Reproductive System Cancers

Cervical Dysplasia, Fibroids, and Reproductive System Cancers
Excerpt from The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Natural Healing by Dr. Gary Null
Seven Stories Press, 1997

Note: The information on this website is not a substitute for
diagnosis and treatment by a qualified, licensed professional.

Women are susceptible to ovarian cancer and carcinomas of the uterine cervix, either cervical or endometrial cancer. Of the three, ovarian cancer occurs most often, and is growing in frequency. It usually manifests after menopause, especially in women who have few or no children, who were unable to conceive, or who gave birth later than the average age. Other factors that place women at risk include a past history of spontaneous abortions, endometriosis, type A blood, radiation to the pelvic region, or exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, such as asbestos.

Cervical cancer is associated with promiscuity at an early age, a genital herpes infection, and multiple pregnancies, while endometrial cancer is related to a history of infertility, failure to ovulate, the use of drugs containing estrogen, and uterine growths.


Uterine cancers are easier to detect in the beginning stages, and tend to be more treatable, whereas ovarian cancers are rarely discovered early on, and are terribly damaging to the individual’s quality of life.

Abnormal bleeding in the vaginal area, especially after menopause, is the chief sign of endometrial cancer. Sometimes there is pain in the lower abdomen or back. A Pap smear does not always catch endometrial cancer early on, but it can be detected with a surgical exam of the uterus.

In the early stages of cervical cancer, symptoms are usually absent, although there maybe a watery, vaginal discharge or spotty bleeding. Signs of advanced cervical cancer include dark, odorous vaginal discharges, fistulas, weight loss, and back and leg pain. One’s chance of survival increases with early discovery through yearly Pap tests.

Women should look for these early indications of ovarian carcinomas: abnormal vaginal bleeding, weight loss, and changes in patterns of urination and bowel movements. While a Pap smear will not detect ovarian cancer in the beginning stages, it may be discovered through annual pelvic exams.

Clinical Experience

Contemporary treatments for ovarian cancer are a disappointment in that while they can make cancers disappear for weeks or months at a time, they will, in fact, fail in the end, as the cancer returns with a vengeance to finish the job. In fact, orthodox survival rates for ovarian cancer patients are only between 5 and 10 percent. Cancers of the uterine cervix initially exhibit higher success rates with surgery, which may involve the removal of the uterus (hysterectomy), as well as both ovaries and the fallopian tubes (salpingo-oophorectomy), in addition to x-ray and hormone therapies. But there is no guarantee that the cancer will not return. Gar Hildebrand, president of the Gerson Research Organization in San Diego, California, says that more patients would triumph over reproductive system cancers if a combination of approaches were employed. He states, “No one should be treated by a single specialty, and then watched in hopes that the cancer will not come back. It’s not scientifically justifiable, nor is it acceptable to the patient. Sitting and waiting just causes horrible, immune-suppressing anxiety.” Here Gar Hildebrand informs us about multiple modalities that work best for patients with ovarian and uterine cancers:


“Let’s say a woman with an ovarian cancer has just been admitted to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The first thing the doctors will do is alaparotomy. She will be opened up, and a surgeon will get the bulk of the tumor out. I have no problem with that.

“But the second step would definitely not be to use drugs that kill tumors. Tissue damage always accompanies cancer; unless it is addressed, the cancer is sure to reappear. In other words, throughout the body, tumor toxins cause cells to lose potassium, and to swell with extra salt and water. This state is worse around the tumor itself. Often times a treatment that goes into the bloodstream fails to penetrate to a tumor effectively because the tissue next to the tumor has no immunity. What’s really needed, then, is for the patient to be stabilized physiologically. The ideal treatment would be for the person to receive nutritional salt and water management, a diet that nourishes and corrects the water retention in the cells. We’re going to feed the whole body to try to get the tissues back to normal functioning.”

Hildebrand recommends a diet that detoxifies and stimulates cells back to health. “Doctors have long been aware that most cancer patients have an aversion to meat. They’ll smell it and gag; that’s a self-defense mechanism. It’s absolutely essential for these people to stop taking in heavy proteins—animal proteins and sometimes even heavy vegetable proteins, like legumes—for a while, just to clear up. The tumor’s converting that stuff into caustic chemicals, related to the ammonia we use in our laundry machines. It’s those chemicals that create damage system wide.

