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Well-being Q&A: Herbal remedies for tennis elbow

Dr V.L. Shyam, MD (Ay), M Phil, a certified Ayurvedic consultant, answers queries exclusively for readers of Friday


I am 58 years old. For the past two years I have had pain in my left elbow diagnosed as tennis elbow by an orthopaedic surgeon. I was given steroid injections on a regular basis which reduced the pain but did not cure the problem. Since January this year, I've been taking homeopathy medication and applying Pedantak taila every evening. I continue to feel mild pain in both elbows, particularly during early mornings and late evenings. Apart from pranayam which I practise for 30 minutes every day, I do not do any other form of exercise. I also ensure that I do not carry heavy bags or do anything that could possibly aggravate the problem. Please advise.
Name withheld on request  

Tennis elbow is a painful condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow are overworked, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. Many common arm motions can cause tennis elbow, including using plumbing tools, painting, driving screws, chopping cooking ingredients and excessive computer-mouse use. Tennis elbow often gets better on its own, but here are some tips that could help:

  • Learn proper ergonomic ways to move your wrist and forearms.
  • Practise stretching and strengthening exercises for your muscles undera physiotherapist's guidance.
  • Wear a forearm splint at night. It can help reduce morning symptoms.
  • Rub your arms with Murivenna* at night, then bandage them.
  • Consider Ayurvedic treatment like Kizhi (herbal compress) therapy.
  • Consult an Ayurvedic doctor for a prescription medication.

Please give the Ayurvedic names of the following herbs: burdock root, slippery elm, sheep sorrel and rhubarb root
C.K Mathew, via email

To my knowledge, the herbs you mention are not used in Ayurveda.

  • Burdock root (Arctium lappa) is used in traditional medicine in China and North America. This herb is used to treat skin disorders, dandruff, kidney and bladder disorders, diabetes and gout. It helps purify the blood and restores liver and gall bladder functioning.
  • Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) is native to North America and is used to treat urinary and bowel ailments, sore throat, diarrhoea, skin ulcers, toothacheand burns.
  • Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is also commonly seen in North America and is used in cases of anaemia, diarrhoea, eczema, fever, itching, rheumatism and inflammation, among other conditions.
  • The plant Trivrut (Operculina turpethum, Convolvulaceae family) is known as Indian Rhubarb which has similar medicinal uses to rhubarb (Rheum emodi of Polygonaceae family); but they are different herbs. Rhubarb is used in Chinese medicine as a laxative and to lower blood glucose levels.

*Available at shops selling herbal products