Several Herbs Found to be as Effective as Prescription Mouthwash

Why wash your mouth with chemicals, when natural, time-tested herbal remedies have been proven to work at least as well? Continue reading

The Future of Chinese Medicine

The market for the powers of ancient Chinese medicine has been growing. Now, more than ever, it seems that people are looking for alternatives to the traditional Western method of treatment involving pharmaceuticals and surgery. To many, it represents a natural, holistic response to an ailing body that has worked for generations. In fact, almost 20% of Americans have reported Continue reading

7 Herbal Remedies for Spring Allergies

Spring means different things to all of us, but for more millions of Americans, it means watery eyes, scratchy throats and runny noses. If you suffer from seasonal allergies every spring, fear not! Mother Nature offers a number of herbal remedies to help ease our sniffles and sneezes.

Chamomile’s Continue reading

Licorice Root Proven Effective against Oral Infections

A new study indicates that dried licorice root is effective against the bacteria which causes tooth decay and gum disease, both of which can lead to tooth loss. Reporting their findings in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Natural Products, researchers say that that two substances in dried licorice root may help prevent and treat tooth decay and gum disease.

Traditional healing, modern science

The dried root of the licorice plant has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Practitioners of TCM use dried licorice root for a variety of health concerns: to treat coughs, ulcers, sore throat, arthritis, lupus, liver disorders, food poisoning and diabetes. Licorice is known by herbalists to possess antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. The medicinally used root is not an ingredient in the licorice candy sold in the US which uses the similarly flavored anise oil. Continue reading

Two Herbal Remedies to Help Ease IBS Symptoms

For those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), good news is often in short supply. Symptoms can be a nagging presence every day, with stomach pains and problems with constipation or diarrhea. It can also be somewhat tricky to treat IBS. Prescription meds don’t always help and sometimes they add prescription side effects on top of everything else. Well, here’s some side- effect free relief discovered by Australian researchers: slippery elm and licorice root.

The Aussie scientists looked at the effects and tolerability of two natural medicine supplements in improving bowel function and abdominal symptoms in patients with IBS. One supplement was designed to treat IBS with diarrhea as a symptom, while the other was designed to treat IBS with constipation.

The study included 31 patients, 21 one of whom were classified as suffering from diarrhea-predominant IBS and 10 of whom were classified with constipation-predominant IBS. The patients were given either a supplement containing powdered bilberry fruit, Continue reading

Six Top Chinese Remedies for Psoriasis

The deep territory of Chinese medicine yields a long line of health secrets. Slowly, we are bringing them into our Western society, but some herbal remedies remain clouded in mystique. Here are the top six remedies for treating the inflammatory skin disease known as psoriasis.

1) Xiao Yin Pian: This herbal combination containing 12 different plants is the best Chinese cure for psoriasis. It has been shown to have effects in reducing allergies and asthma — both linked to an inflammatory response in the body, much like psoriasis. In a study of 200 patients with the skin disease, Xiao Yin Pian treated 48% of them fully, improved symptoms in 38%, and failed to work in only 17% of patients. Patients recovered from psoriasis in an average of two months.

2) Yin Xiao San: This contains da huang (rhubarb), bai xian pi (dittany bark), chen pi (citrus peel), tu fu ling, niu huang, qing dai (indigo), and sheng di huang. In 200 psoriasis patients, researchers tested 7.5 g, three times a day. After a month, 70 patients fully recovered, 62 improved significantly, 36 improved moderately and 20 had mild improvements.

3) Tu Huai Yin: This formula consists of 11 different herbs, Continue reading

Europe is Outlawing Hundreds of Herbal Remedies

Live in Europe? Get your herbs while they last. New rules put forth by the European Union (EU) will ban the sale of certain herbal remedies that have been used for centuries.

Traditional herbs such a St. John’s Wort or Echinacea must now meet strict licensing guidelines in order to be sold, while other lesser-known herbs that haven’t been “traditionally” used in the last 30 years won’t even make the cut to reach consumer shelves. Only those products that have been “assessed” by the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will be available for purchase. The real kicker? Even approved products will only be recommended for minor ailments such as the common cold, which means that product labeling may no longer be allowed to convey the potent health benefits of widely-used herbal remedies. Continue reading

Herbal Remedies for ADD/ADHD

Modern science has now proven that ADHD treatment programs that include herbal remedies, boost concentration and memory. A recent study undertaken by the Sheba Hospital in Israel has reported that herbal remedies can often improve cognitive functioning in patients with ADHD.

