Herbs for Backache

Treatments for backache and back pain have changed a lot in recent years. It used to be that doctors would treat back pain with rest, long-term medication and sometimes surgery. These days most doctors will recommend short rest periods with more exercise and less medication. The YMCA has developed a back exercise program that uses strength training, relaxation and flexibility. You can order the book or video from the website listed in the resources section of this article.

The following herbs can help with minor and less severe back problems but if you are in serious pain you should see your doctor immediately. If your doctor suggests surgery be sure you get a second and maybe even a third opinion just to make sure that surgery is your only option.

Red Pepper (Capsicum). Red pepper contains the pain relieving chemical capsaicin that is very potent. A small amount of capsaicin is found in several leading pharmaceutical topical analgesics.

Red pepper works by interfering with the body’s pain perception and triggers the release of pain-relieving endorphins.

You can buy over-the-counter capsaicin products or you can make your own cheaper. Simply use some kind of white cold cream and add enough red pepper to make the mixture pink and rub it directly on the pain location. You can also crush a fresh red pepper and rub it on the painful area as well. Whichever method you chose be sure to wash your hands thoroughly and don’t rub your eyes.

If you think you may be sensitive to capsaicin you will want to test a small area to check for irritation before applying to larger areas of your skin.

Willow (Salix) and other forms of natural aspirin. Plants that contain salicylates can be made into teas. These plants include willow bark, meadowsweet and wintergreen.

Other plants contain aspirin like compounds called methyl-salicylate and can be found in wintergreen and birch bark.
Oil of wintergreen can be used as a topical treatment on painful areas. Oil of wintergreen can be fatal so please keep it away from children. The aroma may cause them to taste the mixture which could be fatal.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and other mints. Menthol comes from the mint family of plants like peppermint and spearmint and helps ease tightness in sore muscles.

Camphor can be found in plants like lavender, hyssop and coriander and is also very good for muscle tightness.

Thymol and Carvocrol are compounds that help muscles relax and can be found in a variety of essential oils like sage, rosemary, thyme, horsebalm and mountain dittany.

To use essential oils just add a drop or two to vegetable oil and massage the mixture directly onto the affected area or add a few drops to your bath.

Remember that some essential oils can be fatal so check with your herbal specialist before ingesting any oils.

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