sore muscle salve

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.

 

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GINGER, CAYENNE AND TURMERIC SALVE

Ingredients 

  • 15ml Ginger root infused oil*
  • 15ml Red chilli (cayenne) infused oil*
  • 15ml Turmeric root infused oil*
  • 6g Beeswax granules

Method

  • 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

Method

  • 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)

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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

  • Bode AM, Dong Z.  The Amazing and Mighty Ginger in Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors.  Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects.  CRC Press/Taylor and Francis 2011
  • Grieve, M.  A Modern Herbal.  Tiger Books 1992
  • 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
  • Wood, M.  The Earthwise Herbal Volume I.  North Atlantic Books 2008
  • Wood, M.  The Earthwise Herbal Volume II.  North Atlantic Books 2009
  • Wood, M.  The Earthwise Herbal Repertory North Atlantic Books 2016
  • Dinarello, CA.  Proinflammatory Cytokines.  Chest Vol 118, No 2: 503-508
  • Srinivasan, K.  Biological Activities of Red Pepper (Capsicum annum) and its Pungent Principle Capsaicin: A Review.  Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr.  2016 Jul 3;56(9):1488-500
  • Karlapudi V, Prasad Mungara AVV, Sengupta K, Davis BA, Raychaudhuri SP.  A Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind Study Demonstrates the Clinical Efficacy of a Novel Herbal Formulation for Relieving Joint Discomfort in Human Subjects with Osteoarthritis of Knee.  J. Med. Food.  2018 May;21(5):511-520
  • Maulina T, Diana H, Cahyanto A, Amaliya A.  The efficicacy of curcumin in  managing acute inflammation pain on post-surgical removal of impacted third molars patients: A randomised controlled trial.  J. Oral. Rehabil.  2018 Sep;45(9):677-683
  • Haroyan A, Mukuchyan V, Mkrtchyan N, Minasyan N, Gasparyan S, Sargsyan A, Narimanyan M, Hovhannisyan A. Efficacy and safety of curcumin and its combination with boswellic acid in osteroarthritis: a comparative, randomized, double-bline, placebo-controlled study.  BMC Complement. Altern. Med.  2018 Jan 9;18(1):7
  • Comblain F, Barthélémy N, Lefèbvre M, Schwartz C, Lesponne I, Serisier S, Feugier A, Balligand M, Henrotin Y.  A randomized, double-blind, prospective, placebo-controlled study of the efficacy of a diet supplemented with curcuminoids extract, hydrolyzed collagen and green tea extract in owner’s dogs with osteoarthritis.  BMC Vet. Res.  2017 Dec 20;13(1):395
  • Amalraj A, Varma K, Jacob J, Divya C, Kunnumakkara AB, Stohs SJ, Gopi S.  A Novel Highly Bioavailable Curcumin Formulation Improves Symptoms and Diagnostic Indicators in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Two-Dose, Three-Arm, and Parallel-Group Study.  J. Med. Food. 17 Oct;20(10):1022-1030.
  • Srivastava S, Saksena AK, Khattri S, Kumar S, Dagur RS.  Curcuma longa extract reduces inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers in osteoarthritis of knee: a four-month, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.  Inflammopharmacology. 2016 Dec;24(6):377-388
  • Asha J, Ronggian W, Mian Z, Ping W.  Mechanisms of the Anti-inflammatory Effect of Curcumin:  PPAR- µActivation.  PPAR Res.  2007; 2007: 89369
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Capsaicin
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/substance%20P

Love Gillie x

 

herbal loose ends

At this time of year you can usually find me either grubbing around in the garden and hedgerows collecting herbs or in the kitchen infusing, decocting and generally making remedies for the year ahead.

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Today was a catch up day.  I have several tinctures that are ready to be bottled up.  A tincture is a simple method to harvest the medicinal qualities of a herb.  All you need is the herb itself and base solvent.  The most common solvent is alcohol as it has the ability to dissolve almost all the constituents of most plants and acts as a preservative at the same time.  If you prefer not to use alcohol then vinegar or glycerine can be substituted.  Vodka is my preferred tincture solvent, a minimum of 37-40% proof.  I have bought much stronger vodka in Romania and Latvia where is was quite reasonably priced compared to the UK.