Herbal remedies are often prescribed by holistic practitioners to treat mental illness and hyperactivity along with including riboflavin, magnesium, B-complex vitamins, and thiamine in the diet through foods or daily multivitamins.

Some herbs, such as 100% aloe vera juice, pumpkin seed extract, ginkgo biloba, evening primrose oil (an omega-6 fatty acid),and mahonia grape, can promote nutritional delivery to the brain and balance neurotransmitters. These herbs may be beneficial in the treatment of ADD and ADHD.

Two Indian herbs, GotuKola and Ashwaganda, have been shown to be effective for concentration and release of anxiety. Chamomile, passionflower and skullcap have also shown great promise.

Generally, these herbs have dosage recommendations on the supplement package, but in rare cases where doses are not given, doses of ½ teaspoon into a well diluted tincture, three times a day and mixed with fruit or vegetable juice is usually appropriate.

Other recommended herbal and homeopathic remedies include Hyoscyamus, which is known to help alleviate over-excitability and restlessness. It also provides relief from frenetic outbursts and tic-type involuntary twitching.

Another one is Verta Alb. This herb can help stabilize a person with ADHD. Arsen Iod is often used for the hyperactive-impulsive type child. A fourth remedy, Tuberculinum, is also touted as a treatment for the symptoms of ADHD.

The International Cod Liver Omega-3 Foundation recommends the use of a Cod Liver Oil based (CLO3) as one of the alternatives to traditional prescription medications, such as Ritalin, to treat mental illness and hyperactivity in children. Omega-3 (also referred to as n-3 or w-3) is the name of a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Oil-based fish and dietary supplements are the richest and most generally available sources of omega-3. Some of these sources include fish oil and cod liver oil. Krill, bread and fruit juices are also effective.

The compounds referred to as omega-3s are Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), and Docusahexaenoic Acid (DHA). Omega-3s found in plant and vegetable sources are not as effective as cod liver oil or other fish oils.

The best and most effective source is only found in fish such as mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna, and fish oil, specifically cod liver oil. Experts recommend a minimum daily intake of 450 mg of fish oil omega-3s in order to fortify joint, brain and cardiovascular health, particularly in children with ADD or ADHD.

A research study published in 2002 concluded that there is a significant benefit to using Omega-3 dietary supplements to treat ADD/ADHD.

Unfortunately, the prescribing of multiple medications to treat ADD/ADHD has created a “polypharmacy” culture in a drug obsessed society, where we first turn to drugs to mask the symptoms rather than changing nutrition, lifestyle or adding herbs to treat the cause.

Your first and best single form of treatment should be with natural remedies. If these do not appear effective then talk to your doctor or psychiatrist to explore other options.

Heart Drugs and Herbal Remedies May Be a Dangerous Mix

Patients who take heart medications are warned about the potential dangers of mixing heart drugs with herbal remedies. The American College of Cardiology hopes to get the message out to patients and clinicians that popular herbal remedies can increase the risk of complications of heart disease and also increase the risk of bleeding, especially among elders.

More than 15 million people use herbal medicines for health maintenance with the idea they are safe because they come from nature. But according to Arshad Jahangir, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Consultant Cardiologist, Mayo Clinic Arizona the security that comes from taking so called natural products is a false one – three of the most popular herbal medicines, Gingko biloba, St. Johns Wort, and garlic all carry risks when combined with heart medications.

Jahangir warns… ‘Natural’ doesn’t always mean they are safe. Every compound we consume has some effect on the body, which is, in essence, why people are taking these products to begin with.” Herbal medications combined with heart drugs can lead to danger. The benefits of herbal medicines for heart patients also need more study to clarify their usefulness.

St. John’s Wort, taken in combination with heart medications can lead to dangerous heart rhythm problems, increase cholesterol to set patients up for more heart attacks, and raise blood pressure, undoing the effect of expensive heart medications. Digitalis is commonly used by patients with heart disease – St. John’s wort can interfere with the absorption of digitalis. It could also decrease the effectiveness of statin drugs that are broken down by the liver and decrease the effectiveness of the blood thinner warfarin, leading to blood clots.

