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Sore, Bruised or Blistered?

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If anything will motivate you to get off your butt and maybe risk a sore muscle or two, this is it: The US Surgeon General says that a totally sedentary lifestyle has the same effect on health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day

If anything will motivate you to get off your butt and maybe risk a sore muscle or two, this is it: The US Surgeon General says that a totally sedentary lifestyle has the same effect on health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Sobering, isn't it?

So this is it the month you finally establish new routines. Join a team, walk to work or school, take up hiking or just get outside. The natural environment is the ideal setting to reduce your risk of virtually every disease and add years to your life.

Injury prevention

Of course, it's always best if you can avoid being hurt in the first place, but natural prevention is available in the form of magnesium. This mineral helps muscles stay flexible and toned. Whole grains, potatoes, vegetables and nuts are good sources of magnesium. Also, avoid caffeine (coffee and cola drinks) and refined sugars (processed foods, boxed cereal, white breads and pastas) that rob your body of magnesium.

Proteolytic enzymes bromelain, papain and betaine taken daily the week before a competition or heavy workout may reduce your chance of getting hurt. It may also speed the healing time if you are injured. In the case of sprains, take these enzymes as directed on an empty stomach to reduce the pain and swelling.

Vitamin C supports healthy tendons, protecting them from injury. Vitamin E prevents muscle damage during exercise whether taken orally or applied topically. Better still, bolster the body's natural defences against injury with the prevention cocktail: vitamins C and E combined with the minerals selenium and zinc. High-vitamin C foods include citrus fruits, berries and cantaloupe; vitamin E, selenium and zinc are plentiful in nuts, seeds and wheat germ.

Maintaining high levels of potassium in your diet will help prevent muscle cramps from overexertion, so eat plenty of bananas and apricots.

Sore or Strained Muscles

Never overdo any outdoor activity. But in case you do end up with a sore or strained muscle or two, have a few of these side-effect-free natural remedies handy.

Curcumin is the pigment found in the spice turmeric, and it is an effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Studies have shown that curcumin is as effective as prednisone (synthetic cortisone) and phenylbutazone but without the serious side-effects of these anti-inflammatory drugs. (John Winterdyk, PhD, and Karen Jensen, ND) In their book The Complete Athlete: Integrating Fitness, Nutrition and Natural Health (alive Books, 1997), recommend taking 400 to 600 milligrams three times daily.

For overworked muscles, tendinitis, inflammation and bruises, arnica (mountain daisy) is extremely effective. Apply the ointment to sore areas and also take the herb internally as directed by an experienced herbalist until severe swelling subsides.

Valerian is a natural antispasmodic that relieves pain and muscle spasms. To boost its effectiveness, combine it with magnesium and calcium. Take valerian orally (at least 500 mg daily) or in a tea or tincture as needed.

Also, to relieve pain in muscle tissues, add a teaspoon of ash leaves in a cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes, strain and sip slowly.

Essential oils can help relax tense muscles and improve circulation. Gently massage a mixture of five parts St. John's wort oil and one part each of arnica, rosemary and eucalyptus oils into sore and overworked muscles.

Lavender oil is an effective analgesic. Massage it in for muscle aches, cramps and sprains. Dab on this essential oil as well to take the pain out of skin wounds such as burns, bites, stings and itching.

Used topically, peppermint oil can be both relaxing and stimulating by increasing the blood flow to the area of application. It also acts as an analgesic and counter-irritant.

Are your joints as sore as your muscles? Wintergreen oil is an anti-rheumatic and analgesic. Use it externally for swelling and joint and muscle stiffness, as well as for rheumatism and arthritis.

Willow bark is the original Aspirin. Containing salicin, it is practically the same compound as Aspirin. Use as directed to reduce the pain of inflammation and minor injuries.

Sprains or Torn Ligaments

While severe sprains and torn ligaments need the attention of a health-care practitioner, natural remedies can speed recovery.

Flavonoids are available as citrus, grape seed or pine bark extracts. They reduce inflammation and strengthen collagen, the primary protein in tendons and other connective tissue. Studies found that supplementing with citrus flavonoids helped people recover from a sports injury in half the time as those who took a placebo.

One mineral supplement speeds the repair of torn ligaments. It's known as manganese sulphate and works best if taken hourly with vitamin C.

To relieve sprains, bruises and overexerted muscles, boil one teaspoon of dried rosemary leaves in one cup of water for five minutes and steep for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the mixture to your bath water, soaking the injured area for 15 minutes.

Bruises

In one study, bruised boxers who took the enzyme bromelain healed twice as fast as boxers who didn't. Bromelain also reduces inflammation and prevents swelling after injury. Take 500 mg three times daily between meals.

Do you bruise easily? You may need more vitamin C to strengthen your capillaries.

Scrapes and Cuts

Witch hazel helps stop bleeding when applied externally. It encourages natural healing and its astringent properties also disinfect minor cuts.

Comfrey encourages skin to heal quickly. Apply a comfrey leaf ointment to your cut, but do not use on puncture wounds because the skin may heal faster than the tissue below.

Calendula (marigold) not only reduces inflammation, but also hastens healing. Use calendula ointment on the cleaned cut. Or, boil calendula flowers in a small amount of water, let cool, then soak a cotton ball in the solution and hold it on the wound.

Blisters

Tea tree's natural antibacterial and antifungal properties make it an ideal choice for blisters on the feet. Dab tea tree oil on the blistered areas to disinfect and speed healing.

St. John's wort used topically cleanses and heals broken blisters. Apply the oil extract of this herb or the homeopathic solution Hypericum to the affected area. It also helps with burns and lacerations.

So get outside. Do it now. And don't worry: You've got the above list of healing remedies for later.

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