with herbalist Susun Weed
A young woman I know is suffering with cysts (fibroids). She is in a great deal of pain. So far the doctors have given her Vicodin and are talking about removing her female organs. I’ve suggested to her there may be less invasive methods for dealing with this with kind of health issue. She isn’t sure whether they are cysts or fibroids and is very scared. Do you have any natural suggestions for her? She is 20 years old and has three children.
Uterine fibroids are solid muscle tissue growths in the uterus. They are also called fibroid tumors, myomas, or leiomyomas. Fibroids occur so frequently (in up to half of all women over forty) that they could be considered a normal irregularity. The occasional fibroid can become enormous (medical literature reports one that was 100 pounds!), but the majority (80%) remain as small as a walnut.
Fibroids are the number one reason American women have hysterectomies.
The causes of uterine fibroids are unknown, but estrogens, especially estradiol, promote their growth. After menopause fibroids disappear. But because estrogen levels can rise during the early menopausal years, previously asymptomatic fibroids may grow in the years just before the cessation of menses, resulting in symptoms such as feeling of heaviness in the belly, low back pain, pain with vaginal penetration, urinary frequency or incontinence, bowel difficulties, or severe menstrual pain and flooding.
Women of color are three to nine times more likely to have fibroids than white women, and theirs will grow more quickly.
Fibroid tumors are not cancer, not malignant. Tumor means a swelling or a growth, not a malignancy, not cancer. Less than 0.1% of all uterine fibroids are malignant.
Small fibroids often disappear spontaneously. Larger fibroids are more difficult to resolve, but not impossible to control with natural measures.
The “root chakra” (lowermost energy center in the body, which includes the uterus) is said to store unexpressed anger. It is believed that any unwanted growths in these organs can be countered by allowing the anger to safely discharge.
One woman’s fibroids (and menstrual cramps) disappeared within three months of beginning a vigorous exercise program. Exercise helps insure regular ovulation, and irregular ovulation seems to worsen fibroids.
Consuming three or more servings of whole grains or beans daily not only reduces the size of fibroids but offers protection from breast and endometrial cancers as well.
Red clover flowers (Trifolium pratense), are one of my favorite infusions, but use during the menopausal years may increase difficulty with fibroids.
Strengthening the liver with herbs such as dandelion, milk thistle seed, or yellow dock root helps it metabolize estrogen out of the body, thus reducing fibroids.
Vitex or chasteberry tincture, 25-30 drops two to four times daily, often shrinks small fibroids within two months. But results come from long-term use — up to two years.
Ask someone to burn moxa over the area of the fibroid while she envisions the heat releasing the treasures in her uterus. What is locked up in this fibroid? What can she give birth to?
Acupuncture treatments can shrink fibroids.
Poke root (Phytolacca americana), used internally as a tincture (1-10 drops per day; start small) and externally as a belly rub oil, has gained a reputation as a profound helper in relieving pain and distresses from fibroids. CAUTION: Poke is considered poisonous; it is not often found for sale. This is one remedy you may have to make yourself to try.
Warm castor oil packs on the belly, or ginger compresses (soak a towel in hot ginger water) relieve pain and help shrink the fibroids.
The use of progesterone to treat women with uterine fibroids is hotly debated. One side holds that fibroids are created by lack of progesterone. The other side makes, to my mind, the better case: that progesterone increases fibroids. Evidence? Fibroids increase in size during pregnancy, when progesterone production is high, and atrophy after menopause, when progesterone levels decrease. Whichever side is right, eating more whole grains and beans usually changes estrogen/progesterone ratio for the better and shrinks fibroids.
Reduce fibroids by reducing exposure to estrogen: avoid birth control pills, ERT/HRT, estrogen-mimicing residues from herbicides and pesticides used on food crops (eat organically- raised products). Tampons that are bleached with chlorine may mimic the bad effects of estrogen, too.
Lupron (leuprolide acetate), a drug which induces “artificial menopause”by shutting down the body’s production of estradiol causes a significant decrease in fibroid size within 8-12 weeks. Fibroids do regrow to about 90 percent of their original size when the drug is withdrawn however.
Major advances have been made in surgical treatments for women with fibroids. There are many options now besides hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), including hysteroscopic resection, uterine embolization, myomectomy, and suprecervical hysterectomy. Since these are fairly new procedures, take the time to find a surgeon who is skilled in the procedure.
Hysterectomy can be a life-saving procedure, but by the age of sixty, more than one-third of American women will have given up their wombs to the surgeons. The presence of non-symptomatic fibroids is never sufficient reason, to my mind, for a hysterectomy. Of my students and apprentices who have had hysterectomies because of fibroids, those who “did their homework” — that is, helped themselves before and after their surgery with all the tools at their disposal — seemed to fare much better than those who did not.
With very few exceptions, no woman is healthier without her ovaries. So, even if she elects a hysterectomy, she should keep her ovaries.
These Wise Woman ways, and lots more, are in my book New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way. They are arranged in order of risk: the safest first, the most dangerous last. If one has a uterine fibroid and it is a problem, begin with the mildest remedies first. Set a time limit for the use of any remedy, but, except in an emergency, don’t go on to stronger remedies until one is sure the safer ones aren’t effective. As with any advice, we are each the best judge of what works for us.
photos: Wise Woman Spiral ©iStockphoto.com / Chuck Spidell | Urban Priestess © Mirabai