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Herbal Healing Week - The Urinary & Reproductive Systems

Wednesday, 19 January 2005

Nicky Treacy - Medical Herbalist
Nicky will tell us what herbal medicine is and what she does as a medical herbalist.

Nicky has been practicing as a medical herbalist since 1999.  She became interested herbal medicine as she wanted to explore alternatives to conventional medicine especially in the scientific, spiritual and holistic benefits of herbs.  The study and practice of herbal medicine dates back thousands of years.  Nicky recommends two textbooks on the subject.

"The Complete Illustrated Guide to the Holistic Herbal:  A Safe & Practical Guide to Making & Using Herbal Remedies" by David Hoffman is published by Element Books.  ISBN 1852307587.
"Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants" by Andrew Chevallier is published by Dorling Kindersley.  ISBN 0789410672.

The Urinary & Reproductive Systems
Nicky will talk about both systems, focusing on different men's and women's problems.

One of most common problems for men in the urinary and reproductive areas are prostrate problems.  These occur when men age and are more common in the 40 to 70 age group.  Problems include swollen prostrate, dribbling and incontinence.

After a man hits puberty, his prostate gradually grows from roughly the size of a small marble to about the size of a golf ball.  At around 50 years of age and due to a variety of factors, his prostate begins to grow again.  This increased growth can cause a variety of problems, most commonly Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) or an enlarged prostate, prostatitis, and even prostate cancer.
The specific cause of most of these problems is unknown although they may be related to hormonal changes brought on by aging.  As a man ages an increased amount of hormones such as estrogen and prolactin decrease the rate at which testosterone and the dihydrotestosterone (DHT) into which testosterone is converted by 5-alpha-reductase are eliminated from the prostate.  This excessive accumulation of DHT is thought to be responsible for the problems of the prostate gland.

Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH)
Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) or an enlarged prostate occurs when, in response to hormones such as testosterone, the cells in the inner core of the prostate gland grow and form fibrous nodules.  These nodules put pressure on the urethrae causing pain and problems urinating.  If left untreated BPH can lead to prostatitis, and in severe cases the bladder's inability to empty completely can cause infection to spread in the bladder and even to the kidneys, possibly causing kidney damage.

BPH will affect an astonishing 50% of men during their lifetimes.  This means that if you have any symptoms of BPH you are definitely not alone; you just think you are because most men never speak of their discomfort.

Symptoms of an enlarged prostate include the following:
. A need to pass urine frequently.
. Pain, burning, difficulty in stopping and starting urination.
. Blood in the urine.
. A weak urine flow.
. Nighttime wakening to empty the bladder.
. A constant feeling that the bladder isn't completely empty.

The Herbal Cure
Saw palmetto and pumpkin seeds will reduce swelling in the prostrate and keep the urine flowing through the urethra gland.  If the urine does flow properly it can cause an infection.

Saw palmetto is a herb growing throughout the country.  Pumpkin seeds can be purchased in most health food stores at around €2.20 for 250g.  Saw palmetto liquid is available in most health stores priced €9.75 for 50ml.

Women can suffer from reproductive and menopausal problems.  Painful and irregular periods are very common amongst many women and can be cured by herbs.

The Herbal Cure
Nicky recommends a herb called Lady's Mantle.  This is a fresh herb that can reduce period pain and prevent excessive bleeding in the uterus.  It is particularly good after childbirth, when muscles can be looser.  It should never be used if a woman is pregnant

Lady's Mantle tincture is available health stores nationwide priced €10 for 50ml.

Pre Menstrual Tension (PMT)
Many women go through many physical and emotional changes just before and during their period.  These symptoms, which usually begin seven to 14 days prior to a period are known as either Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) or Pre-Menstrual Tension (PMT).  PMS is very common, approximately one in three women suffer mild or severe symptoms each menstrual cycle.

It is not known why some people get PMS and why some don't and why some people suffer more than others.  The general view is that monthly hormone changes are responsible for triggering all the symptoms.  In severe cases, doctors say it could be the woman's body that is over-sensitive to their own progesterone.  Other theories are based on the individual's life style and social pressures.  PMT is more common in women who have had children, eat a diet high in salt and sugar and don't take regular exercise or those with high levels of stress.

Symptoms of P.M.T.
All women are different and some women may suffer many painful symptoms, while others have such minor symptoms that they do not create a problem and might even go unnoticed.  Some of the symptoms you may experience with PMS could include one or a few of the following:
. Tender swollen breasts.
. Headaches.
. Stomach cramps.
. Feeling irritable.
. Stomach bloating.
. Backache.
. Feelings of aggression.
. Acne outbreaks.
. Fluid retention.
. Weight gain.
. Mood swings & depression.
. Clumsiness.
. Tiredness.
. Tearfulness.
. Food cravings.

The Herbal Cure
Vitex liquid helps regulate periods and is good for breast tenderness.  Vitex liquid costs €9.75 for 50ml and is available in most health stores.

Menopausal Problems
Women suffering from the menopause can take two herbs.

The Herbal Cure
Black cohosh is a herb that helps regulate oestrogen levels in women.  It costs €9 for 50ml and again is available in most good health stores.

Sage helps prevent hot flushes.  It is taken in cold tea form and taken over a couple of days can keep sweats at bay.  It costs €5 for 50g and is available in most health stores.

Men & Women - Urinary Tract Disorders
Both men and women suffer from urinary tract disorders but women are more prone to UTIs than are men or children.  Urinary tract problems increase with menopause.

When functioning properly, the urinary tract is a marvel of efficiency.  Throughout every 24-hour period, it thoroughly cleanses approximately 200 quarts of fluid, returning most of it to the circulatory system and eliminating the remaining two quarts as urine through the bladder.

As with most parts of the body, however, when this system breaks down, it causes pain and discomfort.  And unfortunately, it breaks down quite frequently.  Urinary tract infections (UTIs), second only to respiratory infections in frequency, account for 10 million visits to the doctor each year.  One in five women will suffer from cystitis, an inflammation of the bladder, at some time in her life.  20 to 30 percent of women who have a UTI will have a second infection, and 30 percent of those will have yet another.  In addition, at least 13 million adults suffer from urinary incontinence (an inability to hold urine) to some degree.

The Herbal Cure
Corn silk is recommended.  Corn silk is the brown outer covering of corn.  This is removed and can be used to make a tea.  It comes in loose tea form and costs €5 for 50g.  Available in most health stores.

Call the National Institute for Medical Herbalists on 0044 1392 426 022 or visit their website to find a Medical Herbalist near you.