Friday, April 25, 2008

Down Time in the Desert

I am remarkably overdue in creating a new post. This is due to the fact that I finally was able to steal away and leave the regular realities of home behind for a few days. After bathing in red desert sand for six days, I'm feeling a bit more centered, calm, and refreshed. Some of this sand came in the form of a sand shower--that is when the wind blows so hard, the very finest sand penetrates every fabric possible (including metal), and scours away the surfaces of skin, hair, teeth, and eyes and you are left feeling as though you visited a fine spa for a whole body scrub, only you didn't have to pay anything at all. And the sand doesn't come off when you're done. However, given that when the wind slowed to a minor squall, and we could hear eachother talk again, it seemed that the coating of sand was just another fine aspect of camping in the desert. After a couple days, you don't even notice it in your drinks and in your food!

Regardless, I've been busily trying to catch up to all that needs tending to, and this blog is one of those things.

I had to jump right back into the training fire this week, especially since I've signed myself up for the grueling Atomic Man Duathlon's Fat Man Course. Ack!! It sounded good three weeks ago when I was feeling very good about my training schedule, but now with nearly two weeks off save for a couple beautiful mountain bike rides, a short desert run, and ZERO time on the road bike, I'm feeling a bit nervous about my whole choice of endeavors.

Plus, thinking I would have some time to ride the long lonely road into Canyonlands while on vacation, my poor road bike endured the sand showers as well, and is likely containing an abnormal amount of sand in places it should not be.

It is quite likely that after Sunday's race, I'll be in dire need of some of the following topical preparations!

There are a variety of commercial liniments that are extremely effective in relieving sore aching muscles, strains, and bruises:

Po Sum On Oil
Zheng Gu Shui Liniment
Tiger Balm salves, liquids, and oils
Dit Dat Jiao Liniment

Other non-Chinese preparations include:
Arnica gel or spray
Traumeel Cream
Alcis Cream

Topracin Cream

Ginger Compress
Our kitchens often contain all we need to heal ourselves. An easy compress to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and warm cold or painful joints is a ginger compress:

Grate a 2-inch chunk of fresh ginger into 2 C hot water. Cover and let stand until the water turns yellow, or about 5 minutes. Soak a towel in the tea and wring out gently so that the towel is still saturated, but not dripping. Apply to the affected area, cover the wet towel with a dry towel, and place a heating pad or hot water bottle over the top towel. Repeat as many times as needed.

Mustard Plaster
This is a pain relieving plaster, it increases circulation, and reduces swelling.

½ Cup ground mustard seed combined with just enough water to make a thick sticky goo. Spread a fairly thick layer over painful area and cover with a warm damp towel. Allow to set on skin just until you start to feel it burn and then remove the plaster using warm water and soap. Don’t leave on too long, as blisters will form!

Homeopathic Remedies and Flower Essences can be very useful if injured. I highly recommend keeping on hand the following preparations:

Arnica 30c—Indicated for Sprains, strains, bruises, trauma. Extremely effective when taken immediately after any kind of accident, trauma, or contusion. Speeds recovery times.
Ruta grav 30c – Indicated for sprains, broken bones, and trauma. Especially useful for more chronic conditions like sprains that are difficult to heal.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Medicinal Herbs for Athletes -- NERVINES

Nervines are my favorite category of medicinal herbs. They are particularly interesting because they affect the mind/body interface moreso than any other category of herbs. Herbalists can often match an individual with a particular herb based on the personality of both, or based on an individual's constitution type. Nervines are often known more for their relaxing and sedating properties, and used for conditions such as anxiety, stress, and hypertension. But many nervines can be useful for conditions which require a more stimulating action, such as with depression or lethargy.

Nervines are used to treat a variety of conditions including neurological disorders, hypertension, restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, nerve fatigue, nerve pain, numbness, and muscular aches and pains. Some nervines work to relax muscle tissue—alleviating spasms and cramping and pain. Others work by supplying specific minerals to the nerve tissues, such as calcium and magnesium, which act to counteract the debilitating effects of stress and pain. Many nervines are calming and sedating, helping to relax nervous tension, easing feelings of stress and anxiety, and assisting in relaxation. Fortunately most nervines have none of the side-effects of typical sedatives or narcotic pain relievers.

Athletes tend to push themselves harder than the average person, and as such often experience more than average aches and pains following hard sessions of training or after races. Many nervines contain antispasmodic properties and can help to alleviate muscle pain, or nerve pain such as sciatica, that may result from periods of enduring physical stress.

The following are some nerviness that may be useful during training:

1. Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) – Considered to be a restorative nerve tonic, is useful in preventing muscular spasms, and is a mild sedative. I call this my Grumpy Mama herb—the one I choose when I start feeling like the Mama I don’t want to be…works quickly! Scullcap is effective for a variety of personalities and constitutions.

2. Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnate) – This herb is considered to be a calmative and sedative, it helps to prevent nervousness and restlessness, is considered an anodyne for the relief of pain, and is antispasmodic. It is especially useful for children and the elderly. Helps to induce a calm, natural sleep, useful for painful menses, muscular twitching, nervous headache, and persistent hiccups. Also useful for teething babies. Used to prevent worry and anxiety.

3. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) – This herb is antispasmodic, calming, mildly sedative. It is also anti-inflammatory and especially useful for external skin eruptions. This is another good choice for children and babies who are teething. This herb is considered for nervous irritability, PMS, nervous stomach, fevers, colds, and flus. Chamomile is said to restore a sunny disposition by driving out darkness and despair.

4. California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) – Safe and non-addictive sedative. This herb is antispasmodic, helps to prevent muscle spasms, is analgesic thus preventing and relieving pain, and is soporific, meaning it induces sleep. It is useful for anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, headache and toothache. This herb is also useful for children and is especially indicated for bedwetting associated with nervousness.

5. Saint John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – Saint John's Wort is currently more commonly associated as a depression remedy, but among herbalists it is better known as a highly effective remedy for nerve and spinal damage. It is also extremely useful for nerve pain associated with viral conditions such as herpetic inflammation (shingles), as well as trigeminal neuralgia and sciatica. It is considered a long-term restorative for the nervous system as a whole, and can be useful is addressing depressions caused by long-term exhaustion, stress, illness, and injury.

All these nervines can be taken in tea form, tincture, and capsule or tablet. Many can also be applied in tea or tincture form externally to reduce inflammation and pain. There are a variety of other nervines such as Valerian, Black Cohosh, and Lemon Balm that contain many of the above-described properties, and which may be more specifically useful to certain individuals. Lemon Balm is considered to be the Children's Remedy Extrordinaire as it is good for colds, fevers, nausea, vomiting, and restlessness.

My next discussion will be on external remedies for pain, soreness, and injury.

Happy Training!