I am prone to muscle spasms in my chest and shoulders. Every so often I’ll wake up with a twinge somewhere, and it always evolves into one side of my upper body going out of whack for a day.
This happened last week. Because I had also been in a kind of a rush that morning, I had neglected to pack a lunch for myself. Thus, on my lunch break I needed both some kind of nourishment and some kind of pain relief. The nearest store to my office that offered any kind of selection for both of my needs was Whole Foods. Going in, I was skeptical that there would be anything particularly useful as an analgesic there, but I approached the search with an open mind.
The nice young lady working in the supplements and salves department directed me toward a variety of homeopathic lotions and creams. I had never heard of any of them. Eventually I settled on Peaceful Mountain “muscle ice” homeopathic pain relieving gel, which apparently is made from “organic and wild-crafted herbs.” (I am hoping one of you very bright people can tell me what is meant by “wild-crafted,” as I am completely unable to parse it myself.) Anyhow, the active ingredients on the tube are phytolacca decandra, symphytum officinale, bellis perennis, ledum palustre, ruta graveolens, magnesia phosphorica and silicea. Oh, and also menthol 4%. It cost ten bucks for a 3.5 ounce tube.
I also got some Tiger Balm patches. As far as liniments go, Tiger Balm is pretty decent. I went with the patches to minimize the very pungent aroma, with limited success on that score.
Like any good clinical scientist, I did a little comparison testing. I slapped a patch on my twinging chest and rubbed the gel on my spasming shoulder. I was pleasantly surprised to feel that familiar tingling sensation very quickly in the shoulder, and thought perhaps I’d been too hard on those poor old homeopaths. When the relief wore off less than ten minutes later, my good will evaporated along with it. The menthol worked well enough while it lasted, but I’m guessing the homeopathic contribution was somewhere between “diddly” and “squat.”
As expected, the Tiger Balm worked better. Unfortunately, the patches don’t stick all that well. If you’re going to go this route, go with the ointment and accept that you’re going to smell like a walking cough drop.
You know what also has menthol, except a lot more of it? Bengay. It also has methyl salicylate, which is a very effective topical analgesic and has effects similar to aspirin (to which it is chemically related). Since it occurs naturally in wintergreen plants, I suppose one could describe it as “wild-crafted” as well. It’s also cheaper.
So, sorry homeopathy. I tried. Sadly, I’m going to have to give the win to mean old pharmaceuticals on this one.