herbal pain relief
This is a really personal blog about my own struggle with chronic pain. What’s it like being an herbalist who has chronic pain? Difficult!
On the one hand, I’m blessed to have the knowledge to find a solution for myself, and the ability to mix formulas that might be effective, and on the other hand, I feel like a failure as an herbalist because my pain doesn’t always respond to the plan. What’s causing my pain? I have a nerve that was entrapped in the abdominal wall during one of my many surgeries. It’s been resected once and ablated several times to no effect. I’m out of options so I’m working to manage it myself. Which is hard to do when any movement at all seems to make it worse.
I’m constantly tracking my pain spikes in order to remove potential triggers, but unfortunately, there don’t have to be any triggers to cause me pain – I’m in the middle of a horrible one right now. I use the pain-tracking journal I created through my husband and my company, Hilltop Arts. You can see it here on Amazon.
I’ve just started hemp seed oil, and I’ll let you know if I like it. This is the brand I’m trying out: Nature’s Truth and it’s in liquid form, 59ml per bottle. (Amazon doesn’t have it, I got mine from Pipingrock.com) I have to be extremely careful to only get pure hemp oil because I can’t eat/ingest nuts because they cause my vertigo to flare – which I definitely don’t need on top of a pain spike.
Today, I’m remaking my pain tincture, I have an Ongrok that helps me make a tincture in about four hours instead of having it macerate for 4-6 weeks so it’s easier to modify the formula. If you don’t know what an Ongrok is you can check it out here. It has changed my herbal life for the better and makes me feel much more productive. I’ve created a formula including wild lettuce, medowsweet, chamomile, California poppy, and a couple of other things, it’s a variation on a formula that worked somewhat so I’m finetuning it.
Pain is depressing and it really helps to have a great support system behind you and to stay productive. Even if your productivity involves ticking just one thing off your to-do list, it will help I promise. For me, I get up every morning, and go to work – I’m not always up in the office working, sometimes I’m on the couch or at the dining room table, but I’m busy. Keeping your mind active is a good distraction from pain. I write journals, write blogs, and novels (no, nothing’s ready yet), work with my herbs, work with the laser cutter and CNC/3d printer (although not as much as I should), do photography, try to make art, and read. In the growing season, I’m always checking what might be edible in my little forest, which gives me joy. I’m blessed with a great support system in my family and friends.
Since physical activity – any physical activity – increases my pain, I have to try and be a little active anyway. I need to really try hard to do the treadmill more this year, not calling it a resolution, it’s just something I need to do.
And one more thing… talk to a friend, an understanding doctor, your mom/sister/brother/father, and so on. Being chronically ill is isolating and it doesn’t have to be. Email me, and let’s start a conversation.
Thanks for listening.
September 7th, I am a casualty of the war on opioids.
According to the powers that be, the opioid pain medication shouldn’t be prescribed for cases like mine. They, of course, don’t talk to the patients, they only make up these ‘guidelines’ (read: rules) and expect that everyone will fit into those tiny little boxes. So, my pain doctors have reduced my opioid pain medication and will not prescribe more (suggested that if I want more I should doctor shop for a clinic that still prescribes opiate pain meds).
Unfortunately, I don’t fit into those boxes. It’s important with people who have multiple conditions, to not rock the boat so to speak. I have Meniere’s disease (incurable), migraine with aura (incurable), chronic pain (not cured so far), hypothyroidism (on medication), and polycystic kidney disease (incurable). All these conditions – especially Meniere’s disease, I have to be careful to not take or eat anything that triggers a flare. The medications specifically for nerve pain that I tried last year put me into a tailspin and confined me to bed for a very long time. Yet these are the medication that have been ordered for me – or I will not be treated.
I didn’t choose to be a statistic. No one does. But I also didn’t choose to have a government agency (state or federal it doesn’t matter) tell my pain doctor how to treat me. I’m tired of being likened to a criminal or an addict just because I’m a chronic pain patient. So, I am experimenting with different tea blends to bring about pain relief. So far, my results have been moderately successful. Now, if I had been searching for a nice ‘go to sleep’ tea, I’d have found that several times over!
Chamomile – in all the blends I’m using dried organic chamomile. Not only is it wonderfully relaxing, but it is also a great anti-inflammatory.
Wild Lettuce – organic wild lettuce has natural opiate “like” properties, without containing opiates. Which I really like because my ultimate goal was to be off pain medication anyway. However, it does have sedative properties that make it not really ideal for daytime use. But it puts me into a good restful sleep.
California Poppy – organic California poppy, the California State Flower, is a cousin to the opiate containing poppy but does not contain opiates. California poppy is analgesic, antispasmodic and can provide relief of nerve pain – which is what I have. So far, other than making me very sleepy, it does help with moderate pain relief.
Rose Hips – Surprisingly, rose hips – which I already loved due to their blast of vitamin C and immunity-boosting powers – also helps relieve pain. I have been happily adding them to each version of the teas I make.
Valerian – although Michael hates the smell and generally walks right back out the door as soon as he smells it, Valerian is good for pain and is better known for its sedative properties. Although it doesn’t taste that good to me so I’ll probably add it to capsules instead of tea.
Lavender – Another surprise, lavender is a really good pain reliever because of its calming effects on the nervous system. (and it tastes good).
Rosemary – Which is a good anti-inflammatory.
I’m busy developing teas using these herbs and many more at this time to find an effective blend to relieve pain. But ultimately, I want this to be as convenient to me as taking the prescriptions are, so I also want to create capsules. I’m also very aware that this might be an ongoing odyssey to find the right fit. Bodies change and needs change, maybe I’ll have to have a daytime version and a nighttime version – that seems realistic.
Today’s not a good day pain wise. I woke up with some pain, then got up and took a shower and by the time I was out the pain was excruciating – and because showers always destroy my equilibrium so it’s generally bathing for me – I’m also dizzy. But in the morning, when I need to get upstairs to work, feed the puppies and take them out, there’s not enough time for a bath.
I found a pain scale that really is the best one I’ve seen, and believe me, I’ve seen tons of them over the last few years. Today, I’m in bed, trying to work through the pain.
Today, I’m a 7.
(This post first appeared on my personal blog at www.tobenamedlater.com)