Ryan Drum

Island Herbs

P O Box 25, Waldron, WA 98297-0025

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Herbs and Men's Health

Some Notes and Thoughts

Many of the men I see in both clinical and private practice are greatly relieved to talk with a male herbal practitioner. For health issues strictly male, I personally believe that a woman practitioner is usually contraindicated. The reasons are many but two in particular: the first is that the XX female can never, from the obvious genetic chromosomal reality, be biosympathetic with the XY male. Women are totally female. Men, of course, are only half male and the other half female, chromosomally speaking. Without the Y chromosome, a woman can never know the male reality. This is not a fault, only the reality. Men as well as women are controlled by their respective genetics. And those genetics are very different for men than they are for women. Excluding X-bearing spermatozoa, every other cell in a man's body is uniquely male due to the Y chromosome.

Secondly, there are significant real cultural differences which directly effect men's health and very survival. In the current United States and for much if not most, of the past 140 years, all men must sign over title to their respective bodies to the ruling oligarchy at age 18, under threat of 5 year's imprisonment and $250,000 fine for refusal (Selective Service, or in "war times", the "Draft" = young men sacrificed for the whims of mostly rich old men.) I believe that this is a health hazard that is sickening for many men if not subtly emotionally crippling for life. I believe it is totally depressing to be owned by the rich and powerful for what could be, can be, and should be the most wonderful 18 years of a man's life (18-36). These are the years that determine a man's health for the rest of his life. The obligation to register for the draft and involuntary conscription is an oppression completely unknown by any contemporary American woman. Thus, they can never understand the health consequences, independent of their chromosomal make-up. Now, I rant on about this, rather than about the obvious, namely that most of a man's genitalia are external and inordinately exposed not only to the elements but also to repeated and unwelcome mechanical trauma as a consequence of the upright biped posture, primarily because of the what I feel is the innate disconnection between herbal medicines recommended for men in both herbals and in the lay press and the reality of most men's lives. Socially, I feel that no herbs can heal the scars of not owning one's own body. Herbs have not yet changed the basic inequities. We should acknowledge here that a tiny number of women do have rudimentary prostate glands and do have circulating PSA and occasionally present with prostatic cancer. Conversely, 1400-1600 American men present with breast cancer annually; and the number is increasing each year; the course of the disease is about the same in men as in women.

So, in many respects, the male animal (and please, spare me the specious arguments that our species is not an animal) presents both genetic and biological as well as sociologically unique health problems and opportunities different from women. Some authors. most notably James Green in his The Male Herbal, have recommended that herbs normally used to treat female afflictions are probably well-suited for similar male problems in tissues derived from the same embryological origins. Perhaps. Only years of careful clinical observation will let us barely know.


And, what are the 5-6 main causes of sickness and death for the contemporary American male? Heart disease (renal cardiac failure), diabetes, cancer, lung failure, suicide, and medical errors. The only one of these same causes of death and sickness in the top five, 100 years ago was lung failure via pneumonia and related lung infections (influenza and tuberculosis; interestingly, worldwide tuberculosis annually now kills more men than all tropical diseases and AIDS combined). In our times, all of the top 5-6 destroyers of men are totally socio-cultural and economic. There is no real mystery. Have men changed or has the environment in which men develop disease changed? I say that most American men become ill and die from the diseases of economic slavery. They cannot afford to be healthy. Although there seems to be inherited genetic predispositions to the main American male killers (according to the well-funded laboratory scientist apologists for the funding oppressors), which I believe totally to merely represent the normal distribution curve of susceptibility, it is the presenting environment which mostly generates contemporary kinds and patterns of American male pathology.

Traditionally, occupation, climate, and geography have determined pathology in men. Involuntary young males were used as human brushes during the early days of large chimneys; lowered by ropes and chains, their bodies and clothing scuffed away the accumulated soot and creosote inner chimney plaque; their occupational hazard was a high rate of scrotal cancer.

