Hemorrhoids, also referred to as “piles,” are one of the most common problems in the general population. It is estimated that hemorrhoids will affect 75% of American adults at some point in their lifetime. They represent swollen veins in the area of the anus and rectum and can develop inside the rectum (internal hemorrhoids) or below the skin of the anus (external hemorrhoids). Common symptoms of hemorrhoids may include pain/discomfort, itching/irritation, rectal bleeding, and a swelling or lump near the anus. Embarrassment, fear of pain, and long recovery times are all common worries that prevent many individuals from seeking the treatment they need. As a result, many people with hemorrhoids opt for self-treatment with home remedies. Though the below remedies can help treat hemorrhoids, if you are suffering from this condition it is always better to first make an appointment with your physician!
Warm sitz baths
Warm sitz baths are a mainstay of the treatment of hemorrhoids. The word “sitz” is derived from the German word, “sitzen,” which refers to the act of sitting. Sitting in a tub of warm water that is filled just enough to cover your legs and buttocks will help to ease the swelling and irritation caused by hemorrhoids. Alternately, sitz baths may be performed in a small plastic tub that fits over a toilet seat. The temperature of the water should be lukewarm, as high temperatures can cause more harm than relief. For optimal results, sitz baths should be taken for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day, especially after a bowel movement. You may also choose to add other ingredients, such as Epsom salt, essential oil, or baking soda, to the bath in order to help reduce hemorrhoid symptoms even further.
Witch hazel is a wildly popular home treatment for hemorrhoids. It is an astringent, which is one of the main properties that makes it ideal for treating hemorrhoids. Witch hazel’s astringent properties reduce the swelling in hemorrhoid tissue, which causes shrinkage and relief of associated pain and itching. Furthermore, substances called tannins present in witch hazel also have anti-inflammatory properties, which further reduces swelling. It’s okay to use witch hazel directly on hemorrhoids by adding a small amount to a cotton ball and gently wiping the affected area several times a day, especially after a bowel movement. Witch hazel should not be diluted with alcohol, as this can dry out and irritate the hemorrhoid even more.
Aloe vera has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. As a result, it can provide relief from the burning, itching, and swelling caused by hemorrhoids. It has also been shown to activate the immune system, enabling the body to combat any infections that may accompany the irritated areas around the anus and rectum. Aloe vera can be purchased commercially or harvested directly from the leaves of the plant. You should only use pure aloe vera gel on hemorrhoids, as additives and preservatives can make symptoms worse. Simply apply aloe vera generously to the affected area via a gentle massaging action, which can be repeated 2 to 3 times a week. You can enhance the inflammation-fighting properties of aloe vera by refrigerating it 15 to 20 minutes before application.
Essential oils are overlooked as natural home remedies for hemorrhoids. The anti-inflammatory activity of essential oils shrinks the swollen veins and, thus, reduces the swelling and pain of hemorrhoids. Furthermore, they provide needed support for weakened veins, which may prevent reoccurrence of hemorrhoids. Essential oils may also provide useful hormones, vitamins, and nutrients. The following essential oils may be used as home remedies for hemorrhoids:
Tea tree oil
To unleash its therapeutic effects, mix 2 drops of tea tree oil in 1 teaspoon of castor oil, transfer the mixture to a cotton ball, and apply it to the affected area. You may repeat the process twice in a week.
To utilize its healing properties, mix 2 drops of frankincense oil with 2 tablespoons of liquid lanolin and gently massage the concoction into the affected area.
In the rare case of a ruptured hemorrhoid, the oil can also enhance the growth of reparative tissue. For best effect, add 3 drops of patchouli oil to 1 teaspoon of sweet almond oil and apply to the affected area once per day.
