Breast cancer is a common health problem, affecting one out of eight women in the United States. Instead of worrying about whether you are going to get it, or what to do if you have it, be proactive and take breast health into your own hands. 

An excellent book on this subject is Breast Cancer? Breast Health! by well-known American herbalist Susan Weed. 

The author lays out an anti-cancer lifestyle that includes staying in touch with daily rhythms of the body and seasonal rhythms of the earth, sleeping in total darkness, having emotional and sexual outlets, choosing supportive friends, exercising at least three hours per week, practicing yoga, getting massage every month, and eating an organic Mediterranean diet while avoiding white flour and processed foods.

The book presents a framework for healing that includes the following steps, from least to most invasive:

  1. Do nothing: sleep, meditate, unplug devices.
  2. Collect information using the Internet, books, support groups, and divination.
  3. Raise energy using prayer, homeopathy, ritual, affirmations, song, and laughter.
  4. Nourish and tonify using herbs, food choices, exercise, massage, and yoga.
  5. Stimulate using hydrotherapy (water), botanical tinctures, and acupuncture.
  6. Use supplements such as nutritional yeast, blue-green algae or bran.
  7. Use drugs including chemotherapy, anti-estrogen and hormones.
  8. Break and enter with surgery, radiation, mammograms, and CT scans.

The author reassures readers that most breast lumps detected will not turn into invasive breast cancer. She encourages women to take their time making informed decisions and assures readers that using the first four steps for a week or a month will not adversely affect the outcome of any conventional treatments they may subsequently choose. 

The book gives detailed instructions for performing breast self-exams and recommends breast massage to become comfortable with touching your breasts and learning their contours if a full-fledged exam seems intimidating. As an herbalist, Weed gives a recipe for making a massage oil that stimulates the lymphatic system and inhibits cellular damage. The ingredients are poke root, arnica, mistletoe, vitamin E oil and St. John’s wort oil. 

Breast Cancer? Breast Health! contains a section called Materia Medica listing herbs that can be used safely to prevent and treat disease. One of the author’s favorite nourishing tonics is an infusion of nettle leaf, which can be consumed without limit for years. Pour 1 quart of boiling water over 1 oz of dried nettle leaves, allow to cool, and strain. Drinking the infusion as you would drink tea provides a boost in energy, helps regrow hair after chemotherapy, and improves blood work quickly.

In addressing the emotional aspects of breast health, Weed proposes: “Fear can immobilize you. It can make you close your eyes hoping nothing bad will ever happen. Fear can also move you, empower you, stir you. Use your fear as energy for the journey you now begin. Let fear motivate you to care for yourself, reach out for support and frame your own definition of health.”

Dr. Jessica Needle is a licensed naturopathic doctor practicing at Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568.2598.

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