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Kauai Island Health Article Archive

Supplements: The Four Pillars

Bob Turchyn - Monday, June 05, 2017

 

Supplementing Wellness: The Four Pillars

 

 

 

As an herbal practitioner, I have seen how herbs and essential oils can stimulate natural healing processes and normalize the function for a cross-section of organs and organ systems. Most often this occurs with few if any side effects. In combination with functional motion, exercise, good lifestyle and diet choices, botanicals can make a big difference in a person’s overall health and well being.

A few key supplements should also be a part of everyone’s wellness toolbox. These include a high quality multi vitamin, Co enzyme Q-10, fish oil, and probiotics. Suboptimal digestion, poor diet choices, and processed, nutritionally depleted food sources team up to make most of us deficient in these: Some of the specific benefits of these supplements are as follows:

 

 

Pillar# 1. Multi-vitamin. A high quality B complex, with a minimum of 2500 iu of Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene is a good starting point. “Preformed” Vitamin A (retinol) can become problematic in higher doses. Often you will see the 2 combined for example: 5000 iu of vitamin A with 50% from beta-carotene. This ratio and dosage is generally considered optimal. A cross section of minerals and trace elements is also essential, especially chromium and selenium. Many of the more broad-spectrum multis may also include up to 2000 iu of vitamin D along with 50- 100 mg of Co enzyme Q-10. Add these doses and values into what you are taking from other sources to determine total amount of supplementation desired. The specific benefits of individual vitamins, such as the B-complex for the nervous system or Vitamin A for eye health is too exhaustive a topic to be dealt with here. Suffice it to say that most of us do not get theses vitamins through our diets, and the lack of some of these can lead to pathologies such as B12 deficient anemia. I often recommend that clients ask their physicians for Vitamin D and B12 readings as part of their routine blood work-ups

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Pillar#2. Fish Oil Oils from fatty fish such as salmon, halibut, sardines and anchovies are rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and decosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These “long chain omega-3” fatty acids, are also available from plant foods such as flaxseeds and walnuts, but are poorly converted to usable forms by the human body. Fish oils (and fish) consumption decreases risk for coronary heart disease. They are also highly anti-inflammatory and studies have shown specific benefits here for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. Fish oils also reduce blood pressure and improve HDL (high density lipoprotein) and decrease production of VLDL (very low density lipoprotein). Anti-carcinogenic: studies suggest they can help prevent colon cancer. Because of their role in nerve signaling and serotonin levels, fish oils have shown to be helpful for depression. DHA is crucially important for neurotransmitter production in the brain. Deficits in DHA are observed in Alzheimer’s patients. Recent studies suggest that fish oil supplementation can be helpful in slowing cognitive decline. In light of these developments a few suppliers have changed their formulations toward a higher DHA/EPA ratio (in fish EPA/DHA is 1.5 to 1

As far as toxicity, when a variety of fish oils were recently evaluated, they were shown to lower levels of mercury and other contaminants. Krill oil from the Antarctic is virtually free of toxins, is highly sustainable, and is a rich source of astaxanthin, a powerful anti oxidant. Note: fish oil may inhibit platelet aggregation; therefore, people on anticoagulant medications should consult with their physicians before using.

 

 

Pillar#3. Co-enzyme Q-10 This is a supplement where the ambiguity of research studies and the experience of people using it clash head on. I have had clients on cholesterol medications suffering from muscle pain have their pain go away once they began using Co-Q10. This is after their physicians said it probably wouldn’t help. Essential for the conversion of carbohydrates and fats to adenosine triphosphate (the form of energy used by cells), there is good research indicating this supplement is helpful for a number of cardio vascular conditions including hypertension, vascular issues in diabetics as well as ischemic heart disease.