“We can also detoxify the body by supplying oodles of plant chemicals, called phytochemicals. These foods can be eaten cooked or raw, and should include vegetables of all sorts, fruits, and a few whole grains. Fruit and vegetable juices are especially important. You have to flood the system with nutritious fluids, such as carrot and green leaf juices. Apple juice should always be added because apples contain a material that is very good for cellular energy. If you put those juiced phytochemicals into the body every hour, these cancer patients will have their cellular enzyme systems speeded up so that the individual cells can spit up toxins.

“Eating an excess of empty calories and proteins creates toxicity that causes the immune system to overproduce white blood cells that aren’t very adept at what they do. Once you restrict protein and calories and get the nutrient level up, these patients’ immune systems become intelligent again. They stop making excess stupid white cells, and create more lymphocytes interested in more types of challenges. In other words, you get a very lean, mean immune system.”

In addition to changes in diet, most patients need additional arms in their fight for survival. Hildebrand explains why the following therapies are so important:

Coffee enemas. “These enemas have been used by thousands of cancer patients, outside the realm of traditional medical care, because they work. Boiled coffee in retention enemas stimulates the liver’s enzyme system, which in turn causes great relief from pain in cancer patients. The liver has more than a thousand documented medical functions. When we help it to work better and faster, the cancer patient’s overall physiological condition changes, sometimes within hours, and certainly within the first several weeks of treatment. You have a whole different person. People come off gurneys and out of beds, excruciating chronic pain is eased, and addiction to morphine is broken.

“Every three minutes, all the blood in our bodies goes through our liver. Our livers and small intestine walls have an enzyme system with a fancy name that we will call GST for short. This enzyme system naturally responds to cancer in the body by going up, and the coffee enema has been shown in laboratory experiments with rats, and in later experiments with humans, to produce increased liver bile flow, and to stimulate the GST enzyme system. In fact, it’s raised to 700 percent of normal levels of activity. When the GST system is running that fast, it can effectively remove tumor toxins from the bloodstream. And it doesn’t take very long. The effects of these coffee enemas will last for sometimes four, six, or eight hours before a feeling of discomfort and pain around the tumor returns. They’re that effective.

“You have to know how much coffee to use: a quart of water with three tablespoons of coffee boiled in it. That’s cooled and strained, not filtered, because a filter would remove some of the molecules that stimulate the GST enzyme system. The coffee is safely taken into the colon, while the person is lying on his or her right side, retained for 10 to 15 minutes, and then released. Patients doing this without the supervision of a physician should know that anything cooler than 100 degrees is going to cause cramping in the intestines.”

Hyper baric Oxygen. “We’re also going to try to increase circulation with full-body-immersion oxygen therapy. Hyper baric oxygen treatment is given in a diving chamber that used to be used to treat the bends. There’s been a lot of fascination with ozone in cancer treatment in the alternative field. But what we found is that ozone applications only raise tissue oxygen by 25 to 50 percent, whereas hyper baric oxygen can predictably raise oxygenation by 800 to 1000 percent. This means that tissue around the tumor, which doesn’t have enough oxygen to function, can get sufficient oxygen for energy production. This will also allow the tissue to repair itself by producing a high-potassium, low-sodium environment, so that this edema can come out of the tissue.”


Coley’s toxins. Hildebrand states that this treatment has the most glorious record of any treatment in the cancer literature, especially when combined with the Gerson diet program, consisting of hourly glasses of fresh juice and coffee enemas: “I am hopeful that much interest will be sparked in this therapy because, right now, the only reports I’ve seen of long-term survival for ovarian cancer patients have been from a combination of these approaches.

“The word toxin is a little confusing, because Coley’s toxin is not really a poison. It refers to a bacterial endotoxin that is an immune stimulant. I would put that directly into the abdominal cavity once the tissue around the tumor has been stabilized.

“Coley was a physician who searched the literature for cancer treatments after a heartbreaking experience of losing a child patient to the disease. Much to his surprise, he found a skin infection called erysipelas. Erysipelas is caused by a streptococcus that causes a skin fever of 105 to 106 degrees. This fever causes an inflammatory infection which interferes with tumor action.

