Friday, November 13, 2009

Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

By Laurel Irons

Disclaimer: The herbal information contained herein is a rough guide only; specific cases vary person-to-person. This information is not intended for self-diagnosis or to replace your usual care. Although uncommon, some therapies, herbs and supplements may cause side effects. Remember, “natural” does not always mean “safe”. Never use essential oils internally. Always consult with a doctor or certified health practitioner before engaging in any treatment.

“Conventional” (or allopathic) medicine means medicine practiced by medical doctors, osteopaths, physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses.

Complimentary and alternative medicine (called CAM for short) means medicine used instead of, or in conjunction with, conventional medicine. Also called traditional medicine, folk medicine, and integrative medicine.

CAM includes acupuncture, aromatherapy, ayurveda, biofeedback, chiropractic, energy work, herbs, homeopathic, hypnosis, Indigenous healers, martial arts, massage, medicine wheel, meditation, natural health products (NHPs), naturopathy, prayer, spirituality, therapeutic touch, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), vitamins and supplements, yoga, and much more.

Many of these therapies follow holistic beliefs and techniques. The first theory of holistic health is that everything in our environment contributes to our overall health. The second is that they look at treating the whole person, not just the symptoms.

People in the sex industry may choose to explore these options for a number of reasons. It may be cost-effectiveness, or a reduced feeling of stigma with alternative practitioners, or a feeling of independence and the freedom to choose what is right for us.

Beauty and hygiene

Taking care of ourselves in any way will benefit the whole of our selves, making us appear more youthful and radiant. This follows the central theme of holistic health – the interconnectedness between mind, body and spirit. Internal beauty and well-being is reflected outwardly, no matter our age or state of health.

For those of us desiring extra perks to our appearance, there are several alternatives to prescriptions and surgery that also enhance our entire system. Acupuncture is an effective therapy gaining popularity for weight loss, scars, stretch marks and blemishes. The best and simplest fixes include proper diet (ask a nutritionist or naturopath to help you create a diet best suited to your needs), regular exercise, and the right exposure to sunlight (not too much or too little!). Regular massage and yoga or tai chi help the body to be lean, limber, tall and radiant.

Mental / Emotional / Spiritual Health

Anxiety, depression, trauma and PTSD can be treated with many techniques other than over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Therapeutic touch, and energetic therapies are commonly used to relieve symptoms of mental and emotional stress. They can be hands-on or hands-off. Some of the more common ones include acupuncture, massage, reiki, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Deep breathing and meditation greatly assist with clearing the mind and relaxing the body. Yoga and gentle martial arts, such as Tai Chi or Qi Gong are also wonderful.

Many herbs are wonderful for mental and emotional health. For example, St. John’s Wort is a natural alternative to anti-depressants, and Valerian is a natural remedy for anxiety. Paying special attention to diet can also ease symptoms. If possible, cut back on caffeine, and avoid refined sugar and processed foods, as they greatly contribute to the highs and lows of mood disorders.

Art therapy can be an effective (and less invasive) alternative to talk therapy. Some people enjoy using theatre and re-enactments of stressful moments to help them process tough times, or get stuff out of their system.

DIY(do it yourself) Sexual Health for Men and Women

Our bodies are our most basic resource. Getting to know our body helps us to know what’s going on inside. It helps us be prepared and make informed choices. It helps us balance the demands of our work, and stay on top of any potential or existing health issues.

Women’s Health

Know your cycle
In this business, if you are a menstruating woman, it is a good idea to know when it is easier to get pregnant, and when you are going to bleed.

Examining the mucus of your vagina is good way to know what's happening with your cycle.

At the beginning and the end of the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels are low, there will be very little mucus. It tends to be sticky, whitish in color, and bitter or salty in taste.

As estrogen levels increase there will be more mucus. It becomes slippery, clear and stretchy with a sweeter taste. If you cover the tips of your fingers with the mucus and pull them apart slowly, long fibers will stretch between them. This type of mucus will be around for about four or five days. You are most fertile during this time, and in the week before and after. Remember that sperm can live in your body for up to a week.

Menstruation usually occurs 12 to 14 days after ovulation. It can be light, moderate or heavy, and typically lasts 3 – 7 days.

There are several healthy alternatives to regular pads and tampons, including cloth pads, The Keeper, and sea sponges. Use an old diaphragm, one without holes in it.
Take a small artist or cosmetic sponge, tie a string to it and insert. Remove when full, rinse and reinsert. When your period is over, soak or wash out the sponge in 1 tsp. white vinegar/l cup water for 15 minutes. Dry and store until next period. Both of these suggestions work as well as a super tampon.

Some women use a speculum to conduct their own gynecological self-exams. With the help of a flashlight and a mirror, you can observe changes in your cervix.

Every body is different, and our cycles can change at different times of the year. Things like diet, stress, caffeine, medications, drugs and alcohol can affect our cycles. To get to know your cycle over time, it may take a few months. Keeping a journal is one way of keeping track.

Herbal Remedies

Disclaimer: These are not intended for self-diagnosis or to replace your usual care. Some herbs may cause side effects. Always consult with a doctor or health practitioner before engaging in any herbal treatment.