Co-Q10 is found in a wide range of food, and is present in practically every cell and organ in the body. To this point its converted form is known as ubiquinol. It is unlikely however that therapeutic amounts can be gotten from diet as the average amount consumed is estimated to be 3-6 mg per day. Also Co-Q10 levels in the human body decline with age, and it is hard to believe there is no correlation between compromised digestion in older adults and lower levels of Co-Q10. This leads to the next “pillar.”

 

 

Pillar#4. Probiotics

The component bacterial life inside the tube that runs through our bodies is probably the most exciting of all “proactive wellness” research, also kind of freaky. Most commercially available products come from the Bifidobacteria, and Lactobaccilus species, but also important are the strains Bacillus coagulans, Streptococcus thermophilus and Saccharomyces boulardi (actually a fungus). Most advertised are the positive effects of probiotics for digestion, where they inactivate pathogenic bacterial, support the mucosal barrier and modulate the local and systemic immune systems. Recent research also shows that certain strains have affinities for specific organs and body systems. Examples of this are: Lactobacillus reuteri for the cardio vascular (lowers LDL and VLDL cholesterol), Bifidbacterium bifidum, and longum: the respiratory system, Bacillus coagulans, aids in cellular mercury elimination, and Lactobacillus gasseri has shown benefits for the genito-urinary and respiratory tracts.

There is also a substantial amount of crossover activity: for instance a very recent study has shown that a combination of the strains Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Bifidobacterium longum, effective in relieving symptoms of seasonal allergies.

The point to be made here is that a healthy gut microbiome is not just the number of bacterial strains, it is also about the diversity of strains. The genes of the microbiome outnumber our own genes by about 100-1. They

modulate local and systemic immune responses, stabilize the gastrointestinal barrier and induce of enzymatic activity favoring absorption and nutrition. Microbes in the large intestine make vitamins we can’t make on our own, and extend their lives. Maybe makes sense to take our probiotic with our multi-vitamin.

Gut bacteria send signals directly to the brain mainly through the vagus nerve. This “enteric brain,” is a collection of over 500 million neurons. The intestine also makes some of the same molecules that transmit signals in the brain like GABA, serotonin, melatonin and acetylcholine. This talks to the indisputable link between gut health and its link to emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression. Preliminary studies suggest that deficiency of Lactobacillus may account for the over production of kynurenine, a molecule closely associated with depression. Look for a lot more research between the gut-brain axis to be published in the near future.

 

 

The 5th Pillar

Magnesium. An essential mineral, difficult to get enough of through diet, but so important to hundreds if essential processes in the body. Read more about this: http://www.kauaiislandhealth.com/kauai-island-health-article-archive/magnesium-supplementation


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

 

“The Foundations of Health,” David Winston (RH). Course Study Herbal Therapeutics

Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute, “Micronutrient Information Center”

Examine.com

Corticosteroids inhibit, anti-IgE activities of …mediators of Asthma.” Nina Kim, Thomas H. Thatcher, Patricia J. Sime, and Richard P. Phipps, Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight, doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.88588, published 9 February 2017.

Herbal Therapies and Supplements, Merrily Kuhn and David Winston, 2nd edition, 2008 Lippincott Williams and Wilkens

Modern Herbal Medicine. Steven Horne, Thomas Easely., The School of Modern Herbal Medicine, St. George, UT. 2014

“Probiotic Combination Improved Allergy Symptoms.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2017; 105 (3): 758 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.116.140012

“Efficacy and safety of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii for the prevention and therapy of gastrointestinal disorders.” Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology. 2012 March 5

University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center

“Probiotic found in yogurt can reverse depression symptoms.” Science Daily. March 8, 2017

 

 

 

 

Practical Posture: Golf: Getting to a Full Finish

Bob Turchyn - Sunday, August 07, 2016

 

 

 

 

Practical Posture

 

 

Golf- Getting to that Full Finish

 

 

    Hank Haney is a professional golf instructor and like many of his colleagues, emphasizes to his students the importance of a strong finish position in the golf swing: “accelerate the arms and body through the ball.” In a recent video, Haney goes further, telling his students to forget about where the ball is going and solely focus on getting around to a balanced lead side, belt buckle facing the target, arms behind the head. The thinking here is that if everything that went before in the swing is sequenced properly then this is how and where you should end up. Hard to argue when you look at Rory Mcllroy, Jason Day, or really any of the top tour professionals.

