Natural Foods Merchandiser

Alternative First Aid Keeps Athletic Customers Off the Bench

For both professional athletes and weekend warriors, treating sports injuries naturally can be the key to peak performance. Not only can homeopathics, herbs and supplements reduce swelling, alleviate pain and promote healing, they do so without the side effects that often accompany allopathic treatments. Whereas conventional approaches aim to suppress symptoms with painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants, natural remedies stimulate the body to heal itself. What's more, a homeopathic sports first-aid kit stocked with natural remedies is an inexpensive way for your customers to get back in the game quickly and safely.

Prevention In A Bottle
"Besides getting proper nutrition, plenty of water and lots of sleep, I recommend preventing and treating injuries through the use of herbs and supplements," says Jason Barker, N.D., a Portland, Ore.-based naturopath specializing in sports medicine. Certain nutrients affect the integrity of bones, muscles and tendons. "For example, most people have heard that glucosamine and MSM will help regenerate tissue and cartilage, but few realize that common vitamin C is also a key player in the formation of the collagen that forms tendons and ligaments."

Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E also may help prevent sports injuries by reducing the muscle damage caused by free radicals. Other nutrients work on muscles and tendons, too. For instance, 250 mg of magnesium daily is one of the best ways to ward off muscle cramps, and proteolytic enzyme supplements effectively ease the inflammation and pain caused by strains and sprains. "Bromelain and papain supplements taken between meals are great for speeding up the healing process," Barker says. "Eating some fresh pineapple or papaya right after an injury is not a bad idea either, since they are loaded with these powerful enzymes."

Similarly, plants contain powerful healing compounds that can treat various sports injuries. Calendula ointment is a must for soothing scrapes and abrasions, tea tree oil works wonders on athlete's foot and arnica gel alleviates sore muscles and bruises. "Arnica is a capillary protector," says Ronald Boyer, M.D., homeopathic doctor and medical director of the Boiron Institute based in Newtown Square, Penn. "When you do a lot of sports, it is common to have a bit of bleeding in the muscles. Arnica will help prevent that."

Healing With Homeopathy
Unlike herbal preparations, which use an entire plant or plant compound to elicit pharmacological effects, homeopathic remedies use micro amounts of plant, animal or mineral substances to prompt specific bodily reactions. The idea behind homeopathy is simple: A substance that produces symptoms in a healthy person can cure those same symptoms in a sick or injured person if taken in miniscule doses. For instance, sore muscles caused by lactic acid buildup can be treated using the homeopathic remedy Sarcolactic acid.

"Homeopathics are regularly prescribed in Europe to treat sports injuries," says Fabienne Boiron, the company's public relations director. "Elite athletes, including the World Cup-winning French soccer team, rely on these remedies to perform at their peak level."

Without a doubt, Arnica montana is the single best-selling homeopathic remedy, and the most versatile for treating sports injuries. "You can use arnica to treat everything from a bruise to a break because it eases inflammation, pain and bruising," Boiron says. To reap the best results, Boyer recommends taking internal arnica immediately after sustaining an injury. Five pellets of the 12C or 30C potency is standard, and depending on the severity of the injury, this dose should be repeated every 15 or 30 minutes for four hours.

Arnica can also be used topically in ointment or gel form. "Massage the ointment into sore muscles and use the gel to heal bruises," Boiron says. "But never use arnica on an open wound," she says. "For cuts, scrapes and abrasions, try using a soothing calendula gel or ointment instead.

Homeopathic remedies may be great for treating minor wounds, but what about more serious sports injuries? "You can really speed up the healing of broken bones or fractures by taking Calcarea phosphorica and Symphytum officinale," Boyer says. Five pellets of each in a 12C concentration taken in the morning and evening will lessen pain and greatly encourage bone regeneration. Joints can benefit from homeopathics as well. Two remedies, Rhus toxicodendron and Ruta graveolens have long been used to help mend injured and stiff tendons and ligaments. "Unlike conventional treatments that simply mask symptoms, homeopathic remedies encourage the body's own healing abilities, drastically shortening recovery time," Boiron says.

So the next time a customer is looking for a remedy to help heal a pulled muscle, aching joints or even a black eye, steer them toward these herbs, supplements and homeopathics. Your customer will be back in action in no time.

Linda Knittel is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 7/p. 32, 34

Stocking a Homeopathic Medicine Chest

In addition to slathering on sunscreen and drinking plenty of water, maintaining a natural sports first-aid kit is a must for any well-prepared athlete. Here is a list of must-have remedies and their uses:



Arnica montana tablets (12C or 30C)

shock, tissue damage, bruising, soreness

Arnica montana ointment/gel

sore muscles, bruises

Calcarea phosphorica (12C)

bone fractures

Calendula officinalis gel

cuts, scrapes, abrasions, sunburn

Ledum palustre (12C)

black eye

Rhus toxicodendron (12C)

strains, sprains, stiff or painful joints

Ruta graveolens (12C)

strains, sprains, stiff or painful joints

Symphytum officinale (12C)

pain from bone fractures

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 7/p. 34

Consumer Homeopathy Dosage Checklist

Unlike many conventional medicines, homeopathic preparations are used only until an improvement in symptoms suggests healing has begun. This may range from a single dose to weeks of treatment depending on the condition.

In homeopathy, the more diluted the tincture the stronger it is, therefore C strength (diluted to one part in 100) is stronger than X strength (diluted to one part in 10) and the higher the dosage number, the weaker the formula.

For conditions where self-treatment is appropriate, share these guidelines:

  • Choose lower potency preparations, such as 6C or12C.

  • Follow label instructions.

  • Do not touch homeopathic pellets; pour into cap and then into mouth.

  • Allow pellets to dissolve completely under the tongue.

  • Take one dose and wait for a response. If improvement lags, repeat dose as necessary.

  • For chronic or serious conditions, seek the advice of a professional.

  • Store homeopathic remedies in a dry dark place.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 7/p. 34

True Sports Supplements

Keeping the body strong is the best way to prevent injury. The supplements doses listed below are general guidelines. Advise customers to consult a health care provider for a personalized regimen.

  • A high-quality multivitamin/mineral supplement (follow label instructions)
  • Glucosamine and MSM—1500 mg (500 mg three times daily)
  • Vitamin C (1­2 g per day)
  • Vitamin E (400 IU per day)
  • Proteolytic enzymes (follow label instructions).

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 7/p. 34

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