With the advent of lead oxide paint pigment, replacing simple white lime, "painter's disease developed from chronic lead exposure and eventual poisoning. Members of British painter's guilds and trade associations from the 1600's on, were granted about 160 days of therapy at the mineral baths in Bath, England at certain intervals to detoxify themselves with the high sulfur waters, lead silfate apparently precipitating on their epidermis, to be therapeutically brushed away. In 1972 the Center for Disease Control officially recognized " Meatwrappers' disease", caused by reactive contact skin sensitivity to the new clear plastic films used to wrap cut meat pieces for display case sales Plasticizers (hardeners and accelerators) from incompletely aged polymerized plastic caused skin cell death and subsequent persistent open painful sores.

Herbally, we have both palliative and curative herbs for most of the main male killers [Medical error is usually opaque to herbal remediation; 100,000 deaths annually is not trivial; yet, the perpetrators of those deaths freely acknowledge that the total is probably underreported. These are the people who whine and point about a few alleged fatal comfrey cases.] and patho-stressors. In addition to using effective herbs, we also need to work aggressively on the causal environment which makes us sick. That means real sociopolitical change not just better herbal formulations.


Essentially all of my male patients are self-medicating, most with various herbal products, including some of the most powerful and addicting herbs. We are a self-medicating society. I believe that the general use of physiologically strong herbs and taste and odor masking herbs both confounds and impairs effective therapeutic herbal medicine. It is my strong belief that smelling, tasting, touching herbs used medicinally is an important part of herbal therapy. If addictive and masking herbs have dulled both a man's basic body metabolism and senses of taste and smell, I believe he will tend to not respond positively to gentle and tonic herbal medicines. This might explain why many men remain uninterested in herbal medicine or find it inadequate: their bodies are not sensitive enough due to deliberate chronic desensitization in an effort to tolerate a basically unpleasant life reality. Many of the herbs listed below are not even considered by the men who use them as either herbs or herbal medicines. Often, only direct questioning will reveal the use of coping and masking herbs by men.

The most ubiquitous strong addicting herb is COFFEE (Coffea Arabica). The people of the United States consume over 40% of world coffee production whilst comprising less than 5% of the world probable total human population, even though no coffee grows in the continental United States. Our addictive needs have obliterated scores of indigenous cultures in the tropics and subtropics to maintain our supply of this harmful plant. It is our favorite nervine as well as a powerful habituating laxative, diuretic, painkiller (raises the pain threshhold considerably in most humans often without any notice on the part of the user but often obvious to non-coffee users), and mood changer. A scary factoid is that coffee is the most heavily pesticided food(????) crop and the third most heavily pesticided crop after tobacco and cotton.

The second most important herb used by 25-30% of men (still, the fools) is TOBACCO(Nicotiana tabacum), usually taken as inhaled smoke with the attendant carbon monoxide poisoning and rapid depressant effect; one ingredient, nicotine, blocks clear nerve transmission by attaching to acetylcholine receptor sites in the neural gap, in both the body and the brain. Smokers have a greater susceptibility to all of the main male killers; particularly cardivascular and cancer ailments as well as the obvious perpetual bronchitis and progressive emphysema, coughing their respective paths to their respective graves. Primary lung tumor is usually a consequence of tobacco smoking. Chronic smoking is suicide and obvious self abuse. Except when doing charity work for drug rehab centers and acute or first aid cases, I do not see patients that regularly smoke tobacco or other substances voluntarily. I feel that the herbs I have to offer can not compete with willful tissue destruction and nervous system poisoning. I ask for at least 60 days of no smoking.

HOPS (Humulus lupulus) is another nervine and male libido and testicular suppressant, usually self-administered as a weak alcohol (ethyl alcohol), 3-9%, extract. In some rather interesting experiments, it was determined that the hops extracts in beer were far more addicting and habituating than the weak ethanol content. Consumption of weak hops extracts may be a way of suppressing xenohormonal disruption of male hormone balance from xenoestrogens and various growth hormones particularly from meat products and soy.

