Herbs for Aches and Pains

Today my blog is dedicated to those that labour in physical jobs, to those that work out and to those that are getting aches and pains from aging.  I have recently found myself commenting that when you are young it’s painful to start exercising.  When you get older it’s painful to stop!  Some exercise is voluntary, but there are those among us that do heavy physical work. 

I looked up what causes muscle pain at the Mayo Clinic here.  They have a comprehensive list but state that the most common causes of muscle pain are tension, stress, overuse and injury.  Even those that are in good physical shape can get muscle pain.  So what herbs are good for easing the pain.

 canstockphoto0958188 Arnica


This has to be my number one go to for muscle pain.  It targets the source of the pain rather than just the surface.  It is anti-inflammatory so it also reduces the pain by reducing inflammation.  Some of the uses for Arnica are:

  • pulled muscles
  • sprains
  • back aches
  • tendonitis
  • rheumatic joints
  • sports injuries
  • bruises
  • traumatic injuries
  • compress for phlebitis

Arnica or Wolfsbane ( the older name for arnica) creams and gels are available from most drugstores.  Doctors and first aid teams are recommending it for pain relief.  As wonderful as arnica is there are a couple of major cautions for it’s use.  

Do not use arnica on broken skin.  Arnica stimulates the production of white blood cells so you don’t want it getting into your bloodstream.  There are homeopathic remedies that include arnica but I would not recommend taking arnica orally.  Homeopathic amounts are thought to be safe if they are made professionally, but taking arnica orally can be poisonous and lead to death.

canstockphoto9879019olive oil collage

Olive Oil and Cayenne Pepper

As strange as it may seem, olive oil rubbed into muscles and joints is an ancient remedy to reduce pain.  For inflammation Cayenne pepper is excellent.  Combine the two and you have a great liniment for aching, inflamed muscles.  Be cautious when using cayenne pepper.  Do not use it on broken skin.  With cayenne you want to go slowly.  Add just a tiny amount to some olive oil.  Try some on the tender skin at the underside of the wrist.  Leave it on for a minute or two.  You should feel warmth without burning.  If it burns wash it off immediately and cut back the amount of cayenne.  It can burn and blister skin so you want to start with a small amount and add to it.


Cayenne is an excellent remedy for overused and pulled muscles.  It is extremely effective for tendonitis.



Comfrey or knit bone is one of the most effective herbs for sprains and broken bones.  It was once used internally but since it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which cause liver cancer in studies with rats, it is no longer considered safe to take orally.  Having said that it is an effective anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.  It was once used to help speed the healing of broken bones, hence the name knit bone.  It can also relieve the swelling of strains.  It will ease the swelling of dental procedures when used topically.  As with all herbs that are used topically, try testing a patch on the skin under your wrist. If irritation occurs wash the herb off immediately.



Rosemary has been approved by the German Commision E for use as a topical treatment for muscle pain and spasm.  The explanation of this commission presented by www.salisbury.edu is: 

The German Commission E is a governmental regulatory agency that was  established in 1978.  It is composed of scientists, toxicologists, physicians, and pharmacists.

Rosemary is an anti-inflammatory that is thought to be effective for reducing the pain of muscle strains.  Rosemary oil is the most often used but if you want to try making your own simply infuse some olive oil with rosemary for a few days.

I use all of the above herbs quite effectively on myself.  There are any number of creams and salves available at drugstores and health food stores that contain these herbal ingredients.  In a pinch though, a little olive oil and cayenne or rosemary can help.