Six Herbs for Aches and Pains


By Valerie Lull

6 Popular Herbs to Help Alleviate Minor Aches and Pains  

By ACHS graduate Valerie Lull, MH, CHRM

I love the winter season. It brings up images of children playing in snow, the fresh aroma of evergreens, and warm family gatherings. But for me, winter has a downside. I begin having more minor aches and pains especially after exercise. There are a number of herbs that work quite well to bring relief. Here are my 6 favorite herbs that are useful for minor aches and pains:

  1. Ginger

Historically, ginger Zingiber officinale (Roscoe) has been used in China, Japan, and India for hundreds of years. It is said that ginger Z. officinale can support healthy joints and fluid levels. The parts of the plant that are used are the underground root and rhizome. They can be made into a tea, or used as a powder, an extract, in capsules, and as an oil. There is some scientific evidence that ginger Z. officinale can relieve inflammation and thereby contribute to pain relief.[1]

Dr. Krishna C. Srivastava, a researcher in the therapeutic uses of spices at Odense University in Denmark, has studied the efficacy of ginger Z. officinale as a mild pain reliever. Small amounts of ginger Z. officinale were given daily to arthritis patients for three months. The majority of patients had significant improvements in pain, swelling, and stiffness in the morning.[2]

Some folks mix ginger Z. officinale with cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Blume) for the soothing qualities. Personally, I like to take ginger as a tea. There’s something about the warmth of ginger tea that seems to help my minor aches and pains and cheers me up on a cold wintry day.

  1. Lavender

I have always thought of lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.) as a soothing botanical that helps promote calm and sleep. I was quite surprised when I learned that it can also soothe minor pain.

Essential oil of lavender L. angustifolia has been traditionally applied externally to soothe burns and minor aches and pains.[3] In my case, I had a scald on my thumb, and I immediately put lavender L. angustifolia essential oil on the area. The sting subsided immediately, and a day or two later I forgot it had even occurred!

In one study, it was shown that inhaling lavender essential oil for persistent headaches may be a safe and effective support. A statistically significant number of people reported positive results.[4]

Lavender has also been shown to manage pain after surgery. In women who underwent breast biopsy surgery, it appeared that they had better pain control with the use of lavender than women in the control group. [5] Lavender L. angustifolia essential oil can also be added to the bath to soothe minor aches and pains in muscles and joints.

  1. Peppermint

When I think of peppermint, I think of after dinner mints and candy canes. My grandmother used to give me peppermint tea for cramps associated with the menstrual cycle, but I never took peppermint Mentha ×piperita (L.) seriously for soothing relief until I started studying herbs. In my experience, it seems that peppermint M. ×piperita relaxes tense muscles, which helps to relieve the cramping.

Peppermint M. ×piperita can also potentially soothe teeth and other nerves. Applying diluted peppermint M. ×piperita essential oil to the skin appears to provide nervous system support during times of stress.[6]

For folks that need help relaxing muscles, it can be helpful to apply some diluted peppermint M. ×piperita essential oil to the temples and forehead. There was also a small study that suggests that this is an effective treatment.[7]

  1. Pine

I have always loved the smell of pine; it brings up memories of the real Christmas trees we would have over the holidays that filled the house with the smell of evergreens. I find the scent of pine exhilarating and refreshing.

Pine bark extract shows promising evidence of bringing relief from inflammation of osteoarthritis. One recent study found that patients treated with pycnogenol, a pine bark extract derived from French maritime pine, had significant improvement of mild to moderate osteoarthritis symptoms.[8]

  1. Marjoram

Marjoram Origanum majorana (L.) is commonly used as a culinary herb. However, there is some evidence that it can help to relieve minor aches and pains. Marjoram essential oil can help support healthy joint, muscle, and cartilage function.[9] It can also support a healthy digestive and nervous system. A tea made from the leaves or flowers can also be used to maintain nose, throat, and ear health.[10]

In scientific studies, marjoram oil has shown analgesic properties. There is a constituent in the oil that interferes with the prostaglandin that causes cramps associated with the menstrual cycle. There is also a component of marjoram that has anesthetic value.[11]

  1. Cinnamon

I usually associate cinnamon with the holidays and cinnamon rolls. I love chai tea with cinnamon C. zeylanicum, and I also put it in my oatmeal at breakfast.

