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      - using plants for health and wellbeing

Autumn 2009 - Week 9:
Bones, Muscles and Joints - The Musculosketelal System

                                              Also called locomotor system
                                              Consists of bones (skeleton), muscles,
                                             and connective tissue (cartilege,
                                             tendons, ligaments, fascia)
                                             Provides form, stability, movement
                                             Bones store calcium, phosphorus,
                                             other minerals, components for blood
                                             cell production
                                             Difficult to diagnose disorders because
                                             interlinked with circulatory and nervous
                                             systems (and skin)

                                        Most people affected at some state in their life
                                        by musculoskeletal problems
                                           • These range from mechanical injuries –
                                              muscle aches, sprains and strains, back
                                              problems – to serious autoimmune
                                              conditions and degenerative diseases
                                           • Herbs can help greatly with
                                              inflammation and pain management
                                           • herbal treatments work well in
                                              conjunction with other therapies –
                                              physiotherapy, massage, osteopathy,
                                              etc. - important to address underlying

                                        You must seek professional help before taking
                                        herbs if you are already taking medication for
                                        any other medical condition!

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See your doctor if you have :
                              •   Headache, nausea or dizziness following any head injury
                              •   Severe, worsening back or joint pain
                              •   After a fall, any severe swelling, pain or loss of movement
                              •   Persistent pain or ache in joints or muscles accompanied by general
                                  feeling of being unwell
                              •   Sudden numbness, tingling or weakness anywhere in the body that
                                  persists for more than a few minutes

Other useful ideas
Because circulation affects muscles and joints:
   • Circulatory herbs e.g. Nettle, Ginger, Hawthorn, Ginkgo
   • Detoxifying herbs
   • Topically – massage, warm baths with essential oils
Because nervous tension affects muscles and joints:
   • Nervous system herbs, e.g. Valerian, Oats, St John’s wort,
      Lime flowers
   • Relaxation techniques, gentle exercise – tai chi, yoga,
      meditation, visualisation
   • Calming essential oils – Lavender, Rose (also in creams)

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Herbs for musculoskeletal problems

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
    •   Can be collected wild in UK; topical use only!
    •   Also useful for bruising, sprains, fractures – old name “Knitbone”
    •   Very useful where skin also broken (so arnica not an option)
    •   Leaves may be used directly as poultice, or made into infusion - soak
        cloth in strong infusion and apply warm over affected area
    •   Use leaves to make infused oil (see week 2), as basis for ointment,
    •   Comfrey ointment (week 7) is a great basis for treating all sorts of injuries – adapt
        according to need (e.g. using e.o.s or tinctures)

Arnica (Arnica montana)
                                                            Found all over Europe, N. America,
                                                             mountainous areas; not UK; wild now
                                                              Flower heads used medicinally -
                                                             usually as fluid extract or tincture
                                                          EXTERNAL USE ONLY – toxic!
                                                              Analgesic, wound healing, venous
                                                              Apply topically as first aid for
                                                             bruises, sprains, rheumatic pains in
                                                             joints/muscles, varicose veins
                                                              Can be mixed with other herbs for
                                                             topical use – e.g. Comfrey, Capsicum,
                                                             St John’s wort
       Suitable for all ages and in pregnancy (on unbroken skin)

Chilli (Capsicum species)
    •   Origin C. America
    •   Fruit and seeds used – capsaicin also extracted commercially
    •   Pungent, warming, circulatory stimulant, topical spasmolytic, analgesic
    •   “Counter-irritant”
    •   Useful in muscle or nerve pain, arthritis, inflammatory conditions
    •   As infused oil or tincture, in base cream/lotion (see recipe)

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 Capsicum cream
 Eases muscle aches, joint and nerve pain
 NOT for use on broken skin or mucous membranes; wash hands after use!
 15g base cream (or Comfrey cream)
 7.5 ml capsicum infused oil
 3 ml Devil’s claw tincture or 3 g Arnica cream
 3 drops each Rosemary, Ginger & Black Pepper essential oil

Guelder rose – “Cramp bark” (Viburnum opulus)
    •   Indigenous to USA and Canada, common
        decorative garden shrub
    •   Bark used as antispasmodic, muscle
    •   Useful for any muscle cramps – limbs
        (e.g. after sports) and uterine (e.g. Period
    •   Use as tincture (1:2) 0.75 – 2 ml 2 x daily.

                                 Celery seed (Apium graveolens)
                                 • Seed used medicinally to treat gout,
                                   osteoarthritis, rheumatic pain, aches
                               • Diuretic, detoxifying herb
                               • Enhances elimination of metabolic waste –
                                   role in inflammation
    •   Combine with anti-inflammatory herbs for arthritis, joint
    •   Combine (50:50) with nettle leaf (tea) for gout
    •   Low dose only in pregnancy; not to be taken when breastfeeding or with kidney problems
    •   Take as tincture (1:2) 1.5-3 ml in water 1-3 x daily; or as tea 1.5-9g/day – infuse 1 hour

Essential oils
                         •    Many essential oils are useful in combating pain, relieving spasm and
                              cramp and promoting healing
                         •    These include:
                         •    Rosemary, Wintergreen, Ginger, Black pepper, Bay, Peppermint,

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Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis
    •   Do not use in pregnancy or under 3s
    •   Rosemary essential oil warming, circulatory stimulant
    •   Useful for muscle pain, tension
    •   5 drops e.o. in bath
    •   10 drops e.o. to 30 g cream (e.g. Comfrey), rubs, ointments
    •   Half dose for children 10-16, quarter dose children 3-9

