Herbs are a time-honored way to comfort and balance bodies challenged by pain. They offer ways to nurture the nervous system, soothe the fires of inflammation, and ease tension. There are many different herbal recipes for bodies in pain that have been used for these purposes down the ages, and we’ve been exploring some of them in a series of articles here at the Herbal Academy. We have examined an Herbal Perspective on Pain, and broken the subject down in Herbalism and Acute Pain and Herbs and the Chronic Pain Puzzle.
To wrap up this series, I would like to share three herbal recipes for bodies in pain. I use these recipes at home to help bring balance when I’ve overdone it with stress or been a little overzealous during a workout.
I know in these cases that pain is my body’s way of saying, “Hey, hold on a minute!” and I do my best to honor that need for rest and recuperation. At the same time, there’s no need to suffer through it. A pick-me-up elixir, a liniment for sore muscles, or a soothing cup of tea can make the day much easier.
Using these recipes also gives you an opportunity to “check in” with your body and be mindful of what it’s trying to tell you. So rather than grabbing one of these recipes while you are on the go, try to carve out a few minutes to practice mindful self-care. Mute your cell phone, find a quiet place to sit, and allow yourself to simply be and observe how the herbs make you feel. You may find that taking a few minutes this way allows you to breathe and that a little perspective will find its way back to you.
3 Balancing Herbal Recipes for Bodies in Pain
1. Meadowsweet & Roses Tea
This meadowsweet tea is a welcome ritual when I want to take a moment to breathe.
Meadowsweet has a reputation for being a soothing general-aches-and-pains sort of herb, and it’s one of my favorites to turn to when I’m experiencing a stress-related headache. Rose petals are aromatic, calming, and a gentle nervine perfect for times when you need a little nurturing. For extra flavor, a dash of cardamom and a little sweetener make this a truly pleasant cup of tea.
Meadowsweet & Roses Tea
1 teaspoon dried meadowsweet
1 teaspoon dried rose petals
1 dash of cardamom powder (for taste)
Your choice of honey, stevia, or maple syrup to sweeten to taste
- In a heat proof glass vessel, combine the meadowsweet, rose petals, and cardamom powder.
- Add 8-12 ounces of hot water just off the boil.
- Cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain the infusion into your favorite teacup or coffee mug. Sweeten to taste.
- Take a few minutes to clear your mind, focus on your breath, and enjoy your tea!
2. Simple Mugwort Liniment
In Medicine of the Earth, Susanne Fischer-Rizzi mentions of mugwort that:
“After a strenuous hike or a long day on one’s feet, a mugwort foot bath will relax and invigorate tired legs and feet” (Fischer-Rizzi, 1996, p. 205).
Although the ritual of brewing and enjoying a foot bath can be a welcome time for self-care, I also decided to make a liniment and keep it in a spritz bottle for the day after a long hike or as an after-run refresher.
Simple Mugwort Liniment
Witch hazel (Organic is preferred. The kind with alcohol has a better shelf life in my experience.)
Dried mugwort leaves
1-2 tablespoons of dried lavender buds (Optional, or substitute rosemary and/or peppermint)
- Take a clean, dry jar and fill it half full with dried mugwort.
- Add a tablespoon or two of lavender, rosemary, or peppermint if desired.
- Fill the jar the rest of the way with witch hazel extract.
- Place a lid and a label on the jar, and allow it to extract for two to four weeks.
- When the liniment is ready, strain the herbs out of the liquid and transfer your liniment to a clean spritz bottle. Store the liniment in the refrigerator if you would like (I find that the cold temperature feels great on sore, tired muscles), or you can store it at room temperature.
- Label the spritz bottle and use as desired on tired feet and legs.
3. Maple & Vanilla Comfort Cordial
Although there is something to be said for the convenience of a simple, single-herb extract, I prefer to have a little something special on hand when I feel the need to practice self-care.
Valerian can be balancing in the presence of aches and pains, and calming in the face of stress. However, it is perhaps best known for its nasty taste and smell! Thankfully, with a few extra ingredients, it doesn’t have to taste nasty at all. Willow is the main herb in this elixir, which helps cut valerian’s strong scent and flavor, but adding vanilla extract (itself an uplifting nervine that complements valerian’s actions) and maple, I find that the resulting elixir is both comforting and pleasant.
This recipe yields approximately 1.5 ounces, so you will need to use a 2-ounce glass bottle. The kind of vanilla extract used for baking is perfectly fine to use as long as the bottle states that it is 100% pure vanilla extract, or you can make your own.
Maple & Vanilla Comfort Cordial
6 teaspoons (1 ounce) white willow extract
2 teaspoons valerian extract
¼ – 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
- Combine herbal extracts, maple syrup, and vanilla extract in an amber glass bottle.
- Cap the bottle and shake gently to combine.
- Clearly label your bottle.
- Use 30 drops (or ¼ teaspoon, which is approximately 25 drops) as desired, up to six times per day (short term use).
The topic of herbs and pain is a useful one for both professional and home herbalists. Here on the blog, Herbal Comfort for Aches and Pains and Twelve Traditional Pain Relieving Herbs are other articles you may enjoy.
We also address more about this topic from a clinical herbalism perspective in Unit 8 of the Advanced Herbal Course, which focuses on the health and functions of the musculoskeletal system. You can learn more about the Advanced Herbal Course and how it prepares students working towards a career as professional herbal practitioners and explore our other online courses for every learning level by visiting our Courses and Classes Page.
Fischer-Rizzi, Susanne. (1996). Medicine of the earth. Portland, OR: Rudra Press.
The Herbal Academy. (2014). Vanilla Recipes Three Ways. Retrieved on 08/23/2016 from https://theherbalacademy.com/vanilla-recipes-three-ways/