Missed and late periods
Herbs that bring on menstruation are called emmenogogues. Examples include parsley, basil, lemon balm, ginger, yarrow, and rosemary. Taking high doses of vitamin C also works. Pennyroyal is a very strong herb and should be used with caution as it can induce abortion and cause nausea and vomiting.

To delay your cycle or decrease flow
Make a tea using any of these: yarrow, horehound, raspberry, black haw, white oak bark, bayberry bark and Shepherd’s Purse. If you can, reduce your intake of aspirin, caffeine, salt, red meat, and estrogen while you are doing this.

Menstrual Cramps
Cramp bark, Skullcap, ginger root, red raspberry leaves, black and blue cohosh.

Always have an infection properly diagnosed before treating it yourself.

Yeast infection
I warn you, these techniques may sound gross, but they work. Remove the skin from a clove of garlic and wrap it in a piece of gauze. Tie the ends with dental floss, leaving a long dangling string at the end, and insert it into the vagina. The string will help you pull it out again. Or fill a plastic tampon applicator (or finger of a rubber glove) with high quality yogurt, freeze it, and insert it the same way. You can also put high quality cottage cheese on a pad and wear it. Change it often, and repeat until symptoms are gone for at least 12 hours. All these methods can stop the itching and draw out the infection.

Other vaginal infections
You can try a herbal douche with a combination of any of these: slippery elm, comfrey, chamomile, golden seal, sage, apple cider vinegar (diluted).

Crushed calendula (marigolds), a paste of goldenseal and myrrh, and aloe vera can all be applied to herpes sores. Take high doses of Vitamin B (or B and C together).

For vaginal itching, try a milk compress, a hot shallow bath, or diluted vinegar on the area.

For vaginal inflammation, put water-based lube on the area. Never use petroleum products (like Vaseline).

Leukorrhea (excessive discharge from the vagina)
Plantain, pipissewa, motherwort, fleabane, prickly ash bark, sumac berries, uva ursi, yarrow, white oak bark, bayberry bark, witch hazel, golden seal, chickweed

Bladder infection
Make a tea with chopped celery leaves or chopped parsley leaves. Drink 6 – 8 cups daily for the first 2 days, then reduce amount daily. Drink for 8 days.
Drink a lot of high quality cranberry juice.

Diuretics (to promote urination)
Ground ivy, Cornsilk, Dandelion root & leaves, Buchu leaves, Shepherd's purse, Marshmallow, Wintergreen, Huckleberries, Fleabane, Sassafras, Slippery elm, Cleavers (bedstraw)

Contraception and Abortion
Herbs have been used from time immemorial to control fertility. This knowledge has been passed down among women for centuries. However, with our society’s increased dependence upon modern medicine, traditional knowledge is being lost, and without thorough knowledge and understanding, the use of herbs to induce abortion can be potentially dangerous. Before making any decisions, consult your doctor or health clinic to see how far along you are, and ensure there are no complications (ie. ectopic pregnancy), or a herbal method may not work, and may even be dangerous. Consult your local laws, and know the risks (ie. contraindications, poisoning, incomplete abortion) so you can make an informed decision. If you decide to go the route of natural abortion, consult a certified herbalist, midwife or naturopath to guide and oversee the process, from start to finish (including follow-up). Nourish your body before and after with healthy food, herbal teas, and lots of rest.

Queen Anne’s Lace (aka wild carrot) seeds are a well-known and effective contraceptive. They inhibit the production of progesterone so the uterine lining does not grow enough to support a fertilized egg. One teaspoon of the seeds should be chewed every day from a few days before ovulation until one week after. Chew them thoroughly, even though they taste terrible. Some women also take a teaspoon for six days after unprotected sex. If conception has occurred, Queen Anne’s Lace seeds may aid in inducing a miscarriage.

Other abortifacient herbs include Aloe, Angelica/Dong Quai, Anise, Asafoetida, Ashwaghanda, Bitter Melon, Black & Blue Cohosh, Black Haw, Burra, Carrot, Cotton Root Bark, Dill, Evening Primrose, Goji Berries, Mugwort, Nutmeg, Parsley, Pennyroyal, Pineapple, Rue, Saw Palmetto, Tansy, Thuja (White, yellow and American Cedar), Vitamin C, Wormwood.

Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, you need more than herbs. Good pre and post-natal care requires you have adequate diet, rest, exercise, and proper care from a qualified medical practitioner.

Morning Sickness: peach leaves, spearmint, peppermint, wild yam, cloves, alfalfa, anise,

Cramps: wild yam, cramp bark

Uterine tonics: red raspberry, wild yam, lemongrass, sarsaparilla, alfalfa

Anti-miscarriage herbs: black haw, star root

Labour: red raspberry taken throughout the pregnancy will make delivery easier

If you are pregnant, avoid the following:
They can induce abortion; many of them can be poisonous!
Black cohosh, Blue cohosh, Cedar, Celery root, Pennyroyal, Slippery elm, Tansy, Yarrow, Rue, Lovage, Ginger, Cotton root bark, Sweet flag, Mistletoe, Ginseng, Golden seal, Juniper berries, Oil of sassafras, Myrrh, Southernwood, Motherwort, Angelica, Marigold, Bracken fern, Golden ragwort, Mugwort, and any other emmenagogues and abortificants listed anywhere else.

