Once the oils are all liquid and mixed together, add your beeswax.
- Once everything is liquid, remove from heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. You want to make sure you don't allow it to cool enough for it to harden. (If it does, just return it to the heat and melt it down again.)
- Once cooled for a couple of minutes, add your essential oils.
- Pour into tins or whatever container you would like to use. (I use 2 oz. plastic containers, but even small 4 oz. jelly jars work great for this).
- Allow to cool and apply with your fingers to the painful area 3x daily until pain is gone. Can also be used for monthly cramping.
The Way I “Dose” Arnica Balm
When I use this arnica balm, I plan to use it 3x per day for at least a week or two, or until the pain is gone. It is not unusual to be prescribed anti-inflammatories to take for a couple of weeks to reduce inflammation. My thought is that I can treat my balm just like I prescribed it to myself. I have had good success with applying it directly after an injury occurs, and when I’ve had a longer term muscle pain issue.