Winston D. The use of herbs for treating chronic back pain: a materia medica. J Am Herbalists Guild. 2005;6(1):20-24.
afflicts more than 65 million Americans every year and results in lost worker
productivity and increased medical expenses. Stress, physical injury, disease,
poor posture, and other factors can trigger back and neck pain. Standard
medical therapy includes physical therapy, steroid interjections, and surgery.
Although herbs alone may not cure chronic back and neck pain, they can be an
effective adjunct to standard therapy.
used to treat back and neck pain and related conditions include black cohosh (Actaea
racemosa syn. Cimicifuga racemosa) root, Solomon's seal (Polygonatum
biflorum) rhizome, wood betony (Pedicularis spp.), Saint John's wort
(Hypericum perforatum), butterbur (Petasites hybridus) rhizome, Sichuan
teasel (Dipsacus asper) root, kava (Piper methysticum) root,
skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) root, guaiacum (Guaiacum
officinale) wood/resin, and Jamaica dogwood (Piscidia piscipula) bark.
herbs including ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome, turmeric (Curcuma
longa) rhizome, devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) tuber,
licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) rhizome and European goldenrod (Solidago
virgaurea) are useful in treating back and neck pain. Anti-inflammatory
herbs are milder than prescription anti-inflammatory medications and have fewer
side effects. Analgesic herbs relieve pain, and some can inhibit inflammation.
Analgesic herbs include willow (Salix alba, S. purpurea, S.
fragilis) bark, meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria; syn. Spiraea
ulmaria), corydalis (Corydalis spp.) tuber, mulberry (Morus
spp.) bark, Jamaica
dogwood bark, and wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens). Herbal
antispasmodics relieve muscle spasms and pain, and many are also sedatives.
Antispasmodic herbs include black cohosh root, butterbur root, skunk cabbage
root, valerian (Valeriana officinalis),kava root, and California
poppy (Eschscholzia californica) root. Herbal nervines and sedatives are
used to reduce stress and decrease muscle tension. These include motherwort (Leonurus
cardiaca), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) flower, lemon balm (Melissa
officinalis), and California poppy root.
Some herbs are
used topically to treat back and neck pain including: arnica flowers, distilled
witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) bark/leaf, ginger rhizome, balsam poplar
(Populus basalmifera) buds, chaparral (Larrea tridentata),
medicine sage (Artemisia ludoviciana), Saint John's wort oil, lobelia (Lobelia
inflata) seed, and capsaicin from cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum).
Herbs used to
treat sciatica include sweetclover (Melilotus spp.), bai zhu atractylodes
(Atractylodes macrocephala) root, southern prickly ash (Zanthoxylum
clava-herculis) bark, horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) seed,
and Saint John's
wort flowering tops. Specific herbs indicated for neck pain and whiplash are:
kudzu (Pueraria sp.) root, lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria) lichen, achyranthes
(Achyranthes bidentata) root, butterbur, passionflower (Passiflora
incarnata), corydalis (Corydalis yanhusuo) tuber, Saint John's wort
flowering tops, arnica (Arnica montana) flowers, rue (Ruta graveolens),
and kava root.
Chinese Medicine, kidney yin and/or yang tonics are often used to treat low
back pain and sciatica. Essential oils with topical analgesic activity,
including wintergreen essential oil, lavender essential oil, and juniper (Juniperus
communis) essential oil, can be added to massage oils to help relieve pain.
The author states that 50% of all back pain is stress-related and concludes, "If
stress is a causative factor for chronic back and neck pain, then nervines,
sedatives, herbal antidepressants, and adaptogens should also be considered."
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