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Episode 148 S4-24

Controlling Pain Naturally


Special Guest:

Battle for the South Ch 24

Nicole Apelian

Erika and Vince find a moment of down time in the Battle for the South adventure. Their bodies are sore and tired from the southern wall battle. Here today to talk about pain management both today and in a long-term survival situation is Nicole Apelian. Nicole has been featured on the hit TV series Alone in season two and five. She is a scientist, mother, educator, researcher, expeditionary leader, safari guide, herbalist, traditional skills instructor and all around awesome person.

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Nicole grew up very much in tune with nature. Along her adventures, she was diagnosed with MS (Multiple sclerosis) and was bed bound for two years because of the sickness. She began blindly following the directions of her doctors but little about her condition changed. Taking charge of her own health, she began researching natural ways to heal herself. Her diet, lifestyle and stress levels needed some serious management. 

Nicole spent twenty three years working with the Kalahari bushmen in Botswana. She went out with the women and collected the native plants. She started wondering what was available at home to accomplish the same things these people still practiced. She became an herbal wellness coach, researching herbs to treat the medical issues of individuals with specialized holistic wellness plans. It has been eighteen years now since she was diagnosed with MS and her holistic plan has managed her condition, allowing her to return to her passions.


Chronic Pain

Pain can be extremely debilitating! Chronic pain over a long term period takes a tole on the body and spirit. Stress levels, anxiety and depression often accompany long term pain issues. Many times, western medical treatments do more to mask the pain than to heal it. You need to find the source of the pain and heal yourself. 


Pain can create a viscous cycle. When you are in pain, you will probably begin to decrease your daily activities. When your activities decrease, you get less exercise. When you get less exercise, your body may hurt even more and you will begin to add additional weight. The weight gain and increased pain often leads to depression which causes more pain. 


It's a horrible loop in today's society but if you were in a long term survival situation, the increased stress and anxiety levels would only amplify the affects of the pain loop. Even in today's society this pain loop can lead to loss of work, money and maybe even your home. Chronic pain has some serious consequences in any society.



To get control of the pain, dietary changes are the first place to start. Making dietary changes can be a challenge but once you get started, your cravings for the garbage you used to put into your body will decrease. This doesn't mean you can never treat yourself. Maintaining an eight percent healthy choices with twenty percent guilty pleasures will put your pain level in a much better place. Taking charge of your diet puts you in control of your pain. 


There are two major factors in your diet that contribute to pain levels: things the increase inflammation and foods that contribute to "leaky gut." Leaky gut is caused by foods with specific proteins that go through the gut and cause additional inflammation. Since pain is usually caused by inflammation eliminating these two things is a great place to start. 


You should get a IgG food sensitivity test you can get an at home test or have it performed at your doctor's office. This test can show you what your body is reacting too. There are three common food products that affect your body: grains/gluten, dairy (lactose), and sugar. You may or may not have issues with these common foods but eliminating them can make a big difference in overall health. Gluten is found in most processed foods. Sugar is found in almost everything so you have to be very careful about where your daily sugar intake is coming from. Sugar is horrible for your gut flora and minimizing your intake is essential. Dairy is one that if it doesn't affect you, that's great, but if it does, you need to eliminate it to reduce inflammation levels. 


A rainbow diet will provide you with the widest variety of nutrients. You should eat fruits and veggies of multiple colors. You should eat a fair amount of them raw, as cooking can substantially reduce the amount of nutrients your body can collect. In addition to a wide variety of fruits and veggies, you can add some supplements to help boost your body's ability to reduce inflammation. You need a good source of Omega 3. Fish or fish oil can provide the needed nutrient. Also turmeric, ginger and garlic will help reduce inflammation and joint pain.

Your gut flora is very important. When purchasing dairy, meat and eggs it is essential to buy organic and local if possible. When you buy local you can see exactly where your food comes from. If it is not certified organic, the milk or meat will be full of antibiotics that can seriously mess with your gut. Wild foraging or natural organic is always best. If you are dealing with a leaky gut, organic bone broth can help repair it. 


An individual has to be willing to make a dietary change in lifestyle in order for health to improve. If you are not ready to make a change then it won't happen. It is sad to watch some people struggling with a painful sickness suffer when they could be living a healthier lifestyle that could potentially cure their illness and definitely reduce their pain levels. We are all responsible for our own health and happiness!


Diet In a Long Term Survival Scenario

Initially, I believed it would be hard to maintain these dietary changes in a long term survival situation. However, Nicole indicates otherwise. In a long-term survival situation there will be less access to processed foods. When you have to live off the land, as Nicole did on the show Alone and in Botswana, your body feels better. You don't have sugar, dairy or gluten. Evolution has provided your body the ability to digest and collect nutrients from natural foods more efficiently than processed foods. It is true that when you have to rely on nature to provide your food, you may have a much more difficult time accumulating the calories your body needs. You can supplement these caloric necessities with your preparation activities. Choose foods for your long term food supply that store well and are healthy: rice, beans, dehydrated veggies and fruit and a couple bags of sugar. 


