Herbal Therapy & the Musculo-Skeletal System

This chapter will explore the phytotherapeutic approach to a sample range
of conditions that effect muscles, bones and their associated structures.
It is important to remember and apply the selection criteria model used
throughout this course. This makes it a straightforward procedure to develop
an individualized prescription for a patient with any of the vast range
of named pathologies that can manifest in the musculo-skeletal system. To
recap, the model is based upon these stages:

  • Herbal actions: The core of the model is applying an understanding
    of herbal actions to human physiology. Obviously selection of actions that
    are suitable for a specific person will depend on accurate diagnosis. Using
    the information given in this course, the following stages are worked through:

    1. Through some diagnostic procedure identify what physiological process
      to address and in what way.

    2. Select what actions are appropriate to achieve stage 1.

    3. Select relevant herbs based on their range of primary and secondary
      actions, thus ensuring the `best fit’.

  • System affinity (System Tonics): The phytotherapist can take
    advantage of the fact that some herbs show an affinity for certain organs,
    body systems or even specific types of tissue. They work as tonics or nutrients
    for the areas involved. Such herbs can be used freely and safely without
    thinking of them as `medicines’. They are at their best when used to nurture
    health and vitality, so preventing health problems arising. During illness
    the system affinity herbs will enhance the general health of the organ or
    system concerned when combined with remedies selected for their specific
    actions. They are especially useful where a tendency towards illness is
    recognized but no overt disease is present. This way opens the possibility
    of overcoming a weakness that could lead to disease later in life.

  • Specific Remedies for the illness: The wealth of herbal knowledge
    that has been garnered over many generations is rich in plants that are
    traditionally considered to be specific in the treatment of certain diseases
    or symptoms. Whilst holistic healing aims at going beyond symptomatic therapy,
    this knowledge deserves great respect. Knowledge of specific remedies that
    may heal their illness can add much to a prescription based on appropriate
    actions and system support.

  • Herbal biochemistry: Increasing attention is being given to
    the biochemistry of herbal active constituents. This has led to the development
    of many lifesaving drugs, but is very limited as an approach to using whole
    plants. In the hands of an experienced Phytotherapist, knowledge of plant
    pharmacology can add to the healing possibilities, but not as much
    as is often thought.

  • Intuition: A vital part of all healing, this obviously cannot
    be explored in a correspondence format. There is a flowering of intuitive
    rapport between Herbalist and their plants. Intuition has a special role
    to play in healing, and the unique relationship between plant and person
    augments it well. It is rarely possible to set things up so that such insightful
    intuition always flows, but should be embraced when it does. Intuitive knowledge
    should always be checked if at all possible. For example, if a practitioner
    is not clear on the difference between Bearberry, Barberry and Bilberry
    it might lead to unfortunate misunderstanding!

In most cases, successful herbal treatment of musculo/skeletal pathology
is based upon support for the whole body. Systemic factors are often the
foundation for the degenerative conditions that underlie such health problems.
Thus the truly healing anti-rheumatics can usually be identified
as primarily alteratives, diuretics or some other systemically
beneficial action. The anti-inflammatory based ones simply reduce
the symptom picture, and as desirable as this is, it does not usually indicate
a beneficial change in the disease process. An exception to this last point
would be where an active inflammation is worsening the pathological changes
to bone tissue.

Primary actions for the Musculo/Skeletal System.

There are a number of actions that are especially helpful in this system.
They are listed below with important plant examples given in English. The
section on anti-rheumatics is repeated to refresh memories!

Anti-Rheumatics: See below

Anti-Inflammatories: Angelica archangelica, Betula spp.,
Cimicifuga racemosa, Salix spp., Caulophyllum thalictroides,
Menyanthes trifoliata, Apium graveolens, Harpagophytum
, Tanacetum chrysanthemum, Guaiacum officinale,
Filipendula ulmaria, Populus tremuloides, Dioscorea villosa,
Gaultheria procumbens

Alteratives: Cimicifuga racemosa, Iris versicolor,
Menyanthes trifoliata, Arctium lappa, Guaiacum officinale,
Berberis aquifolium, Smilax spp., Rumex crispus

Anti-Spasmodic: Valeriana officinalis, Cimicifuga racemosa,
Viburnum opulus

Circulatory Stimulants: Capsicum minimum, Zingiber
, Zanthoxylum americanum

Rubefacients: Capsicum minimum, Zanthoxylum americanum,
Brassica spp., Mentha piperita, Horseradish, Urtica dioica

Analgesic: Valeriana officinalis, Piscidia erythrina,
Salix spp., Filipendula ulmaria and Anti-Inflammatories

Diuretics: Eupatorium perfoliatum, Apium graveolens, Achillea

Nervines: Valeriana officinalis, Apium graveolens,
Piscidia erythrina and as indicated for each individual

Other Actions: as needed to ensure good elimination and general health,
e.g. bitters, hepatics, expectorants, & emmenagogues

Herbal Treatment for Specific Musculo-Skeletal Disorders

  • ‘Anti-Rheumatics’

  • Inflammation and Arthritis

  • Rheumatism- Myalgia

  • Osteo-Arthritis

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Use of Herbs in Treating Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

  • Gout

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    Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

    Explore Wellness in 2021