One popular remedy for comfortable joints and muscles is to make a cup of tea using one teaspoon of cinnamon C. zeylanicum and 2 teaspoons of honey.[12] Another common use is to dilute 15 drops of cinnamon C. zeylanicum essential oil in 1 ounce of carrier oil for a soothing massage. The powdered bark of C. zeylanicum in water is traditionally used for headaches.[13]

While herbs are wonderful remedies, be sure to check with your health care professional before using any of these herbs and remedies. Herbs and essential oils can interact with medications that your physician may be prescribing for you. Therefore, it’s best to work with a Registered Herbalist (AHG) or a Registered Aromatherapist (ARC) as well as your trusted primary care physician, naturopath, or holistic health practitioner (HHP) when using herbs and essential oils for the relief or minor aches and pains on an ongoing basis.

Have you found success with any of these herbs? I’d love to know in the comments.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.

[1] Terry, R., Posadzki, P., Watson, L. and Ernst, E. (2011). The Use of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) for the Treatment of Pain: A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials. Pain Medicine, 12(12), pp.1808-1818.

[2] Srivastava, K. and Mustafa, T. (1989). Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and rheumatic disorders. Medical Hypotheses, 29(1), pp.25-28.

[3] EBSCO CAM Review Board. (2011). Lavender. Retrieved from NYU Langone Medical Center website:

[4] Sasannejad, P., Saeedi, M., Shoeibi, A., Gorji, A., Abbasi, M. and Foroughipour, M. (2012). Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Eur Neurol, 67(5), pp.288-291.

[5] Kim, J., Wajda, M., Cuff, G., Serota, D., Schlame, M., Axelrod, D., Guth, A. and Bekker, A. (2006). Evaluation of Aromatherapy in Treating Postoperative Pain: Pilot Study. Pain Practice, 6(4), pp.273-277.

[6] US National Library of Medicine, (2014). Peppermint: MedlinePlus Supplements. Available at: [Accessed 2 Dec. 2014].

[7] Göbel, H., Schmidt, G., Dorschak, M., Stolze, H. and Heuss, D. (1995). Essential plant oils and headache mechanisms. Phytomedicine, 2(2), pp.93-102.

[8] Cisár, P., Jány, R., Waczulíková, I., Sumegová, K., Muchová, J., Vojtaššák, J., Ďuraćková, Z., Lisý, M. and Rohdewald, P. (2008). Effect of pine bark extract (Pycnogenol®) on symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.Phytotherapy Research, 22(8), pp.1087-1092.

[9] Lis-Balchin, M., Hart, S., Deans, S. and Eaglesham, E. (1996). Comparison of the Pharmacological and Antimicrobial Action of Commercial Plant Essential Oils. Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants, 4(2), pp.69-86.

[10], (2014). Marjoram: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings – WebMD. Available at: [Accessed 2 Dec. 2014].

[11] Ou, M., Hsu, T., Lai, A., Lin, Y. and Lin, C. (2012). Pain relief assessment by aromatic essential oil massage on outpatients with primary dysmenorrhea: A randomized, double-blind clinical trial. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research, 38(5), pp.817-822.

[12] Graedon, T. (2011). Cinnamon and Honey Relieve Joint Pain. [Blog] Home Remedies. Available at:

[13] Aggarwal, B. and Kunnumakkara, A. (2009). Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Spices. Hackenseck, NJ: World Scientific Publishing, p.4.



Garlic Tea – A Different Way to Enjoy Tea


By Valerie Lull


Author Bio

Valerie B. Lull is a graduate of the herbalism program at the American College of Health Sciences. She has always had a passion for staying healthy, and for the health benefits of teas and the various ways they can be prepared. Her passion for tea started in childhood, when she experienced a traditional-style teatime with her Canadian relatives.

Surprising Facts About the Health Benefits of Garlic Tea

When I mention garlic tea, I usually get a response of surprise or even distaste. Garlic! Tea! Those things don’t go together! And I agree that at first glance, they don’t seem to be a natural pair, especially if your experiential vocabulary of tea centers on a china pot and a fancy cup, with sugar lumps and milk. But people who are interested in the health benefits of tea can gain a lot from expanding their definition of what tea is.