“Coley constructed a live erysipelas vaccine, which was too toxic at first. Some patients died, but others experienced a tumor regression. He went through a lot of trial and error, and eventually settled on something which we now call Serratia marsecians. He mixed the serratia and the strep in a ratio of 1,500 cells to one, and then crushed the mixture through a micro filter to liberate the internal toxins of the bacteria. This liberated antigens, which would in turn cause the immune system of the patient to think that there was a chronic infection that had to be fought.

“Coley’s toxins seem effective due to the fact that the immune system, when turned on, can cause a lot of dust to rise. These patients need to be put into an intensive care unit, and hooked up to monitors, just in case of a problem, although there have never been any heart attacks or kidney failures reported in the 900 cases that have been thoroughly studied. Then a tiny amount of toxins is administered intravenously for four hours through a drip. About two hours into the process, the immune response begins. The patient will develop chills and shaking and that last for about half an hour to ninety minutes, followed by a rise in temperature of about a degree every ten minutes. Once that temperature hits 105 or 106, the ICU staff lies them down or puts in a suppository of Tylenol to stop it.

“The reaction is the immune system’s response. This is not a poison. This is not a toxin. It’s not like chemotherapy making your hair fall out or causing bone marrow suppression. The Coley’s toxins are much more like what happens when your immune system decides to cure you of an infection. So the symptoms are more flu like, without the nausea and vomiting. After the second or third IV application, patients usually get sleepy and actually nod off. The fever lessens progressively. In other words, there’s a honeymoon period.

“Coley himself said that if you don’t keep these up for at least three or four months, in booster dosages, you won’t get a permanent response. The literature reveals that gains are lost when Coley’s toxins are given in lower concentrations or for shorter durations. But when properly used, there is an extraordinary 50 percent cure rate in advanced, inoperable uterine and ovarian cancers.”

The benefits of an overall approach. Gar Hildebrand reemphasizes the importance of utilizing any and every cancer protocol that works: “We believe that it’s time we stopped living in an either/or world, where orthodoxy is over on one side and the marginalized alternative professions are in the trenches and foxholes, and nobody talks. We believe it’s time to get the doors and windows of communication open, so that we can find the context for each of these treatments and the way they fit together. Our own experience reveals that using the nutritional approach takes a toxic load off of the immune system and speeds up intracellular enzymes, so that they can repel toxins and pull them from the blood rapidly. Calorie and protein restrictions, and a diet high in nutrients, can lead to sensitization of the tumor. Years of experience shows that diet therapy alone can produce monthly fevers. And tumors may or may not regress through those fevers. But if you stimulate the immune system when those fevers are hitting, you have a much greater chance of tumor reduction. That’s why we suggest the marriage of these disciplines, and the respectful recognition of the role of every aspect of anti-cancer medicine that’s ever been developed.”

From “Herpes” chapter of The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Natural Healing by Dr. Gary Null (Seven Stories Press, 1997). To order the book, call 1-800-596-7437.

Clinical Experience

There is no conventional medical cure for herpes, although drugs are commonly given to lessen symptoms. The most famous of these is acyclovir, also known as Zovirax, which supposedly reduces the rate of growth of the herpes virus. Herpes medications have many potential side effects, including dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, general weakness, fatigue, ill health, sore throat, fever, insomnia, swelling, tenderness, and bleeding of the gums. In addition, acyclovir ointment can cause allergic reactions.

Herpes sufferers will be glad to learn that natural remedies are often highly effective in shortening the length of outbreaks and in diminishing their frequency. These are some of the important ones to know about:

Nutrition and Lifestyle

When herpes strikes, it’s always a good idea to rest and eat lightly. Short fruit fasts, with plenty of pure water and cleansing herbal teas, can be very helpful. Good herbs to include are sage, rosemary, cayenne, echinacea, goldenseal, red clover, astragalus, and burdock root. Beneficial bacteria, such as those found in yogurt, or supplements of lactobacillus and acidophilus, support the digestive processes necessary for the maintenance of the immune system. Other nutrients that directly enhance the immune system include garlic, quercetin, zinc gluconate, buffered vitamin C, and beta carotene or vitamin A. In addition, 500 mg of the amino acid L-lysine, taken 2 to 4 times a day, can produce excellent results. Bee propolis is anti-inflammatory, while B vitamins combat stress. Also good are bee pollen, blue-green algae, and pycnogenol.