The common home method for making a tincture is to fill a small jar with the chopped herb and cover with the solvent liquid.  There are guidelines for different ratios of herb to solvent (see Hoffmann or Bartram for details).  I tend to use the common method but I do make a note of the strength of alcohol used.

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Earlier this summer I had put aside :

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Chilli
  • Chickweed
  • Lemon balm
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
  • Hawthorn leaves
  • Motherwort
  • Dandelion leaf and root
  • Lemon balm and basil in witchazel

So  much of this morning was spent bottling up and labelling.  I add the plant (Latin name if there is a risk of confusion), date of bottling, solvent and place the plant was harvested.

The first three (turmeric, ginger and chilli) are part of my personal treatment for muscular strain in my upper arms/shoulders as a result of hypermobility.  I’ve made a very effective salve using these three ingredients and was interested to see if the tincture taken internally was as effective.  I’ll do a post on the salve later this month.

Chickweed and lemon balm are both exceptionally good for skin irritations.  Mugwort is bitter tonic and helps with digestive disorders, stimulating bile production whilst also providing a carminative action reducing gas in the digestive system.  Hawthorn (more commonly the berries but also the leaves, I shall harvest the berries later in the year) and Motherwort are both cardiac tonics and whilst everyone knows dandelion as a diuretic few also know that it is an excellent source of potassium thus negating the need for potassium supplements required when synthetic diuretics are prescribed. (See Bartram or Hoffmann for detailed information on the herbs listed).  Finally some of you will remember the lemon balm and basil witchazel tincture as the basis of my first attempt at home made insect repellent.  I’ll let you know how it works!

The lemon balm infusion was ready to be turned into a salve.

  • 60 ml Lemon balm infused oil
  • 6 mg beeswax granules

Add both ingredients to a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and stir until the beeswax is melted.  Pour into clean jar and leave with the lid off until the salve is solid.

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Now, I have to bottle up the rest of the tinctures and get out in the garden and do some more harvesting, the sage and verbascum are vast and the mint needs my attention!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

albanian chai

I don’t drink coffee.  I used to, lots of it, strong and without milk or sugar.  But about 15 or years ago I fell out of love with it and hardly touch it now.  Occasionally, maybe once a month I may have a mid morning coffee with friends, but certainly no  more than one and it is a notable event.

However, tea is another matter altogether.  I start the day like this.  One pot of English breakfast tea (also without milk or sugar).  Always in  my chicken pot and always with my chicken cup and saucer.  I am a creature of habit.  I do vary the tea cosy!morning tea

However, on or around 10.00 am I switch to this.

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On our recent visit to Albania I saw somebody drinking a proper herb tea (i.e. the full plant not dried up bits in a tea bag – I HATE tea bags, but that’s another story). Curious, I asked what it was and ordered a pot with my lunch.  Actually I did that the other way around and drank it first and discovered what it was afterwards!

Sideritis raeseri (not to be confused with Sideritis scardica or any of the other wild Sideritis many of which are at risk of extinction and should not be picked or indeed purchased), also known as ironwort, mountain tea, shepherd’s tea  is the only Sideritis which is cultivated  and has been drunk as a decoction for thousands of years (even mentioned by Dioscorides). It has a pleasant taste and I had it with breakfast every day and frequently during the day as well.  It is a habit I have continued since I returned home.  I brought plenty of the dried herb home with me and though I can replenish my supply through various well known internet sales sites it is not clear that I can be sure that it is the raeseri I am buying rather than one of the endangered species.  So I am trying to track down some seeds.  Unfortunately all I can find from a reputable (i.e. I know that the seeds will be what they say they are) supplier is Sideritis syricia.  So I’ll have to try that out instead.

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The dried Sideritis raeseri

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Ready for the boiling water.

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Brewing.

It is traditionally taken as an aid to digestion and to strengthen the immune system.  Considerable research has been undertaken on this unassuming plant and it has been proven to have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant action.  As we were travelling I restricted my tinctures to just digestive bitters and left the echinacea I usually take at home.  Whilst we were away Stuart developed a monster of a cold which went straight to his chest.  I drank my Albanian chai every day and remained entirely cold free despite all his coughing and sneezing 🙂

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

Wear the Wild

Regular readers will know I am huge fans of Chris and Rose Bax of Taste the Wild.  I have been on plenty of their courses from Herbal Medicine (where my recently macerated knee provided a live demonstration of how to make a poultice)  two and a half days foraging in Staithes.  We have also been mushroom foraging with them and Stuart learned how to butcher a deer.  So you can imagine my glee on my birthday when I discovered I had a morning with Rose making cosmetics.

