Greetings Everyone! Harvest season is winding down for my coastal Maine garden . . . the last of the winter squashes, cucumbers, and sweet orange cherry tomatoes were collected as of yesterday. There are a few jumbo domestic blackberries desperately trying to ripen on the canes and they are oh-so-luscious - each cane yielding only a couple of delectable fruits per day. Hopefully Jack Frost will remain to the north for a while longer so I can enjoy a few more weeks of their deep purple juiciness!
Today, my dear friends, I will be sharing with you a pain-relieving, herbal salve recipe that has grown near and dear to my heart. If I haven't told you already, I have been suffering from severe osteoarthritis hip pain in my left hip for over a year now - due to falling twice down my home stairs - once in February of 2012 and then again in March. Go figure . . . I'm not normally clutzy. After trying every source of complimentary treatment I could find that would help heal my damaged joint and relieve my pain, such as chiropractic, osteopathy, EMF, intense nutritional mineral therapy and bone-building herbal remedies, homeopathy, Eden Energy Medicine, massage, and yoga, plus trying an inversion table, gentle walking and weight-lifting to strengthen the surrounding musculature, my damaged hip socket has not healed - the pain is getting worse and walking has become difficult. There is no cushioning synovial fluid left in my hip socket as a result of the fall and my joint is now bone-on-bone. I will be having a complete hip replacement, sad to say, but that's just the way it is. As much as I dislike much of what Western medicine represents, I do think they excel in emergency services and joint replacements. When you need help, you need help.
Anyway, the recipe I will be sharing with you has given me much in the way of pain relief, especially when the hip pain was minor to moderate in intensity. Now that the pain has increased well beyond the moderate level, the salve no longer delivers the relief I need. But, I wanted to share the recipe so that those of you suffering from arthritis or gout pain could try it and see if it works for you. Remember that it is indicated for symptomatic pain relief only - it is not a cure. It is easy to make and doesn't smell overly medicinal - the recipe will give you full directions. I was able to use the salve in lieu of taking Advil or Tylenol for quite some time. It worked best when applied to warm skin - right out of the shower or tub or if I warmed my hip using a heating pad first. I think it works best on small joints such as in the fingers, toes, wrists, and elbows. For relief of pain in the larger joints such as shoulders, knees, and hips, you will have to apply it to pre-warmed skin - like I previously said.
It's also great applied to injured tissue to prevent bruising or to help relieve muscle strain or tendonitis if you've done too much yard work or exercised too heavily. Makes a wonderful salve to rub on your feet and calves at the end of a long day spent walking, hiking, or standing. Every medicine cabinet should have a jar. Good stuff!
Contraindication: I have to say this . . . because the salve contains naturally-derived salicylic acid (the natural form of the chemical that is in aspirin), you should not use it if you have an allergy to aspirin or are on an aspirin regimen prescribed by your physician or are self-medicating with aspirin or a product containing aspirin on a regular basis. It is a topically-applied herbal remedy - not oral, I realize, but your skin will absorb some of the salicylic acid (which is why it works) and it can get absorbed by your bloodstream. DO NOT USE IF ALLERGIC TO ASPIRIN OR ORALLY TAKING ASPIRIN REGULARLY.
The 2 main herbal ingredients in the recipe are arnica and meadowsweet flowers, so I will give you information on each of those herbs first, then share the recipe. I hope you'll try this formula for yourself or a friend or family member.
Arnica (arnica Montana)
Parts Used: Flowers
A well-known plant with golden yellow daisy-like flowers, arnica has been used for centuries to relieve pain and inflammation from sprains, bruises, sore muscles, stressed ligaments and tendons, and arthritis. In fact, it is often referred to as the "aches and pains" herb. Used in infused oils, salves, or liniments, it yields a warming energy and stimulates the peripheral blood supply, enhancing circulation.
Contraindications: Do not use on abraded skin or open wounds; may cause contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals.
