Natural Remedies for Sore Muscles and Joints
We all get them at some point or another: strained and sore muscles and joints, whether from sports injuries, overdoing it at the gym, freak accidents, serious diseases or simply age.
Muscles may experience tiny micro tears, causing them to go into spasm. When in spasm or contracted, blood cannot easily flow into the muscles. Reduced blood flow means insufficient oxygen and nutrients, hence muscles tighten up to protect themselves – setting off a vicious cycle. We all know the importance of correct stretching and warming up before and after training but injury or stiffness are a fact of many people’s lives, despite precautions. Painful joints may be caused by a number of reasons, most often because the ligaments and tendons around the joint are injured or because of joint inflammation (think arthritis) or infection.
Whether you are trying to build yourself up for a sporting event; or you are just trying to soothe strained and sore muscles and joints, there are numerous natural remedies that may help ease the pain and build flexibility.
Natural Preventions and Cures for Sore Muscles and Joints
Herbs are Mother Nature’s own pharmacy, and there are many that are ideal for treating pain, inflammation, arthritis and related ailments. These herbs can all be made into a tea and drunk, or into an infusion (water or oil) for use in DIY creams, soaks, sprays, etc.
White willow can assist in relieving rheumatism and gout as well as pain in joints and muscles. White willow is considered the original aspirin.
Devil’s claw can reduce inflammation and muscle stiffness, help with arthritis and can potentially help inhibit osteoarthritis. It also treats chronic back pain and is an effective pain reliever.
Cramp Bark as its name suggests, can help relieve muscle cramping. It is a muscle relaxant and antispasmodic.
Wild yam is useful in treating cramps, muscular pain, arthritis and rheumatism. It is a natural antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory.
Turmeric and ginger are both anti-inflammatory, and will help with general pain and swelling, as well as osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Turmeric in particular has the active ingredient curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant. You can take these in a capsule form, add liberally to your food or make a great spicy tea to be enjoyed daily hot or cold.
To make a tea, simply pour hot water over a teaspoon of herbs and leave to draw for 5 minutes. To make a water based herbal infusion, simply add a tablespoon or two of herbs to a jug and pour hot water over it. Leave it to cool over night, strain and use in place of the water or liquid phase in DIY formulations. To make an oil infusion, add herbs to oil and leave to infuse for a few days. You will know when your infusion is ready when the oil has deepened in colour or you are able to pick up the scent of the herbs. The longer you leave it, the stronger the infusion will be.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains the compound oleocanthal that works the same way as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Studies show that oleocanthal decreases the production of certain enzymes which cause inflammation. Add olive oil to your diet or blend with essential oils as a massage oil for topical relief.
Magnesium has been receiving a lot of attention in the sporting world and there appears to be a strong argument to be made that most people are magnesium deficient. It is used in over 300 different biomechanical responses in our body. It relaxes muscles and nerve endings, relieving stiffness and pain. Magnesium strengthens muscular/skeletal health and speeds recovery after strenuous exercise or injury. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a study on magnesium that showed people who had a diet high in magnesium or took supplements had higher bone density, and overall stronger bones. Magnesium supplements, or magnesium oil rubbed into joints and muscles, or an Epsom salts bath are all methods of increasing our magnesium levels. This is especially important for sporty people who are pushing their bodies while contending with South African summer temperatures.
Magnesium oil is a particularly effective method of getting this essential nutrient in, as transdermal absorption is fast and bypasses the digestive system. Simply spray on, leave to absorb and you’re done.
Comfrey oil is also known as ‘knitbone’ because it is so effective at healing sprains, swellings, bruises and arthritis relief. It can also be blended with essential oils for increased efficacy. SImply use is as a massage oil on the affected area daily.
Essential Oils for Topical Relief of Pain and Joint Support
Essential oils can be very effective at treating joint and muscular pain because they penetrate cells quickly and easily, providing much needed oxygen and increased circulation to inflamed muscles and joints. Essential oils can be applied directly to the area but it is always best to dilute them in a carrier oil first, and do a skin patch test.
The Best Anti-inflammatory Essential Oils
Frankincense serrata: Has potential to help relieve joint pain and the symptoms of arthritis. It inhibits the production of key inflammatory molecules thus lessening the breakdown of cartilage tissue.
Myrhh: Anti-inflammatory and effective in soothing arthritis and rheumatism. Stimulates blood flow.
Camphor: Is naturally pain-relieving and an anti-inflammatory. It has been found to be useful for arthritis, rheumatism, muscles aches and pains, sprains and even bruises.
Peppermint: Is antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory with the added benefit of cooling and soothing pain, so helping with muscular and joint pain. It is an old remedy for alleviating arthritis, rheumatism, headaches and migraines, osteoporosis, sciatica, tennis elbow, and tendonitis.
Helichrysum: A natural anti-inflammatory, when blended as a massage oil, helichrysum helps with muscle aches and pains, respiratory problems and the digestive system. It is often used to alleviate sciatica, bruises, tendonitis and tissue pain and repair.
Cypress: Antispasmodic, anti-rheumatic and anti-arthritic. Cypress Oil is helpful in relieving nearly all types of spasms and cramps, especially muscular, intestinal and respiratory.
Juniper Berry: Has a warming, anti-inflammatory and stimulating effect. It is used to help treat those suffering from gout, arthritis, rheumatism and general pain in the muscles and joints. Juniper also helps in reviving the muscle tone.
Lavender: As always, lavender belongs in any first aid kit for its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.
Lemongrass: Is effective for toning muscles, relieving tired aching legs and eliminating lactic acid.
Ginger: Its analgesic properties can relieve the pain of rheumatism and arthritis.
Wintergreen: Wintergreen is made up almost entirely of methyl salicylate, used in aspirin, hence it is a fantastically powerful pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. Do use with caution though, and always dilute it.
Essential oils can be very powerful and some have photosensitivity properties, hence they are best used when blended with carrier oils such as coconut oil, jojoba, olive oil or another carrier of your choice.
How to Use Essential Oils for Pain Relief?
Make a massage oil blend: Select 3 - 4 essential oils from the list above which match your needs or symptoms. Mix 2 - 3 drops of each oil with a ½ cup of carrier oil to make a natural and effective homemade pain relief massage oil. Warm up some oil in your palms then apply to the affected area, massaging it in well.
Bath oil blend: Use the same principle as above to make your own bath oil. Add a drizzle of oil to a warm bath and relax. Add a handful of Epsom salts too, to improve muscle relief.
Gel: Another effective method of delivering the essential oil benefits to the affected area is to use a gel carrier. You can make an easy and effective gel using xanthan gum.
Healing Gel with Essential Oils
Make a gel using xanthan gum and water:
½ tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp vegetable glycerine
¼ c water (more may be needed as the gel thickens)
Hydrate the xanthan gum with the glycerine by blending it together. Add the preservative to the water and mix well. Then add the xanthan gum mixture to the water and blend thoroughly until it has fully combined with no lumps. Either beat vigorously with a fork to squash any lumps or use a stick/immersion blender. It will already thicken up into a gel, but I find if you leave it for a few hours the gel consistency really improves as the ‘gel network’ develops. Once you are happy with your gel, blend in a few drops of your chosen essential oil(s). Rub into the affected area. We hope you find relief with all of the healing herbs and oils that Nature has provided us. Natural remedies come with no side effects, are light on the liver and bodily systems and can be highly effective.