Of course, tea refers to the camellia sinensis bush, and the different leaves that are harvested from it. But in a broader sense, a tea can be thought of as a beverage created by infusing an herb, fruit, or vegetable in hot water. Herbal infusions have been an important part of natural health care for thousands of years. Hot water infusions release essential oils and compounds to create a suspension of beneficial properties that the body can easily absorb and digest. Garlic infusions – or garlic teas – can support your health in many ways. Garlic and green tea have both been studied extensively for their health benefits.

The medicinal uses of garlic can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who knew that garlic has antiseptic properties and improves the immune system. It is good for colds, flu, sinusitis, fungal infections, athlete’s foot, and atherosclerosis. It has been used for bronchitis, whooping cough, and asthma. Some suggest it as a treatment or preventive for cancer, because it is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals. It is also high in selenium, which enhances its cancer-fighting benefits.

Garlic is well-known for improving the circulatory system, and a lot of research has been done on the ways in which garlic can help to fight heart disease. It can lower cholesterol, and it can lower blood pressure by dilating (or expanding) blood vessels, which also helps to prevent blood clots.

The healing properties of garlic didn’t vanish with the ancient world. As recently as World Wars I and II, garlic was invaluable as an antibiotic when doctors in the field and at home ran out of drugs. The Russians used it extensively, earning it the nickname “Russian Penicillin.”

With all this, it’s easy to see that anyone can benefit from experimenting with garlic tea. One of the most enjoyable parts of exploring garlic tea is that, unlike traditional black or green teas, garlic infusions can be made specifically to your personal taste. There are all kinds of delicious combinations you can try: garlic with rosemary, garlic with lemon, garlic with ginger, garlic with pepper … just about anything you can think of! You can find lots of ideas if you put the enter  “garlic tea” into a search engine on the Internet.

Here is a recipe for a garlic broth that I use a lot in the winter. Even if you don’t have a cold, winter air is hard on your sinuses; it’s harsh and dry. This broth allows you to breathe more easily, while protecting you against cold and flu viruses.

In a cup, place 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon chicken bullion, and cayenne pepper to taste. Add hot water. Allow the mixture to site for a couple of minutes, for the infusion to fully steep and flavors to mix. Drink and enjoy!

Once you start drinking garlic tea, you’ll also want to take a few simple measures to protect against garlic breath! Apples, parsley, and green beans will make the garlic smell go away. Rubbing your hands on a stainless steel spoon will remove the scent from your skin after you’ve peeled and minced your garlic. Of course, you can buy your garlic already minced at the store if you prefer.

You can learn more about the benefits of all different types of tea in my book, Ten Healthy Teas, available at

Star Anise


Star Anise, Illicium verum

By Valerie Lull, MH

January is National Hot Tea Month so for the month of January my blogs will focus on hot teas. Star Anise is a spice that has been traditionally used in cooking but also appears to have health benefits. It comes from a plant that is an evergreen.  Don’t mix it up with true anise seed which is a completely different plant from the near east. The anise that I am writing about comes from southern China. There is another star anise that comes from Japan that is poisonous. Be sure you know what kind of anise you are using. Star anise gets its name from the star shape of the fruit. Star anise has a flavor that is similar to licorice.

Star anise is quite versatile. The oil is used for fragrance in soaps, perfumes, cosmetics and toothpaste.  The seed is quite popular as a culinary spice. According to folklore it is good for respiratory infections, cough, bronchitis and flu. Star anise is rich in shikimic acid. This is a precursor to oseltamivir which is used in making the preparation called Tamiflu.

Additional uses for star anise include benefits to the skin, hair and weight loss. Star anise contains antioxidants that protect your body from free radicals. Antioxidants slow down the aging process. Star anise is an anti-fungal that helps fight candida albicans. This spice is also antibacterial.

A tea can be made from the leaves or seeds of the star anise plant.

