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:
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.  Lavender L. angustifolia can also be added to the bath to soothe minor aches and pains in muscles and joints.
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.
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.
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.
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. It can also support a healthy digestive and nervous system. A tea made from the leaves or flowers can be used to maintain nose, throat, and ear health.
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.
I usually associate cinnamon with the holidays and cinnamon rolls. I love chai tea with cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Blume), 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. 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.
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.
 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.
 Srivastava, K. and Mustafa, T. (1989). Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and rheumatic disorders. Medical Hypotheses, 29(1), pp.25-28.
 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.
 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.
 US National Library of Medicine, (2014). Peppermint: MedlinePlus Supplements. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/705.html [Accessed 2 Dec. 2014].
 Göbel, H., Schmidt, G., Dorschak, M., Stolze, H. and Heuss, D. (1995). Essential plant oils and headache mechanisms. Phytomedicine, 2(2), pp.93-102.
 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.
 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.
 Webmd.com, (2014). Marjoram: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings – WebMD. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-563-marjoram.aspx?activeingredientid=563&activeingredientname=marjoram [Accessed 2 Dec. 2014].
 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.
 Graedon, T. (2011). Cinnamon and Honey Relieve Joint Pain. [Blog] Home Remedies. Available at: http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2011/06/20/cinnamon-and-honey-relieve-joint-pain/
 Aggarwal, B. and Kunnumakkara, A. (2009). Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Spices. Hackenseck, NJ: World Scientific Publishing, p.4.