Natural remedies for Christmas ailments

December 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Health, Natural Medicine

With the best will in the world it is easy to overstretch and overstress yourself over the holiday period. Lots of intense activity, probably more food and drink than usual – and richer probably than your everyday diet – can all combine to put you out of sorts. Instead of the medicine cabinet, try these natural remedies to help prevent, and alleviate, those Christmas blues. It can be your seasonal ‘first aid’ kit so make sure you keep it handy.

1 Shock and bruising

Arnica is a wonderful homoeopathic remedy for shock – and you often get quite a few of those in the heat of family exchanges or unwrapping the world’s most unsuitable present. Taken as a couple of tablets under the tongue it will help you recover, and in its cream salve form it works wonders on bruises. In all that rushing about you can get bumped more than usual as your mind is distracted with all those lists and trying to remember if cousin George is still vegetarian or if that was just a short-term effect brought on by last girlfriend. Rub the cream onto the bruise – but only if the skin is unbroken – and it’s anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties will not only bring you relief from the pain but bring the bruising out faster so it passes quicker. As Arnica also helps restore emotional balance – which can seesaw rather violently at this time of year – it is always an excellent remedy to have on hand during the festive season

2 Healing cuts, scrapes, grazes

Under stress our nerves can show in many ways and one of the most popular seems to be picking or biting at cuticles until they bleed, or you might just not be looking carefully enough as you slice the turkey or fight your way through the crowds to get to the last ‘most popular toy of the year’ in the store. Calendula is a herb that has been used for centuries in folk medicine whenever cuts or sores need healing. It contains triterpenes which encourage new cell growth, as well as being antiseptic, and Nelson’s make a Hypercal cream which contains calendula and hypericum which can ease the pain of the wound and Boots the Chemist also make their own version. Make sure wound is clean first by bathing with warm water into which a few drops of tea tree oil have been added as this too is antiseptic and will help clear any infection.

3 Burns

As I am incapable of wresting a roast from the oven, or ironing anything at all, without burning myself somewhere I have amassed several useful remedies. My first option is another homoeopathic remedy from Nelsons, this time specifically for burns, and the second is lavender oil. Apply either immediately to the skin and you will soon feel the heat receding, use the oil neat and reapply as needed. Though if the burn is around food you might want to use the Nelson’s cream instead as lavender oil is rather pungent. If you have an aloe vera plant in the house, then that too is an excellent remedy to treat burns and scars. Just remove a leaf, cut across the tip and squeeze out the gel onto your skin. Aloe vera is one of the remedies used treat radiation burns after Hiroshima and it is very effective at quickly reducing heat and keeping the skin supple and moisturised.

4 Stomach upsets

Well first of all prevention is better than cure, so make a Christmas resolution to be kind to your liver and don’t overload it with too much food and drink – particularly rich foods and things you are not used to having regularly. Avoid things that can irritate or upset the stomach, so cut down on coffee and acid foods and try these natural remedies instead.

* peppermint tea as it soothes the stomach and aids digestion.
* ginger helps with nausea so drink ginger ale or steep ginger slices in a cup with honey and add hot water or eat some candied ginger.
* bananas soothe the stomach and counteract the acids that can cause an upset stomach. They are also easily digested and can help ease diarrhea.
* nux vom is a homoeopathic remedy that is excellent for when you have over-indulged in too much, or too rich, foods. Two tablets of 6 x potency under the tongue and repeated hourly will soon help you overcome any nauseous feelings.

5 Headaches

Lavender oil can be helpful here, just put a couple of dabs either side of your temples, just above your eyebrows and gently massage it in with a circular motion. Do not get the oil anywhere near your eyes. If the headache is very severe you can try a mixture of peppermint oil with lavender and clove in equal parts and inhale this regularly to clear your head If your head is aching then an ice pack might help, so put some crushed iced in a plastic bag, wrap it in a dry towel, and use it as a compress. Ice all been used in the drinks? No problem, just run the cold tap and soak a facecloth then wring it out, lie down and place on your forehead. Close your eyes until you feel better.

