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A common yard plant is better than Ibuprofen for pain

Dean Campbell

OLD WAYS of the Dark Corner

It’s funny how good doctors disagree about taking Ibuprofen for pain. Two of mine have strongly suggested that I never use it again.

Ibuprofen and other over the counter pharmaceutical drugs that are classified as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been considered by many to be safe for many years.

There is no absolute safe level of drug use, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, an Australian not-for-profit organization engaged in preventative health. The use of any pharmaceutical drug always carries some risk and can produce unwanted side effects.

NSAIDs block natural body chemicals that normally dilate blood vessels leading to the kidneys. Blocking these prostaglandins may lead to a decreased blood flow to these sensitive organs. This can limit enough oxygen to keep the kidneys alive and result in acute injury to them.

A drug is a drug, and Ibuprofen should always be taken in the proper dosage and for the specified length of time to prevent undesired side effects.

Even under these stringent requirements, it can cause a worsening of existing high blood pressure or the development of new hypertension. In addition to causing damage to the kidneys, it can worsen heart failure in older patients, and even heart attack or stroke.

Acetaminophen is preferred by some doctors and patients for pain but it addresses only pain and fever, whereas Ibuprofen addresses inflammation as well. (Acetaminophen is sold as Tylenol; Ibuprofen as Advil or Motrin brands.)

There is a third choice for relieving pain and calming inflammation. It’s a common weed growing along roadways and walkways across this entire country. It was considered so valuable by the earliest settlers that they carried a dried piece of it in their pockets at all times.

It is a dandelion-like plant that produces a large, deep-growing taproot that brings pain relief and healing in many other regards.

It’s called chicory.

The main plant stays close to the ground while a hairy flower stalk, branched with a few small leaves, can grow from 2 to 5 feet tall from the center of the plant. The flowers are attached singly or in groups of two or three in the crook between the branches and stem leaves and are usually blue, but sometimes pink or white.

They appear in midsummer and grow in a head that is 1-1/2 inches wide and has 16 to 20 ray flowers. They open in the early morning and close in late morning or early afternoon. On cloudy days, they stay open longer.

The large taproot has several properties that help to relieve pain. As an anti-inflammatory, it relieves pain of inflammatory conditions in soft tissue, muscle and joints, especially back pain, neck pain caused by stress and tension, and arthritis pain.

It is also antibacterial and has an underlying sedative effect, which gives an extra boost to preventing and relieving the pain caused by pressure and infection. This also helps the body to relax, lessening tension and stress related pains.

To harvest the taproot, allow the plant to mature into the second year, then pull the entire plant up from the roots. Since the taproot grows so deeply, dig carefully around the plant before pulling up. Keep some of the small lateral rootlets intact for starting new plants in the spring.

The taproot should be sliced and dried for use in a chicory decoction. This is like a tea, only stronger. Begin with 2 teaspoons of dried chicory root (or dried leaves). Add one cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain out the root and drink the warm decoction. This acts like Ibuprofen to relieve pain.

If you have recurring pain, make batches of the decoction using 2 teaspoons of dried root with one cup of water several times over, bring to a boil and simmer as when making just a cup full of decoction. Drink 8 to 12 ounces a day.

Early settlers kept a piece of dried chicory root in their pocket and chewed on it to alleviate pain. Some kept the root in a tiny tin container.