In a long term survival situation, most people will eat the processed foods they have stored first. Then they will have to rely upon their garden, fruit trees, and nature.  Make certain you have your garden and orchard established ahead of time. Know what kind of plants grow naturally in your area and what their medicinal properties are. Grow your medicines in your garden if possible. This will ensure they come back year after year and are available to keep you healthy. Make certain you stock your food, and medication ahead of time but another prepping activity must be to have them growing well ahead of time! Garlic and ginger are a couple of very easy to grow, great "go-to's" for pain. There is a wild ginger that is even easier to grow than the kind we typically see in the grocery store.

Plants to Control Pain


St. John's Wort

Nerve pain can be another source of chronic pain. A great plant that is easy to grow and treats neuropathy is St John's Wort. It can be taken internally for nerve pain or used externally to treat arthritis pain. As an external salve mix it with lavender, Helichrysum oil, and cayenne to make a Capsaicin cream that works wonders. There is no need to go out and mix it up yourself (unless you want to), Nicole has it available at her apothecary: Nerve Pain Salve. A couple more plants that are worth noting because of their effect on nerve pain are boswelia and CBD (Cannabidiol or medical marijuana). Both are very effective treatments.

There are many anti-inflammatory options. We talked about some of them in the diet section including garlic and ginger. Willow bark is a natural source of salicin, the active ingredient in Asprin. You can clip off the top of a young shoot and there is your pain relief. Willows grow around most river and water sources. Be very careful when administering Willow if someone is bleeding heavily as it is a blood thinner and will make things worse. 


Additional Anti-inflammatories:


Clove Oil - Great for toothaches


Arnica - Found in Nicole's Sore Muscle Salve. Arnica is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory that can be applied externally for sore muscles and joint pain.

Galangal grows easily in your garden. It is an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-fungal immunostimulant that helps regrow collagen. It can also be used in a face cream with almond oil and calendula oil to reduce wrinkles and age spots. Follow this link for more information on this fascinating plant.


 Hard Hitting Pain Killers


CBD is a powerful pain reliever that you may be able to legally grow at your own home. It's oil can be extracted and stored for long periods of time

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a plant from Thailand. You can buy it in a powder form and you may be able to grow it in a green house or in the south. It is a great pain killer and lasts a long time in the powder form. Do your research on the supplier. Make sure you are getting a pure form


Do not use alcohol as a pain killer! It can be used as an antiseptic or blood thinner but not a pain killer. Stockpile vodka to use for herbal extraction. Infusions prepared this way will last well over ten years.

CBD and even kratom are not legal in all states. However, they are accessible in a lot of places in the United States. Neither Nicole or I would ever advice breaking the law but it can be very challenging to stockpile western medicines. Obtaining extra supplies of western painkilling drugs can put yourself and the prescribing doctor at risk of breaking laws. However, morphine would be a great drug to have on hand for severe situations in a long term survival scenario.

Wild Ginger
Wild Ginger
St. Johns Wort
St. Johns Wort

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Battle for the South Ch 24

Nicole Apelian

Dr. Nicole Apelian is a scientist, mother, educator, researcher, expeditionary leader, safari guide, herbalist and traditional skills instructor. A leader in the field of transformative nature education, Nicole is excited to share her knowledge and expertise of nature connection, indigenous knowledge, natural wellness and survival skills with the world.


Growing up in Massachusetts, Nicole connected with nature at an early age. Her stepfather was an enormous influence, offering constant support, teaching her to play guitar, and mentoring her through outdoor activities.

Nicole’s first exposure to true wilderness living began while working as a field biologist in Botswana. Following a job as a game warden with the US Peace Corps, she began tracking and researching lions in southern Africa. Nicole immediately fell in love with the African landscapes and the San Bushmen’s way of life, and later, while working with the San Bushmen, Nicole completed her doctorate, focused in Cultural Anthropology within the field of Sustainability Education. Years of visiting the San Bushmen and developing strong relationships within the tribe allowed Nicole to learn many of the primitive skills and ways she practices and teaches today.

A passionate educator for many years, Nicole has worked as an adjunct professor at Prescott College, an adult educator for the Audubon Society of Portland, and as an instructor at various schools, universities and leading conservation education programs.

Nicole was also a challenger on the second season of History Channel’s TV series “Alone”. She thrived in the wilderness totally solo for 57 days with little more than her knife and her wits!

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