                              Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
                              •   Not for use in pregnancy or under 3s
                              •   Topically muscle-relaxing, cooling, analgesic
                              •   Apply e.o. with arnica or comfrey cream for bruising, sprains, after a
                                  fall, etc.
                              •   Dose 5-10 drops e.o. In 30 g cream (half dose for children 10-16,
                                  quarter dose for children 3-9

Wintergreen – Gaultheria procumbens
                                     Not for use in pregnancy or under 3s
                                     Small evergreen shrub native to N. Am, aka Eastern teaberry
                                     Leaves used, can be taken as tea, but long infusion for
                                     medicinal use
                                 • Essential oil is analgesic, deeply warming, circulatory
                                 • Pungent smell – “Germoline”
    •   Ingredient in Chinese embrocations (“Polar Bear”, White Flower” – great for sports
    •   Add 10 drops e.o. to 30 g comfrey ointment or cream – apply 2-3 times daily; or 5 drops to
        bath 1 x daily

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
   • Root/rhizome used
   • Asian spice, related to Ginger
   • Anti-inflammatory for joints and muscles, anti-rheumatic
   • useful in arthritic conditions
   • also digestive weakness and skin conditions – e.g. psoriasis
   • Good in diet, but need to eat huge amount for medicinal benefit
   • 1-a-day supplement should provide 10,000 mg (95% curcumins)

Omega 3 Fish oils
  • DHA and EPA - made by marine microalgae, eaten by fish, accumulating in their internal
     organs (DHA can also be made directly from microalgae - vegetarian source)
  • Anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet, useful for joint and circulatory health

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Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
   • Ground-hugging, thorny plant from S. Africa
   • Well researched as anti-inflammatory, for arthritic conditions, pain relief
   • Caution with stomach ulcers, acid reflux - stimulates acid secretion
   • Take as standardized extract (tablets/capsules); for arthritis 1,200-2,500 mg /day

Glucosamine sulphate (or hydrochloride)
   • Supports body’s natural healing
   • Helps wound healing, restores connective tissue integrity
   • Especially useful in older people, or where ongoing tissue damage from arthritis
   • Take 1500 mg/day (with Chondroitin and /or MSM)

Common problems
    •   Bruising
    •   Sprains
    •   Muscle cramps
    •   Muscle pain
    •   Back pain
    •   Fractures
    •   Osteoarthritis
    •   Rheumatoid arthritis
    •   Gout
    •   Fibromyalgia
    •   Restless leg syndrome

Treating common musculoskeletal problems

Arthritic conditions (arthr-itis = joint-inflammation)
 Osteoarthritis – wear and tear, age-related; benefits from regular
   gentle exercise, good diet and inflammation control
 Rheumatoid arthritis – autoimmune condition, useful to have
   immune system professionally assessed; benefits from inflammation
 Other e.g. psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile arthritis
   – Symptoms vary considerably, highly individual – so no “one-size-
        fits-all” treatment
   – Treatment is always long-term – most effective in consultation
        with herbalist
   – Inflammatory condition, so tackling inflammation at all levels
   – e.g. ensuring essential fatty acids balance (esp. omega 3s from oily fish (supplement
        formulation - EPA 360:DHA 240), balance of minerals and vits from fruit and veg); adequate
        dietary fibre
   – Combating stress (stress can exacerbate inflammation, delay healing) – relaxant herbs like
        Valerian, Oats or Passionflower (see Nervous system) daily

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    – Anti-inflammatory & detoxifying tinctures/teas (e.g. Dandelion root, Liquorice, Red Clover)
    – Externally: Comfrey or St John’s wort ointment (e.g. with peppermint e.o.) for aches and
      anti-inflammatory action; Capsicum cream with warming e.o.s like ginger, black pepper,
                              • Vegetarian diet, drink plenty water
                              • Celery seed and nettle leaf tea (or tincture)
                              • Cabbage leaf poultice – use rolling pin, apply leaves to joint and
                                  wrap in plastic bag; leave in place for 1 hour (crepe bandage
                                  can help hold in place)
                              • Avoid Capsicum and any herbs described as “warming”

Joint pain
    • Warming remedies: Baths, Capsicum cream, Wintergreen rub
    • Cream: add 5 drops each Wintergreen, Peppermint, Lavender EO to 50 g Comfrey cream,
       mix well and store in dark glass jar (up to 12 months)
    • Arnica cream as first aid several times on day of injury
    • Rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE)
    • Comfrey poultice, cream or ointment after day 1
Cramps, muscle spasm and tension
    • Cramps may be mineral deficiency (or medications) – caution!
    • Circulatory stimulants, gentle exercise, muscle relaxants; essential oils in bath and rubs
    • Cramp bark (Guelder rose) tincture 1:2, 1 ml in water 1-3 times daily
    • Cream: 20 ml base cream, add 5 ml Comfrey infused oil and 5 ml Cramp bark tincture; mix
       well and store in dark glass jar for up to 12 months
Muscle pain
    • Circulatory stimulants, muscle relaxants, essential oils in bath and rubs
    • Capsicum cream – see recipe

Week 9 Tasting/Practical
    •   Tea tasting:
           – Peppermint
           – Ginger
    •   Other: Tincture: Devil’s claw, Cramp bark
    •   EOs Wintergreen, Rosemary, Bay, Peppermint, Ginger, Black pepper
    •   Practical
        - making Capsicum cream using infused oil made in class + base cream + e.o.s (see recipe)

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