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Pain - Always consider the cause of pain

Cabrera, Chanchal

Medical Herbalism 10-31-94 6(3): 1, 4

One of the foundation principles of natural medicine is always to consider the cause. Treatment of pain is no exception. The following are the main causes of pain, with principles for treatment.


The primary treatment here is rest. This may be localized, with a splint or sling, or complete, with bed rest. The use of wound healing agents — Symphytum off. (comfrey) or Plantago major/lanceolata) (plantain) — may speed recovery. Local circulatory stimulants, either internally or topically, will increase the supply of oxygen and infection-fighting white blood cells, and will aid in the removal of waste and inflammatory debris. After traumatic injury, a patient may become tense and less tolerant of pain. Relaxing herbs like Valeriana off. (valerian) or Passiflora incarnata (passion flower) may be helpful in such cases. Dr. Bach’s Rescue Remedy is particularly indicated for pain from injury.


Here the therapeutic protocol should include restricted food intake — either a short fast or a very light diet of clear soups, vegetable juices and steamed vegetables with some well-cooked grains. The stimulation of channels of elimination may be helpful to remove inflammatory waste. Local fomentations or poultices may serve as a counter irritant to speed up the inflammatory process. It is vitally important not to do anything which will suppress the inflammatory process, because true resolution of the underlying imbalance will not occur even though surface healing and pain relief may be effected.


This should be treated like inflammation, with the addition of relaxing or even sedating herbs to minimize the stimulation itself.


It is necessary here to remove the cause of the pressure build-up. Lancing a pus accumulation may be necessary in extreme cases, but more usually a poultice, fomentation, or compress will draw out the infected material. Hot applications tend to macerate the skin and may create an eroded area, so cold applications (compresses) are preferred. Drawing agents such as Ulmus fulva (slippery elm), Plantago major/lanceolata (plantain) or Nymphaea odorata (white pond lily) are commonly used. An old traditional standby of a bread poultice is also effective. It is probably best to avoid Symphytum off. (comfrey) because it may cause the surface to heal over too rapidly, trapping infected matter inside. Save the comfrey for later to reduce scarring.
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    322


    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies    


Reduced blood supply due to arterial narrowing or constriction can be treated with relaxants and anti-spasmodics that work directly on the arterial blood vessels. Consider using Viburnum opulus (cramp bark), Valeriana off. (valerian), Tilia europea (linden flowers), or Crataegus oxycantha (hawthorn). Circulatory stimulants such as Zanthoxylum americanum (prickly ash bark) or Zingiber off. may be effective, but care should be taken that the ischemia is not due to an embolus which may be dislodged by over-eager circulatory stimulation only to cause worse problems.


Localized spasms of the digestive tract will cause stretching and dilation of the preceding area of the gut wall as food and flatus accumulates behind the constricted area. This may occur as a result of eating unripe or otherwise irritating foods, bacterial infection, bowel obstruction from mechanical or organic causes or any other inflammatory pathology in the gut. Some of these conditions are medical emergencies, and others may require acute medical care, but others can be safely treated with herbal remedies. Abstinence from food and supping hot water may relieve flatulent colic. Carminative herbs should be used to promote regular peristalsis and reduce fermentation of food materials. These could include Zingiber off. (ginger), especially if the colic is located in the large bowel, Acorus calamus (calamus), Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel), Mentha piperita (peppermint), Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), Carum carvi (caraway), Pimpinella anisum (anise), or Ellateria cardamomum (cardamom). Muscle relaxants may also be helpful, including Viburnum opulus (cramp bark), Lobelia inflata (lobelia), Hydrangea arborescens (hydrangea), Veronicastrum virginicum (black root, leptandra), Verbena officinalis (vervain), and Hypericum perforatum (St. Johnswort).

Chemical Imbalance

This should be treated as for inflammation with a special emphasis on the eliminative functions and on adequate nutrition to ensure correct electrolyte balance.

Psychogenic causes

This is not the appropriate place to discuss the psychoactive herbs which can be used to treat psychosomatic pain. Suffice it to say that nerve tonics and trophorestoratives such as Equisetum arvense (horsetail), Hypericum perforatum (St Johnswort), and Avena sativa (oat) would be helpful. Relaxing herbs might also be considered, such as Scutellaria lateriflora (scullcap), Passiflora incarnata (passion flower), or Stachys officinalis (wood betony). Care must be taken.
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    323