Gingko biloba is a bad mix with heart medications because it can raise risk of blood clots, again undoing the effect of medications your doctor prescribes to prevent heart attack, stroke, and blood clots from arrhythmia such as atrial fibrillation. Taking gingko biloba with some blood pressure medications, such as Avapro, Cozaar, and even the diuretic Demadex used for congestive heart failure can increase the risk of side effects, making it difficult to comply with heart medications that are proven effective for heart conditions. Garlic can increase bleeding risk, and potentiate the effect of warfarin.

“These herbs have been used for centuries—well before today’s cardiovascular medications—and while they may have beneficial effects these need to be studied scientifically to better define their usefulness and, more importantly, identify their potential for harm when taken with medications that have proven benefit for patients with cardiovascular diseases,” said Dr. Jahangir. He recommends that patients and healthcare providers become familiar with the potential dangers of mixing heart drugs with herbal remedies that may do more harm than good.

No.2 Native American Herbal Remedies

(Please use the search function to find Native American Herbal Remedies #1)

Diabetes

Wild Carrot – The Mohegans steeped the blossoms of this wild species in warm water when they were in full bloom and took the drink for diabetes.

Devil’ Club – The Indians of British Columbia utilized a tea of the root bark to offset the effects of diabetes.

Diarrhea

Blackcherry – A tea of blackberry roots was the most frequently used remedy for diarrhea among Indians of northern California.

Wild Black Cherry – The Mohegans allowed the ripe wild black cherry to ferment naturally in a jar about one year than then drank the juice to cure dysentery.

Dogwood – The Menominees boiled the inner bark of the dogwood and passed the warm solution into the rectum with a rectal syringe made from the bladder of a small mammal and the hollow bone of a bird.

Geranium – Chippewa and Ottawa tribes boiled the entire geranium plant and drank the tea for diarrhea.

White Oak – Iroquois and Penobscots boiled the bark of the white oak and drank the liquid for bleeding piles and diarrhea.

Black Raspberry – The Pawnee, Omaha, and Dakota tribes boiled the root bark of black raspberry for dysentery.

Star Grass – Catawbas drank a tea of star grass leaves for dysentery.

Digestive Disorders

Dandelion – A tea of the roots was drunk for heartburn by the Pillager Ojibwas. Mohegans drank a tea of the leaves for a tonic.

Yellow Root – A tea from the root was used by the Catawbas and the Cherokee as a stomach ache remedy.

Fevers

Dogwood – The Delaware Indians, who called the tree Hat-ta-wa-no-min-schi, boiled the inner bark in water, using the tea to reduce fevers.

Willow – The Pomo tribe boiled the inner root bark, then drank strong doses of the resulting tea to induce sweating in cases of chills and fever. In the south, the Natchez prepared their fever remedies from the bark of the red willow, while the Alabama and Creek Indians plunged into willow root baths for the same purpose.

Feverwort – The Cherokees drank a decoction of the coarse, leafy, perennial herb to cure fevers.

Headache

Pennyroyal – The Onondagas steeped pennyroyal leaves and drank the tea to cure headaches.

Heart and Circulatory Problems

Green Hellebore – The Cherokee used the green hellebore to relive body pains.

American Hemp and Dogbane – Used by the Prairie Potawatomis as a heart medicine, the fruit was boiled when it was still green, and the resulting decoction drunk. It was also used for kidney problems and for dropsy.

Hemorrhoids

White Oak – The Menominee tribe treated piles by squirting an infusion of the scraped inner bark of oak into the rectum with a syringe made from an animal bladder and the hollow bone of a bird.

Inflammations and Swellings

Witch Hazel – The Menominees of Wisconsin boiled the leaves and rubbed the liquid on the legs of tribesmen who were participating in sporting games. A decoction of the boiled twigs was used to cure aching backs, while steam derived by placing the twigs in water with hot rocks was a favorite Potawatomi treatment for muscle aches.

Influenza

Native Hemlock – The Menominees prepared a tea if the inner bark and drank it to relieve cold symptoms. A similar tea was used by the Forest Potawatomis to induce sweating and relieve colds and feverish conditions.

