The Pure Cure: 10 Natural Remedies for Back Pain

At some point or another, everyone experiences a terrible backache. Whether it be only for an hour or a chronic pain that plagues you for years, back pain can seriously affect not only your health, but your mind + spirit as well.

So where does back pain come from?

The cause of back pain can vary widely: from an exercise-related injury, to stress, to even the clothes you wear. It is important to reflect on what might have created the discomfort, especially since many body problems actually began a while ago and were left untreated for too long.

TIPS FOR BACK PAIN:

1. Stretch, stretch, stretch!

Much of the discomfort in our back is from our muscles not having a chance to recover from the stress + strain of the day. Try to stretch for at least 5 minutes right when you wake up in the morning and you will give your body a head start! Also stretching for 5 minutes before bed can ease joints, help heal tense muscles and allow you to hit the hay feeling relaxed.

2. Get into yoga!

Before I started doing yoga, I had a lot of back problems. In fact, I kept using my back pain as an excuse to not get into yoga. It wasn’t until a dear friend (and yoga instructor) told me that yoga is meant for people with aches + pains. The feeling of discomfort is our body telling us we need to gently activate it, filling it with breath, heat and movement. Once I became serious about my practice, my back pain significantly decreased.

3. Drink more water!

I know that I am somewhat crazy about water but it is with good reason! We are made of at least 60% water and without constantly replenishing our liquids, we become not only dehydrated, but dry + brittle in our bones. In Ayurveda, water not only quenches our thirst, but keeps our organs functioning properly, flushes toxins out of our body and provides lubrication for our muscles + bones. Make sure to have at least 8-10 glasses of water a day for optimum results.

4. Get a bra fitting!

This may not apply to all of my readers, but if you wear a bra most of the time, it is important to make sure it actually fits properly! Around 80% of women wear an incorrect bra size and while I am not a fan of the body policing around this issue, I do know (from personal experience) that wearing a ill-fitted bra can cause serious back pain, especially for us larger chested folks. Most department stores, as well as Victoria’s Secret have free bra fitting services (and you don’t have to buy their expensive bras if you don’t want to!) And while we are on the topic of brassieres, replacing them at least once or twice a year will help support your breasts + your back.

5. Follow an anti-inflammatory diet!

Eating inflammatory foods can not only upset your stomach, but can create swelling, discomfort and pain in your organs, tissues, muscles + bones. Recent studies have shown that eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help with arthritis, acne, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic back pain. For more information on following an anti-inflammatory diet, The Conscious Life posted an introductory article and as far as further reading, The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book is a great place to start.

6. Work on your posture!

I know that for me, this is one of the hardest things to remember. Even with my yoga and meditation practice, keeping my back straight and shoulders un-hunched is tough. Add the stress of trying to get by under capitalism and no wonder we hold so much tension in our backs, shoulders + necks! Amber from Epic Self has a great video for a neck and shoulder release exercise as well as a 3-minute energy + posture boosting video.

7. Take a long, hot bath!

If you are lucky enough to have a bathtub, use it! A nice, hot bath can soothe tension in your muscles, calm your nerves + warm your spirit. Adding epsom salts can help draw toxins out of the body, improve nerve function + reduce inflammation, giving you a medical reason to take that soak! Add two cups of the salt to your bath and relax for at least 20 minutes, preferably a few times a week. Watch your back pain (and your stress) gently float away…

8. Try some acupuncture!

While I am not the biggest fan of needles (I can’t get my blood taken without passing out!), I don’t underestimate the healing power of acupuncture. Both local (at the site of the pain) and distal (away from the site of pain) needle placements can help alleviate acute and/chronic back problems. Check your area for “community acupuncture” services, which is acupuncture done on multiple people in the same room. The benefits from the community services are the same, just with lower prices.

9. Get a massage!

If you can afford it (and boy, am I envious!) go out and get a massage. ASAP. In fact, whether it is for chronic back pain, an exercise-related injury, or just a build-up of stress + tension in your body, a massage is one of the best remedies available. Of course, I would recommend an Ayurvedic massage, but any type of massage would be beneficial. In addition to relieving the pain, massage is one of the best ways to loosen + expel toxins all throughout your body. Just make sure you drink lots of water afterward!

10. Make a castor oil pack!

Castor oil packs are AMAZING. Seriously. They heal sore muscles, reduce inflammation, promote elimination of toxins and improve lymphatic circulation. Not to mention they feel wonderful while lying down, listening to soothing music and breathing deeply!

To make a castor oil pack:

1. Place strips of fabric (old flannel, cotton or wool scraps that have been cut) into an oven-safe pan.

2. Pour a liberal amount of castor oil into the pan to saturate the strips and place pan in the oven

3. When strips are hot (time + temperature varies), remove from oven, let them cool slightly and place on the part of your back that is affected.

