Have you ever noticed the reaction of the people around you when the word “hemorrhoid” comes up in the conversation? Some people giggle, some try to change the subject and others start making jokes, but it does not seem like anyone is really dealing with hemorrhoids. In actuality, studies show that half of the people over age 40 suffer from a mild form of hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoids occur when a vein in the anus or lower rectum bulges beyond its normal location. You may discover it when you find a glob of flesh protruding from the anus. It can be accompanied by bleeding, itching and pain. If the hemorrhoid ruptures or has a blood clot, it can lead to spasm of the anal sphincter and intense pain.

Hemorrhoids are caused when the blood pressure in the veins in the anal area becomes too large for the walls to resist. The walls then release their hold on the veins, allowing them to fall out of place. There are several reasons why this could happen. People with chronic constipation are often straining during defecation causing increased blood pressure in the lower veins. Holding one’s breath during defecation also has the same effect. Other things that cause an increase in blood pressure in the anal veins are heavy lifting, general high blood pressure, pregnancy and heredity (weak walls).

In working to treat this problem, you may start out trying over the counter creams which relieve some of the pain and itching, but don’t solve the problem. A visit to the doctor may lead to removal of the hemorrhoid. This is done by wrapping a rubber band tightly around it until the tissue dies and drops off. Injecting chemicals, freezing or burning the area or having the hemorrhoid surgically removed are other medical options to treat hemorrhoids. These procedures will bring about temporary relief, but unless the cause of the hemorrhoid is addressed, it will come back.

If you are a first time hemorrhoid sufferer and these methods sound scary, do not panic. Here are some natural therapies and herbal treatments that can help.
1. Often a first time hemorrhoid can be returned to place by hand. Try pushing it back up into the rectum.
2. To prevent further irritation try the following.
Before defecation, lubricate the anus with petroleum jelly about 1/2 an inch into the rectum. After, use damp toilet paper or tissues coated with moisturizing cream when wiping. Though hemorrhoids often itch, resist the urge to scratch them because you can hurt the vein walls.
3. Daily warm sitz baths help to relieve pain, increase blood flow to the area and shrink the swollen tissue. Sit in 3 to 4 inches of water with the knees raised.

To help tighten and heal the loose veins, try astringent herbs such as Butcher’s Broom and Uva Ursi. St. John’s Wort helps to heal dilated veins in and around the anus by increasing circulation. It also helps anxiety, nervous tension and irritability which can cause a person to be “uptight” and constipated.

If you have hemorrhoids because of constipation try the laxative herb Gentle Move. You can also work to soften the stool. Change to a high fiber diet and drink lots of water. Psyllium Hulls will also help soften the stools. Nature’s Three contains mucilant herbs which bulk and soften the stool and relieve constipation.

There are several herbs and formulas which can be applied directly to the hemorrhoid and surrounding areas to increase healing and relieve pain. White Oak Bark Cream (from NuCel Labs) can be used externally. It has astringent, tonic and antiseptic effects which help hemorrhoids. Aloe#1 applied to the hemorrhoid and the anal area once every 2 hours soothes the irritated mucous membranes (also ingest 1 tbsp daily). Applying yarrow to the hemorrhoid will help stop any bleeding and reduce inflammation. Black Ointment contains herbs which can be put on the hemorrhoid to draw out toxins and tighten tissues.

In the 1980’s a doctor named Sikirov did an e x p e r i m e n t with 20 of his patients who had hemorrhoids. He asked them to wait till the urge to defecate was strong and to defecate in the squatting position. 18 of them had a significant reduction or even an absence of symptoms within a few days to a few months of following his advice. The 2 who had no improvement had previous surgical treatment for hemorrhoids. As a side note, Sikirov found that in the squatting position it took an average of one minute to defecate while those in the sitting position took 4 to 15 minutes to defecate.

The squatting position is actually the more natural position and seems to prevent hemorrhoids. To achieve this position with a conventional toilet you can buy a step which goes around the toilet. Another alternative is to bend over or put your feet up on a small stool while sitting on the toilet. These positions give you some of the advantages of squatting.