CAYENNE(Capsicum frutescens) is a superb vascular stimulant and vegetable, although the claim for oral abuse is partially valid. In many men it is used as a covert laxative and heart stimulant. In others it is used as a way to ignore taste buds deadened by smoking or bored with otherwise insipid repetitive food. Its use by the police of the oligarchy is herbal as well as citizen abuse. In Seattle recently at the WTO debacle, it was the police who were the terrorists. Who will protect us from the police? What herb will stop corporate brutality?

CINNAMON (Cinnamomum spp.) is an aromatherapy libido booster for many men (and women) and a super systemic hemostat (as is cayenne.) Cinnamon is probably the most benign of the popular self-medicating herbs. A drop of cinnamon oil in the hair or under the pillow can enhance a romantic encounter. Its use in food complements the usual extremely hyperglycemic foods which trigger a strong insulin response immediately after being eaten. These are the famous cinnamon buns and similar sugary baked foods.

MARIJUANA(Cannabis spp.) is another popular self-medicating herb used as a coping herb to deal with overwhelming pain, personal and sociological. It has a great future as a medical herb once the Federal government leaves the personal drug business (ethyl alcohol beverages) and no longer is compelled to eradicate competing substances.

I am not certain about Piper nigrum, BLACK PEPPER; it is slipped into the diet regularly as a simple spice but its ubiquitous presence smacks of habituation if not addiction. I agree with Buchanan's speculations that it acts as a subtle stimulant as some of its compounds are converted to amphetamines in the body. I find it a burning obnoxious herb that also acts as a urogenital iritant in men with particularly sensitive urinary mucosa. Something to remember when a man presents with a history of painful urination: ask about black pepper consumption.

HORSERADISH (Amoracia rusticana) root preparations are used to add a hot spicey flavour to food; the fire is often the dominant oral sensation, with other tastes and odors nearly completely suppressed. I am not sure if this is just to excite a tired and insensitive palate or to mask the dullness of the same old boring food day after day. Herbally, regular consumption of horseradish can be a very effective therapy for alleviating and preventing protein-over consumption-induced gout; the fresh leaves eaten regularly in salads are less intense than the grated root. Regular horseradish consumption may also by cryptic self-medication for chronic urinary tract infections. For some men, too much horseradish presents as penile pain within the urinary tract, burning urine.

Coffee, Hops, Tobacco, Marijuana, Cinnamon, and Black Pepper are all herbs used to treat coping disorder. I believe most of my American and Canadian male patients self-medicate to treat chronic depression. This ongoing pandemic male cultural depression masks, confounds, and exacerbates other genuine organic physiological negative health problems. To me, there is no such entity as a "psychological problem"; no body, no psyche. Psychological problems are an avoidance construct of the oligarchy to maintain oppression. Watch a man "go crazy", and analyze the stressors. They are usually a combination of physiological and punitive cultural insults, especially economic oppression.

Cayenne and horseradish are dietary masking herbs with secondary positive physiological effects. They also desensitize the tongue and palate while their respective burning actions dominate the immediate eating experience with the near complete loss of more delicate and nuanced tastes and odors. Excess salt (sodium chloride) is used similarly.


Consequently, I need to decide as an herbalist and practitioner how much apparent structural truth a particular man can withstand in order to have not only patient compliance, but a changed for the better healthy lifestyle (my version) which may be receptive to the positive healing actions of herbs. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, suicide, can all be either prevented or at least partially corrected through diet and behavior change. Medical error is probably 90% a behavioral problem (all medical procedures are an experiment upon the body of the particular patient). Few herbs can overcome chronic self-abusive diet and behavior. Many times I've had to say, to my male patients in particular, "You are a product of your behavior and your environment. You are the architect of your own pathology in most cases." Although this may not be the best news, the related truth is that we are self-correcting and self-regulating biological beings. Given the opportunity, we will tend to optimal health through behavior change.