4. Put a piece of plastic (such as a piece of garbage bag) on top of the strips.

5. Place a hot water bottle or heating pad on top of the plastic and leave all layers on for at least one hour.

After using the castor oil pack, you can store the items in a bag and use them any time you need some pain-relieving pleasure! To step it up a notch, you could infuse the castor oil with medicinal herbs tailored to your body type + ailment, but I will just have to leave that for another time!

Stay Happy + Healthy,

the pure cure: seasonal allergies

hello readers,

today i want to talk about a frustrating and troublesome pest…seasonal allergies!

40 – 50 million americans suffer from allergies every year. to be honest with you, i never knew i had seasonal allergies until this past year. a routine doctor’s visit ended with the question “so why haven’t you been taking your allergy medication?” i answered with a “huh? what? uh…” and told her i didn’t have allergies. in fact, i have always been (secretly) a little smug about not having to deal with them. i thought it was normal to be congested. always. all the time…

so, in the new found acknowledgment of my seasonal allergies, i wanted to share some preventative measures and natural remedies that can kick your allergies to the curb!

an ounce of prevention:

+ keep the windows shut

although the spring/summer breeze is quite lovely, opening those windows can fill your house with pollen. try to keep fans on instead or even better, use an air filter to keep the good air circulating.

+ keep your shoes by the door

shoes can track a lot of pollen and allergens into your home so try to leave them outside or by the door when you come in. you might also want to change into “house clothes” (my term for pajamas) when you come back home so that the pollen isn’t still around your skin and nose all night.

+ take local honey

if you aren’t vegan, eating a bit of local honey everyday can help acclimate your body to the local allergens. just take a spoonful once a day in your tea or just by itself!

+ use a neti pot

ok, back to the neti-potting but seriously, this can help prevent allergies from bothering you in the first place. rinsing your nasal passages everyday might feel weird (or even burn a little bit), but trust me, your sinuses will feel so clean and it will prevent allergen buildup, which is really uncomfortable and gross.

+ avoid foods you are (even slightly) allergic to

this may sound strange but even foods you are slightly allergic to (for example, i love pineapple but my tongue always swells a little bit whenever i eat it) can exacerbate your seasonal allergies. staying clear of those foods will help calm your body down so you can fight one allergy at a time. furthermore, certain food allergies, especially fruit and nut allergies, might actually be oral allergy syndrome. oral allergy syndrome (OAS) manifests as a reaction when certain fruits and nuts are eaten, but is in fact linked to different varieties of pollen.

+eat omega-3 fatty acids

omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your reaction to seasonal allergies. vegans can get these acids from a vegan omega-3 supplement (which i am currently shopping around for), walnuts or flaxseed/flaxseed oil. vegetarians can also get omega-3 from grass-fed eggs and others can get it from cold-water fish.

natural remedies:

+ stinging nettle tea

stinging nettles are nature’s supergreen. they provide iron for women’s/menstrual health (which is also a critical mineral for a veg*n diet), they help prevent urinary tract infections (and who wants one of those?) and they also help keep your allergies at bay! if you aren’t familiar with stinging nettles, trust me, they do sting. take a look at bonzai aphrodite’s post on how to make a nettle infusion (which is just a fancy word for tea) and if possible, use fresh nettles instead of dried ones. just make sure you have some gloves on when you grab them!

+ horseradish, cayenne pepper and other spicy goodness (chili peppers, hot mustard, etc.)

using hot spices will temporarily de-congest your nasal passages and help you clear your sinuses. pepper your food with these babies and you will be breathing clearer in no time.

+heat therapy

take a hot washcloth or a heated pouch (the ones that are filled with flax are really great) and place it over your nose and upper cheek area for a few minutes. take deep breaths and relax while the heat loosens up your sinuses.

+ saline spray

i use an all-natural saline spray (i have previously written about my personal favorite, xlear) and it has really helped combat my allergy symptoms. i spray twice in each nostril morning and night and it makes all the difference. it took a while to get used to (i don’t like spraying anything up my nose) but it is worth it.

+ exercise

last but not least, exercising will help heat your body and attack your allergy symptoms. working up a sweat (in whichever way your prefer) also expels toxins from your body, relieving that itchy, congested feeling and leaving you feeling energized and ready to take on the day!