    Ok, I am not sure about you, but my duff-patrol foursome doesn’t have anyone with a swing that looks anything like these two guys. Sure, there are some better players I see from time t time who finish like this, but not many. “Finish,” to most guys I play with means the 19th hole.

    Let’s assume this is something all of us should want to do, how do we? Obviously a big part of how you finish is all that happened earlier in the swing, and not wanting to exceed my “scope of practice,” my advice here is to see a PGA professional instructor. The other obvious fact is that if your body can’t achieve or maintain this position, why bother. Maybe this is the unconscious message our bodies have been sending us all along. Maybe it’s time to send a message back.

    From a musculoskeletal perspective here is what’s involved: (Lead side) Foot supination, knee and hip extension, scapular adduction, lateral rotation of the humeris, wrist extension and abduction. (Trail side) plantar, knee and hip flexion, medial hip rotation, scapular abduction, horizontal shoulder abduction, medial rotation of the humeris and radial bones, and wrist abduction. (Midline) Extension of the thoracic and lumbar spine as well as extension of the pelvis.

    The preceding list might seem mind numbing, but while the ability for muscles to work independently is important, functional

motions are the sum of muscles and joints working together in chains. Thought of in this way it is possible to envision certain whole body movements that not only pre-dispose muscles to allow the associated joints to achieve these positions, but to do so in a very time efficient manner.

 

 

 

 

Standing Arm Circles

Stand facing mirror with your feet pointed straight ahead. Place your fingertips into the pad of each hand and point your thumb straight out. This hand position is imperative to the exercise being done correctly. It is called the “golfer’s grip”. 

Squeeze your shoulder blades together backwards and bring your arms out to your sides at shoulder level.

With your palms facing downward, circle up and forward for 40 repetitions

With your palms facing upward, circle up and back for 40 repetitions. Remember to keep your feet straight and your shoulder blades squeezed

together.

 

Static Back (3 minutes)

Lie on your back with your legs up over your inflatable large block or up over a chair/couch.

Your arms are at 45 degrees and your palms up. Try to relax your upper back and notice if your low back is flat evenly from left to right.

Stay in position for 3 minutes

 

Static Back Pullovers (3 sets of 10)

While in Static Back (leg propped and knees bent at 90 degrees), clasp hands tightly and keep elbows straight. Keeping both arms straight bring arms back behind your head, and back up to starting position. Abdominals are relaxed.

 

Knee Drops (2 sets of 10)

Start in hooklying position with feet flat on the floor. Feet are a little wider than hips and pointed straight ahead.

Arms out to sides at 45-degree angel, palms up.

Slowly drop both knees to one side, then to opposite side. The outside of one knee and the inside of the other knee will be reaching toward the floor.

Your feet will roll from outer edge to inner edge as you go back and forth

Keep you upper body relaxed, shoulders flat to floor

 

Sitting Floor Twist (1 minute each side)

Bend your right leg and cross it over the left leg. Take the left elbow and place it outside of the right knee while it is crossed over. You must roll your hips forward to create the arch in your low back. It is very important to hold this arch the entire time you are in this exercise. Now, twist your upper body to the right using your back muscles to rotate your spine. Turn your head to the right as your twist your back. Hold this position and breathe. Your straight leg is tightened and your toes are pulled back toward your knee

 

 

 

Hand/Leg Opposite Lifts (1 set of 10 each side)

Start on your hands and knees. Raise one arm and reach forward with that arm as you raise the opposite leg to hip level and reach back with that leg. HOLD for 10 seconds and the switch sides.