One of the major misconceptions of especially first-time male patients is the expectation of a therapeutic miracle from herbal remedies. The news that a lot of personal work may be involved is not always welcome. That added to the realization that we make ourselves sick can be depressing. I try to point out that every effort in the direction of health tends to have positive health consequences if not instant miracle cures. Also, that herbal medicine evolved over millions of years as our species learned to self-medicate; AND, that earlier self-medication was in the context of environments usually characterized by ample clean air, clean water, unpoisoned food, bright sunshine. These conditions are part of the almost obligatory expected healthy environmental foundation upon which herbal medications can act favorably on the human body.

Let us consider the peculiar phenomenon of photophobia, fear of sunlight: we are a naked species, nearly hairless, without very highly-developed dark or night vision. If we were truly susceptible to the ionizing radiation of the sun, we would not have survived as a naked species. Not only must we be innately tolerant, of sunlight, we probably have evolved a need for it. And, we have; the most important form of Vitamin D is produced in the human epidermis with ionizing solar radiation. As little as 45 minutes/day of midday full sun for 90 days is enough to provide a year's supply of Vitamin D, usually stored in the liver (if there is room) from just facial exposure. This, when all systems are functioning optimally. Now, a startling factoid is that most American males have received at least 80% of their total lifetime solar exposure by the age of 21. We were not designed for indoor living nor for wearing of clothes; we can do it but it betrays our basic design intent. Further tardy ongoing isolated lab-freak research seems to substantiate the obvious: we need sunshine, with the results showing that adequate body supplies of Vitamin D are essential to prevent both prostate and breast cancer; both tissues have a high calcium requirement, particularly the prostate; calcium duodenal absorption is facilitated by Vitamin D. Is our avoidance of sunlight a major contributing factor in prostate cancer? The further north one goes, the higher the rates of prostate cancer. How can herbs overcome sunlight starvation? And, what about the alleged risk factor for skin cancer? I believe the distribution of skin cancer incidence shows that 90% of malignant melanoma occurs in people who are mostly indoors not in those who are outside a lot. Furthermore, the incidence of agricultural worker skin cancer is severely exacerbated by being sprayed with carcinogenic pesticides that are very transdermally mobile. I believe that sunlight has been unfairly and erroneously blamed for skin pathology which actually may come from what deposits on our respective skins from the filth in the air: toxic substances and irritating particles, and, from chronic substance-induced contact poisoning by known carcinogens.

I get the sense that more and more, many herbalists and naturopaths are recommending supplements rather than whole foods and lifestyle changes. It is easier for most patients. Most of my male patients initially want me to prescribe for them herbs that will enable them to get back to work so they can often continue the same behaviors that made them ill; I am asked to become an enabler, a co-worker in the pathology machine of civilization. I try to resist. My repeated admonishment is: A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE IS THE BEST MEDICINE.

The major health function of most herbal medicines is to help each individual body to be able to resist and remediate sickness by maintaining optimal body health.

I try to use the mildest herbs and the most radical lifestyle changes at the beginning of all treatment plans for chronic sickness; if your life made you sick, you need to change your life. Strong herbs can be used to help survive and tolerate a pathological lifestyle, with probable dependence and/or tolerance likely over time.

DIETARY HERBS. I usually recommend dietary herbs first; as salad greens, as pressed juices, blended in green drinks and smoothies, as frozen herb tea cubes in summer drinks, even as herbsicles. After fresh herbs, I am more in favor of herbal teas and vinegars than tinctures; more in favor of herbal soaks and baths than capsules, and more in favor of capsules and tinctures than pressed tablets or standardized extracts. To me, standardized extracts are not only chemically unlikely in polar solvents (please, remember basic chemistry, all molecular species rearrange continuously in their respective polar solvents), they are also biologically unlikely if not unreal. Alcohol and water are both polar solvents. For antimicrobial activity in particular, herb variability in non-standardized extracts tends to prevent microbial tolerance and accommodation.

