Inflammation is one of the body’s natural reactions to injury or infection. When we have a sore throat, our tonsils may become inflamed. When we break bones, tear ligaments or simply overuse parts of our body, those areas may also become inflamed or cause other body parts nearby to suffer the same swollen fate. I personally learned this the hard way several weeks ago. I woke up one morning and all of a sudden, I had pain in my hip area, around where one of my hip flexors are. I wasn’t sure what caused it, but I self-diagnosed myself using a bit of logic. I work on my feet all day— somewhat vigorously at that, because my job requires me to go up and down stairs often, and I had recently been training more than usual, including my lower-body. I also tend to go harder during leg days because I know that it is both the largest and strongest muscle group in the body, so I like to challenge myself. All of these factors seemed to spell out a recipe for disaster. I knew any one of these things could have caused my injury, but it was likely a combination of all of them.
This injury set me on a whole new path physically, but perhaps more importantly, psychologically. I had become so used to physical activity being part of my current lifestyle that the idea of not being able to exercise was crazy to me, and it made me feel very uncomfortable. So I sought to try to fix the problem— but the catch was, i was going to heal myself naturally. I told myself that if things get worse, if the pain becomes so bad that I can’t walk or no longer have a full range of motion, that’s when I’d obviously have to see a professional. Otherwise, one of my new goal’s in life was to utilize professional help as little as possible and try to solve issues homeopathically. And in this case, this route felt even better after doing a bit of research and finding out that ligament tears and small fractures could totally heal without any sort of surgery. I started researching natural remedies for pain and inflammation. I found many suggestions, and started to incorporate them into my daily diet and life whenever and wherever possible. Here are a few that I find to be key to helping with inflammation and pain, but do some research of your own because there is a wealth of knowledge to be found when it comes to homeopathic remedies for these types of ailments.
Turmeric has great healing effects when it comes to inflammation reduction. It is also used to help aid in managing infections. The agent in the spice that helps with inflammation reduction is called curcumin. This is also what gives turmeric its yellow hue. I started drinking more golden milk lattes to ingest turmeric, and also added it to my herbal teas and of course, I already have it with foods such as tofu scrambles. You can also add it to soups, sauces and sauteed veggies. Making curries is a great way to add turmeric to your diet without even noticing it, because the strong flavor blends in well with the other flavors often found in curries. However, there is a catch. Pure turmeric will not help with inflammation on its own. For turmeric to do its job in the body, it must be absorbed from the gut — this is only possible if there is a fat source present. Otherwise, little turmeric will be absorbed. This is an easy fix — in food, make sure you are using some sort of carrier oil; this is yet another benefit to sauteing and cooking with olive oil! I often use olive oil to grease the pan even for tofu scram (I rarely use vegan butters such as Earth Balance for greasing the pan — I primarily use it for baking purposes and as a spread on bread), and I always use it for my sautes. This will ensure that the spice has a fat source to ride along with as it enters the body. You can also add coconut oil to your golden milk lattes and herbal teas to ensure absorption. Black pepper is also helpful when it comes to turmeric absorption. The compound piperine which is found in black pepper, blocks the metabolic breakdown of turmeric in our guts. So ingesting turmeric with black pepper will allow more turmeric to stay in our system and not be broken down. From there, the fat source (i.e. oil) will help that extra turmeric be absorbed into our bodies. Check out my recipe for a delicious golden milk latte which includes turmeric, black pepper and coconut oil to ensure you get your daily anti-inflammatory dose of turmeric!
White Willow Bark
White willow bark is often touted as “nature’s aspirin”. This is because it has comparable effects on pain relief as the man-made medicine. This herb is derived from willow trees that are at least 2-3 years old. You can find it in many forms, including pills, teas, and tinctures. The goal is to absorb salicin, which is the active ingredient in the bark that has pain relieving properties. When ingested, about 80% of salicin is absorbed into the body. White willow bark can help with all sorts of pain, from menstrual cramps to severe pain and inflammation.
Peppers and Black Pepper
Practically all pepper contain capsaicin — the compound in them which causes all that hot, hot heat. In fact, all varities of peppers are originally derived from one single plant, the capsicum annum — native to the tropical regions of the Americas (a.k.a the bountiful Caribbean!) Capsaicin works in an interesting manor: when we consume peppers containing the compound, it binds to certain heat receptors in our body — even though there is no real danger at hand, the body thinks it is being exposed to extreme heat, and therefore will desensitize painful stimuli via our pain nerve cells. That’s actually pretty cool. Capsaicin may also help to improve blood flow circulation in the body when taken internally. This was helpful for me because I discovered that ligaments may take longer to heal because there is a poor blood flow to those areas. Therefore, improving blood flow may help with healing.
