Hemorrhoids

Even though I have successfully treated people with hemorrhoids a number of times, I realised I had not thought to include it in the A-Z conditions and the following are some notes I prepared for a student of our recently opened SIMH college who asked which of the herbs they had been sent in the study pack might help her friend with bad hemorrhoids.

I think this covers most of the main points and, until such time as I might write a further article, I include it here to show one herbalist's perspective on this potentially challenging problem

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SIMH forum reply - Dec 2017

Thank you for our first ‘which for what?’ question on our forum, I don’t mind in the least starting at the bottom end with one of the least glamorous health problems, in fact I rather appreciate it!
I’ll speak to your question first and then make some general comments about the process of finding a remedy.

Any embarrassment about haemorrhoids aside, because it’s easy to make fun of them if you don’t know what they are like, but they can be a true torture to a person, with the potential to be so disruptive to daily life, that they lead many people to opting for a radical surgical intervention to remove them.

In terms of a person in acute discomfort from a haemorrhoid and wanting some symptomatic relief asap by applying something to the affected area, traditional western herbal medicine tends to favour highly astringent herbs such as Witch-hazel, in a cream or lotion, in effect trying to help bind the prolapsed vein.

Other kinds of astringent, toning or binding herbs that are in common usage include Shepherd’s purse, Yarrow and, amongst what you have now, Raspberry leaf. However, you can’t just splash on some tea and hope for much immediate relief, so the method of application that keeps the herb or herbs in contact with the area is important and there are numerous options, including ones that can be made at home using ready to hand ingredients.

In my own experience, most of my patients for whom this has been a significant problem have already tried a number of topical products with varying success but, as none of them are treating the cause, the problem persists.

The paramount issue with any kind of chronic haemorrhoid(s) is to improve the health of the bowel and the liver. Each and every bowel motion, from day one of treatment for many months consequently, must be soft and easy for the haemorrhoid to eventually heal completely. Even one event of having to strain to pass the motion can re-herniate the vein and put the patient back to square one. Therefore, the question must be asked as to what is going in that is causing so much trouble with its waste products going out.

Gluten intolerance is a highly common issue here, as are other food intolerances. Equally a simple lack of eating enough fruit and vegetables, or having adequate hydration, or adequate movement to help the venous return of the blood in the body generally. Working out which of these, or how many of these potential causes, need attention is the first and most important step, because then we are  working with the first rules of healing – namely 1) do no harm and 2) treat the cause.

In practice, whilst we are working on dietary or other lifestyle causes, I will often give generous amounts of Plantago husks (coarse psyllium hulls) from day one to ensure soft and easy to pass motions. The patient to work out the amount that best works for them, usually around 3 or 4 tsps once a day but sometimes less and sometimes more, i.e. needing to be used twice a day.

The bowel is also deeply affected by the health of the liver. Particularly congestion in the liver (known as portal congestion) can create a backlog of pressure in the veins that can lead to haemorrhoids, and varicose veins, and constipation; a ‘triad’ of conditions that is often seen together. In this case, some excellent herbs you have available to use right now could be Gentian and Dandelion roots, but whether they are suitable herbs cannot be said without knowing if the patient truly does need some gut ‘activation’ or liver cleansing, because to do such a thing for any length of time when it is not indicated could eventually do some harm!

So, you have to ask the question and go looking for the answers in the constitutional signs, in how much dampness there is in the system (seen via the skin, the tongue, by questions) how does the liver and bowel feel to palpate, are they boggy, heavy, congested?

Perhaps the general health of the blood vessels and circulation is poor and, as well as improving fitness and looking at the health of the diet, a herb like Hawthorn could support this process, but that would need a course of treatment over many weeks or months and one would need to know this was where the therapeutic priority lies, so as not to be diverting attention away from something that mattered more…

Any health problem, no matter how small an area it affects, no matter how socially embarrassing and hidden it may be, has the power to cause great suffering and loss of peace. So we must be prepared to take it seriously and ask those questions that are vital to understanding how to facilitate the healing process; things like ‘why is this happening, what makes it worse, what makes it better…

Lastly, in general terms, and here I mean about the process of finding a remedy. I can tell you that, however many herb books or online sources say to take ‘substance A for problem B’, you are unlikely to ever get such a simple answer here on this forum, at least from this herbalist, and it’s not because I want to make life more difficult! It is because I am only too aware that, in the great complexity of human life and health, a simple remedy will do some good some of the time but all too often it will only work partially, if at all, and we can do so much better if we understand how to work with the cause, as well as the constitution, i.e. the individual being with their particular tendencies towards patterns of imbalance.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ask, or shouldn’t ask, however I do also recommend that you take the time to read other’s points of view on how to approach any health condition that is affecting you or someone you love. For example, I hope that, by now, you already have five great books from 5 great herbalists (Bartram, Bennett, Chevallier, Hoffmann, Tilgner) and I would predict that all or nearly all of them will have useful suggestions on many of the conditions we are commonly afflicted by, including haemorrhoids.

When you get to stage 2 of the certificate you will have access to an enormous library of classic texts that give suggestions that were just as useful and effective a hundred years ago as they were a thousand, and as they still are now.
Use the forum to ask any questions you like but also be sure to do some research first. In your research, you will see that there are always different points of view but also that there are many common patterns where experienced practitioners agree that this or that is indeed a good remedy – and there you will at least have some starting points to be treating the effect whilst you seek to work on the cause...

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