Tag Archives: prod-524298

  • A Primer on Pain

    PainPain: We all experience it once in awhile—whether it’s a pulled muscle from a rough day at the gym or it’s more chronic like lower back pain. If you’re looking for a new way to treat your aches and pains, start with these practitioner-recommended supplements and techniques.

    Back Pain

    “There are standbys that are helpful for everything—including chronic pain,” says Matthew Becker, herbalist and lead practitioner at our north Boulder store. “They all increase circulation and bring healing nutrients and blood to the area to break down stagnation and inflammation.”

    First off, Matthew recommends a homeopathic cream called Topricin, which should be rubbed into the affected area three times per day. He says that he gets the best results combining Topricin with a systemic anti-inflammatory such as Thorne Research’s Meriva-500, a powerful source of turmeric. “Turmeric is something I take every day because it has many powerful healing effects on the body,” he says. For back pain specifically, he combines this turmeric with an enzyme called bromelain (also from Thorne Research, if available, or Jarrow Formulas’ Bromelain 1000).

    “I recommend taking three Meriva and two bromelain tablets, twice daily about an hour before a meal, since bromelain won’t work on a full stomach,” says Matthew. “Together, they exert a powerful anti-inflammatory effect.” He adds that though they are similar to Ibuprofen in their pain relief mechanism, they are much safer and more effective in the long run.

    Joint/Arthritis Pain

    “Weight management, physical activity that does not traumatize the joints and a low-inflammatory diet are fundamental to managing joint pain,” says Dr. Tori Hudson, ND. Eliminating allergenic foods will also very often offer significant benefits to people with rheumatoid arthritis (common offenders are wheat, corn, dairy products, beef, food additives and nightshade-family foods).

    “In addition, I usually prescribe a combination of supplements with therapeutic effects for the joints.” She commonly starts with essential fatty acids like borage, evening primrose, black currant and fish oils, then adds other nutritional supplements and herbs like boswellia and curcumin (talk to a Pharmaca practitioner for help identifying the best herbs for your joint pain). The latter—a constituent of the plant turmeric—is receiving a lot of attention and research these days for its use in arthritis pain, Dr. Hudson says. “Even in a condition as potentially daunting as rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin is showing positive benefits.”


    If it’s an everyday tension headache, look for nervine calming herbs, like passionflower or chamomile, in teas or tinctures, says Sam Madeira, ND at our Seattle-Madison Park store. Kava, L-Theanine or other tension relievers from Natural Factors’ Stress-Relax line can also be helpful to relieve tension that causes headaches.

    For more chronic headaches such as migraines, Sam recommends butterbur on an ongoing basis. “I like the Vitanica Butterbur Extra because it also includes B vitamins and magnesium,” says Sam. Magnesium is key to relieving all types of muscle tension.

    Muscle Strains

    When you pull a muscle, Sam’s go-to protocol is applying Arnica topically to the affected muscles 2-3 times per day, taking Traumeel drops to boost muscle healing internally, and soaking in an Epsom salt bath at night. “Add 2-3 cups of Epsom salts to hot water,” he says. And don’t forget about R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. “You can do that for most soft tissue injuries,” says Sam. “And as it’s healing, continue to contrast hot and cold packs to get the blood and lymphatics moving.”

    If the pain is too intense, Sam says menthol or capsaicin creams can be helpful to numb the nerves. “But they can also be detrimental if you think the muscle is healed before it is, increasing the chances of reinjury,” he says. Instead, keep up with applying arnica or Traumeel more than once a day to speed the healing process and offer pain relief.

    And again, make sure you’re getting enough magnesium, which can help relax muscles. Sam says to shoot for at least 300 mg per day (try Pharmaca’s new Magnesium Citrate Berry Drink for a tasty way to boost magnesium intake).

    Menstrual Cramps

    If cramps have you on the floor popping Ibuprofen every month, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about taking a hormone test, says Sam, since it’s possible something is out of balance.

    When menstrual cramps are less severe but still bothersome, try the herbal route. Sam recommends Cramp Relief from WishGarden, which incorporates cramp bark to relieve pain, skullcap to soothe nerves, and wild yam and black cohosh to help balance hormones.

