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Chronic illnesses tend to wreak havoc with family finances. Between the cost of treatment, and the reduction in the ability to work; having an illness like fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, myalgic encephalitis (chronic fatigue syndrome,) lupus, migraines, or any of the thousands of others out there can destroy a family’s financial security and severely limit the ability to provide traditional healthcare.
My illnesses have put me in the position of not being able to afford the several hundred dollars a month I was spending on medications with my insurance (and with the insurance we have now, the more than $1000 a month they would cost would take pretty much our entire income,) so I’ve had to find other options.
It’s been an interesting journey, and there have been times when I’ve seriously considered just killing myself and getting it over with (mostly during the forced withdrawal from the psychiatric meds I used to be on for my bipolar disorder.) I’ve reached a point now where I’ve found enough other options to manage fairly well, and I’m actually happier without the prescriptions than I was with them. (Even if I hit the lottery tomorrow, I wouldn’t go back to taking all the stuff I used to be on.)
It’s more work than just popping a handful of pills several times a day, but using herbs and aromatherapy to treat my symptoms is also very satisfying. I have much more control of what I’m putting into my body, I’m supporting the natural processes my body uses to heal itself rather than subverting them, and I’m not dealing with multiple side-effects that have to be treated with yet another expensive medication that comes with its own set of side-effects.
Natural treatments do take longer to “kick-in,” and I sometimes deal with slightly higher pain levels than I would if I could just take a heavy-duty pain-killer, but I don’t have to worry about becoming dependent on most of the herbal treatments I use, either. (Which also means that I don’t have to worry about withdrawal symptoms if I switch things around or run out of something.)
There are several herbs that I make certain I always have on hand, and as I promised in part 1, those are the ones I’m going to focus on in this post.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and nothing I say in this post is intended as medical advice. If you find the idea of using herbs in your treatment plan intriguing, be sure to do the research and discuss any changes or additions with your healthcare provider to ensure your safety.
Skullcap: I use this one for pain reduction (it has actually helped more with my sprained shoulder than the Lortabs the doctor prescribed,) stress reduction, and help sleeping. I try to get it online, from Mountain Rose Herbs, because it’s half the price that I pay at the organic grocery down the street. ($15 a pound, as opposed to $30; so even after I pay for shipping, I save money.)
It works well for headaches (especially tension headaches,) and muscle pain; and in combination with other anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger and turmeric, it also helps with my arthritis/fibromyalgia pain. It helps with stress reduction, nervous tension, anxiety and irritability; as well as with insomnia (for more serious difficulty sleeping, I combine it with hops; and so far the two together have never failed to help me fall asleep.) I normally take 3 capsules (about 1.5 g.) two to three times a day. (All the places I’ve seen recommended dosages, it’s been 1 to 2 grams up to three times a day.)
Skullcap is a sedative and anti-spasmodic, and also reduces blood pressure; so it should never be combined with prescription blood pressure medications, pain medications, blood thinners, or muscle relaxants. I only prepare this one as size 0 capsules (a size 0 capsule averages about a half a gram of herb,) since I don’t care for the flavor in tea.
DANGER: Do NOT take skullcap if you’re pregnant, as it can cause miscarriage.
Ginger: I LOVE my ginger. The fresh root can be found at most grocery stores; and dried, powdered ginger is also easily found. I prefer to purchase organic ginger from Mountain Rose Herbs or my local organic grocery, simply because it tends to be fresher than the dried ginger found in the spice aisle at a regular grocery store, but any of it will work.
Ginger is the most versatile herb I use, and I use it in LOTS of different ways. I take it in capsules (three size 0 capsules, twice a day) on a regular basis to reduce pain and inflammation. I also add it to recipes; drink it as a hot tea, alone or in combination with other herbs; cool ginger tea and mix it with club soda for a refreshing cold drink; or eat it pickled or crystallized (candied).
Ginger is used to treat nausea from most causes, rheumatoid arthritis, loss of appetite, upper respiratory infections and bronchitis, and as a pain reliever (it has been approved by Germany’s Commission E for several of these conditions.) I’ve also found it helpful with migraines. Although it doesn’t stop them, it does help me cope by reducing the pain and nausea.
CAUTION: The dosage information I’ve found on ginger suggests 1 to 4 g. per day, and I try to stick pretty close to that, since it does have some side-effects. Ginger can cause heartburn, and it also affects blood sugar and blood pressure. In addition, it acts as a blood thinner, and should NEVER be taken with prescription anticoagulant medications, aspirin, or prescription or anti-inflammatory medications. It can also reduce the effectiveness of antacid type medications and prescriptions used to treat GERD; and increase the effect of diabetes drugs and blood pressure medications. Do NOT use ginger in therapeutic doses (more than you would use in a recipe or a cup of tea) without CAREFULLY checking for interactions with any medications or other herbs and supplements you take. In addition, you should discontinue use before any planned surgery or dental work that may cause bleeding, and inform medical personnel about ALL herbs and supplements you take (in addition to your medications) if there is an emergency that requires such treatment.
Since this post is running long, I’ll continue with more of the herbs I use in another follow-up post later. Stay tuned for part 3.
- Fish Oil, Ginger, and Turmeric for Rheumatoid Arthritis? (everydayhealth.com)
- Alternative Options: Easing Fibromyalgia With Herbs and Supplements (everydayhealth.com)
- Rx: Ginger Snaps (hibernationnow.wordpress.com)