 

Gravity Drop (3 minutes)

Wearing rubber soled shoes for traction (tennis shoes, etc.) stand on a step or stairway as though you were climbing upward. Feet are parallel, and hip-width apart. With one hand or both, hold onto railing or other object for support. Edge your feet backward until the heels are off the stairs and your are hanging onto the stair with the balls of your feet. Make sure feet remain

pointed straight ahead. Let the weight of your body drop your heels off the stair. You will feel a great stretch in your low leg musculature. The key is to keep your hips over your heels and your shoulders in line with them also.

 

Standing Chest Openers (2 sets of 10 each side)

Stand sideways to a wall an arm's length away from it with your feet pointed straight and hip width apart.

Extend your inside arm and place your palm flat on the wall with your fingers spread apart.

Your outside arm is hanging down at your side and relax your stomach

Keep arm straight and rotate it in and out from the shoulder

Do not bend your elbow, do not raise your shoulders, do not move your

hand

Now turn so your opposite side is facing the wall and repeat on that side

 

Standing Quad Stretch (1 minute each leg)

Stand on one foot and bend the other leg back and place the top of the foot on the back of a chair or a block. The height of the foot dictates the amount of stretch in the quadriceps muscles (thighs). Keep your hips and shoulders square to the wall. Look down and be sure that your knees remain right beside of each other. The key is to make sure that the down leg/hip is not jetting out to the side. You must keep your hips level. Now, try to tilt your butt under (suck and tuck). Hold. If needed, hold onto something for balance.

 

 

 

 

Supine Foot Circles and Point Flexes (40 reps each, both legs)

Lie on back with one leg extended and the other leg bent and toward chest. Clasp your hands behind the bent knee while you circle that foot. (Keep the foot on the floor pointed straight up toward ceiling and your thigh muscle tight). Reverse and make sure the knee stays absolutely still with movement coming from the ankle and not the knee. For the point/flexes, bring the toes back toward the shin to flex, and then reverse the direction to point the foot. Switch legs and repeat.

 

Current postural therapy clients can receive this menu on request through Pain Free Menu Reader. Anyone wishing a PDF of the exercises, with photos, just forward a request in the “Contact Us” section of the website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Magnesium Supplementation

Bob Turchyn - Monday, June 13, 2016

Magnesium (MG), one of the so called, “major elements,” makes up only 0.1% of total human body weight, but is a part of over 350 enzymatic and metabolic processes in the body. It is involved in protein syntheses, immune function, blood pressure and blood sugar regulation, bone formation, and numerous activities of the cardiovascular system, like the force and rhythm of ventricle contractions and its role in dilating and relaxing blood vessels. In similar fashion it improves exercise tolerance and relieves muscle spasms and nerve pain.

 

Good sources of magnesium are foods such as barley and oat bran, as well as pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, dark green leafy vegetables and seaweeds. Although this may sound like a pervasive list, modern farming and food processing methods have stripped many of the foods we eat of essential minerals and nutrients. This along with poor GI tract health (GERD, IBS, leaky gut, dysbiosis etc.) has left many Americans with impaired digestive and assimilation capacities. As a consequence, it is estimated that up to 80% of us are magnesium deficient. In kind of chicken and egg fashion, these very same GI tract maladies make supplementing magnesium more difficult than it may seem.

 

Also magnesium is an important co-factor in calcium absorption, and high levels of supplemental calcium can itself cause magnesium deficiency. Epidemiological studies now link an imbalanced calcium/magnesium intake ratio may result with an increase of cardiovascular disease and mortality..

 

There are many forms of magnesium on the marketplace, the most common of which are magnesium oxide, citrate, glycinate and malate. Donny Yance, whose book is listed below in references, talks more about how each form of magnesium affects different organ systems. For the purposes of muscle pain and cramping, most forms mentioned will have a beneficial effect. One distinction worth noting: magnesium oxide and citrate have a dose dependent laxative effect, while magnesium glycinate much less so.

