Some notes from a class I took last night, entitled "Pain from an Herbalist's Perspective", lecture by Lise Wolff, Registered Herbalist, M.Sc., in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I haven't really had time to process this, so I am just jotting down notes I'd like to highlight and adding a few thoughts of my own. This is part of my processing, but also a way to share these thoughts with others.
"Pain tells us something is wrong in the body and needs help."
"Herbs don't necessarily kill the pain but help the origin of the pain, by resuming flow in the system."
"Pain blockers (acetiminophen, ibuprofen, acid reducers, etc.) 'shut your body up' and that's not good." There is always an underlying cause that, if addressed, will bring you to better health.
Different people respond differently to pain. Pain always has an emotional component--indeed we FEEL pain. In a way, it is "all in your head", but unlike in conventional medicine that is not said with disrespect here. It is necessary to treat the emotions as well as the physical body when there is pain.
Whereas conventional medicine sees pain as a "malfunction of the nervous system", herbalists believe it's a good thing your body is showing symptoms.
Cancer is one of the only times when there is little or no pain to signal that something is wrong. Cancer is indeed a great scourge of our time. Have we not previously been listening to our bodies? Is cancer the end result of that? (Note: this in now way is said to place blame on any one person for their cancer, or another person's cancer. Cancer looked at in this way is a systemic problem, particular to our current culture. Placing blame, therefore increasing bad feelings and tension, is a terrible thing to do in this instance!)
We don't want pain to be chronic. Oftentimes herbalists give herbal remedies to "relax the body, so it can then repair itself more easily", doing its intended job and relieving the pain.
Paracelsus (1493-1541, whom many feel is the founder of modern medicine, herbal medicine and homeopathy) said "Where nature creates pain, toxic substances have accumulated and want to be eliminated." This is a call to restore flow to the body, to ease its job of ridding itself of toxins.
And get this! We have in our brain receptors for cannabis! That is, pot, marijuana. As Lise said, "what this means is that we (humans) have a long term relationship to pot." Cannabanoid receptors actually shut off our memory, so that we can release stress and our body can heal. For more info. on that, read Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan.
But don't smoke pot! Use herbs and flower essences. They can do the same thing, without the harmful side effects.
Now, there are many herbs and flower essences that can help with pain. But in the style of herbal medicine that I practice, we look for specifics not generalizations. Because each person has a different response to pain, and because the physical symptoms are a result your entire lifetime of physical and emotional responses, there is no way to generalize the right herb for someone. So, I offer no specific herbs to this discussion. However, I will say that a big goal here is to relax the body. If you can find an herb that will help you relax, and don't overuse it, that will allow your body to start its process of repair.
And not just herbs and flower essences can be used here. As we know there are many ways to relax, from meditation and yoga to journaling to knitting and many more. Take naps more often. Take a walk and blow off steam. Find the best ways for you to relax.
And of course, seek medical attention if your pain is severe and/or chronic and you need help.