Nervous system stressors, such as caffeine, alcohol, and hard-to-digest foods like meat, should be avoided, especially at the onset of an attack. Foods high in the amino acid arginine, such as chocolate, peanut butter, nuts, and onions, are also associated with higher incidences of outbreaks.

Since stress promotes outbreaks, it is important to make time for activities that alleviate tension. Many possibilities include biofeedback, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and exercise. Toothbrushes should be changed frequently, and completely dried before reuse to prevent re-infection. Soaking them in baking soda also fights germs.


According to Dr. Erika Price, classical homeopathy is the most effective form of treatment for people with the herpes virus: “The properly chosen remedy will motivate and empower the individual’s own defense systems to fight back against anything harmful to it,” she claims. Unlike orthodox medicine, homeopathy does not suppress ailments. This is very important because when you suppress a disease, it doesn’t go away but goes somewhere else deeper inside of you. Deeper means it goes to a more important organ than the skin. Homeopathy has no adverse effects and can only be of benefit. When the patient’s physical, mental, and spiritual nature are taken into account, a cure can be found. The following remedies may prove extremely helpful:

For cold sores

Natrum muriaticum. When sores are on the lips, especially in the middle of the lips, the 30c potency should be taken twice a day.

Phosphorus. Cold sores that manifest above the lips, accompanied by itching, cutting, and sharp pain, need the 30c potency twice a day.

Petroleum. For cold sores that erupt in patches and become crusty and loose around the lips and mouth, petroleum is indicated. A 9c potency is needed 3 times a day.

Apis. Apis helps cold sores around the mouth and lips that are accompanied by stinging, and painful blisters that itch and burn. A 6c potency is needed 3 to 4 times daily.

For female genital herpes

Natrum muriaticum is indicated when the herpetic lesions are pearl-like blisters and the genital area feels puffy, hot, and very dry. A 6c potency may be beneficial when taken 4 times a day.

Dulcamara. Women who tend to get a herpes outbreak in clusters on the vulva or on the hair follicles around the labia and vulva every time they catch a cold or get their period probably need dulcamara in a 12c potency 2 to 3 times a day.

Petroleum. This may help if herpes eruptions form in patches and the sores become deep red and feel tender and moist. Outbreaks usually occur during menstrual periods, and most often affect the perineum, anus, labia, or vulva. A 9c potency should betaken 3 times a day.

For shingles

Arsenicum album benefits most cases of shingles, especially when the individual feels worse in the cold, worse after midnight, and better with warmth. If taken at the onset of an attack, it is best taken in a 30c potency twice a day for 2 to 3 days. After the first three days, arsenicum album is indicated if there is a burning sensation in the areas that were affected by the zoster eruptions (typically the chest and abdomen). At this point 12c, taken 2 to 3 times a day, is best. This remedy is excellent for the getting rid of the burning sensation that is often present.

Hypericum perforatum is a wonderful remedy for any kind of nerve pain. It is indicated whenever there is intense neuritis and neuralgia, with burning, tingling and numbness along the course of the affected nerves. Hypericum perforatum should be taken in a 30c potency, 2 to 3 times a day, as needed.

When taking homeopathic remedies, Dr. Price reminds patients to not touch them directly, as that may disturb the vibration of the medicine. Rather, they should be placed under the tongue until dissolved. Coffee, mint, camphor, and chamomile must be avoided, as they work against the remedies. It is also important to note symptoms; as they change, so must the remedy.