I make a lot of my own cosmetics and potions etc, but there is nothing more fun than doing it with other people and there is always more to learn.  So last Tuesday I got up early, scraped the ice off the car and headed down to North Yorkshire.  Boy was it cold so the cup of tea on arrival was most welcome.

Cop a look at this.

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Infused oils and dried herbs and flowers all ready to be played with.  First we made shampoo.  Rose gave us comprehensive tables with the properties of the various herbs and flowers. She had already made a birch decoction which we would all include in our shampoo as birch is a wonderful all rounder for hair, then we chose three other ingredients.

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We steeped our additional ingredients in the hot decoction and added it to pure castile soap.

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And there you go.  I don’t even use conditioner now, though do be careful not to get castile soap in your eyes!

Next up was a healing balm.

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Melt pure beeswax into the infused oils of your choice.  Note the clever homemade bain marie.  When slightly cool add an essential oil of your choice.

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Pour into clean pots and leave to set.  Wait until it is almost set before putting on the lid so avoid contamination with condensation.

 

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Next was lip balm, made in much the same way but this time with peppermint essential oil.  We finished up with a bath bomb and some wonderful herbal bath salts which I used when I got home that evening and there were just the ticket.

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Finally, as I was in the area I popped into Ripon for lunch on the way home!

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Love Gillie x

 

Comfrey

When the goldenrod starts to flower then summer is igoin out and autumn is icumen in.  I am sure we will have lots more lovely sunny and warm days like today, in fact my birthday in early October has been a sunny day for as long as I can remember.  However, now is the time to start preserving and drying to ensure the natural medicine cabinet can see us through until next summer. Today I have been out in the garden harvesting comfrey, lavender, rosehips and chamomile

Let’s start with the comfrey.  Comfrey goes by many names Knitbone, Boneset, Bruise wort.  You get the gist, it’s a healer.  There is much discussion about the safety of comfrey due to its very high content of hepatotoxic pyrrolizideine alkaloids (PAs) wh rapich as you can guess from the name can lead to liver disease in high doses and it has been implicated in one death.  Consequently I only use it topically, in a salve, tincture or fresh compress.  See here to see it in action.

First collect your comfrey.  This is remarkably easy around us as the Boss planted it some 10 years ago and it is very hardy!  I collect both leaves and the root, there is a higher level of allantoin, which stimulates cell growth (and thus healing) and reduces inflammation in the root, but also a higher level of PAs.  Again I only use comfrey products externally and would caution anyone who wishes to take it internally to seek the advice of a professional herbalist first.

I made two types of salve and a tincture.

Salve one was  made using the oldest and most traditional  method.  Chop up your leaves and add them melted lard.  I used 125g lard and four handfuls of leaves.  Bring to a simmer, cover and leave to seep for a couple of hours and pour into a sterilised jar (you may need to warm it slightly to melt it sufficiently to pour into the jar.

IMG_3009Looks a bit poisonous doesn’t it?!

Salve two is the process I first learned when making salves.  Instead of using lard I used coconut oil and cold pressed rapeseed oil.  The first stage is the same as making salve one.  125ml of rapeseed oil and three tablespoons of coconut oil, four handfuls of leaves, chopped.  Bring to simmer, leave to seep.  What you have now is comfrey oil and you can leave it like that.  It is a good massage oil for those broken bones that cannot be set (such as toes and shoulders).  If you want to make a m ore solid salve you will need approximately 30g of beeswax (the amount you use will determine the solidity of your salve).  Grate the wax and place with the comfrey oil in a bowl over a pan of boiling water and heat gently until the wax and oil are combined.  Pour into sterilised jars.

Comfrey Tincture is the easiest recipe of all.  Wash and chop 100g of comfrey root and place in a clean jar with 150ml of vodka (the highest proof you can find, I am kicking myself for not buying the 96% vodka I saw on sale in Romania for about £15/litre!)  Leave it for 2-3 weeks and transfer to clean amber dropper bottles.

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Finally I put the leftover root in the dehydrator and will grind it up to make tincture or salve later on in the year if we run out.

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Next up rosehips.

Love Gillie x