by Dee Atkinson, Medical Herbalist, MNIMH 14 March 2010
One of the principle health related issues facing many men is their reluctance to talk about their problems.
Men are less likely than women to seek help for problems such as depression, stressful life events, and even lingering health problems that can sometimes be a warning sign of something more serious.
I see this from my own experience in my clinic. Only 1 in 7 of the patients I see are male, and often they have been persuaded to come in by their wife or partner. In this article I want to share some of the recommendations I do make on a regular basis to the men attending my clinic. You may find this useful and interesting to read for yourself or to pass on to a friend or partner.
Herb and plant remedies have been used for thousands of years to support men’s health. In the past they would have been used to increase ‘vitality’, increase ‘potency’ and to ward off the winter ailments. Herbs were even used to treat wounds and heal bones. Plants medicine was used for both physical and the emotional healing.
Stress and sleeplessness
Many of the men’s health problems I see in clinic originate in the emotional spectrum and then develop into the physical. One of the big underlying issues is stress. Stress is part of many people’s daily lives and this is especially true in our modern fast pace of life and with the stresses caused by the economic downturn.
Short-term stress can be useful in achieving goals and overcoming challenges but long term and prolonged stress can be damaging to your health. It challenges your immune system leaving you prone to colds, flu and allergies but also is implicated in more serious health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, mental illness, stroke and adrenal gland exhaustion.
There are however many ways to minimise the negative effects of stress, using a combination of diet, herbal medicine, relaxation and exercise and I have outlined this in our stress section. A balanced, nutritious diet based on wholegrains, fresh fruits, vegetables and good quality protein is very important. Many people find it is helpful to avoid too many stimulants such as tea, coffee and sugar as these can lead to irritability and insomnia. Try drinking herbal teas instead, there are many new brands and flavours on the market now.
I regularly recommend my clients to make sure they include oats in their diet. Oats were used (especially in Scotland) both as a food (porridge) and as a medicine. Oats act as a tropho-restorative (meaning to restore back to the original state) to the nervous system and are also included in Duncan Napiers original Nerve Debility Tonic. Today we now know this as Scullcap, Oat and Passionflower Compound. Scullcap, Oat and Passionflower Compound contains over 20 different herbs, including Scullcap, Oats, Passionflower, Jamaican dogwood, Limeflowers and Valerian.
Another side effect of stress can be sleepless nights. To help break the cycle of stress and sleep loss I recommend Passiflora (Passionflower). This is the traditional remedy to aid sleep and uplift mood and is the main ingredient of Sweet Dreams, which is our sleep mix formulation. It’s an easy to use licensed formula and an alternative to capsules and tablets.
Regular exercise is also a great way to control stress levels and keep blood pressure and cholesterol down. You don’t need to join an expensive gym - a brisk 30-minute walk everyday will improve your sense of wellbeing. Swimming, yoga, stretching and cycling are all great ways of taking exercise.
It is important to take a break. Get out of the house or office. Setting time for you to relax can also be a bit of a challenge. But many of us do really need this time to charge our emotional batteries and it is equally important for men. Go to see a film, read a book, and take a long relaxing herbal bath.
One of the big issues for men as they get older is prostate health. Little symptoms such as difficultly stopping and starting the urine flow can indicate prostate problems. It is essential that anyone who has any of these symptoms, or any pain in this area should seek medical help. Often a simple painless examination can put ones mind at rest.
A traditional remedy for the prostate and one, which is still recommended today, is Saw Palmetto. This is a available as Saw Palmetto Tincture and can also be effectively combined with Nettle Root Tincture. Research has shown that nettle root is beneficial in the treatment of benign prostatic enlargement, particularly the early symptoms. If you have problems and your health care practitioner has decided to just keep an eye on the situation, Saw Palmetto and Nettle Root could help to maintain your prostate health. Managing prostate problems should only be under the advice of a practitioner.
Skin problems are a common reason for men to come into the clinic, often suffering from Eczema or Acne and very often Psoriasis. All of theses problems are made worse stress. Psoriasis for example is characterised by itchy, scaly pink patches commonly appearing on the elbows, knees, shins and scalp, and often appears after a stressful time. Napiers Pokeroot ointment is specific for easing psoriasis and combines well with stress reducing herbs such as Napiers Skullcap, Oat and Passionflower.
It is noticeable that when many of the stress management ideas above are adopted there is often an improvement in the condition of the skin.
Due to the sensitivity of the skin in both eczema and psoriasis, it is a good idea to use only unperfumed soaps and a non-biological washing powder. Fabric conditioners should be avoided. Protect the skin from chemicals and detergent as much as possible. In some cases of psoriasis, salt water as in sea swimming improves the condition of the skin.
To help soothe some of the symptoms associated with psoriasis or dermatitis of the scalp I recommend using Napiers No2 Hair Lotion. This can be used for psoriasis, allergy or just dryness. It contains calendula, which is both soothing and healing to irritated skin.
Many men experience thinning of the hair as a result of stress and advancing years. My suggestion is try Napiers Eucalyptus Hair Tonic. This is a traditional hair tonic, known in the past as Eucalyptus Hair Restorer and can be used toreduce dandruff and other dry, itchy scalp conditions. It also helps to stimulate circulation to the scalp and promote hair growth.
Nettle and Sage have been used for centuries to enhance shine and to condition of ones hair. Nettle stimulates the scalp and encourages hair growth, while gentle plant based foaming agents and pure organic herb extracts to cleanse the hair and scalp. We have now combined these in our New Nettle and Sage Shampoo and Conditioners.
Herbs have been successfully used in the treatment of many health problems, including skin conditions, stress, high blood pressure, prostate problems and many more. Ideally, you should consult a qualified medical herbalist who can work out a specific prescription to suit your needs.