Over the past couple years I’ve done a lot of traveling and teaching. One thing I can count on at every conference is a line of folks asking for a bit of advice. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the job. I often hear the same questions city after city. These questions give me ideas for new articles, they sometimes get me dreaming about a new book idea, and they always tell me what people really want to hear.
Many times I have a quick answer, but sometimes I promise to go back and do some research. Last year I started to get questions about joint mobility. This is a different issue than arthritis, although I hear that one a lot as well. I still owe the woman who asked me about her stiff ankle, so I thought this week I’d finally get an answer out for her!
Joint stiffness can be caused by a number of issues. Age springs to mind. I have been known to have a bit of trouble getting my legs and back going after sitting too long and I’m merely “middle-aged.”
Joint Stiffness and Scar Tissue
In the case of the woman who originally asked the question, the stiffness was the result of joint surgery. She had recovered nicely, but the joint in her ankle had tightened up. This was most likely due to both inactivity during injury and the subsequent recovery, as well as the development of scar tissue.
In the case of scar tissue I tend to go to an old stand-by. Castor oil can be purchased in just about any drug store (you can find it online here). A warm castor oil pack can help to dissolve scar tissue that binds up a joint and restricts movement. Warm the castor oil to just above body temperature in the oven and dip an old cloth in. The cloth can be applied and left in place for at least half an hour daily until there is a change in symptoms.
Herbs for Joint Stiffness
There are three very good choices when mobility has been compromised in a joint that has become too tight.
Elder (Sambucus canadensis)
This native shrub in my area is a wonder of versatility. We tend to know about the berries, but the flower, bark, and leaves can all be used as well. For sore joints it is the leaves that are the most helpful.
You may dry the leaves and use them moistened and applied under a cloth or you may apply the fresh and crumpled leaves directly to the area. Once or twice a day until your symptoms diminish is fine.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
A topical application of the soft, furry leaves of mullein can relieve tightness in just about any joint, though I tend to hear most about its use on the back.
Lobelia (Lobelia inflata)
This herb is a threatened medicinal species (per United Plant Savers) so be sure that you are sourcing your lobelia responsibly. I love lobelia internally for hiccoughs, but externally it can be infused into an oil or a liniment and then applied to the stiff or tight joints in your body that are giving you trouble.
Moving to Reduce Stiff Joints
Along with any natural product that you may choose to unfreeze those uncooperative joints, you must move. Using the area will begin to bring back mobility and encourage blood flow through the area surrounding your joint. Moving your body should never be overlooked as part of an herbal therapy, but it is especially important in this case.
Have you ever used natural solutions for frozen joints? If so, what has worked for you? Share in the comments section!