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No need to blush!

Medical herbalist Pamela Spence offers some tips for dealing with some embarrassing health conditions

From bad breath to body odour, some health issues can be quite embarrassing. Fear not though, as here are some natural tips and tricks that may help.


IBS is worse for stress, so keep a check on your levels. Make sure that you take breaks, learn some breathing techniques and try tapping to reduce anxiety when it gets out of hand. Herbs like chamomile have a dual action, working on both the nervous system and calming the digestion directly. Chamomile is best for cramping and lemon balm helps where an anxious tummy means that you struggle to eat. Peppermint is great for nausea, while fennel can banish the bloat and ginger reduces inflammation. Herbal blends with names like ‘Digest’ will support your digestion with a mix of herbs. Try to get to know your trigger foods and reduce them as much as you can if an outright ban isn’t possible. Remember that your body may be able to cope with a trigger food once or twice a week, but more than that will cause symptoms, so know your tolerance levels too.


Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria candida albicans. It mainly affects the vagina, labia and occasionally the mouth, leaving skin red, sore and itchy. Some people have a systemic overgrowth leading to many complex symptoms. It commonly arises after taking a course of antibiotics, which wipe out our ‘good bacteria’ – the ones that keep candida in check. Luckily it is mostly easy to treat. First of all, get yourself a good quality probiotic to replenish your own supply. If you’ve been on antibiotics then you will need a capsule because top ups with yogurt, kefir or other goods, won’t be enough. To soothe your skin, make a strong cup of tea with marigold petals (Calendula officinalis), cool and use as a wash or a sitz bath. The antifungal properties of marigold will help reduce the candida overgrowth and its anti-inflammatory effect will help you feel more comfortable.

Bad breath

Bad breath is a sign that something is up – either with your dental health or with your digestion. While you work on getting rid of it, a trip to the dentist is a must to check for cavities or gum disease. If all is clear but your digestion is a bit off, speak to your GP for advice. Meanwhile, plenty of herbs have been used to freshen the breath while the cause can be found. Peppermint is familiar to most of us and the menthol in it gives a fresh mouth-feel. In fact, any mint will help – and many people prefer spearmint for the cooling sensation it delivers. You can also use fennel seeds; just keep some with you to chew when needed and it also helps to banish bloat. Chewing cardamom pods is helpful because they contain cineole, which kills the bacteria that causes bad breath.


Piles are veins in the anus that can become enlarged and protrude making them painful and itchy; they might also bleed. They are caused by straining when you pass a bowel movement – so if you often get constipated this is often why they occur. Pregnancy is another time when they are common when there is just more pressure on the system and constipation is common as ligaments relax. Increasing fibre in your diet and ensuring you are well hydrated will help to take care of the constipation. Switch to moist toilet paper to reduce irritation. For the piles themselves, make a strong mug of chamomile tea, cool and refrigerate. Use a facecloth soaked in the tea to hold against the piles to reduce pain and itching. Aloe vera gel is also soothing – simply dab on each time you go to the toilet or use coconut oil as a simple alternative.

Vaginal dryness

As women age, oestrogen levels drop and vaginal dryness can occur. It can make intercourse painful and sometimes even walking causes the vaginal walls to stick, causing discomfort or small tears. Luckily natural remedies can help. A dab of coconut oil inserted into the vagina will melt with body heat and allow the tissues to slide past each other as they would with normal levels of lubrication. Herbal lubricants, when applied daily, can really help to soothe the situation. Increasing oestrogen levels may also help and taking plant oestrogen is a simple way to do this. Soya is rich in phytoestrogens and can easily be incorporated into your diet via soya milk or yogurt. Red clover in a tincture or tablet form and sage taken as a tea, tincture or tablet are also helpful.

Body odour

Sometimes bodies smell more than usual and it can be disconcerting, particularly when we don’t know why. In the Ayurvedic tradition it is the Pitta, or fiery constitutional type, that has this problem most commonly. Think about whether you have other fiery symptoms like heartburn, itchy skin or irritable moods. If so, take things that are cooling and try to avoid foods and activities that cause more heat in the body like spicy foods and hard training sessions. Herbs that cool the body include coriander, mint and cucumber. All of these can be added fresh to a water jug and kept overnight to drink the next day. Sage may also be helpful to reduce sweating which can help reduce body odour. Drink a cup of cooled tea daily or simply buy a tincture and take the recommended dose. Neem can also control odour and is often found in natural deodorant.

Medical herbalist Pamela Spence MNIMH, is a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists: 
You can contact Pamela via her

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