An image of wellington boots, flowers and pots to represent gardening

Herb Health: Gardening Pains

Gardening can be such a joy but all that weeding and planting can lead to aching backs and joints.

Editor Jane Garton shares some top tips on how to soothe the pain naturally.

A few hours gardening can work wonders for your health and wellbeing but it can be a back-breaking business! All that digging and bending over to plant or weed can quickly trigger back pain and muscular tension, which can take all the pleasure out of spending a sunny afternoon in the garden.

The good news is there are some herbs and general back and joint care awareness tips that can help to lessen the pain.


So called on account of the curved barbs on its roots, devil’s claw has long been used by the bushmen in the Kalahari Desert. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and relaxing properties, which can help to bring relief to nagging aches and pains as well as areas of muscular tension, making gardening less painful and more enjoyable.

It’s not known exactly how this herb from South Africa works, but its tubers have a number of active chemical compounds that have been studied extensively by scientists. One of the most important are called harpagosides, which research shows have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. More research is needed though before the exact effects of the compounds can be explained.


If aching knees are a problem, bromelain could help to bring some relief. Containing bromelain, a digestive enzyme that is extracted from the stem of the pineapple, it has anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities. It is thought to help reduce the impact of the prostaglandin that causes pain and inflammation as well as helping to breakdown fibrin, a protein associated with fluid retention.


As with any form of exercise, it’s important to warm up properly and ease into gardening gently.

  •  Do some arm, back, neck and leg stretches before you begin your gardening session
  •  Take stretch breaks throughout the time you spend in the garden
  •  Don’t hold any one position for too long – move around and shake out those muscles
  •  Don’t strain yourself by lifting heavy objects – always get someone else to help you
  •  Remember to bend from your knees, keep your back straight and don’t twist your body when lifting anything
  •  Finally reward yourself – and your muscles – with a soothing hot bath after a satisfying afternoon in the garden – you deserve it.