Insect Bites and Stings

Fendler Bladderpod – The Navajos made a tea and used it to treat spider bites.

Purple Coneflower – The Plains Indians used this as a universal application for the bites and stings of all crawling, flying, or leaping bugs. Between June and September, the bristly stemmed plant, which grows in dry, open woods and on prairies, bears a striking purplish flower.

Stiff Goldenrod – The Meskwaki Indians of Minnesota ground the flowers into a lotion and applied it to bee stings.

Trumpet Honeysuckle – The leaves were ground by chewing and then applied to bees stings.

Wild Onion and Garlic – The Dakotas and Winnebagos applied the crushed bulbs of wild onions and garlics.

Saltbush – The Navajos chewed the stems and placed the pulpy mash on areas of swelling caused by ant, bee and wasp bites. The Zunis applied the dried, powdered roots and flowers mixed with saliva to ant bites.

Broom Snakeweed – The Navajos chewed the stem and applied the resin to insect bites and stings of all kinds.

Tobacco – A favorite remedy for bee stings was the application of wet tobacco leaves.

Insect Repellents and Insecticides

Goldenseal – The Cherokee pounded the large rootstock with bear fat and smeared it on their bodies as an insect repellent. It was also used as a tonic, stimulant, and astringent.

Rheumatism

Pokeweed – Indians of Virginia drank a tea of the boiled berries to cure rheumatism. The dried root was also used to allay inflammation.

Bloodroot – A favorite rheumatism remedy among the Indians of the Mississippi region – the Rappahannocks of Virginia drank a tea of the root.

Sedatives

Wild Black Cherry – The Meskwaki tribe made a sedative tea of the root bark.

Hops – The Mohegans prepared a sedative medicine from the conelike strobiles and sometimes heated the blossoms and applied them for toothache. The Dakota tribe used a tea of the steeped strobiles to relieve pains of the digestive organs, and the Menominee tribe regarded a related species of hops as a panacea.

Wild Lettuce – Indigenous to North American, it was used for sedative purposes, especially in nervous complaints.

Thrush

Geranium – The Cherokee boiled geranium root together with wild grape, and with the liquid, rinsed the mouths of children affected with thrush.

Persimmon – The Catawba stripped the bark from the tree and boiled it in water, using the resulting dark liquid as a mouth rinse.

Cotton May Be Promising Source of Protein

WASHINGTONCotton is emerging as a promising source of protein for millions of the world’s malnourished, according to the latest research.

Researchers engineered the cotton to reduce the toxic gossypol to tolerable levels in the high-protein seed, without affecting higher levels in the rest of the plant, to ward off pests and disease.

“The results look very promising,” said Keerti Rathore, the Texas AgriLife Research plant bio-technologist in whose lab the cotton was developed.

Rathore said kernels from the safe seed could be ground into a flour-like powder and used as a protein additive in food preparations or perhaps roasted and seasoned as a nutritious snack.

Less than three years ago, Rathore had announced that cotton plants had been successfully altered in the lab to “silence” gossypol in the seed.

But this year, five generations of cotton plants produced in greenhouses and the small test plot in the field are showing similar findings, Rathore said, though the results have not yet been published in scholarly journals.

Gossypol has long been a block for cotton farmers trying to make cotton seed available for human or animal consumption.

Cotton fibers have been spun into fabric for more than 7,000 years, but generally only cattle have been able to eat the fuzzy seeds that are separated from the fiber.

Cattle can tolerate the gossypol because it is gradually digested through their unique four-part stomach.

“The levels of gossypol and related defense chemicals are similar to that of regular cotton plants in the buds, leaves and flowers. But the seed is still showing the ultra-low levels of gossypol.”

The “beauty of this project,” Rathore said, is that the high-protein seed could be a new food source – especially in developing countries.

Because the variety is “genetically modified,” the scientist and AgriLife Research will have to negotiate with others who hold patent rights to some of the basic technologies used to develop this “ultra-low seed-gossypol” cotton.

Rathore will also have to seek approval from the US Department of Agriculture, US Food and Drug Administration and perhaps other agencies to make it commercially available as seed to farmers.

