Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cramp bark for pain, Valerian for sleep: By Chris Crawford Herbalist 4 Vets

I would like to take this time to introduce you to two very powerful herbs. One is used to battle chronic pain the other is to help you get a good night rest. Both of these herbs have been heavily studied and can be found commercially. I would, however personally rather get them from a herbalist or a Health food store that deals with natural, herbal, organic and holistic items. I would never buy anything from someone or some place that is not trusted and thoroughly researched.

Because so many deal with chronic pain the first herb I want to talk about is Cramp bark Also know as Guelder rose, Black Haw, High Bush Cranberry Tree, Dog Rowan Tree, Viburnum, May Elder, King's Crown, and May Rose. For many of you that live in a Northern climate you probably have seen this tree growing and didn't even realize it.
Cramp bark, as its name suggests, is used to treat cramps and muscle spasms of all types. The bark is antispasmodic, astringent, and sedative. As a muscle relaxant it relaxes the intestines, and skeletal muscles. Cramp bark has been traditionally used by Native American and pioneer women to relieve menstrual cramps and spasms after childbirth and to prevent miscarriage. The herb is also popularly used in combinations to treat asthma and nervous tension. Cramp bark is commonly used to treat chronic pain as well as Fibro. This herb can be a very effective pain reliever when properly used and though many of the things here are related to women does not mean it isn't for men also as this is one of the staple herbs in my personal apothecary.
Cramp bark is essentially nontoxic, although taking large quantities of the fruit or leaf can cause diarrhea. Some people with sensitivity to aspirin may also have a sensitivity to cramp bark, so caution should be exercised.
This is a very effective herb and has minimal interactions with prescription drugs though like with anything it is best to consult a doctor before replacing your pain meds for a herbal alternative as stopping some prescription drugs cold turkey can cause severe problems not excluding death. This is something you can find in most natural health store or from a local herbalist. Cramp bark is traditionally made into a tincture (tincture is made by placing a herb into grain alcohol or glycerin).

The second herb I am going to talk about here is Valarian a very powerful herb to help you rest and in many cases sleep better. Contrary to popular myth, the modern drug Valium is not derived from valerian, and there is no relationship at all between them. Valerian root has a long history of use as a sedative in Western Europe, dating back to the time of Hippocrates. Originally native to Europe it is now common throughout North America. Valerian root is widely used in sleep aids and sedatives in various forms including teas, tablets, and capsules. Often, valerian is combined with other herbs traditionally known to promote sleep including hops, passionflower, lemon balm, chamomile, and lavender.
Valerian is traditionally made into teas, tinctures and capsules. Valerian can be combined with St. John's wort to increase its ability to reduce anxiety, or with hops and/or lemon balm to strengthen its sleep-inducing properties. Many people find the taste unpleasant and prefer to take it as a capsule or extract.
Valerian is a calmative and tranquilizer. Its properties have been known at least since the time of Hippocrates, and it was prescribed by the ancient Greek physician Galen for the treatment of headaches, insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, menstrual problems, nervous stomach, and hysteria. Clinical trials have confirmed the use of valerian for treating insomnia, especially the insomnia that accompanies menopause. The advantage of valerian over tranquilizers such as Valium and Xanax is that it reduces the time required to fall asleep, without a period of bedtime drowsiness and without creating a "hangover" or grogginess the next morning. Valerian has greatest effect in treating chronic insomnia, rather than short-term sleeplessness. It also soothes the digestive system and may prevent cramping caused by irritable bowel syndrome.
If you use valerian for several months and suddenly stop using it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headache, insomnia, racing heart, and general grouchiness, although rare. Reduce dosage of a period of about a week if you wish to discontinue using the herb suddenly. If you are aspirin sensitive there is a very good chance you will sensitive to Valerian as well.

The things in this post are to inform and should not be used to diagnose or replace the care from your doctor. If you chose to use these herbs do so only after discussing it with your doctor. Abruptly stopping some medications can cause serious problems not excluding death.

Chris Crawford
Veteran / Herbalist

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