Plantar fasciitis is painful condition affecting the heel of the foot due to a tear in the plantar fascia ligament that spans between the heel bone and the toes. Since this ligament stretches and contracts with every step, the tear is further aggravated and the ligament becomes inflamed. Athletes, diabetics and the elderly are more prone to this condition. Fortunately, there is more than one herbal remedy for plantar fasciitis to help speed healing.
Arnica (Arnica montana L.) has a long history of use as an herbal remedy for bruises and muscle sprains. According to a study published in the Oct. 8, 2009, issue of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, the reputed anti-inflammatory action of arnica was put to the test. The researchers found that compounds in the extract inhibit NF-kappaB, a protein complex found in cells that triggers an inflammatory response to stress. Note that the therapeutic use of arnica is limited to homeopathic dosages and external use due to the risk of toxicity. To use arnica as an herbal remedy for plantar fasciitis, add 1 tsp. of the tincture to a footbath or use a topical gel or cream containing arnica extract.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce inflammation and manage pain. Like arnica, the root of this herb also contains compounds that suppress NF-kappaB. According to a clinical review published in the June 14, 2009, issue of Alternative Medicine Review, turmeric shows anti-inflammatory activity as well as antioxidant properties. As a supplement, turmeric is available as various curcumin extract preparations. However, since curcumin compounds are not well absorbed in the intestines, simply adding turmeric as a spice to foods might be more effective.
Bromelain is an enzyme extracted from the stem of the pineapple plant. The anti-inflammatory activity of this substance appears to be driven by two factors. First, it inhibits TGF-beta, a cellular protein that promotes inflammation and delays healing. It also disrupts certain molecules that act as receptors for inflammatory-producing agents in the body, namely specialized white blood cells called neutrophils. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center, who observed these mechanisms of action occurring in both culture tests and in humans, published their findings in the July 2008 issue of Clinical Immunology. Bromelain is widely available as a supplement.
Due to the presence of curcuminoids, arnica and turmeric should not be used during pregnancy, while undergoing treatment for cancer, if there is a history of heart disease or if you are taking blood thinners. Bromelain should also be avoided when taking blood thinners. In addition, this enzyme should not be taken while taking antibiotics since it increases intestinal absorption and blood levels of these drugs.