Lately, it seems that everybody and their brother is promoting natural remedies for hemorrhoids. A Google search of the phrase "best herbal hemorrhoid treatment" serves up over 500,000 pages … most of which are devoted to selling you the latest magic formula.
Since I have suffered from itching, pain and bleeding for over a year, I would love to get some lasting relief. Unfortunately, the old standby, Preparation H, wasn't relieving my symptoms all that much. I even have a referral pending to a – ahem – rectal specialist. (Can't say I'm really looking forward to that visit.)
To be honest, in my misery I actually downloaded one of those "miracle" home remedies books online. However, I stopped short at using their recommended "alum sitz bath." Alum is a powerful shrinking agent that can completely dry out irritated tissues, causing further misery. No thank you!
In the meantime, I've been taking psyllium husk capsules from my local vitamin shop. Taken at night with plenty of water, a teaspoon's worth of psyllium naturally keeps bowel movements large, yet soft. And people with hemorrhoids want that, because soft, bulky stools reduce irritation and allow healing.
Unfortunately for us chronic sufferers, there is no "cure" short of corrective surgery.
Any natural hemorrhoids treatment should be just one part of a long-term lifestyle change that corrects some of the common causes, such as constipation, poor circulation, and obesity.
Based on my own research and experience, some of the time-tested herbal or natural remedies really do help relieve some of the most distressing symptoms. They can be a safe, effective complement to a new and improved diet and wellness routine.
Sure, natural treatments may be gentle and safe. But, you ask: do they work as well as regular ointments or pain relievers? Really, how can I be sure that a "natural" hemorrhoid remedy isn't just a total waste of money? The popular interest in alternative and traditional medicine has fueled an increasing number of clinical studies demonstrating that certain herbs are very effective in relieving anal pain, itching and bleeding.
The following is a list of herbals with documented positive effects on the most troublesome symptoms. *
- Horse Chestnut: The Europeans have approved dietary horse chestnut extract as an accepted treatment for venous insufficiency, a condition in which circulation to the legs is impaired. In the US, the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, an independent council that evaluates alternative therapies, gives horse chestnut an "A" grade for the treatment of venous insufficiency because of the breadth of documented evidence. Since hemorrhoids can be aggravated by circulatory problems, some drug researchers – and marketers – speculate that anything which increases the body's circulatory capacity must therefore be of benefit. So, horse chestnut to the rescue! Warning: Because raw horse chestnut contains potent toxins, only use products containing the processed, refined extract (called "HCSE").
- Butcher's Broom: Its active compound, ruscogen, is an anti-inflammatory which can shrink and heal swollen hemorrhoidal tissues. Butcher's broom is usually taken orally as a dietary supplement. Since there are at least two studies reporting contact dermatitis after using anal ointments containing ruscogens, stick with the supplement form.
- Bioflavonoids: These plant metabolites, such as diosmin, hesperidin and rutin, are becoming more widely used as dietary supplements to treat circulatory ailments. Dietary products containing extracts of bilberry or citrus fruits promote vein strength and tone. Bioflavonoids also help reduce inflammation and swelling. Most famously, bioflavonoids are potent anti-oxidants, promoting tissue repair throughout the body.
- Psyllium seed husk: For constipation relief plus great digestion, try formulas with a blend of psyllium and spirulina algae (which help make a good home for lactobacilli and other beneficial intestinal bacteria) or chlorella algae (rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants). Psyllium husk powder is so gentle, doctors often recommend it to ease the pain of that first bowel movement after childbirth, hemorrhoidectomy or fissure repair. Reminder: You must drink at least one full glass of water per teaspoon of psyllium powder.
- Witch Hazel: This tissue-shrinking herb is a time-honored treatment for hemorrhoids. Apply with a cotton ball a few times a day to soothe swollen, inflamed anal tissues. You can also buy processed witch hazel powder at health food stores and make your own cooling compress.
- Yarrow: Another astringent herb, yarrow can be boiled into a tea and applied with a cotton ball several times a day. This will help stop minor anal bleeding.
- Chamomile: Contains oily substances known as bisabolols and chamazulenes, which are proven to soothe irritated tissues. In fact, many top-of-the-line skin care products contain these extracts. A 1996 German study measured the effectiveness of chamomile-based ointment on hemorrhoid surgery patients: they healed faster than those who didn't receive the ointment.
- Mullein: Mullein is an herb that has been proven in laboratory research, such as a 2007 Turkish study, to help relieve localized pain such as earache. The oil, readily available from health food stores, can be applied directly to anal tissues without problem.
- Cypress and Frankincense: Resins from these trees have been used throughout history as antiseptics and anti-inflammatories. Traditional Chinese piles remedies often contain these healing botanicals. The literature shows mild vein-constricting effects, which can be helpful in promoting good anal circulation.
- Geranium: Extracts called "geraniols" are showing promise in the treatment of bleeding hemorrhoids. Geraniols also possess antiseptic and pain-relieving properties.
- Aloe: Did you know that you can freeze a sliver of aloe vera plant and insert it as a soothing suppository? Aloe, the age-old burn remedy, relieves anal pain and swelling. Bonus: No side effects.
- Common Household Ingredients: Some dietary staples have been proven to help some people escape hemorrhoid pain. Peeled garlic cloves, peeled onion slivers, and raw potato are reported to ease swelling. Even the horrific-sounding cayenne and garlic enema has some basis in fact: the same chemicals that make cayenne "hot" also work as pain relievers. Personally, I think you'd have to be really desperate to even think of trying a spicy enema. But medical research does exist to support the use of capsaicin and hot pepper extracts in pain management.
Remember, herbs are not inert substances. They may conflict with other herbs, or even medicines. But typically, herbal-based treatments have few to no side effects when used as directed. As always, do your homework before buying any herbal ointment, oil, or capsule. And ask your doctor if you're still not sure.
Space doesn't permit full reference citations here; a search of PubMed on any given herb will show you at least a decade's worth of reputable science.