Reduce Tension, Keep Plants in Offices, Classrooms

DALLAS – House plants can help reduce tension and stress among office workers, who spend more than 80 percent of the day indoors.

Researchers found the presence of plants in homes and workplaces exerted a positive effect on headaches and fatigue and hoarseness.

Interior plants have also been shown to increase work productivity. In one study, employees’ reaction time on computer tasks improved by 12 percent when plants were present.

Jennifer S. Doxey and Tina Marie Waliczek, agricultural scientists from Texas State University (TSU), and Jayne M. Zajicek, horticulturist from Texas A&M University, are testing the impact of plants on student performance and satisfaction in the classroom.

“Our results showed that interior plants appeared to have the greatest impact on students who were in the classroom that had no other natural elements,” said Waliczek.

The main objective of the study was to investigate the impact of plants in classrooms on course performance and student perceptions of the course and instructor.

The study was designed to include a minimum of two classes of the same course work taught by the same professor in the same room during one semester.

Three sets of two classes each and 385 students were included within the study. Throughout the semester, an experimental group of students attended classes in rooms that contained an assortment of tropical plants. The control group of students attended class in rooms with no plants.

Statistically significant differences were found between control and treatment groups when students scored questions related to “learning”, “instructors’ enthusiasm”, and “instructors’ organization”, says a TSU statement.

Students from the group whose classrooms included plants rated these items higher on the satisfaction. Conversely, of the two student groups, the most apparent differences were reported by students who attended class in the room that was windowless and stark.

These findings were published in a recent issue of HortScience.

Over-the-Counter Painkillers Can Become Addictive Within Just 3 Days

LONDON – Popular painkillers, which are routinely used to ease headaches, back problems and period pain, can cause addiction in just three days, the UK Government’s drug watchdog has warned.

The drugs, which contain codeine and include brand names such as Nurofen Plus and Solpadeine Plus, are taken by millions of people. However, official figures have shown that tens of thousands of people have become dependent on the drugs, many accidentally, with women most at risk of developing an addiction.

Growing concern about the spread of what experts describe as a ‘hidden addiction’, has led the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to announce a series of measures to counter the problem, reports The Telegraph.

Packets size will be limited to just 32 tablets with larger packs available only by prescription in a bid to curb misuse.

Clear and ‘prominently positioned’ warnings will be put on the front of packs and accompanying patient information leaflets, stating: ‘Can cause addiction. For three days use only.’

Advertising will no longer state that the drugs are remedies for things like coughs and colds and only that they are acute and moderate pain.

Popular Antacid Triples Pneumonia Risk

WAKE FOREST – A popular antacid to prevent stress ulcers in critically ill patients requiring breathing machine support heightens their risk of getting pneumonia threefold, says a new study.

“Patients who develop hospital-acquired pneumonia or ventilator-acquired pneumonia have about a 20 to 30 percent chance of dying from that pneumonia,” said senior study author David L. Bowton, professor-anesthesiologist at Wake Forest University School of Medicine (WFUSM).

The study compared treatment with two powerful drugs that decrease stomach acid, namely ranitidine and pantoprazole, marketed as Protonix or Prilosec.

Both drugs decrease stomach acid, but the newer pantoprazole is considered more powerful and has become the drug of choice in many hospitals.

However, in the analysis of 834 patients, researchers found that hospitalized cardio-thoracic surgery patients treated with pantoprazole were three times more likely to develop pneumonia.

“We conducted this study, in part, because we thought we were seeing more pneumonias than we were used to having,” said study co-author Marc G. Reichert, coordinator for surgery at WFUSM Centre.

Both acid-reducing drugs can make the stomach a more hospitable place for bacteria to colonize. Patients on breathing machines sometimes develop pneumonia when stomach secretions reflux into the lungs.

Current treatment guidelines to prevent pneumonia recommend raising the head of the bed for patients on breathing machines, which reduces the risk of stomach secretions getting into the lungs.

Doctors should consider whether an acid reducer is needed at all, Bowton said. The occurrence of stress ulcer bleeding has gone down in recent years, perhaps because patients with breathing tubes are fed earlier, and food in the stomach may neutralise or reduce the effects of stomach acid.

Bowton added that in cases where an acid reducer is needed, ranitidine is recommended, given the apparent decreased risk in developing pneumonia, said a WFUSM release.