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria):
Parts Used: Leaf, flower
A native of Europe and Asia but naturalized in eastern North America, this stout, dense, upright shrub, also known as "queen of the meadow," has creamy white, slightly almond-scented flowers that grow in tight clusters. In 1838 chemists isolated salicylic acid from its flower buds (as well as from the bark of the willow tree). In 1899 the drug company Bayer formulated a new synthetic drug, acetylsalicylic acid, and called it "aspirin" - derived from the former botanical name for meadowsweet, Spirea ulmaria. Meadowsweet, often referred to as "herbal aspirin," has a cooling energy with astringent, antirheumatic, analgesic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, exfoliant, and antispasmodic properties. I use the flowers primarily, but you can mix in the leaves when making infused oils for inclusion in salves and balms for easing muscular and arthritic aches and pains.
HERBAL ASPIRIN SALVE - The Recipe
When you combine meadowsweet, known as "herbal aspirin," with the flowers of arnica, the "aches and pains herb," the result is a rather powerful infused oil that boasts astringent, antirheumatic, analgesic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic properties. When massaged into a joint exhibiting arthritis pain, sore muscles, areas with tendonitis, or into sore feet and calves, Herbal Aspirin Salve will temporarily relieve the pain, inflammation, and stiffness. I find it to be pure "salve-ation" for my sore hands and wrists after a couple hours spent hoeing weeds in the garden or typing at 120 words per minute on my computer!
- 1 cup dried or 2 cups freshly wilted meadowsweet flowers (note: to freshly wilt means to allow the flower to slightly dry for 48 hours prior to use. This lets a great deal of the moisture evaporate before adding the herbs to the oil. Simply spread the fresh herbs out in a thin layer atop some paper towels or other toweling in an area that is free from dust and bugs and dew - indoors preferably - for 48 hours. They will be limp and "freshly wilted" and ready to use.)
- 1 cup dried arnica flowers
- 3 cups extra-virgin olive base oil
- 2,000 IU vitamin E oil
- 3-4 tablespoons beeswax (use the larger amount if you want a firmer salve)
Equipment Needed: 2-quart saucepan or double boiler, stirring utensil, candy or yogurt thermometer, strainer, fine filter, funnel, glass or plastic storage container (for the infused oil), glass or plastic jars or tins (for the salve)
Prep Time: 4 hours to infuse the oil, plus 20 minutes to make the salve and 30 minutes for it to thicken
Yield: Approximately 2 1/2 cups of infused oil and 1 1/4 cups of salve
Storage: Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 1 year
Application: Up to 3 times per day
Preparing The Herbal Infused Oil: If you're using freshly wilted meadowsweet flowers, strip them from their stems along with the small bits of attached leaves prior to adding to the pan. Discard the stems. Combine the meadowsweet and arnica flowers with the olive base oil in a 2-quart saucepan or double boiler, and stir thoroughly to blend. The mixture should look like a thick floral soup. Bring the mixture to just shy of a simmer, between 125 degrees Fahrenheit and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not let the oil actually simmer - it will degrade the quality of your infused oil. DO NOT put the lid on the pot during this process.
Allow the herbs to macerate (steep) in the oil over low heat for 4 hours. Check the temperature every 30 minutes or so with a thermometer and adjust the heat accordingly. If you're using a double boiler, add more water to the bottom pot as necessary, so it doesn't dry out. Stir the infusing mixture at least every 30 minutes or so, as the herb bits tend to settle to the bottom.
After 4 hours, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes. While the oil is still warm, carefully strain it through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a fine filter such as muslin or, preferably, a paper coffee filter, then strain again if necessary to remove all debris. Squeeze the herbs to extract as much of the precious oil as possible. Discard the marc (or spent herbs).
Add the vitamin E oil and stir to blend. The resulting infused oil blend will be golden-green in color. Pour the finished oil into a storage container, then cap, label, and store in a dark cabinet.
Preparing The Salve: Combine 1 cup of the infused oil with the beeswax in a small saucepan or double boiler, and warm over low heat until the beeswax is just melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes, stirring a few times to blend. Pour into plastic or glass jars or tins, cap, label, and set aside for 30 minutes to thicken.
Application Instructions: Massage a bit of salve into sore joints, muscles, tendons, or feet and calves. Apply up to 3 times per day.
Note: This blog was written by Stephanie Tourles, licensed esthetician, herbalist, and aromatherapist. The content was adapted from her book, Hands-On Healing Remedies, c2012, Storey Publishing, and used with permission. The information is true and complete to the best of the author's knowledge. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of Ms. Tourles. The author disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information. It is for educational purposes only.