6 Emotional overload

If you find yourself weeping into the Brussel sprouts – and who wouldn’t – then keep a bottle of Rescue Remedy to hand. Just a few drops on the tongue of this mixture of floral and herb extracts helps restore emotional balance, reduces shock, calms the nerves and is my first port of call for anyone who is suffering from anxiety and stress. Lavender oil is another fast lifter of the spirit, just open the bottle and inhale, or dab a couple of drops on your wrist and keep sniffing to keep yourself calm and on an even keel – works with virtually everything but no guarantees for insufferable in laws or being left with all the washing up.

Painful Hands?

If your hands are painful, do you know for sure whether what causes it? You could have arthritis or might it actually be Carpal tunnel syndrome, one of the most common forms of Repetitive Strain Injury? About three in 100 of people in the UK suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and it is characterised by pain, tingling or numbness in the hand.

About half of all carpal tunnel cases are work-related, and it a ccounts for the highest number of days missed at work compared to all other work-related injuries or illnesses. The condition develops when the median nerve in the wrist becomes compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel, the narrow passageway of bones and ligaments on the underside of the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers (not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. Symptoms include:

· difficulty holding objects
· difficulty performing repetitive movements without pain
· numbness, burning pain, tingling in hand or wrist that increases at night

Some professions are more vulnerable to this condition than others. Particularly at risk are musicians, particularly pianists and violinists, hairdressers, reflexologists and masseuse, manual labourers, computer operators, and even surgeons. If you already have arthritis or any rheumatic conditions then this again can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome as can conditions such as obesity, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, and diabetes.

What can you do about it?

Well painkillers, cortisone injections, splints and surgery (usually the final option) are the conventional route to go. However, my personal experience of a small sample of people I know that have had it done is that it needs to be carefully considered before you go under the knife. It can be painful and success is certainly not guaranteed, even orthopaedic surgeons admit that although surgery can cure night symptoms and transient tingling, if the nerve has been damaged as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome it probably won’t fully recover and complications from surgery can include complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS),which will permanently affect hand function.

On the alternative front, there are several options available:

1 Acupuncture can relieve the pain as it releases natural pain-relieving chemicals into the body, promotes circulation and balances the nervous system. If you can’t abide needles, then Acupressure will do the same job but usually takes a little longer to be effective in my experience.

2 Vitamin B6 deficiency has been associated with carpal tunnel syndrome in several research studies. If your diet is low in food sources such as sweet potatoes, avocados, brown rice, sunflower seeds, chick peas, salmon, pork, chicken, turkey, potatoes, bananas, and mangoes then supplementing with 50 mg 2 to 3 times a day is the suggested dose. At particular risk of B6 deficiency, in addition to poor diet, are those using oral contraceptives or HRT. The maximum intake of B6 from all sources should be less than 200 mg a day, unless otherwise recommended by your doctor or nutritionist.

3 Vitamin B12 – a study looked at the effectiveness of vitamin B12 for people with carpal tunnel syndrome due to overuse of the nonparalyzed arm after a stroke. For two years, 67 people in the study received 1500 mcg of vitamin B12 a day, and the remaining 68 did not. After two years, there was significant improvement in the group taking vitamin B12 compared to the untreated group. B12 is normally found in organ meats, and vegetarians may find they need supplemental amounts via injection which is often available on the NHS.

4 Enzyme supplements such as bromelain, found naturally in the juice and stems of pineapples, which are believed to help with the digestion of protein and may help to reduce tissue swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. It can take several weeks to notice results.

5 One of my favourite homoeopathic remedies is Arnica, and in a double blind random study by the Department of Plastic Surgery of Queen Victoria Hospital in West Sussex, they found that arnica can speed up the recovery of hand surgery compared to a placebo. They used a combination of tablets and arnica ointment and saw a significant reduction in pain after two weeks.