 

The panels above are two slides from a lecture given by herbalist/educator Paul Bergner at a conference I attended in November of 2012. I have heard from a number of practitioners the “Apple Cider Heavy Water,” has proven very helpful in people who otherwise have difficulty absorbing magnesium.


 

Practical Posture

Bob Turchyn - Wednesday, June 08, 2016

 

KIH’s newest therapist demonstrating “Static Wall” e-cise.

 

 

The idea behind the phrase, “the body you bring into the activity,” is that the closer one is to proper alignment prior to physical activity, the greater the chances for a pain free experience both during and after that activity. Many of us are enthusiastic about the prospect of an invigorating morning walk, bike ride or jog, but are leery of the payback in terms of joint and muscle pain. Retraining, in the form of repeated functional movements, is the answer.

 

Each of our bodies is a unique tale of adaptation to our individual environments and the daily physical stresses to which we subject ourselves. The hallmark of an optimally functioning musculoskeletal system is” neutral joint alignment.” This means that instead of being pitched forward, elevated upward, or torqued inward, the load joints of the body naturally return to being stacked over one another vertically, and each pair in straight lines directly across from each other horizontally.

 

 

The attached exercise menu encourages neutral joint alignment. It is even more effective if used before and after your chosen activity.

 

 


 

Cypress Essential Oil and Your New “Little Friend”

Bob Turchyn - Wednesday, June 01, 2016

In my previous professional life, most eight hour days were spent sitting in a chair, phone to my ear, staring at a computer screen. Add to the mix: a high stress level, a motion-deprived environment (notwithstanding some arm flailing and jaw movement), throw in a diet high in refined carbohydrates and excessive amounts of caffeine, and the table was set for the arrival of my new little friend. The term, little friend (I stole this from a customer who experienced similar visitations over the years) is ironic. In the same fashion that only a good friend can tell us things about ourselves we may not want to hear, a hemorrhoid is a call to revisit lifestyle and diet choices…and this is a little friend with a loud voice.

 

So why the unwelcome visit?

Sometimes referred to as, “varicose veins of the anus and rectum,” hemorrhoids are enlarged, bulging blood vessels that come in two endearing iterations, internal and external. Doesn’t take much to imagine the distinction between the two, but important to know is that these blood vessels lack tone, can be attached to compromised connective tissue, and can clot (blood becomes super-viscous and is poorly circulated). More than half of the population develops hemorrhoids, usually after 30 years of age. 1. Conventional medicine talks about conditions associated with hemorrhoids rather than necessarily what causes them. Chronic constipation, overly “toned” annual musculature, and pregnancy are just a few. Accidents of evolution (being a bi-ped) and poor toilet habits (sitting in the john too long) are others. 2. Most major medical center websites (Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health, MedlinePlus) only discuss diet as a tool to lesson discomfort and irritation, i.e. lots of water and fiber rich foods. Less discussed as either a cause or a means to prevention, are considerations of diet and exercise.

 

 

Chronically elevated blood sugar levels, often associated with diets high in refined carbohydrates and sugars, can erode the linings of blood vessels, a condition akin to “making-up the guest room” in preparation for our little friend’s arrival. Alcohol consumption in excess raises triglyceride levels, hardens and thickens veins and arteries and impairs circulation. Conversely, exercise improves muscle tone (even in areas most people don’t flex in front of mirrors), increases metabolism and blood circulation. Bottom line: if the object is to change this relationship status from little friend to rarely seen acquaintance, changes in diet and lifestyle need to be adopted.

 

Treatment Protocols

Conventional medical treatments for hemorrhoids can range anywhere from steroidal topicals and suppositories, ligation (cutting off the blood supply by wrapping a rubber band around the protruding hemorrhoid) to, in severe cases, surgery. 3. While it is estimated that 2 million Americans seek treatment for hemorrhoids each year, many sufferers opt for over the counter, non-prescription medications. 4. These include zinc oxide and mineral oils (protectorants), vasoconstrictors such as phenylephrine (Preparation H), treatments for itching (hydrocortisone), for pain (pramoxine) as well as fiber supplements like Metamucil. 5.