Doctors should stop using the drug as soon as the risk of bleeding passes — once the patient is off the breathing machine and eating, either on his/her own or through a feeding tube.

These findings were published in a recent issue of CHEST.

Home Remedies Series – Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids develop when the normal veins around the anal opening become abnormally enlarged or dilated. This happens because of habits or medical conditions that cause increased pressure on veins in the pelvis. The most frequent cause is a refined diet with not enough grains and bulky foods. This causes constipation, leading to increased pressure.

Hemorrhoids are classified as internal or external depending on where they are in relation to a line (the dentate line) that separates the two types of anal skin.

External Hemorrhoids develop below the line and are generally painless. They rarely need medical treatment, unless a vein bursts, blood pools under the skin and a painful lump forms (this is called a clotted or thrombosed hemorrhoid).

Internal Hemorrhoids develop above the dentate line. They can range in size from a slight swelling under the wall of the canal to large, sagging veins that stick out of the anus all the time. For treatment purposes, internal Hemorrhoids are graded according to their size:

    * Grade I: The vein bulges during bowel movements.

    * Grade II: The vein comes out of the anus during bowel movements, but goes back by itself.

    * Grade III: The vein comes out during bowel movements, but doesn’t go back by itself. It has to be replaced by hand.

    * Grade IV: The vein sticks out all the time and cannot be replaced.

It is possible for a person to have both internal and external Hemorrhoids at the same time.

Cause

    * Poor bowel habits – straining from long-term constipation or diarrhoea

    * Overweight, which often leads to straining to pass stools

    * Standing or sitting for long periods of time

    * Breathing improperly while lifting heavy weights (inhaling rather than exhaling while pushing against the weight)

    * Pregnancy, which results in increased blood flow to the pelvic area

    * Medical conditions, such as long-term (chronic) heart and liver disease, which causes blood to pool in the abdomen and pelvic area

    * Coughing, sneezing or vomiting

    * Genetic (inherited) factors

Symptoms

Internal and external Hemorrhoids manifest differently.

External Hemorrhoids

    * Slight swelling of the veins near the anus generally goes unnoticed. It may only be felt as extra skin around the anus.

    * These skin tags can become inflamed, causing a feeling of pressure in the anus. They can also make it hard to keep the anal area clean, which can lead to skin irritation, itching and burning. If a vein becomes quite large, it may cause discomfort, especially during bowel movements. The discomfort may discourage you from cleaning the anal area as well as you should, which can also lead to skin irritation.

    * A clotted haemorrhoid can be very painful. The pain may be so bad that you cannot sit or walk. The skin covering the lump may be blue (because of the collection of blood under the skin) and shiny due to stretching of the skin.

    * If the lump is not removed within 24 to 48 hours, the pain will gradually lessen over the following four to five days. The skin covering the lump may break open on its own, causing mild bleeding. With good self-care, pain and bleeding will stop within two weeks.

Internal Hemorrhoids

    * The most common symptom of internal Hemorrhoids is painless rectal bleeding. You may notice bright red streaks of blood on toilet paper after having a bowel movement or blood on the surface of stools. If you strain to pass stools, blood may spurt (spraying the sides of the toilet bowl) or trickle (coloring the water in the toilet bowl) from your anus.

    * You may have an uncomfortable feeling of fullness after passing stools because of the bulging of the hemorrhoid in the anal canal.

    * Hemorrhoids that are large enough to stick out of the anus (grade III and IV) may secrete mucus, causing mild skin irritation and itching. Good hygiene can keep this from becoming a problem.

    * You may see or feel protruding Hemorrhoids as moist pads of skin sticking out. It may recede into the rectum on its own or can be pushed back into place.

    * Very large Hemorrhoids may become painful if they swell and are squeezed by the muscles (anal sphincters) that control the opening and closing of the anus.

    * At their worst, large internal Hemorrhoids stick out of the anus all the time.

    * In rare cases, the opening and closing of the anus may cut off the blood supply to the swollen veins. This causes tissues inside the rectum to die, and emergency surgery is required to prevent serious damage.

Prevalence

Hemorrhoids are very common. Most people will experience symptoms or problems at some point in life, most often between the ages of 20 and 50. Men and women are affected.

