Herbs can be such great allies for various injuries. An herbal and holistic approach to injuries of the musculoskeletal system seeks to support the body’s innate intelligence and healing processes. This includes combining herbs, nutrition, bodywork, & lifestyle practices.
Herbs work with the body following injury to support healing processes and help the body recover more fully following an injury. Pain and discomfort in the musculoskeletal system can result from injury but it can also result from general wear and tear as well as chronic inflammatory-type disorders. Herbs can be wonderful allies no matter the cause of injury or pain.
In my own experience, successfully treating injuries with herbs is all about timing and application. There are three stages the body moves through following an injury in order to heal. These three stages include inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling.
During the initial phases of injury, utilizing herbs that help to break up fluid stagnation and increase circulation can be very helpful. While yarrow is great in all stages of healing, it is particularly helpful in this stage and the following stage, Yarrow not only works to break up fluid stagnation but also helps to support the repair and rebuilding of blood vessels. Arnica also works great in this stage as it is a fabulous counter-irritant and works to increase circulation to an area. I like to think of this herb as summoning the vital force to an injured site.
Stages 2 & 3
The next two stages of tissue healing are proliferation and remodeling. In these stages, new cells are beginning to form and the collagen fibrin matrix is beginning to reform. The length and duration of each of these stages are dependent on the type of injury, with bone fractures taking the longest to heal. Taking time to nourish the body on top of herbal therapeutics in both of these stages is key. Without proper nutrition, the body won’t have the building blocks to rebuild. Nourishing herbal infusions utilizing herbs such as nettles, oat straw and alfalfa are great during these stages of healing. I love utilizing some of the beautiful biodynamically grown herbs at Alpine Botanicals to make these nourishing infusions.
Addressing pain and muscle reactions can be an important aspect of supporting recovery following an injury. After an injury occurs to an area, one of the first reactions is for the surrounding muscles to seize up causing pain and constriction, this can also lead to impaired circulation. Utilizing herbs to relax the muscles can be extremely helpful in managing pain and supporting the healing process. Herbs like cramp bark, lobelia, kava, Jamaican dogwood, black cohosh, and pedicularis are some of my favorites for relaxing skeletal muscles and addressing muscle spasms and pain. Utilizing herbs that relax the nervous system such as skullcap or catnip can be great in conjunction with some of these herbs to help the whole system relax and therefore begin the next stage of restoration and healing.
Herbs that support structural integrity and cell proliferation are invaluable during the tissue healing process. Some of my favorite herbs for this are comfrey, plantain, and calendula. Comfrey is an herb that shines for many reasons. It's especially amazing for closed tissue injuries and bone fractures, utilizing this herb as a poultice can help speed the recovery and support the rebuilding of new bone following an injury. Horsetail is another favorite for supporting structural integrity. This herb is extremely high in silica. Silica plays an important role in providing a matrix for all connective tissues, improving their strength and resilience.
Lastly, I want to talk about one of my all-time favorite herbs for injury and that is St. John’s wort. This amazing herb is extremely healing and versatile in how it can be applied to injuries. This herb is most
famous for addressing nerve pain and has a remarkable ability to restore function to damaged/injured nerves. It is also a useful herb in addressing muscle spasms and pain. It helps to modulate excess inflammation in an injured area and can be effective in reducing swelling and bruising. St. John’s Wort also works on the nervous system and can be useful internally to deal with the shock after trauma. Yarrow, like St. John’s Wort, is a very versatile and useful herb for injury in that it helps to increase circulation, break up stagnation, and promote the regrowth of tissues and blood vessels. To me these two herbs are invaluable.
How to Use & Apply
In terms of applications, I utilize many of these herbs both internally and externally throughout the healing process. For example, I would suggest a nutritive tea, a tincture to support pain, muscle spasms, and general relaxation, a topical salve or oil combining some of the herbs listed above, and also poultices or plasters. For topical applications, combining heat can be a great way to relax muscles and increase circulation and potentize the actions of the herbs being applied. Here at Alpine Botanicals, we make a lovely Herbal Ouchie Oil combining the oils of St. John’s Wort and Arnica, this oil is a must-have for injuries.
The world of herbs for injuries is vast! These are some of my favorites and following these therapeutics alongside nutrition, bodywork, physical therapy, and lifestyle practices can greatly help one recover more quickly and fully from an injury. So get out and play the mountains are calling!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Courtney Cosgriff is a Certified Clinical Herbalist, Nutritionist, Flower Essence Practitioner, Beekeeper, Gardener, Educator, and Activist. In 2018 Courtney launched her business Honeybee Herbals as a way to combine all of her passions and skill sets. Honeybee Herbals is dedicated to providing earth centered healing and education in the hopes of restoring our connection to the natural world through providing education and consultation around herbalism, beekeeping, nutrition, and more.