The use of essential oils has recently gained popularity in the United States, where it is used widely in skin and body care products. But its medicinal value has long been accepted in other countries, particularly France, where, in many instances, its anti microbial properties make it an acceptable replacement for drug therapy. Aroma therapist Valerie Cooksley, author of Aromatherapy: A Lifetime Guide to Healing with Essential Oils, says that pure essential oils, properly used, can heal cold and canker sores. One mouthwash she recommends combines 5 drops each of peppermint, bergamot, or tea tree oil to raw honey, which is used as a carrier. This is important, as oils do not mix with water alone. The mixture is then added to a strong sage or rosemary tea. Rinsing with the formula several times a day balances the pH of the mouth and helps to heal infections. Using this daily may even prevent outbreaks.

Additional spot treatments alleviate pain and restore health. One that Cooksley recommends involves dabbing a cotton swab with myrrh oil and applying directly onto cold and canker sores. Another aroma therapist, Sharon Olson, dabs a cotton swab with diluted tea tree oil and places that on the cold sore to kill the virus. She follows this up later with lavender, which soothes the sore and stimulates the growth of new skin. The addition of fresh aloe vera gel further promotes healing. A side benefit of the therapy is its ability to lift the spirits. “When I get a cold sore, I get depressed,” reveals Olson, “so I usually inhale some rosemary or basil to lift my spirits and clear my mind.”

Herbal Pharmacy

Plants containing phytochemicals with anti-herpes properties, in order of potency:

Myrciaria dubia (camu-camu)

Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice), plant

Viola tricolor hortensis (pansy)

Sophora japonica (Japanese pagoda tree), bud

Oenothera biennis (evening primrose)

Malpighia glabra (acerola)

Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice), root

Sophora japonica (Japanese pagoda tree), flower

Coffea arabica (coffee)

Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)

Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove)

Citrus limon (lemon)

Camellia sinensis (tea)

Abrus precatorius (crab’s eyes)

Podophyllum hexandrum (Himalayan mayapple)

Mangifera indica (mango)

Origanum vulgare (wild oregano)

Phyllanthus emblica (emblic)

Allium cepa (onion)

Hot News

Many studies have proven the effectiveness of zinc in combating herpes; one of these concludes that, specifically, zinc mono-glycerate is the best zinc treatment. Other nutritional supplements found useful for herpes treatment are vitamin C, adenosine, L-lysine, and retinoic acid, a form of vitamin A found in breast milk. Herbal extracts that have lessened or eliminated herpes symptoms include glycyrrhizic acid, a component of licorice root; pine cone extracts; tannins; poplar bud extract; lemon balm cream; an infusion from flowers of Sambucus nigra, aerial parts of Hypericum performatum, and roots of Saponaria officinalis; peppermint; and extracts of Cordiasalicifolia, Geum japonicum, Rhus javanica, Syzgium aromaticum, and Terminalchebula. Lithium, when used to treat psychiatric illness, has also proven to reduce herpes infections, indicating that lithium ointment could be an effective treatment. And herpes outbreaks on the lips may be avoided by the use of sunscreen, one study concludes, since ultraviolet B light is a recognized stimulator of the herpes simplex virus.

From “Menstrual Cramps (Dysmenorrhea) and Irregular Menstruation” chapter in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Natural Healingby Dr. Gary Null (Seven Stories Press, 1997). To order the book, call 1-800-596-7437.

Amenorrhea and Menorrhagia

Amenorrhea and menorrhagia are medical terms for abnormal blood flow. Amenorrhea refers to the cessation of bleeding, or very light and infrequent periods, most often caused by an abnormally functioning hypothalamus, pituitary gland, ovary, or uterus as a result of drugs or surgery that removes the ovaries or uterus. “Bulimics and anorexics also exhibit this pattern,” notes Dr. Pat Gorman, an acupuncturist and educator from New York City. “Sometimes this is caused by excessive dieting and over exercise driven by self-hatred. Not accepting who she is, a woman thinks, ‘I’ve got to make myself thin, beautiful, and perfect.’ If this is going on at the end of the cycle, when toxins are being released into the system, the woman is aggravating her body to the point of saying, We’re not going to give up this blood. We desperately need it. Forget ovulation, forget periods.” (See chapter 8, Eating Disorders, for more information.)

