Natural solutions to help with sore muscles, sore joints, and stiff joints–and you can make them at home!
Winter often makes joints stiff and sore. The lingering cold damp nights in the spring can make them feel worse. While a warm bath or compress can help to ease the stiffness and pain, many people long for something more long lasting.
Herbs/Spices for Sore Muscles and Joints
For any pain and stiffness that is under the skin, you need to approach it a bit differently that you would, say, hand cream. Hand cream is made to sit on the surface or work its way into the top layer of skin. For a warming balm, you need to get the active ingredients below the skin and the into the muscle or joint. The following herbs and spices work well for this:
- Sweet Birch – The diluted essential oil is used for warming and healing stiff joints. It is one of the chief ingredients in liniments used for athletes and horses. You can also use wintergreen essential oil, as both of them contain methyl salicylates, a mild pain reliever. Birch twigs are used in saunas to help loosen up muscles.
- Cayenne – Cayenne is a stimulant that can be used to help loosen up sore muscles and keep them moving. It is also anti-inflammatory and has a lot of antioxidants.
- Ginger – Ginger is warming and can also help loosen stiff joints.
- Cinnamon – This works much in the same way as ginger.
- Willow Bark – Particularly white willow, this also contains mild pain relievers.
- Olive Oil – This oil can be used as a carrier oil or it can be used alone. It is another ingredient that contains antioxidants.
- Magnesium – A muscle relaxant that can help relieve pain brought on by tension.
- Menthol – This helps reduce inflammation.
- Black Pepper – It can also help improve circulation.
- Peppermint Essential Oil – Can be used for a cooling, soothing effect.
- Arnica – Can help to relieve bruising and soreness. Just be sure not to use on broken skin.
- Nettles – This plant contains a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Homemade Balm for Sore and Stiff Muscles and Joints
NOTE: For this recipe, you’ll need infused oils. Infusing is easy, it just takes some time. (If you don’t have the time to infuse oil, see the “Variations” section below to see how essential oils can be used.)
Supplies & Ingredients
- time and a sunny windowsill
- pint jar with lid
- 1 cup dried herbs or spices – use any of the above in any combination (find most of the above herbs and spices here)
- I generally use about 1 tablespoon of each of the dry ingredients, except menthol, which can be quite potent. For that, I use just a few crystals.
- 1 cup of liquid oil – olive, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower, etc. (find high quality carrier oils here)
- beeswax pellets, or any other type of wax you have available (find beeswax pellets and other waxes here)
To Make the Infused Oil
- Place your dried herbs in the jar. (Only use dried as the moisture in fresh herbs can cause oils to go bad.) Cover with the oil. Secure the lid and shake a few times.
- Place in a sunny location, such as a window, and leave for a few weeks. Shake daily.
- After 2-3 weeks you’ll see that your oil has turned very dark. This is when you want to strain it. I use a funnel and a coffee filter. You’ll need to let it sit for an hour, maybe longer, to get all of the oil to run through the filter. Then it’s time to put together your balm.
Making the Balm
- Melt equal parts wax and infused oil together in a double boiler. (So if you have ¼ cup oil infusion, use ¼ cup of wax.) When the wax is completely melted in the oil, stir well to be sure it’s mixed thoroughly.
- Pour into a shallow jar – one you can easily get your fingers into. Clean baby food jars are perfect for this, and depending on how much balm you made, you may need a few jars.
- Let it sit and harden over a few hours. When it’s cool, test to see if you can get it onto your fingers easily. If it doesn’t melt as you touch it, you can melt it down again in a pan of warm water and then add some more oil. This recipe is very forgiving in that you can melt it down a number of times if needed to get the right consistency. It should be firm, but it should melt readily once you put your fingers into it. If it is too soft, you can melt it down and add more wax.
Using Your Balm for Stiff Joints
Dip your fingers into the balm and spread on elbows, knees, or knuckles – anywhere you have stiff joints. Be sure to wash your hands after using. Remember it has cayenne and other spices that you don’t want in your eyes, nose, or other unmentionable places! It can burn more sensitive areas.
Variations and Other Beneficial Ingredients
You can use essential oils instead of making your own infused oil. Just melt wax and a plain carrier oil together, then add several drops of essential oil when the wax/oil mixture is melted and cooled a bit. Some good choices would be peppermint, ginger, black pepper, sweet birch, or wintergreen. You’ll want to use a combination of warm and cool oils. Note: Do not use any of these essential oils undiluted on your skin. (Find all these essential oils here.)
To help get the balm deep into your joints you can add some emu oil to the mix. Emu oil is a transdermal oil, going deep under the skin to help transport healing oils to where they are needed. (Find pure emu oil here.) If you don’t want to use emu oil, you can use a warm wet towel. Rub some of the balm into the affected areas and then cover with a warm damp towel. Leave on until cool and repeat the process.
Have you used a unique external remedy for stiff joints? Tell us about it!