I prefer local herbs to imported and urge men to grow and harvest the herbs themselves. Direct personal involvement with the herbs brings its own special healing energy and enhances all formal herbal medications. I like to get men into the habit of aggressively including the tonic and nutritive herbs in their diets. My favorite tonic herbs which are easy to both introduce into the diet and the life, are: chickweed, dandelions, parsley, garlic, ginger, nettles, rosemary, and the other salad mints.

For COPING HERBS I always recommend the hawthorn berries, and leaf and blossoms, if tea, or ground herb in food. Crataegus has not only the best effects on the heart and mood, but also seems to have the most efficient herbal free radical scavenging capacity. I like occasional fresh leaves of Melissa in the salad and Damiana in strong tea, powdered as a condiment, or extracted in strong tincture for an aperitif. Suspecting inadequate mineralization in everyone, I always prescribe 3-5 grams of high-mineral ground kelp as a good food for those frantic starved enzymes and as a source of Fucoidan to calm the intensity of the inflammatory response.

For the PROSTATE, I try and understand if mechanical realities, derived from posture, excessive chair-sitting, constipation, abdominal fat-packing, too tight belts, and irritating cola drinks or brisk spices are responsible for mild BPH or the symptoms of acute or chronic prostatitis long before considering the use of remedial herbs. Many times softer stools, much higher water intake, and walking 2-4 miles per day relieve many of the symptoms. I also prescribe ejaculation to tolerance, losing excess weight, napping to tolerance, and violent physical activity for 20-30 minutes at least once a week to honor the positive side of rage and high-adrenaline metabolic and kinetic activity. In ascending order of strength of action for most men, the herbs I use for prostatic swelling, discomfort, urinary disruption, lower back pain, proctalgia fugax, and loss of libido are: water, pure and plenty, at least 2 litres/day, shavegrass tea, couch grass tea, Fucus in the diet {Bladderwrack, 3-5 gm/day}, nettle tea, wild carrot seed tea {especially where chronic cystitis is suspected}, a mix of goldenrod and mullein leaf tea, nettle root tea or expressed juice, pumpkin seeds, kava kava. I also use damiana, red raspberry leaf and leaf bud tea or brandy extract as a boost to raggedy libido. I am loathe to prescribe either Pygeum or saw palmetto unless absolutely necessary. Saw Palmetto in particular seems to have a distinctly erosive feminizing effect on the male body.

I believe that positive political change is the greatest adjunct therapy to botanical medicine: either it will be wise and compassionate or it will be angry, chaotic, and punitive. A society with accelerating vertical differentiation of access to resources always, always ends in ruin or tyranny. For herbs to really be effective treatments for men's health, we need male bodies and brains that are more receptive, and a radically more health-positive political and social environment.

Suggested Readings:

1. Brinker, F. An overview of conventional experimental and botanical treatments of non malignant prostate conditions, British J. Phytotherapy 1994; 3:154-176.
2. Buhner, S.H. Vital Man...Natural Health Care for Men at Midlife. Avery Books 2004.
3. De Angelis, D. How to make love all the time. Dell 1987.
4. Doyle, James A. The Male Experience. Wm. C. Brown 1983.
5. Gilbaugh, J.H.A. The Doctors Guide to Mens Private Parts. Crown Publishers 1989.
6. Green, J. The Male Herbal. The Crossing Press 1991.
7. Loo, M. and Betancourt, M. The Prostate Cancer Sourcebook. Wiley 1998.
8. Martolis, E. Undressing the American Male. Dutton 1994.
9. Winston, D. Saw Palmetto for Men and Women. Storey Books 1999.





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P O Box 25, Waldron, WA 98297-0025
Updated 04-10-2021

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