Sciatica herbal remedy

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

There have been claims for a number of herbal and so-called natural remedies for relief of back pain.

Most herbal remedies that are effective contain ingredients, similar to conventional medications, that relieve pain, relax muscles, or promote circulation.

Not surprisingly, they are also likely to have similar side effects. For example, in one trial, the herbal pain reliever white willow bark (Assaliz) was as effective as the COX-2 drug rofecoxib (Vioxx). Vioxx's cardiac side effects led to its removal by the FDA.

Willow bark contains the active ingredient found in aspirin and so, theoretically, may have the same adverse effects as NSAIDs. A German study on pain management reported that herbal products containing black current leaf or oils, evening primrose, and borage may be useful and safe for pain due to inflammation.

According to another German study, harpagophytum (a South African herb commonly called devil's claw or grapple plant) may be useful for back pain.

Because there are no government regulations of these products, neither the effectiveness nor safety of herbal products can be guaranteed.

Alternative or natural remedies are not regulated and their quality is not controlled by the FDA. Just because something is herbal or "natural" doesn't mean it won't cause side effects that may be harmful.

There have been a number of reported cases of serious and even lethal side effects from herbal products. In addition, some natural remedies were found to contain prescription medication. Most reported problems occur in herbal remedies imported from Asia, with one study demonstrating a significant percentage of such remedies to contain toxic metals.

The following website is building a database of natural remedy brands that it tests and rates. (

The Food and Drug Administration has a program called MEDWATCH for people to report adverse reactions to drugs and untested substances, such as herbal remedies and vitamins (800-332-1088).

Chinese herbal therapies for sciatica and lumbago usually involve warming the kidney yang and resolving wind-cold-damp complexes.

Oil of wintergreen, which contains methyl salicylate, is widely used externally for its anti-inflammatory activity for arthritis, rheumatism, sciatica, and sore muscles. The tea of the herb has a refreshing astringent taste and is used as well for nephritis and neuralgia, irritated bladder, and children's headaches.

Part Used: Herb
Preparation/Dosage: 1 cup 2-3 x daily (Infusion)
Organs/Systems Affected: Integumentary, Digestive

Oil of wintergreen is too toxic to be used internally.
Source: C. Hobbs' Herbal Advisor.

B vitamins have been advocated by some. Data is sparse. Calcium and magnesium are sometimes helpful against muscle spasms which often contribute to the pain. For milder cases or chronic recurrences, evening primrose oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory.

The following are from Tess Thompson Herbal Relief For Sciatica and Veronica Davis Herbs Sciatic Pain

The intense pain and tension associated with a sciatic attack can be quickly relieved with a number of herbal remedies.

• Rub St. John's wort oil diluted in olive oil onto the affected area, especially before going to sleep, to relax the nerves.
• A hot, stinging-nettle bath is a proven remedy for acute sciatica. Soak 4 cups of stinging nettle leaves for twelve hours in cold water. Warm up the liquid; strain and add to bath water. The patient's chest should be out of the water. Soak for twenty minutes, do not dry off, but put on a cotton-terry robe and sweat in bed for one hour.
• Chamomile has a calming and healing effect on smooth muscle tissue. Apply directly onto skin or take internally as tea or 10-20 drops of extract in a cup of liquid daily.
• Horsetail builds connective tissue. Take as a tea or extract as directed for chamomile.
• If there is tension due to emotional stress, take borage, St. John's wort, lemon balm or valerian tea three times daily for their calming properties. If you have a juicer, 1 tbsp. of fresh horsetail, yarrow, borage or celery juice daily is an excellent way of supporting the adrenal glands and soothing the nerves.
• Hot, moist packs help relieve the pain and increase blood circulation. Apply chamomile, horsetail, hayflower, or white or black mustard seed. A mustard seed pack should not be left on for more than ten minutes because it can irritate the skin. You may prefer to apply a flax seed pack. Put crushed seeds into a small cotton sack and dip for ten minutes into hot water before applying.
• Garlic milk helps reduce inflammation in the case of a bad sciatica attack. Crush two raw garlic cloves and mix the pulp with 1/4 cup of milk. Bring this to the boiling point if you feel the raw garlic flavor is too strong, but raw garlic is the most effective. Drink 1/2 cup daily.

More useful herbs

Aspilia, Cinchona, Elder, Feverfew, Henbane, Passion Flower, Peppermint, Thyme, Wintergreen, Yellow Jessamine.

From Tess Thompson Homeopathic Remedies Sciatica and the American Mecial College of Homeopathy


In acute pain use the appropriate remedy in a 30th potency hourly or as needed. In more chronic conditions, one to three doses a day suffice.

• Ammonium mur
Chronic sciatica with shooting and tearing into tips of toes. Heel pain. Vise-like backache with contraction of hamstrings, shortened muscles. Worse: sitting, walking erect, at night, in bed, left side, motion or rest. Better: lying, rubbing, warm bath, walking stooped, limbering up.

• Arsenicum
Attacks of burning pain, like hot needles. Pain into toes. Aching heels. Boiling sensations. Restless, weak, exhausted. Sciatica from the cold. Anxiety, fear of death. Chilliness. Worse: right side, midnight, after exertion, damp, cold. Better: warmth, hot compress, gentle walking.

• Chamomilla
Extremely intense, tearing pains from buttocks to heel with numbness. Pain drives one out of bed at night. Burning of feet. Weak, heavy limbs. Spasms, cramps in calves, hot sweats. Restless legs, stiffness. Irritable. Worse: warmth, night, lying on painless side, stretching, after anger.

• Colocynthis
Acute phase with neuralgic, shooting pain, radiating to the knee, heel. Intense, vice like cramps and intense spasms. Forced to limp. Tingling. Worse: motion, cold, damp, night, from anger. No position relieves. Better: heat, pressure, bending the leg, lying on the painful side.

• Phytolacca
Aching pain and sudden shooting down leg or down outside of thighs. Much stiffness. Contracted hamstrings, aching heels. Great weakness. Restless, yet worse from motion. Knotting and cramps come and go. Worse: damp, cold, motion, pressure, rising up. Better: warm, dry, lying.

• Rhus tox
Intense attacks of burning, tearing pain. Onset after strain, overuse. Pain down back of thighs. Legs feel dead, wooden, stiff. Cramps in legs. Worse: initial motion, after rest, cold, damp, night, overexertion. Better: heat, rubbing, continued motion, stretching. Much restlessness.

What else you can do

• Hot, moist clay poultices help with stiffness and bring relief from the pain.
• Gentle massage will relax nerves and sore muscles.
• After the attack has subsided, gentle stretching and muscle-strengthening exercises help relieve the pain.

How much to take

• Vitamin B complex, 50 mg three times daily
• Vitamin B12, sublingual tablet, 100mcg
• Calcium, 1,000 mg
• Magnesium, 500 mg
• Evening primrose oil, two 500 mg capsules three times daily

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