When to see a Doctor

A visit to a doctor is indicated when:

    * Rectal bleeding occurs for no apparent reason and is not associated with trying to pass stools

    * Rectal bleeding continues for more than one week

    * Stool becomes more narrow than usual

    * A lump near the anus gets bigger or becomes more painful

    * Pain and/or swelling due to Hemorrhoids is severe

    * Moderate pain lasts longer than one week after home treatment

    * Any unusual material seeps from the anus

    * Tissue from inside the body sticks out of the anus and does not return to normal after three to seven days of home treatment

    * Rectal bleeding becomes heavy and/or changes in color from bright red to dark red or if stools change in color

Diagnosis

A number of ailments that affect the anal canal, rectum, and colon (large intestine) can cause bleeding, discharge, itching, and discomfort. Most people who have these symptoms assume they have Hemorrhoids, but this is often not the case.

The purpose of a visit to the doctor is to evaluate symptoms and confirm the diagnosis. Even more importantly, he or she should rule out life-threatening conditions. If the diagnosis is confirmed, a treatment plan can be initiated.

Diagnosis is based on:

    * Medical and social history, including personal habits

    * Symptoms

    * Visual examination

    * Digital rectal examination, i.e. feeling inside with a lubricated gloved finger

    * Anoscopy, the use of a small, hollow lighted tube to help see into the anal canal and lower part of the rectum

    * Proctoscopy – as above, but this makes a more thorough rectal examination possible

    * A fecal occult blood test – this may be done if internal Hemorrhoids cannot be detected with a digital rectal examination or anoscopy.

    * Flexible sigmoidoscopy – because people older than 50 are at higher risk for cancer of the colon and/or rectum (colorectal cancer), this procedure may be undertaken to view the lower colon and so rule out other causes of rectal bleeding, even if Hemorrhoids are evident.

    * Further examination of the entire colon with colonoscopy, when indicated

    * A barium X-ray can also be done which will show the colon’s interior.

Treatment

Home and medication

The best treatment is prevention and such strategies are also effective when Hemorrhoids have already developed.

In addition, most small internal Hemorrhoids can be treated at home with the following techniques:

    * Try not to sit for long periods. Take frequent breaks.

    * A doughnut-shaped cushion can make sitting more comfortable and ease hemorrhoid pressure and pain.

    * Insert petroleum jelly just inside the anus to make bowel movements less painful.

    * Ointments that contain hydrocortisone may help decrease inflammation and speed healing.

    * Resist the temptation to scratch Hemorrhoids, as this irritates the inflamed veins more, damages the surrounding skin and intensifies the itchiness. Non-prescription hemorrhoid creams may help for the itching and pain.

    * When wiping, be gentle. If toilet paper is irritating, try dampening it first, or use cotton balls or alcohol-free baby wipes. You may prefer washing yourself and then dabbing the area dry.

    * Bathe regularly to keep the anal area clean, but be gentle. Excessive scrubbing, especially with soap, can intensify burning and irritation.

External Hemorrhoids

    * External Hemorrhoids usually do not need treatment, unless an enlarged vein near the anus bursts, forming a hard and extremely painful lump under the skin (thrombosed hemorrhoid).

    * If the pain is not too severe, stool softeners, topical pain-relieving creams and Sitz baths (sitting in a bathtub of warm water for 15 minutes several times a day, especially after a bowel movement) may be sufficient. If pain is severe, surgical treatment may be required. If the lump is not removed within 24 to 48 hours, the pain will gradually lessen over the next four to five days. The skin covering the lump may break open on its own, causing mild bleeding. With good self-care, pain and bleeding stop within two weeks (although the lump may remain for several weeks).

Internal Hemorrhoids

    * Anaesthetising creams and suppositories to reduce inflammation may relieve irritation and pain due to internal Hemorrhoids.

    * Internal Hemorrhoids that continue to bleed after a trial of home treatment or become so large that they stick out of the anus may require professional treatment.

Surgery and fixative procedures

This section discusses surgery and fixative procedures for internal and external Hemorrhoids.