  • Heat water to boiling, then put 1-2 pods of Chinese Star Anise in the teapot for every cup of water.
  • Steep for 10-15 minutes
  • Strain and sweeten with sweetener of choice (honey is good if you have a cough)
  • It is recommended to take 3 cups a day after meals

Be sure to check out my website at

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

By Valerie Lull, MH

People who are familiar with the Christmas story recognize these items as the gifts of the Magi to the Christ Child. They were rare and valuable commodities in ancient times. They are more readily available today. Did you know that all three of these items have health benefits?

Gold has many uses in modern medicine. It is used in surgery  for damaged nerves, bones and blood vessels. It is used for treating several cancers, it is used to clear coronary arteries and it is used for arthritis treatment. Gold is used for regenerating sluggish organs, improving mental and emotional problems. It is reported to promote increased energy and libido.

Boswellia, which is what the ancients called Frankincense is used extensively in modern herbal medicine. It is a tree or shrub that produces a resin. This can be distilled into an essential oil that is antiseptic, disinfectant, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, tonic and a dozen other things. It is used in folk remedies for immune issues, oral health, astringent properties, female problems, digestion, anti-aging, as a tonic, a diuretic, and more.

Myrrh is also a resin that also comes from trees. Myrrh oil has been used for centuries by ancient cultures as well as modern ones. Myrrh resin and oil have been valued historically for its wound healing qualities. It is also valued for use on the skin, especially chapped skin. Myrrh oil is also used in perfumes and is used by  aromatherapists as a massage oil. It can be used as a mouthwash, and in creams and lotions.

As the holidays continue I want to wish everyone who reads my blog a  happy holiday season, and best wishes for the new year. May it be filled with joy, love, peace and happiness.

Be sure to check out my website at

Cinnamon for Holiday Health


By Valerie Lull

When the holidays come certain spices and herbs come to mind like peppermint, ginger and cinnamon. It makes me think of cinnamon buns, cinnamon breads, baked apples with cinnamon, cinnamon tea, coffee cake with cinnamon, apple pie with cinnamon, even cinnamon candy and chewing gum. Cinnamon seems to have unlimited uses in cooking and baking. For me cinnamon brings up visions of sitting by a fireplace all cozy with my cat and eating some delicious cinnamon treat.

There is an airline company called Cinnamon Air which will fly you to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is one of the places that cinnamon comes from. Cinnamon from Sri Lanka, c. verum is often called “true cinnamon”. It is a thin, smooth bark with a   yellow-brown color and a fragrant aroma. The other popular cinnamon is cassia. This comes from China and Indonesia, and is the one used most in the United States. It has a strong, spicy flavor and is good for baking. Chinese cinnamon is a light reddish-brown.

Besides being good on the taste buds, cinnamon has many health benefits. One of the best known benefits is that cinnamon can aid in managing  blood sugar. Additional health benefits include antioxidants that reduce damage from free radicals,  anti-inflammatory properties, managing cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, and helping prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s,  and cancer.

Some toothpaste contain cinnamon because it protects against microbes that cause bad breath, tooth decay and cavities. Cinnamon essential oil can be used like a natural mouthwash that kills bacteria. Cinnamon is used for flavoring chewing gums that help keep the breath fresh.

Here is a recipe for a cinnamon holiday tea.

6 cups water

1 tsp. whole cloves

1 (inch) piece cinnamon  stick

6 tea bags

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup sweetener

1/4 cup pineapple juice

2 Tbls. lemon juice

Pour water in a pot and add cloves and cinnamon stick. Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Add tea bags to water and set aside to steep until the tea is to your liking, at least 5 minutes. Remove and discard cloves and cinnamon stick and tea bags.

Stir orange juice, sugar, pineapple juice, and lemon juice together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook and stir until the sugar or sweetener dissolves. Pour juice mixture into the spiced tea and serve hot. Enjoy!


Simple Ways to Stay Healthy


5 Soothing Herbs for Peace and Calm

Posted by Valerie Lull  First published on blog for American College of Healthcare Sciences

Feeling overwhelmed lately? Perhaps you feel stressed out and frustrated. Stress is a natural side effect of life. Some stress is good for us; it can relieve boredom and keep us on our toes. But it can easily get out of control. Everyday life is filled with stressful situations, so it’s important to have tools that promote calm and peace.