 

Many of the same healthcare/pharmacy-type retailers that sell these remedies, feature essential oils by Aura Cacia, Nature’s Bounty and others. Cypress oil (Cypress sempervirens), in particular, as part of an essential oil blend that is easy to make, can be a very effective natural alternative for treatment of hemorrhoids.

 

The use of cypress for hemorrhoids dates back thousands of years: the “shavings” of the plant were part of a “cataplasm” prescribed by Hippocrates for bleeding hemorrhoids back in the year 400 BCE. Interestingly, Hippocrates suggests using turpentine.as a substitute in the poultice if cypress is unavailable. .6. Turpentine is the resinous extract from conifer trees, a mixture of monoterpene hydrocarbons. 7. Monoterpenes, known for their astringent and vasoconstrictive qualities, represent up to 50% (in the form of alpha-pinene) of the chemical constituents in the essential oil (EO) of cypress. 8. The tightening or “tonic” quality of mono-terpene rich cypress, along with the oil’s reputation as a “venous decongestant” makes cypress a particularly good choice for hemorrhoids.

 

Giving Your Friend “The Treatment

A “neat” application of cypress EO is the equivalent of saying “get out” to your friend, and, as in choosing bluntness over diplomacy, this route can be painful. Cypress EO undiluted and applied directly on or near the hemorrhoid a few times a day will get the job done but may be too irritating for most people. A “kinder and gentler” approach is to combine different EOs and mix in a carrier oil, cream or ointment. A blend that I have found very effective in sending my little friend packing over the years is made of the EOs of cypress, geranium and roman chamomile. Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) rich in the monoterpenol linalool, citroneliol and geraniol, is analgesic and astringent, and the Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is anti-inflammatory, analgesic and helpful with the itching of hemorrhoids. 9. The carrier I use is “Cuts and Scrapes” cream by Nelsons that contains hypericum and calendula extracts in an alcohol and glycerin base. For every 2 drops of cypress use 1 drop each of geranium and 1 drop of chamomile. To one teaspoon of the Nelsons cream add 3-4 drops of the EO blend; apply 2 to 3 times per day. Make a larger batch in the same proportion of blend-to-cream and store in a small jar in the refrigerator. The coolness makes the blend more soothing. Other ointments and creams will work, and if need be K-Y jelly also can be used.

A word of caution like nieces and nephews you don’t see all the time, little friends have a tendency to grow-up fast. Worse still, unless the rules are laid out up front, they like to have parties an invite friends. Prevention through diet, life-style and exercise, is no doubt the best method to avoid these periodic visitations, but if your little friend does show, here is a way to show him the exit.

 

References

 

 

1. "Hemorrhoids and What to Do about Them." Health Information and Medical Information. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.health.harvard.edu/>.

2. "Hemorrhoids." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Web. 03 July 2013.

<http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/>.

3. "American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons - ASCRS." American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons - ASCRS. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.fascrs.org/>.

4. "Hemorrhoids: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments." LiveScience.com. , 27 May 2013. Web. 04 July 2013. <http://www.livescience.com/>.

5. "Over the Counter Treatment for Hemorrhoids." BetterMedicine.com - Health and Medical Information You Can Trust. - Better Medicine. Web. 04 July 2013. <http://www.bettermedicine.com/>.

6. Hippocrates. "On Fistulae." The Internet Classics Archive: 441 Searchable Works of Classical Literature. Trans. Francis Adams. Web. 04 July 2013. <http://classics.mit.edu/>.

7. Bowles, E. Joy. The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2003. Print.

8. "Turpentine." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, Web. 04 July 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/>.

9. Battaglia, Salvatore. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. Brisbane: International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy, 2003. Print.