With menorrhagia the opposite scenario occurs, and there is profuse bleeding. The condition can be debilitating, sometimes bad enough to warrant immediate attention at a hospital’s emergency ward. “The Chinese say menorrhagia is caused by excess toxins and heat in the blood from foods containing preservatives, additives, and caffeine, especially coffee. It’s like water in your car radiator becoming low,” Dr. Gorman says. “The engine will overheat and explode. Alcohol adds more toxicity because it constantly removes water from the blood. As water diminishes, it heats up the blood. When the blood is what we call ‘hot,’ or fast-moving, it’s very hard for the body to hold it in. It can’t stop the bleeding.”

The emotional profile of the menorrhagic individual is someone who sees herself as a victim. Dr. Gorman explains, “This person feels the need to serve everybody. She does not know how to set boundaries. Whatever anybody wants, they get. She keeps pouring out her energy and pouring out her blood.”

Dr. Vicki Hufnagel, a gynecological surgeon and activist for women’s health rights, adds that heavy bleeding is often a sign of an underlying problem in the female system, especially when it is accompanied by pain. The problem is frequently due to a hormonal imbalance. “Anything can throw off a cycle,” says Dr. Hufnagel. “Emotional stress, insomnia, too much estrogen in the system, or too little light, as in the winter. Other physical problems that can cause menorrhagia are fibroids, polyps, and a malfunctioning thyroid gland.”


Oriental medicine can diagnose amenorrhea and menorrhagia by examining the skin. Amenorrhea manifests as pale, sallow, slightly yellowish skin from a deep lack of blood and nutrients. Often this is accompanied by a great deal of emotional anxiety. With menorrhagia, the tongue has a red tip and tiny red dots. When the condition is long-term, a woman can become anemic.

Clinical Experience

Before you can restore the blood flow in patients with amenorrhea or menorrhagia, you must discover the reason for the problem. Once the cause is addressed, periods should return to normal.

Hormonal Balancing for Menorrhagia

Dr. Hufnagel says that hormonal dysfunctions in women with menorrhagia can be corrected with oral doses of natural progesterone. “Often, the creams women are using are not adequate because they don’t cause a rise in the blood level. We often have to give what we call oral physiological levels of progesterone. I give women natural hormones, in a cyclic manner, the way her body should be getting them.”

Hormone balancing is also accomplished through diet. Fatty diets cause higher levels of estrogen in the system, which, in turn, can cause menorrhagia. Lean diets, and exercising with weights, produce more testosterone, which, in turn, helps to balance hormones and put an end to menorrhagia.

Natural Hygiene Approach to Amenorrhea

Anthony Penepent, M.D., a natural hygienist from New York, says amenorrhea is one of the easiest conditions to correct. Mostly it stems from undernourishment and can be corrected with a diet that includes two green salads daily, using romaine lettuce, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and some brewer’s yeast. You should also include two pieces of fresh fruit and two soft boiled eggs in the daily menu. Where amenorrhea is caused by a thyroid condition, a thyroid supplement is needed. Additionally, if stress is in the picture, the stressful situation must be remedied. For more serious cases, additional dietary intervention is necessary. Usually, small changes in diet are all that are needed. Dr. Penepent says, “Even if the woman doesn’t follow a completely natural hygienic regimen and is not vegetarian, she still can get tremendous results simply by increasing the amount of green leafy vegetables in the diet and providing concentrated nutritional sources, such as eggs and unsalted raw milk cheese.”


The following Chinese herbs have specific effects on the blood and are needed at different times of the monthly cycle. Dr. Gorman recommends working with a health practitioner to create an individual protocol and to monitor progress, but offers these general guidelines:

At the beginning of the cycle:

Dong quai. High in vitamins A, E, and B12, this blood-builder can be taken most days of the month, up to the point of menstruation, or just before it begins if there are strong pre-menstrual symptoms. “You don’t want to be building blood if you are having trouble moving that blood,” Dr. Gorman warns.

Women’s Precious. This formula is a tremendous blood builder, taken after the period ends for about three weeks. Women’s Rhythm is then used the following week.

At the end of the cycle:

Gardenia. This is taken when PMS symptoms arise. By moving blood that is stuck, gardenia helps to relieve that heavy, bloated feeling. (See also chapter 22,Pre-Menstrual Syndrome.)