External Hemorrhoids

    * If an external hemorrhoid causes a lump with severe pain, it is more effective to surgically drain it, as this provides immediate relief from pain. It is best if it is removed during the first 24 to 48 hours after formation of the lump. This procedure is easily performed in the doctor’s office using a local anesthetic to numb the skin.

    * Surgical removal (hemorrhoidectomy) is only considered for external Hemorrhoids when the veins are so large that they cause significant discomfort and make it difficult to keep the anal area clean.

    * If skin tags cause repeated problems, they can be removed surgically.

Internal Hemorrhoids

    * Larger internal Hemorrhoids may require medical treatment. Non-surgical treatments are used to cure most smaller (grade I and II) and some larger (grade III) internal Hemorrhoids.

    * The goal of most non-surgical procedures is to cut off the flow of blood to the enlarged vein, causing the vein to fall off and a scar to form in its place on the wall of the anal canal. These are called fixative procedures because the scar keeps nearby veins from drooping into the anal canal. Fixative procedures include the following:

          o Rubber band ligation: a tiny rubber band is tied around a prolapsed hemorrhoid, shutting off its blood supply. Within a week, the hemorrhoid will fall off. This method is painless and successful 75% of the time.

          o Coagulation or cauterization: using an electric probe, laser beam or infrared light, a tiny burn painlessly seals the end of the hemorrhoid, causing it to close off and shrink.

          o Injection sclerotherapy: Hemorrhoids are injected with chemicals that create a scar and closes off the hemorrhoid. With a success rate of 90%, this is often the first choice. Results are not permanent, however; repeat injections may be needed every two or three years.

    * Most internal Hemorrhoids respond to non-surgical treatment. When compared to surgery, these procedures involve less risk and are less painful. These treatments often depend on the doctor’s experience and the equipment available.

    * Surgical removal of Hemorrhoids (hemorrhoidectomy) is most successful for treating larger (grade III and IV) internal Hemorrhoids.

    * Smaller internal Hemorrhoids are only treated surgically when they cause severe problems (usually when a person has several Hemorrhoids, when bleeding cannot be controlled with other treatments, or when a person has both internal and external Hemorrhoids).

    * Surgery may be done under general, spinal or local anesthetic. It can be done with a scalpel, cautery device or laser. The choice as to which is the most appropriate varies from patient to patient and is best left to the judgment of the surgeon.

    * Complete healing from this operation can take two to four weeks. However, after one week most patients are able to return to their usual activities with minimal or no discomfort.

    * The success rate of hemorrhoid removal approaches 95%, but unless dietary and lifestyle changes are made, Hemorrhoids are likely to recur.

Prevention

The best treatment is prevention. Initial treatment for Hemorrhoids begins at home. Since Hemorrhoids are made worse by straining to pass stools, changing some of your daily habits so you can have regular, smooth bowel movements may help relieve symptoms and keep Hemorrhoids from getting bigger. Half of all haemorrhoid sufferers find relief with dietary changes alone.

    * Avoid constipation by eating high-fiber foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, beans, and legumes) and avoiding refined and “junk” food.

    * If this cannot be accomplished with diet alone, adding bulk laxatives may be necessary.

    * Drink plenty of liquids such as water, fruit juice and other beverages that don’t contain caffeine – at least eight glasses of water a day.

    * Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day. Alcohol causes dehydration, which can lead to constipation.

    * Monitor your sodium (salt) intake. Excess salt in the diet causes fluid retention, which will cause swelling in all veins, including Hemorrhoids.

    * Regular exercise is important, especially if you have a sedentary job. Exercise helps by keeping weight down, decreasing constipation and enhancing muscle tone. Exercise often to promote regular, smooth bowel movements.

    * Practice good bowel habits. Go to the bathroom as soon as you have the urge to move your bowels. Try to set up routine times when you can go to the bathroom without feeling as if you have to rush or strain. Once on the toilet, don’t sit there any longer than necessary, because this can put additional pressure on the haemorrhoidal veins. Don’t strain to pass stools. Be relaxed and give yourself time to let things happen naturally. Never hold your breath while passing stools.

    * Modify your daily habits. Avoid prolonged sitting and/or standing at work or during leisure time. Take frequent short walks. If possible, avoid frequent lifting of heavy objects. If you must do heavy lifting, always exhale as you are lifting the weight; don’t hold your breath when you lift.