The market is full of over-the-counter (OTC) ointments, creams, suppositories, and pads for relief from the annoying symptoms of hemorrhoids. For example, Preparation H® is a very popular cream and can be found in almost every pharmacy on the planet. These OTC products may contain various substances, such as witch hazel (an astringent), hydrocortisone (a steroid), and lidocaine (an topical numbing agent), that provide temporary relief and help your hemorrhoid heal faster. However, you should not use a formulation with hydrocortisone in it for more than a week at a time, as steroids can cause thinning of the skin. In addition, OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®), may be helpful.
It is very important to clean the rectal area as to make it free of any stray fecal matter, which could add to the irritation of hemorrhoids. Furthermore, using toilet paper after a bowel movement can only aggravate matters when suffering from hemorrhoids. Instead, wet wipes can be very effective at cleaning the rectal area without causing further irritation of existing hemorrhoids. For an added boost, choose wet wipes with anti-hemorrhoid ingredients such as witch hazel or aloe vera, which are not only soothing but also help hasten the resolution of hemorrhoids. Avoid wet wipes with added alcohol or perfumes, as these ingredients have the potential to increase irritation of existing hemorrhoids.
Applying ice packs to angry hemorrhoids can definitely be effective at relieving pain and inflammation. In addition to reducing swelling, the cold temperatures also have a numbing effect, which helps to temporarily decrease pain. You should always be sure to wrap the ice in a small towel, as applying ice directly to the skin can cause damage and add to the irritation of hemorrhoids. Apply ice packs to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes at least 3 times per day. For maximum effect, use this treatment after a warm sitz bath, as the sitz bath dilates the veins in the rectum and anus and ice packs contract them.
Epsom salt has many medicinal applications, and the at-home treatment of hemorrhoids is one of the most popular applications. Magnesium sulfate, the active ingredient in Epsom salt, is absorbed through the skin with ease and works by causing shrinkage in enlarged hemorrhoids, which can also relieve pain. Soaking in Epsom salt also enhances the healing of damaged and bleeding hemorrhoids. It can also boost the effect of other at-home hemorrhoid treatments such as warm sitz baths. In a lesser known hemorrhoid treatment, Epsom salt can be combined with glycerin. You can mix 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt with 2 tablespoons of glycerin, apply the mixture to a gauze pad, and apply it to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes. This process can be repeated several times per day.
Coconut oil is another tried and true home remedy to naturally treat hemorrhoids. When applied topically, its anti-inflammatory properties decrease inflammation and relieve pain as well as accelerate the healing of hemorrhoids. In addition, coconut oil has antibacterial characteristics, helping to keep the affected area clean and free of infection. It may even curb the itching associated with the irritated hemorrhoid area. It’s easy to use, just transfer coconut oil to a cotton ball and apply it directly to hemorrhoids for 5 to 10 minutes several times per day.
Black tea bags
Black tea contains tannic acid, which has astringent properties. The acid is an ideal treatment for inflamed hemorrhoids, as it reduces swelling and discomfort. Are you wondering how to use a black tea bag to treat hemorrhoids? Immerse a black tea bag in a cup of lukewarm water and let it rest for several minutes in the water. While it’s still warm, apply the wet tea bag to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. The process can be repeated 2 or 3 times per day. You can switch it up and use frozen tea bags to instead of warm ones.
In addition to the above home remedies, it’s important to keep a few other measures in mind for the treatment and prevention of hemorrhoids. You should avoid tight clothing and make sure you wear loose cotton clothing, especially breathable cotton underwear, as this could potentially diminish symptoms. In addition, avoid potential irritants such as perfumed detergents and fabric softeners. Lastly, you should make sure you incorporate enough fiber into your diet and hydrate with at least 8 glasses of water per day. Consider a fiber supplement such as psyllium (Metamucil® is made of psyllium husks). You should gradually increase your fiber intake, because if done too quickly, there could be side effects such as excessive gas and abdominal pain/cramping. These dietary changes can go a long way at reducing constipation and making the stool softer and easier to pass, which could potentially prevent recurrences of hemorrhoids.
Most importantly however, is to make an appointment to see your physician if symptoms do not abate! La Peer is home to a number of expert colorectal surgeons who can help you gain relief from hemorrhoids.