Why is so much more written about women’s health than men’s? Is it because men are less likely to ask for help (or directions)? Or is it the mindset that men are tough and invincible to everyday ails? Whatever the reason, men often don’t take care of themselves and end up with ailments from years of bodily neglect.
There is a lot of preventative care that men can do while still young. In fact, with appropriate herbs, foods and lifestyle adjustments, men can remain healthy even as their hair is turning gray, and maybe even avoid the heart disease, prostate problems, and fading sexual vitality that affect so many.
COMING FROM THE HEART
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., and men have a higher incidence at a younger age. There are some excellent herbs to protect the heart, but men also need to learn to listen to their hearts, their feelings, and their passions. Men need to acknowledge that they are not tools in some great machine, all brain and muscle. Unless we tune in and start living in harmony with our hearts, we may find a time in our lives when our heart fails us, and no amount of herbal medicine can heal that.
Incorporating herbs in the diet such as Garlic and Turmeric will also help protect the heart. Both these herbs help protect the blood vessels from atherosclerotic plaque as well as to lower levels of “bad” cholesterol.
Cholesterol and fats are not the enemy, though – cholesterol is the chemical basis for testosterone and all steroid hormones, and fats make up the wall of ever cell. So it’s not the quantity of fat and cholesterol that counts but the quality. Eating good fats such as olive oil, sea fish, nuts and seeds can actually be helpful, as can taking an Omega-3 supplement like Flax oil or fish oil. Just as important is to avoid the bad fats – hydrogenated, old or rancid oils, and of course trans fats.
When it comes to herbs, we can’t forget Hawthorn. Many heart herbs are too strong for use unless recommended by a trained Herbalist, but Hawthorn can be used for almost any heart condition because it nourishes the heart by increasing blood flow to the cardiac muscle so the heart can function more efficiently.
You could say that there are two main energetic patterns to be aware of with most male reproductive problems – either a stagnation of energy in the pelvis or a deficiency of the vital energy. Either can lead to prostate problems in later life or a lack of sexual vitality manifesting as erectile dysfunction or impotence. Two basic preventative strategies are to move the energy in the pelvis, and to nourish the vital energy.
We can begin moving the pelvic energy by moving our bodies. For tens of thousands of years, humans have been active and physical. If you are sitting all day then blood won’t be flowing through your body as well as it could be, and greater blood flow means greater tissue health because of increased oxygen and glucose to an area while also clearing out waste products.
Exercise doesn’t need to be a chore – find something you like doing. Walking a half hour a day can do wonders, as can swimming, or playing tennis or basketball. Think about dancing, hiking on the Parkway, or walking to the store as ways to get exercise.
To specifically improve pelvic health, try pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel or PC (pubococcygeal muscle) exercises. These simple internal exercises help prevent prostate problems by improving circulation while also improving ejaculatory control, making for longer and better sex.
Begin by squeezing as if interrupting urine flow. Repeat this 10 times, holding about 2-3 seconds each time. This is one set. Try not to tense other muscles in the area and only clench and release the PC muscles. Build up slowly to 5 sets a day.
Herbs can help move that pelvic energy as well: Stone Root is a local herb that is specific for moving blood in the pelvic area, and not coincidentally, has a traditional use for prostate problems.
Ginkgo is probably the most well known circulatory herb, and is used for erectile dysfunction from poor circulation. You can use Cinnamon or Ginger in your food, drink Sassafrass as a tea (root beer was originally a medicinal drink), and if you really need a kick, try Prickly Ash, a potent circulatory stimulant that’ll make your mouth tingle.
In Chinese Medicine, the vital force that keeps us strong and vibrant is known as Jing, translated as Essence. Depletion of Essence is what is responsible for all the signs of aging – graying of the hair, weak bones, and flagging vitality. So whatever we can do to help the Essence is going to help us age gracefully.
One of the ways men lose Essence is through ejaculation. As men get older, they should have sex and masturbate less often, or learn ways of having orgasm without ejaculating. The techniques are too complex to discuss here, so reference the books on the list below to learn how. Or simpy experiment while pleasuring yourself.
Essence is easier to preserve that to replace once it is gone. Anytime we push ourselves past our limits and draw on our reserves, we are depleting our Essence, so getting enough sleep and not overworking will help preserve it, as will eating an enjoyable and healthy diet.
Many “adaptogen” herbs can help preserve and nourish Essence as well. These include He Shou Wu, a classic Chinese longevity herb, which is available as a tasty tonic called “Shou Wu Chi.”
Other nourishing herbs include Saw Palmetto, Ginseng, Ashwagandha, and Muira Puama. Some of these herbs are thought of as aphrodisiacs, not in a stimulating sense but as tonics to our essential energy. This enables us to have a greater overall vitality, and sexual vitality mirrors the vitality of the whole body.
The other kind of aphrodisiac is a relaxing one like Damiana. Relaxation is a good start for an aphrodisiac because often our problems come when we are unable to leave the day behind and relax into sensuality.
Both moving and nourishing your vital energy will make you feel better, be sexier and live longer – and be healthier to boot! What more could you ask for?
“The Male Herbal,” by James Green
“The Way of the Superior Man,” by David Deida
“Vital Man,” by Stephen Harrod Buhner
“The Art of Sexual Ecstasy” by Margo Anand
“Taoist Secrets of Love,” by Mantak Chia
“Hot Plants,” by Chris Kilham