I can bend my fingers in weird ways and and despite my deceptively large size am quite the bendiest person in my yoga class. While once, when I was much younger, this was something of which to be proud and to show off, now I am still bendy but a lot wiser, and have a pilates personal trainer to work on building muscle strength to hold those joint in place.
Being hypermobile has many disadvantages from a tendency to be flatfooted and twist over on one’s ankle (tick), to gut and bowel problems (those connective tissues just aren’t up to the task) (tick), thin skin that heals poorly (tick) to full scale Erlers Danlos Syndrome (fortunately for me no tick as this can be pretty horrible).
As I have got older some joints flake out more than others. A recent development has been my shoulders. Quick anatomy lesson, shoulder joints the most shallow and most mobile joints in the human body and is essentially held in place by ligaments, which in my case are long past their sell by date. Net result, gravity has a tendency to pull the ball out of the socket (subluxation) and not surprisingly it hurts!
As one of the assignments for the Herbology Certificate and the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh was to create a herbal remedy so it didn’t take long for me to chose something that I could use on my very sore arms and shoulders. Here is a précis of my assignment, I do hope it is of help to someone else too.
GINGER, CAYENNE AND TURMERIC SALVE
- 15ml Ginger root infused oil*
- 15ml Red chilli (cayenne) infused oil*
- 15ml Turmeric root infused oil*
- 6g Beeswax granules
- Melt the beeswax granules in a bain marie over a low heat.
- Add the infused oils and mix thoroughly.
- Remove from heat and pour into clean jar.
- Wait until salve is cooled and solid and then secure jar lid.
(Storage 6 months)
* To make infused oil
- 50g Chopped/grated plant material
- 500ml Sunflower oil
- Place oil and plant material in a bain marie over the lowest heat possible.
- Cover bain marie tightly (tin foil is excellent)
- Leave for 3 hours (check water in bain marie regularly)
- Remove from heat and leave still covered in a warm place overnight (I use the shelf above the aga)
- Strain through a muslin and decant into dark glass bottle.
(Storage 6 months)
At least 115 constituents have been identified in ginger, of which the highest percentage are gingerols. Research has shown that some gingerols exhibit analgesic and potent anti-inflammatory effects. This is achieved through a variety of actions:
- Thermogenesis (heat production), partially attributed to –
- Vasodilation increasing blood supply to the afflicted area;
- Modulation of calcium levels affecting heat-pain receptors.
There have been some inconsistencies in clinical trials and the use of ginger in alleviating inflammation, osteoarthritis, and rheumatism. However, the positive results, particularly in double blind, placebo controlled trials have prompted further research and there is a theory that ginger acts in a similar way to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) by inhibiting cooxygenases (COX) production and thus the production of prostaglandins which in turn promote pain, inflammation and fever. However, prostaglandins are also vital in the protection of the stomach lining and long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to ulceration of the stomach. Most NSAIDs inhibit both COX1 and COX2, however it is COX1 that is required for stomach and intestinal lining protection and it would appear that ginger falls into the selective inhibition group and inhibits only COX2, therefore acting as an effective anti-inflammatory but not having an undesirable effect on the gut lining. Clearly this is of relevance when comparing remedies that are taken systemically rather than topically (as this one is) however it is a valuable property of ginger compared to most NSAIDs on the market.
There is also some evidence to suggest that ginger can have a role in the reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines which promote inflammation in body tissue, of relevance here in their role in the promotion of joint inflammation.
Cayenne is a very powerful systemic stimulant, regulating blood flow and energising and stimulating the heart. In this respect, it encourages blood flow to the peripheral areas and is an effective remedy for peripheral muscular pain and cramps.
The active ingredient in cayenne is capsaicin, a pungent alkaloid with analgesic properties through the release of neuropeptides which control the peripheral neurons. There has been extensive clinical research in the relationship between capsaicin, Substance P, serotonin, somastatin and the pain pathway. One theory is that it produces a rapid release of Substance P which is required for the production of pain, but the release is so concentrated and rapid that Substance P is depleted from the neurons and the pain threshold released.
Clinical trials have also shown that capsaicin has anti-inflammatory properties at a level to that of diclofenac, and like ginger, it does so without affecting the gastric mucosa, in fact it has been shown to have a digestive stimulant action and aid in the uptake of micronutrients through the intestinal wall.
The anti-arthritic effects of turmeric include the inhibition of joint inflammation and bone erosion. Clinical trials have shown that turmeric has a positive effect on tissue inflammation and pain control in osteo-arthritis, in post-operative molar tooth removal, in rheumatoid arthritis,
The main ingredient in turmeric is a volatile oil containing tumerone and a number of agents producing the vivid yellow colour called curcuminoids which are found in natural anti-oxidants. It is the curcuminoid curcumin which is the main active ingredient in turmeric. Precisely what the mechanism of action of curcumin is has not been fully determined. However, it is believed to be a similar COX2 blocking mechanism as demonstrated by ginger.
However, the question is does it work? Well for me yes it did. Pain relief within 30 minutes which lasted for approximately 4 hours.
NB: I am not qualified herbalist, for further information regarding the constituents please consult the references below
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- Griggs, B. The Green Witch. Vermillion 2000
- Hoffman, D. Holistic Herbal. Thorsons 1990
- McVicar, J. Jekka’s Complete Herb Book. Kyle Cathie 1997
- Prasad S, Aggawal BB. Turmeric the Golden Spice: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine in Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. CRC Press/Taylor and Francis 2011
- Wong, J. A Year with James Wong. Collins 2010
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Love Gillie x