    And don’t forget that stress can intensify cramps, so look to calming herbs or other stress-relief formulas to keep stress levels low. Hops, for example, “is a nervine herb but also a phytoestrogen, so it can help with both stress and the hormonal aspects of cramps,” says Sam. Find it in a tincture from Herb Pharm—or even in a few hoppy beers each week.

  • The Buzz Around Inflammation

    Inflammation: It’s vital to our body’s natural healing process. It clots blood, fights infection and heals wounds. But certain factors, such as allergies, injury or poor diet, can keep your body in a constant state of inflammation.

    “Usually what happens is there’s an event, like an injury, surgery or other stressful event, that kicks our immune system into action,” says Dr. Ashleigh Putnam, naturopathic doctor and lead practitioner at Pharmaca’s Monterey store. “The immune cells come to the area and do their work, but if that work doesn’t die down, our body continues to be under a state of stress.”

    So what causes the immune system to stay in gear after the work is done? It could be poor lifestyle habits, such as a diet high in animal proteins or grains, smoking or too much alcohol, chronic allergies, prescription drugs or even just normal wear and tear as we age. Chronic inflammation is, basically, any time your body has to work harder to heal itself.

    If a joint, for example, is overused, Ashleigh says, “The joint gets swollen, the cartilage can wear down, there’s not as much fluidity in the joint, and it stays inflamed because your body’s under the impression that there’s an issue.” Inflammation in the gut, on the other hand, may be spawned from a bad infection or a course of antibiotics that wipe out good bacteria and make it more difficult to absorb nutrients from food.

    But inflammation comes with a variety of symptoms, and it’s not always easy to identify the culprit. “It could start with aches and pains, getting sick frequently, sinus congestion, indigestion, skin issues, joint swelling or stiffness,” says Ashleigh. You can also ask a doctor for a blood test that measures c-reactive proteins (CRPs), a general marker for inflammation. “While most of us will see somewhat elevated CRPs, it can be markedly elevated in someone with chronic inflammation.” Ashleigh adds that there are very specific CRP levels that are an indication of inflammation of the heart, so it can be helpful for those concerned with cardiovascular issues.

    Fortunately there are a variety of dietary and supplement options that can help. Ashleigh recommends inflammation-fighting omega-3s from fish or flax. “You want to maintain a balance of omega-3s and 6s,” she says. “We get a lot of 6s in our diet anyway (through animal proteins and grains), so you have to balance it out.” Ashleigh recommends Nordic Naturals’ Ultimate Omega, especially the liquid version that provides 3,000 mg of omega-3s per teaspoon. Limiting inflammatory foods like beef, chicken and pork, adds Ashleigh, can also be helpful.

    “Probiotics can help rebalance and repopulate your gut with good bacteria,” says Ashleigh, who recommend’s MegaFood’s MegaFlora. “Probiotics boost gut health, which in turn helps your immune system, which controls the inflammation response.” Probiotics, therefore, can help break the cycle of inflammation. Along the same lines, digestive enzymes can be really helpful to break down food and help get more nutrients.

    Next, Ashleigh says, add in an anti-inflammatory like the turmeric found in Thorne Research’s Meriva-SR. Turmeric can help with a variety of types of inflammation, including in the joints, skin and gut. “In Thorne’s formulation, the turmeric is bound to a fat molecule, which makes it much more absorbable,” Ashleigh says. Another great choice is New Chapter’s Zyflamend, which combines turmeric with circulation-boosting rosemary and ginger and antioxidants like green tea.

    Another important inflammatory issue to look at it your allergy state. “Allergies are a kind of inflammatory response, so if it’s chronic, then you become more susceptible to infection, other allergies or inflammation elsewhere in the body,” Ashleigh says. That’s why, she says, it’s good to maintain a low allergy response. “I really like WishGarden’s Kick-Ass Allergy, as well as a xylitol nasal spray to nourish the nasal passages.”

    Finally, Ashleigh says, make sure you’re resting well. “Sleep is when your body fixes itself, so getting a good night’s sleep can have a big impact on overall inflammation,” she says.

    If you’re concerned about inflammation, speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about natural options.  

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