 

 

 

 

 

Herbal Analgesics and Anti-inflammatories

Bob Turchyn - Friday, May 27, 2016

 

Many of the clients who come into my Princeville clinic are experiencing musculoskeletal (m/s) pain. Postural therapy looks at pain as a valuable tool: a signal from the body that it will no longer accommodate the muscular imbalances and compensations that up to now have kept us relatively functional. This system of exercise therapy has an exceptional track record of identifying and treating the root causes of m/s pain, and for many clients the postural exercise menus alone are sufficient. The body begins to heal itself: joint range of motion returns, and the pain dissipates.

 

Some clients who come in are already using painkillers and anti-inflammatories and feel the need to continue while doing their postural therapy regimen. Often these clients will ask for recommendations on “natural” alternatives to what they may be taking.

 

Before I go on, I want to make clear that I am not a physician, and offer no advice on prescription or non-prescription medications. Any decision on beginning or stopping any medications should be done in consultation with your doctor. *

 

Having said that, any medical professional will tell you that while painkillers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, prescription narcotics etc.. can often offer needed short tem relief, in the long run they are really only palliatives and seldom get to the root cause of chronic pain. And as has been reported recently in the press, many of these medications carry serious side effects, especially when used longer term. Adverse effects due to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are estimated to be responsible for over 100, 000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths per year in the U.S. In 2011, the FDA asked physicians to stop prescribing high-dose acetaminophen products, because of the potential for severe liver damage. Little talked about, also, is the fact that long-term use of NSAIDs may cause cartilage destruction.

 

Botanical based medical systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have a long history of use of certain herbs for pain relief. Application of the herbal medicines is based on the constitution of the patient matched to the energetics of the particular plant. . American “Eclectic” physicians developed very specific “black letter” symptoms for which their pain formulas were to be used. The herbs used by these systems for the most part are milder and not as quick acting as their pharmaceutical counterparts, but on the flipside these herbal analgesic/anti-inflammatory/anti-spasmodics have few adverse effects with a history of safe use that dates back in some instances thousands of years.

The following are herbs that I often recommend to clients visiting my clinic. Although I’ve limited the list to herbs that can be used as simples (alone), most work best in a formula combined with other herbs and compounded by a qualified herbalist for a client’s specific needs.

 

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Native Indian plant, root has long history of use as regenerative tonic and helpful for chronic inflammatory diseases such as osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Dosage: Two 500mg up to 4x per day, Tincture, 2-4 mils 3x per day Drug/Herb interactions: Avoid if taking thyroid medication, can potentiate barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

 

Boswellia (Boswellia serrate) Highly anti-inflammatory Ayurvedic plant whose modern uses include tendonitis, bursitis, and repetitive motion injuries. Dosage: 300-400mg standardized extract capsules, 2 capsules 2-3x per day. Tincture: 1.2-2.5 mils 3x per day. Drug/herb interactions: none known

 

Cats Claw (Uncaria tomentosa) Native Peruvian plant, traditionally used for arthritis, asthma and gastritis, documented modern use for painful, swollen joints, especially the knees. Dosage: 500-600mg capsules 6 to 9 per day. Tincture: 1-2mils up to 5 x per day. Drug/herb interactions: May potentiate hypertensives; avoid concurrent use with blood thinners. Contraindicated for use with immune-suppressive therapies and woman attempting to get pregnant.

 

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) Used for centuries by Ayurvedic and Chines medicines, this systemic anti-inflammatory is useful for osteo and rheumatoid arthritis and has shown to help limit muscle injury after trauma. A study in 2004 showed that a combination of turmeric, ginger and ashwagandha was particularly effective for osteoarthritis of the knees. Dosage: Up to 4 grams per day of powdered rhizome, standardized extract (95% curcumin) 350 mg 2x per day. Tincture: 2-4 mils 2-4x per day. Drug/herb interactions: Avoid large doses with anticoagulants and NSAIDs

 

Ginger (Zingiber offinale) Relieves pain and swelling associated with OA and RA. Topically in “hot pack,” significant relief for muscle strain and soreness. Dosage: capsule: up to 8-500mg per day. Tincture 1-2 mils 3x per day.* Herb/drug interactions: may decrease bioavailability of cyclosporine (used with organ transplants). May enhance bleeding with anti-coagulants.

