What can you do to support your body’s natural healing process after an injury, whether minor or major? You sprain your ankle, step down off the stairs and land in a way that “tweaks” your knee, you have some muscle strain or joint pain after an intense workout. Instead of simply waiting for the injury to heal on its own, which most likely it will do eventually, particularly with the right nutrition and rest, you can be proactive and address the damage using herbs and other nutritional supplementation.
Ligaments and tendons can be slow to heal and repair because of the lack of rich blood flow to these elements of connective tissue. By strengthening and tonifying the tissue, though, it can be quicker to heal then you might expect.
Let’s start by talking about your options for ligament and tendon damage, fractured bone, and joint pain and/or swelling. First, you want to make sure you eat a mineral and vitamin-rich diet, adding herbs that are rich in these healing minerals include nettle leaf (high in calcium, magnesium, and iron), alfalfa leaf, horsetail (high in silica for strengthening tissue), oat straw (high in calcium), which can all be consumed by making an infusion (ideally steeped overnight), straining, and drinking at any temperature you desire. Or, take the powdered herbs and add them to smoothies, juice, broth, or other food. Another healing food is bone broth (purchased or homemade) that is rich in tissue-healing minerals and compounds like collagen and glucosamine.
Second, other herbs/foods such as marshmallow root, soloman’s seal, and okra, which are all high in mucilaginous compounds, can help lubricate dry tissues including painful joints by stimulating a reflex action in the body. These can be eaten (in the case of okra), added to foods as the powdered herb (in the case of marshmallow root), and simmered to make a tea (in the case of soloman’s seal).
If you have damaged or injured tissue and inflammation has increased significantly, you can also add anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric root, ginger root (which is also good for circulation), and white willow bark (can help with inflammation and relieve mild pain). Capsules, tincture, or simmered decoctions of these can all be helpful.
The following three herbs can also be really helpful for helping heal damaged tissue. Read all about them and ask us to help you formulate a healing blend if you so desire!
Mullein root (Verbascus thapsus)
The leaf and flower of this wonderful, prolific plant are most commonly used in herbal medicine, for lung conditions and healing lung tissue (the leaf) to soothing ear pain (the flower). Only in recent years have I heard of the root’s use, specifically for spinal misalignment due to overuse, sleeping funny, car accidents, and the like. It is also considered helpful for increasing lubrication of the joints and spinal vertebrae, helping with slipped discs and other back pain. Several traditional, talented, clinical herbalists have used mullein root in this way with great success, including Jim McDonald, Matthew Wood (he uses leaf for the same action), and David Winston. We generally recommend taking it in tincture form, 1-2 dropperfuls (approximately 1-2 ml) in a little water or juice, 3 times/day.
Soloman’s Seal root (Polygonatum biflorum)
Herbalist Jim McDonald writes that “Without doubt, Solomon’s Seal is the most useful remedy I know of for treating injuries to the musculoskeletal system. I’ve used it to treat broken bones, sprains, injured tendons and ligaments, tendonitis, arthritis, dryness in joints and “slipped”/herniated discs (including mine – that sure did hurt…). Solomon’s Seal has the remarkable ability to restore the proper tension to ligaments, regardless of whether they need to be tightened or loosened.” Not a commonly-known herb, it grows abundantly throughout the midwest and parts of the Eastern and southern U.S. Several well-known and respected clinically-practicing Herbalists, including David Winston and Matthew Wood, use this herb with great success for helping the body heal. At Herban Wellness, we currently sell the cut root and the tincture for easy incorporation into formulas. The root can be simmered, 1 heaping Tablespoon per 4 cups water and simmered down until reduced in half, to 2 cups, then drank in 1/2 cup increments 3-4 times/day. The tincture is dosed at 1-2 dropperfuls (approximately 1-2 ml) 3x/day for healing acute injuries.
Gotu kola herb (Centella asiatica)
A plant that grows weed-like in parts of Indian and SE Asia, gotu kola is a useful herb for healing tissue, including skin, tendons and ligaments, as well as increasing venous circulation. One of gotu kola’s constituents, asiaticoside, seems to increase wound healing and scar reduction, so it is used for wound-healing topically and internally for healing of gastrointestinal wounds, such as ulcers. Gotu kola has also been shown to increase the synthesis of collagen, which leads to its use topically in skin care. Other effects, including its anti-inflammatory properties, seem to indicate an increase of connective tissue repair in general, so gotu kola is used to aid in healing of tendon, ligament, and muscle injuries and joint inflammation. It is also considered to be a “rasayana” herb, helping to restore health to the nervous system and helping to promote a feeling of well-being over time. At Herban Wellness, we include it in our Recover & Repair Tea for post-workout recovery, post-surgery recovery, and as an anti-inflammatory support. We also include it in our Balanced Energy and Mental Clarity Tea blends, as well as our Stress Drops and Mental Clarity Drops tincture blends, as it is used for increasing circulation to the brain and synergizes well with other herbs for helping with the stress response and for focus of the brain.