Herbs and essential oils are exceptional when used to combat the little stresses of everyday life and promote peace and calm. So if your cat threw up, or the baby cried all night, or any of the hundred little frustrating things that happen during the day, there are a number of soothing essential oils and herbs for peace and calm.

  1. German ChamomileMatricaria recutita

Chamomile is very popular for its calming properties. It has been used for decades to help promote peace and relaxation. It can help you get a handle on a stressful situation.

German chamomile Matricaria recutita (L.) has a pleasant apple-like scent. It can be prepared as a delicious tea or taken in capsule form. One research study examined its calming effects on patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) with positive results, although it was concluded that more research studies are needed.[1] An old folk remedy recommends stuffing a pillow with chamomile.[2]

You’re sure to enjoy chamomile’s relaxing aroma. Chamomile M. recutita tea can be safely used for children and babies in small doses, but consult your pediatrician first.

  1. LemongrassCymbopogon citratus 

Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus (Stapf) is a fragrant herb that can be soothing on frayed nerves and has traditionally been used to promote calm. It has a lemony flavor that is used extensively in Asian cooking. The use of lemongrass in aromatherapy can encourage inner peace and relaxation.[3]

  1. PassionflowerPassiflora incarnata

Passionflower Passiflora incarnata (L.) is a beautiful botanical. The fruit is often used in cuisine, but the flower, leaves, and stem have mild soothing qualities on the body and mind. It is native to South America, and has traditionally been used to induce calm and take the edge off a stressful day. It is also fantastic to promote healthy sleep patterns.[4]

Passionflower P. incarnata tea is a wonderful way to prepare this herb and experience its soothing properties.

  1. St. John’s WortHypericum perforatum

St. John’s Wort Hypericum perforatum (L.) is one of the most popular botanicals used to promote an uplifted, healthy mood.[5] Since stress and mood go hand-in-hand, a healthy feeling of happiness can calm you down … naturally!

It has been said that St. John’s Wort “brings the stork,” but the Herb Research Foundation says these fears are unfounded, as this herb has been used in Europe for centuries with no report of unwanted pregnancies.

It is recommended to use St. John’s Wort H. perforatum extract three times per day standardized to .3% hypericin at 300 milligrams.

This herb can be taken as a tea, a tincture, a capsule, or in pill form. Do not use St. John’s Wort H. perforatum if you are taking antidepressants.[6] If you are using Indinavir—a component of antiretroviral therapy to treat HIV—do not use St. John’s Wort as it is also contraindicated.

  1. Green teaCamellia sinensis

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention green tea Camellia sinensis (L.). Popular in many health and wellness circles, green tea is traditionally used for its soothing effects. Green tea contains L-theanine, which has been studied for its potential calming properties.[7]

Feeling strung out? Have a break and take a few minutes for yourself, relax, and sip the warm tea. Those few minutes may be all it takes to help re-focus and revive.

Some herbs interact with prescription drugs, so be sure to discuss any herbal preparations you use with your healthcare provider or registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild (AHG). Be especially careful if you are pregnant or nursing.

What are your “go-to” herbs for peace and calm? Tell me your favorites in the comments.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a graduate of American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

[1] Amsterdam JD, Yimei L, Soeller I, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2009;29(4):378-382.

[2] Howe, M. Chamomile: Shelter from the storm. Webmd. Retrieved from

[3] Blanco MM, Costa CA, Freire AO, Santos JG, Jr, Costa M. Neurobehavioral effect of essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus in mice. Phytomedicine. 2009;16(2–3):265–270. Retrieved from

[4] Passionflower. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from

[5] Archer, D. St. John’s Wort and Depression. Is St. John’s Wort a safe, effective alternative to medication for depression? 2013. Retrieved from

[6] Possible Interactions with: St. John’s Wort. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from

[7] Heese T, Jenkinson J, Love C, et al. Anxiolytic effects of L-theanine—a component of green tea-when combined with midazolam, in the male Sprague-Dawley rat. AANA Journal. 2009;77(6):445–449. Retrieved from

Topics: herbsstress