In my previous professional life, most eight hour days
were spent sitting in a chair, phone to my ear, staring at a computer screen. Add to the mix: a high stress level, a motion-deprived environment (notwithstanding
some arm flailing and jaw movement), throw in a diet high in refined carbohydrates and excessive amounts of caffeine, and the table was set for the
arrival of my new little friend. The term, little friend (I stole this from a customer who experienced similar visitations over the years) is ironic.
In the same fashion that only a good friend can tell us things about ourselves we may not want to hear, a hemorrhoid is a call to revisit lifestyle
and diet choices…and this is a little friend with a loud voice.
So why the unwelcome visit?
Sometimes referred to as, “varicose veins of the anus and rectum,” hemorrhoids are enlarged, bulging blood vessels that come in two endearing iterations, internal and external. Doesn’t take much to imagine the distinction between the two, but important to know is that these blood vessels lack tone, can be attached to compromised connective tissue, and can clot (blood becomes super-viscous and is poorly circulated). More than half of the population develops hemorrhoids, usually after 30 years of age. 1. Conventional medicine talks about conditions associated with hemorrhoids rather than necessarily what causes them. Chronic constipation, overly “toned” annual musculature, and pregnancy are just a few. Accidents of evolution (being a bi-ped) and poor toilet habits (sitting in the john too long) are others. 2. Most major medical center websites (Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health, MedlinePlus) only discuss diet as a tool to lesson discomfort and irritation, i.e. lots of water and fiber rich foods. Less discussed as either a cause or a means to prevention, are considerations of diet and exercise.
Chronically elevated blood sugar levels, often associated with diets high in refined carbohydrates and sugars, can erode the linings of blood vessels, a condition akin to “making-up the guest room” in preparation for our little friend’s arrival. Alcohol consumption in excess raises triglyceride levels, hardens and thickens veins and arteries and impairs circulation. Conversely, exercise improves muscle tone (even in areas most people don’t flex in front of mirrors), increases metabolism and blood circulation. Bottom line: if the object is to change this relationship status from little friend to rarely seen acquaintance, changes in diet and lifestyle need to be adopted.
Conventional medical treatments for hemorrhoids can range anywhere from steroidal topicals and suppositories, ligation (cutting off the blood supply by wrapping a rubber band around the protruding hemorrhoid) to, in severe cases, surgery. 3. While it is estimated that 2 million Americans seek treatment for hemorrhoids each year, many sufferers opt for over the counter, non-prescription medications. 4. These include zinc oxide and mineral oils (protectorants), vasoconstrictors such as phenylephrine (Preparation H), treatments for itching (hydrocortisone), for pain (pramoxine) as well as fiber supplements like Metamucil. 5.
Many of the same healthcare/pharmacy-type retailers that sell these remedies, feature essential oils by Aura Cacia, Nature’s Bounty and others. Cypress oil (Cypress sempervirens), in particular, as part of an essential oil blend that is easy to make, can be a very effective natural alternative for treatment of hemorrhoids.
The use of cypress for hemorrhoids dates back thousands of years: the “shavings” of the plant were part of a “cataplasm” prescribed by Hippocrates for bleeding hemorrhoids back in the year 400 BCE. Interestingly, Hippocrates suggests using turpentine.as a substitute in the poultice if cypress is unavailable. .6. Turpentine is the resinous extract from conifer trees, a mixture of monoterpene hydrocarbons. 7. Monoterpenes, known for their astringent and vasoconstrictive qualities, represent up to 50% (in the form of alpha-pinene) of the chemical constituents in the essential oil (EO) of cypress. 8. The tightening or “tonic” quality of mono-terpene rich cypress, along with the oil’s reputation as a “venous decongestant” makes cypress a particularly good choice for hemorrhoids.
Giving Your Friend “The Treatment”
A “neat” application of cypress EO is the equivalent of saying “get out” to your friend, and, as in choosing bluntness over diplomacy, this route can be painful. Cypress EO undiluted and applied directly on or near the hemorrhoid a few times a day will get the job done but may be too irritating for most people. A “kinder and gentler” approach is to combine different EOs and mix in a carrier oil, cream or ointment. A blend that I have found very effective in sending my little friend packing over the years is made of the EOs of cypress, geranium and roman chamomile. Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) rich in the monoterpenol linalool, citroneliol and geraniol, is analgesic and astringent, and the Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is anti-inflammatory, analgesic and helpful with the itching of hemorrhoids. 9. The carrier I use is “Cuts and Scrapes” cream by Nelsons that contains hypericum and calendula extracts in an alcohol and glycerin base. For every 2 drops of cypress use 1 drop each of geranium and 1 drop of chamomile. To one teaspoon of the Nelsons cream add 3-4 drops of the EO blend; apply 2 to 3 times per day. Make a larger batch in the same proportion of blend-to-cream and store in a small jar in the refrigerator. The coolness makes the blend more soothing. Other ointments and creams will work, and if need be K-Y jelly also can be used.
A word of caution like nieces and nephews you don’t see all the time, little friends have a tendency to grow-up fast. Worse still, unless the rules are laid out up front, they like to have parties an invite friends. Prevention through diet, life-style and exercise, is no doubt the best method to avoid these periodic visitations, but if your little friend does show, here is a way to show him the exit.
1. "Hemorrhoids and What to Do about Them." Health Information and Medical Information. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.health.harvard.edu/>.
2. "Hemorrhoids." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Web. 03 July 2013.
3. "American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons - ASCRS." American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons - ASCRS. Web. 03 July 2013. <http://www.fascrs.org/>.
4. "Hemorrhoids: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments." LiveScience.com. , 27 May 2013. Web. 04 July 2013. <http://www.livescience.com/>.
5. "Over the Counter Treatment for Hemorrhoids." BetterMedicine.com - Health and Medical Information You Can Trust. - Better Medicine. Web. 04 July 2013. <http://www.bettermedicine.com/>.
6. Hippocrates. "On Fistulae." The Internet Classics Archive: 441 Searchable Works of Classical Literature. Trans. Francis Adams. Web. 04 July 2013. <http://classics.mit.edu/>.
7. Bowles, E. Joy. The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2003. Print.
8. "Turpentine." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, Web. 04 July 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/>.
9. Battaglia, Salvatore. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. Brisbane: International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy, 2003. Print.