 

hope these tips help you fellow allergy sufferers during this hard season. and please, let me know if i am missing any good remedies!

the pure cure: cold cough + sore throat

well, here i was wondering what topic i should write about first on this blog and lo and behold, i got hit with a cold a few days ago.

and not just the sniffles, but a painfully sore throat, achy bones and all out fatigue. luckily, i am unemployed at the moment so these past few days have consisted of my (equally unemployed) husband making me breakfast, spending the whole day on the sofa and watching episodes of 30 rock and the office. but as much fun as the previous activities can be, they lose their luster when you are coughing up a storm, have snot running down your nose and on the edge of tears when you have to swallow.

so what is a natural health lady like myself supposed to do? guzzle a gallon of dayquil and go about my merry way? no, i say!

i will admit, it is more difficult to treat a tough cold and cough without those heavy hitters but they aren’t good for you anyway (and they only mask your symptoms instead of holistically healing you from the inside out.) in addition, strong cold medicines like nasal decongestants can make your cold worse and give you all kinds of other problems.

in an effort to take a giant step away from chemicals and pharmaceuticals, i wanted to write about some helpful and healthy remedies for the common cold and everything that comes with it.

in ayurveda, a cold is a kaphic disorder, with the kapha imbalance creating excess mucus and congestion. there are many natural remedies to pacify kapha and relieve your symptoms.

 

the cold:

if you are experiencing a runny nose, the sniffles or nasal congestion, there are a few main ways to make you feel better real fast.

for a runny nose or the sniffles, a steam of mint, ginger and/or eucalyptus will immediately begin to clear your sinuses. reading my tea leaves has a great post (with pictures!) on an easy way to create a steam at home. a tea of 2 parts ginger, 3 parts cinnamon and a pinch of ground cardamom will also clear up a cold. you can make a large amount of this tea ahead of time and steep 1 teaspoon in hot water for 10-15 minutes. if you feel it needs to be sweetened, you can add honey as desired.

nasal congestion can be alleviated by the wondrous neti pot. i myself haven’t bought one yet since i am a little scared of sticking a stream of water up my nose but once i get over that fear, i will pick one up. everyone i know who has one can’t stop raving about it and the variety of benefits that can come from this tiny little pot. if you aren’t ready for a journey through full nasal irrigation yet, i would highly recommend an all-natural saline spray such as xlear which has xylitol and grapefruit seed extract added to soothe your sinus passages. it really helps relieve a runny nose and it also helps heal irritated nasal cavities.

 

the cough:

in ayurveda, there are two types of coughs. a “dry cough” which is a vatic disorder and a “mucus cough” which is a kaphic disorder. if you have a dry cough, you can eat a ripe banana with honey and black pepper. a mucus cough can be helped by eating ground black pepper with a spoonful of honey. this should be taken a few times a day for 3-5 days. if the cough simply won’t go away, you can boil a chopped clove of garlic in milk (if not dairy, try to use nut milk, not soy milk). then add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric. it might taste a little like garlic soup but trust me, it is worth it.

 

the sore throat

oh boy, this is one of the most painful things to have. to relieve a sore throat you can do one (or more) of the following:

gargle with salt and hot water. this seems to work some of the time but not always. if that doesn’t do the trick, you can make a mixture of equal parts honey and apple cider vinegar. although it might smell (and taste) horrid, apple cider vinegar is an absolute godsend. in fact, it is so amazing that it will be have a post of its own at a later point in time. for now, just deal with the POW! that ACV hits you with and if you gargle (and swallow) the mixture, your sore throat will be on its way in no time. if you can’t handle the ACV (which happens to some people, my husband couldn’t even be in the kitchen while i was making the mixture), you can always gargle with the juice from half a lemon and a tablespoon of honey.

one remedy that i always use (even when i don’t quite have a sore throat) is what i call “TLC with HLC”. fill half a tablespoon with honey, fill the other half with fresh lemon juice and sprinkle cayenne pepper on top. one slow swallow (so that the mixture can coat the throat thoroughly) and you will be feeling better already!

 

the wonderful leslie from crunchy betty posted an excellent article on other cold and cough remedies, including a homemade sage honey for a sore throat (i am dying to make it!) and an amazing elderberry syrup that you can use either when you are sick or when you are just trying to prevent a flu. her website is incredible so you should put aside an hour (or two) to peruse her endless natural health wisdom.

 

a few side notes:

since aspirin and ginger are both blood-thinners, you should not take them at the same time.

if you are vegan, maple syrup can substitute for honey.

make sure you get plenty of rest. that includes napping and sleeping in. tell your boss absolutely ayurveda said so!

stay away from animal products sugars, dairy, cold drinks/foods and caffeine. they create even more mucus and slow down your recovery. instead, stick to hearty whole grains, steamed colorful veggies and LOTS of tea.

take time to relax and let your body heal. all too often, we are running around, trying to get everything done…even when we are sick!

make sure that your house is warm and that you are bundled up with socks, a sweatshirt and a head covering. if available, use a humidifier by your bedside. add a few drops of lavender to the humidifier water and it will relax you to sleep.

 

i hope this article will help you get well next time you are hit with a cold. and i leave you with this dreamy gem to relax your mind!