 

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmeria) European in origin, this herb is noted for it analgesic activity, especially helpful for bursitis and muscle pain. The old name for meadowsweet is the predecessor for the word aspirin. Although high in salicylic acid, does not cause gastric irritation and is actually used for acid indigestion. Dosage: Dried herb: 2-4 grams per day. Tincture: 2-4 mils 3x per day. Herb/drug interactions: Avoid if sensitive to salicylate. Possible interactions with anticoagulants.

 

The therapeutic actions of these herbs can be described in similar terms to conventional medications, i.e. analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, anti-pyretic, sedative etc., but unlike most pain medications their actions affect multiple organ and body systems. So, for instance, ginger is highly anti-inflammatory, it is also a circulatory stimulant, a carminative and digestive aid, helpful for early stage flus and colds, as well an integral ingredient in many herbal formulas aiding in assimilation. Ashwagandha is iron rich (powdered form), is a calming adaptogen (useful for stress) and is helpful for insomnia and also impotence associated with anxiety and exhaustion. Turmeric is used extensively by herbalists for liver congestion and studies have shown it promotes endogenous production of glutathione, a major liver antioxidant. Recent research has also shown turmeric has the ability to inhibit the multiple pathways by which cancer is promoted, sustains itself, and spreads. Holistic herbal practitioners believe nothing in the body happens in isolation, and when viewed this way musculoskeletal pain, besides bringing discomfort, might also be a message that an imbalance exists in other body and organ systems.

 

The six herbs profiled here are but a small fraction of those with a history of use for pain. Professional herbalists use their knowledge of the actions and energetics of specific herbs and match them to specific signs and symptoms as well as the constitutions of their individual clients. This is always my first choice for anyone looking to use these healing substances: self-prescribing can be frustrating and expensive. However a number of companies make high quality herbal formulas, with helpful suggestions on how to use them. A few are listed below:

 

 

Herbalist and Alchemist www.herbalist-alchemist.com

Gaia: www.gaiaherbs.com

Health Concerns: www.healthconcerns.com

Pure Encapsulations: www.purecaps.com

note: Only practitioners can order from these sites.


 


 

References used as background:

 

1. Winston, David., “The Use of Complementary Therapies for Treating Chronic Back and Neck Pain.” 2004 rev. 2010.

2. Gaedart, Andrew., “Neck and Shoulder Pain,” Health Concerns Seminar, April 11, 2012

3. Herbal Therapy Supplements, Kuhn, Winston. 2nd Ed. 2008 Wolters Kluwer, Philadelphia, PA

4. www.consumerreports.org/health/resourses/pdf/best-buy-drugs/Nsaids2.pdf.

5. “FDA Asks Physicians to Stop Prescribing …” Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) February 12, 2014, v. 311 No. 6

6. “Differential direct effects of cyclo-oxygenase-1/2 inhibition on proteoglycan turnover of human osteoarthritic cartilage: an in vitro study.” http://www.arthritis-research.com/content/8/1/r2

 

Helpful websites and books on safe use of herbs:

American Herbalist Guild: www.americanherbalistguild.com

American Botanical Council: www.herbalgram.org

Books:

Modern Herbal Medicine Horne, S., Easley T., The School of Modern Herbal Medicine, St. George, Utah. 2014

Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism Donald Yance, Healing Arts Press. Rochester, Vermont 2013

* What is presented here is for informational purposes only, and is not an attempt to diagnose disease, or recommend medical treatment. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.