Black pepper uses that same compound mentioned earlier, piperine, to combat inflammation. The compound may reduce pain and inflammation even at low levels of ingestion. I already add pepper to most of my food — this is probably one of the easiest natural remedies to incorporate into your diet as most people use pepper on a daily basis. As mentioned before, you can also add the spice to your teas or other drinks. You can balance out the heat from the black pepper with some brown sugar or agave, or other spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Or, if you like the extra heat in your food or drinks, pile it on!
Ginger may have anti-inflammatory compounds that work similarly to existing meds used to treat pain and inflammation. When taken in relatively higher doses (at least 2 grams or more) it can have great effects on the body, not only for pain and inflammation, but also to help those with pain associated with conditions such as arthritis. Ginger can be added to foods, teas and other drinks, or even ingested raw (although it might upset your stomach this way). It is another easy one to add into your daily routine. Like capsaicin, ginger also helps with blood circulation when taken internally; so, when it’s combined with pepper and turmeric (maybe in a ginger turmeric latte?) or even on its own in ginger tea, it can help with the healing process of ligaments by improving blood circulation to that area.
As of the publishing of this blog post, my hip and leg are still not fully healed. However, I have done more research and found many sources that say that even a minor tear of fibers that hasn’t limited my mobility may still take weeks to heal. Right now, I’m attempting to isolate the pain. I spoke with a co-worker a little while ago who is well-versed in bodily functions as well as a trainer who I met at, of all places, Vegandale. They both stated that my hip flexor pain could actually be a result of issues from another location. As in, if my knees or feet aren’t doing great, my hip flexors may be doing extra work to compensate, thus resulting in the pain and inflammation. The trainer was great– she explained so much to me about what might be going on and how that area of the body functions, and even offered a small suggestion to start to alleviate the pain. For now, I’m focusing on my hip area, and then I’ll make sure my feet are okay. My knees feel fine but if anything, I’ll check those out too. I’ll update this later when I’m back at 100%. Until then, I hope these natural remedies help to aid you on a more homeopathic journey as they have helped me. And just to be on the safe side, you may want to check with a doc to make sure everything is okay before starting any sort of regimen, even a homeopathic one. And of course, avoid any known allergens, such as black pepper — even if they can help with the pain!*
[Edit:] As of January 7, 2019, the current state of my hip/leg has improved drastically. I still experience some discomfort which lets me know that my leg is not completely healed yet, but I am very mobile and able to carry on with my daily life. Here’s the condensed version of how this injury affected other areas of my life to date– I ended up having to leave where I was working because the pain was unbearable at the time. It was bittersweet but my health was more important. I ended up working at another restaurant (and luckily got the gig not too long after leaving the last place thanks to a pal) but was blessed that I finally got to work at a vegan spot! Funny enough though, this place was also dual-level! More stairs! But I had bills to pay and I needed a job and it was a vegan restaurant so I was in no matter what. And I think that a combination of not carrying heavy stuff anymore and not going up and down the stairs as often helped contribute to the healing process. I was also completely or mostly homebound on my days off which helped too. A negative aspect however, was that I couldn’t exercise. As of this update edit, I haven’t been to the gym in almost four months. It was kind of depressing and messed with my confidence a bit too. But everything happens for a reason so I was able to focus a lot on my mental state and why something like not being able to exercise had such a negative affect on me to begin with. I was also able to save more money from not getting as much food or going out to eat because since I couldn’t exercise as vigorously, I didn’t want to indulge as much because I was fearful of putting on weight. More mental love I had to give myself to work all that stuff out. But it was easier to save money anyway because I also had to accept a pay cut at my new position and that wasn’t fun, but like I said, everything happens for a reason. Flash forward to now and all thanks to this injury I’ve been able to work a lot more on my relationship with food– something I thought I’d worked out simply by going vegan but it wasn’t until I couldn’t exercise and had to focus more on my diet and the food I was consuming (and not consuming) that I realized that being vegan doesn’t fix everything.