Muscle fatigue, swelling, soreness, stiffness, and aches are the result of muscles experiencing excessive tension. Muscle strain occurs when muscles are stretched beyond their normal limit. To minimize the potential for simple back pain (or any muscular pain, for that matter), always observe correct posture for whatever activity you are trying to accomplish and begin any new physical activity slowly, so that your muscles can become acclimated and strengthened.
Many people, myself included, find that after a long day of “being physical,” taking a hot bath with 2 to 3 cups of Epsom salts added to the water dramatically decreases the pain and swelling of stressed muscles. Follow this with the application of a good herbal backache remedy (a friend comes in handy for this) and you’re golden! See your physician or chiropractor if your pain worsens.
The following remedy focus on muscular back pain brought on by excessive physical strain, whether in the lower back region or encompassing the entire back, shoulders, and neck.
This balm contains an infusion of nature’s finest plant healers, offering analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and vulnerary properties to help ease the pain of muscular tension and strain and repair damaged tissue. I recommend it for muscle pain, fatigue, swelling, soreness, stiffness, and tension anywhere in the body.
Note: To make the infused oil blend for this balm, I use only the stovetop method of extraction, as I feel that it enables these particular herbs to release their best medicinal properties.
½ cup dried or 1 cup freshly wilted meadowsweet flowers
½ cup dried arnica flowers
½ cup dried Solomon’s seal root
¼ cup fresh ginger, chopped or grated 3 cups almond, extra-virgin olive, or soybean base oil
3–4 tablespoons beeswax (depending on how firm you want the balm to be)
60 drops Scotch pine essential oil (optional, but it greatly intensifies the analgesic quality of the final product) 2,000 IU vitamin E oil
EQUIPMENT: 2-quart saucepan or double boiler, stirring utensil, candy or yogurt thermometer, strainer, fine filter, funnel, glass or plastic storage container (for the infused oil), glass or plastic jars or tins (for the balm)
PREP TIME: 6 hours to infuse the oil, plus 20 minutes to make the balm and 30 minutes for it to thicken
YIELD: Approximately 2½ cups of infused oil and 1¼ cups of balm
STORAGE: Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 1 year
APPLICATION: 2 or 3 times daily, or as desired
PREPARING THE HERBAL INFUSED OIL:
If you’re using freshly wilted meadowsweet flowers, strip the flowers and attached greenery from the larger stems. You may add any tiny stems and green leaves to the mix. Combine the meadowsweet, arnica, Solomon’s seal, and ginger with the base oil in a 2-quart saucepan or double boiler and stir thoroughly to blend. The mixture should look like a thick, chunky herbal soup. Bring the mixture to just shy of a simmer, between 125° and 135°F. Do not let the oil actually simmer — it will degrade the quality of your infused oil. Do not put the lid on the pot. Allow the herbs to macerate in the oil over low heat for 6 hours. Check the temperature every 30 minutes or so with a thermometer and adjust the heat accordingly. If you’re using a double boiler, add more water to the bottom pot as necessary, so it doesn’t dry out. Stir the infusing mixture at least every 30 minutes or so, as the herb bits tend to settle to the bottom. After 6 hours, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes. While the oil is still warm, carefully strain it through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a fine filter such as muslin or, preferably, a paper coffee filter, then strain again if necessary to remove all herb debris. Squeeze the herbs to extract as much of the precious oil as possible. Discard the marc. Add the vitamin E oil and stir to blend. The resulting infused oil will be golden or golden-green in color. Pour the finished oil into the storage container, then cap, label, and store in a dark cabinet.
PREPARING THE BALM:
Combine 1 cup of the herbal infused oil with the beeswax in a small saucepan or double boiler, and warm over low heat until the beeswax is just melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the essential oil, if desired. Stir again to blend. Pour into storage containers, cap, and label. Set aside for 30 minutes, until the balm has thickened.
Have a friend or partner massage this remedy into your back, neck, arms, legs, or anywhere your muscles are sore and achy. Using it on skin that is prewarmed from a bath, shower, or heating pad encourages penetration.
Use this balm to soothe the discomfort of arthritic joints, gout, tendonitis, and sore feet.