Women’s Rhythm helps release a woman’s blood. This is usually taken a week before the period to help move toxins out of the organs. (Women’s Precious and Women’s Rhythm are Ted Kapchik formulas that can be found in some health food stores and ordered directly from Kahn Herbs.)

Can be taken every day:

Floradix with iron. This wonderful product is available in most health care stores. Liquid Floradix is superior over the dry form because it contains more live nutrients.

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare, but serious—and sometimes fatal—disease. The victims tend to be tampon users under the age of thirty—and especially those between fifteen and nineteen. This sudden and serious disease affects persons with severely compromised immune systems, who are poisoned by a strain of bacteria, called Staphylococcusaureus, phage group I. This type of staph produces a substance called enterotoxin F, which can overpower and destroy a weak body.

Toxic shock syndrome is linked to the introduction of tampons with four new ingredients, in the early 1980s. Before then, tampons were made primarily of cotton. In the 1980s, though, highly absorbent polyester cellulose, carboxymethyl cellulose, polyacrylate rayon, and viscose rayon came into use. Three of these new ingredients were soon taken off the market; today, only one of the new ingredients, viscose rayon, is in use. Today’s tampons are either entirely viscose rayon or a blend of cotton and viscose rayon. In addition, the tampons on the market today may contain an assortment of chemicals, including pesticides used in growing cotton, chemicals used in the manufacture of viscose rayon (lye, sodium sulfate, and sodium hydroxide), and dyes (some of which have been considered carcinogenic since the 1950s).

One theory of the reason for TSS is that the vagina is normally an oxygen-free environment, which limits growth of dangerous bacteria. However, air is trapped between the fibers that make up tampons. When that air is inserted in the vagina along with the tampon, the possibility of toxin production increases. Even after the tampon is removed, some of its fibers may remain.

TSS was originally thought only to affect women who wore high-absorbency tampons. But now it is known to affect newborns, children, and men as well. Initial indications can include a high fever, headache, sore throat, diarrhea, nausea and red skin blotches. These signs can be followed by confusion, low blood pressure, acute kidney failure, abnormal liver function, and even death.

A severe case of TSS is a medical emergency that may necessitate hospitalization. However, there are many natural ways to support the system once a crisis is over for quick recovery and prevention of recurrence.


Dr. Linda Rector-Page, author of Healthy Healing: An Alternative Healing Reference, developed a protocol for healing from TSS out of necessity: “I actually came close to death on an operating table from TSS. I had to bring my body back, and I did it herbally. It took a couple of years, and now I can speak from experience.”

Dr. Rector-Page’s personal ordeal gave her a great deal of confidence in the power of natural remedies.

The following herbs helped her to overcome toxicity, restore immunity, and return to health:

Ginseng. Both Panax and American varieties are general tonics that balance and tone all body systems, as well as improve circulation. Ginseng should not be used when there is a high fever.

Cayenne and ginger. These nervous system stimulants can help the body recover from shock. They can either be taken internally or applied to the skin in compresses.

Hawthorn extract. Hawthorn speeds up and normalizes the circulation, and restores a sense of well-being.

In addition to herbs, Dr. Rector-Page ate super-nutritious foods that could be easily digested and quickly utilized by her failing system. These foods included high-potency royal jelly, bee pollen, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, and unsulfured molasses. The addition of green drinks, including chlorella, barley grass, spirulina, and wheat grass, supplied her with high potencies of vital minerals. “All these go into the body very quickly and help it to recover, even from a death situation,” explains Dr. Rector-Page. “By going on a program of concentrated nutrients, I was eventually able to create a state of health that was better than before.”


Alternatives to tampons have included sea sponges. However, sea sponges are no longer sold as menstrual products. A 1981 report alleged risks from embedded sand, chemical pollutants, bacteria, and fungi. No additional studies were done, but the FDA halted menstrual sponge sales. Another alternative is called the Keeper, a rubber cup that sits in the lower vagina. The Keeper may hold an ounce of menstrual blood, and should be emptied several times a day. This device does not promote the growth of bacteria in the vagina. However, the Keeper is not widely available. Tampons that are 100 percent cotton, and thus present less risk than modern super-absorbent tampons that may also contain added chemicals, are available in many health food and natural goods stores.