Postpartum tonics: black haw, pennyroyal, squawvine, juniper berries

To increase milk supply: fennel, barley water, saw palmetto berries, maple bark, cotton seed tea, alfalfa, wintergreen, comfrey

To decrease milk supply: red sage rubbed on breast, cinnamon tea, parsley leaf tea, huckleberry tea

Cracked / painful breasts: comfrey root or leaf tea or poultice, mashed potato poultice to draw out inflammation

Sore nipples: rub with balsam fir resin

Engorgement: cabbage leaves placed in bra.

Menopause
Lots of rest and exercise and a proper diet are important.
General tonics: comfrey, alfalfa, nettle, dandelion root, sage, yarrow, and golden seal.
Take vitamin E for hot flashes and nervousness.

Men’s Health

Prostrate health:
The prostate gland produces a fluid that accompanies the sperm during ejaculation. It sits on top of the urethra (the tube connecting the penis to the bladder), and is normally about the size of a chestnut.

If it becomes inflamed or enlarged, it may exert pressure on the urethra, or block the outlet to the bladder, and obstruct the flow of urine. This can cause interrupted, difficult, urgent or frequent urination, especially at night. Urine trapped in the bladder may become infected and cause a bladder or kidney infection. If infection sets in, burning, blood, and fever may occur. In the severest cases total inability to urinate occurs, sometimes with massive enlargement of the bladder.

Overgrowth of the prostate gland is extremely common in many men as they get older. It does not cause problems for many men.

If you are having any urinary problems, seek medical attention! A small number of enlarged or inflamed prostates may be cancerous.

Useful herbs:
Saw palmetto, red clover, pygeum and stinging nettle. Also: zinc, vitamin B6, lycopene

Genital infections or inflammation

Herbal Genital Soak
Add a teaspoon each of yarrow, lavender and goldenseal (or oregon grape root) to 2 cups boiling water and steep 20 minutes. Strain out herbs, and let cool to a comfortable temperature. Fill a large drinking glass half way with the "tea" and submerge the afflicted area. Soak twice daily, or as often as possible, for at least 5 minutes.

Oil for Genital Infection/Irritation (including “jock itch”)
Combine 1/8 tsp each of lavender and tea tree oil with 1 ounce vegetable oil. Apply to the infected or irritated area at least twice a day.

The best way to prevent and cure this is to keep the area dry. You can also apply the above herbs as a dusting powder, which is much more drying than the oil. If this does not do the trick, try wearing loose-fitting pants that allow air to circulate. To completely get rid of an infection, it is also important to treat it internally. Try the immune system stimulants echinacea and pau d'arco. They can be taken as a tea, pill or tincture. When you think the infection is gone, play it safe and get rechecked by your physician or health practitioner.

Male impotence / erectile dysfuntion
Male impotence can be due to many causes. Drugs and alcohol and poor diet can all be factors. A healthy diet high in high-fiber foods, fruit and lots of lightly cooked vegetables is important. Stay away from rich foods, saturated fats, refined sugars and processed foods. Aphrodisiac foods include chocolate, asparagus, oysters, pine nuts, potatoes, sea cucumber, tomatoes, turtle eggs. Proper exercise and deep breathing will ensure proper circulation. Hydrotherapy (ie. cool showers) is also good for this. If it may be due to emotional or psychological causes, seek a councilor.

Useful herbs:
Bremelanotide, horny goat weed, yohimbine, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng

Note: There are many products out there being sold as “herbal Viagra”- remedies for erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Many of these formulas are still untested, existing mainly to capitalize off a demand for products to enhance sex. Many have dangerous side effects. Do your research before taking any of these products.

Transgender Health

Herbs may be taken on their own or in conjunction with hormone therapy to assist in feminization and masculinization processes. There are herbal and nutritional supplements that you may find help counteract the side effects of hormone therapy and surgery. Use caution and ask a health care provider before using herbs in addition to or in place of hormone therapy.

Feminization herbs:
Some recommended herbs include: fenugreek, fennel, geranium, hops, marjoram, oregano, red clover, sage, wild yam.

Breast enlargement:
Fenugreek, red clover, saw palmetto, Take internally, or try massaging liquid herbal extracts into the breasts.

Masculinizing herbs:
Ginko, ginseng, gotu kola, kava kava, l-arginine, muria pauma, red clover, saw palmetto, tribulus, vitamin B6, zinc

In addition, many forms of CAM, such as homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, massage and herbal and nutritional remedies can be used for pre- and post-surgical support.

Sources:
Anarcha.org
Herbal-suppliments-guide.com
Womenshealthspecialists.org
An Introduction to Herbal Feminization For Transgender Females: www.selfgrowth.com
Hot Pants: DIY Gynecology
Prescription for Natural Healing
The Transgender Herb Garden

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