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Sweating

General characteristics

General characteristics

Sweating (also known as perspiration, transpiration or diaphoresis) is the essential process of excreting fluids and water via the sweat glands and on to the skin. There are two types of sweat secreting glands in humans, the eccrine and apocrine glands. The eccrine glands are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system and secrete mainly water onto the skin to promote evaporation and cooling of the body. The apocrine glands are associated with hair follicles and secrete a more oily substance, especially from the armpits and similar sites. Sweat is normally produced in response to physical exertion, emotional stress, fevers and consuming spicy foods or hot drinks.

Sweating is, of course, a natural event occurring due to increases in environmental temperature, physical exercise, raised body temperature (fevers etc) and emotional distress. It is in fact vital to health for many reasons, not least because it rids the body of many toxins, both metabolic toxins (e.g.urea and even free radicals) and ingested environmental toxins (e.g. lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and even BPA). This study details the detoxification benefits of sweating and also explains how the inability to sweat is often as a result of a build up of toxicity in the body. Many cultures around the world extol the virtues of sweating as a way of maintaining good health.

Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) or sweating for none of the aforementioned reasons can be a sign of deeper disturbances such as hormonal changes (menopause, pregnancy, menstruation etc), conditions such as tuberculosis and malaria, kidney problems and lung problems (common causes) overactive thyroid, heart and circulatory problems, nervous or spinal cord damage, medications and some cancers. generalised excessive sweating can also run in families and have no discernible medical cause. As sweating is such a vital process in the maintenance of good body health, ideally the causes of excessive sweating should be sort out and treated wherever possible, with sweat reducing agents kept to a minimum while the underlying cause is remedied.

There are also cases where sweating is absent or reduced, even after vigorous exercise and this can cause the body to overheat. Causes include nerve damage, burns, dehydration, sweat gland damage, heavy metal toxicity or some skin diseases. In most cases the diaphoretic (sweat inducing) herbs such as elderflower, boneset and yarrow, natural healing techniques and foods which promote sweating can be used.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Eating foods rich in magnesium such as dark leafy greens (including herbs), nuts and seeds, avocados, whole grains and oily fish may help to control excessive sweating and many people have seen success with good quality magnesium supplements.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day if you are sweating excessively.

Avoid consuming very hot foods and drinks or spices such as cinnamon, chilli, ginger if you are prone to excessive sweating.

Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee and other stimulants if you sweat excessively.

Avoid foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG).


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Sage tea is very effective at drying up excessive sweat, particularly when caused by hormonal changes such as the menopause. Take a cup made with one teaspoon of dried sage leaf on alternate days.

Astragalus root can be very useful for reducing excessive sweating and to increase sweating in those who don't sweat enough. Use a teaspoon of dried root in a cup of water and simmer for 20 minutes on a low heat or take a teaspoon of the tincture, 3 times daily. Please read the full profile on astragalus as it can interact with certain medications and with transplant surgery.

Burdock root and dandelion root in tea or tincture can help to reduce excessive sweating by encouraging the elimination of fluids and wastes through the kidneys and lymph vessels.

Calming herbs such as valerian and passionflower may help if the sweating is triggered by anxiety or stress. Take a teaspoon of each tincture in a little water up to 3 times daily for a few weeks to see if this helps.

Boneset and buchu leaf tea when taken hot will induce a cleansing sweat which may help to eliminate excessive sweating when used a few times a week for a few months.

Elderflower tea can help to lessen night sweats.

Schisandra berries can help regulate fluid and hormone balance and reduce incidences of excessive sweating.

Prickly ash bark will encourage a good sweat to purge and cleanse the system if needed.


Natural healing

Natural healing

Anti-perspirants block the sweat glands and skin which can clog the circulation of blood and lymph fluids in the breast/armpit area, may make sweating from other areas of the body (hands, head, feet etc) more prolific and also suppresses the release of unwanted waste products from the body.

Some people find relief from taking a teaspoon of organic unfiltered cider vinegar with a teaspoon of raw honey before meals (3 times daily). Add a little hot water to melt the honey if needed.

Many people find positive results from taking activated charcoal powder or tablets. It helps to remove toxins from the body and reduces the need for sweat production. Average dose is about one teaspoon in a little water before meals.

The positive benefits of building up a good sweat are recognised by many cultures around the world such as native Americans and the Scandinavians. The regular (weekly) use of sweat lodges, saunas or steam rooms encourage the faster elimination of certain toxins, keep the skin clean and clear, improves the immunity by acting like an induced fever, encourage fat loss and many other subtle but important health benefits. This kind of intensive sweating does not benefit everyone and may well worsen some disease conditions (diabetes for example) so caution and common sense is advised.

 Witch hazel can be wiped over the face, hands, feet etc to gently tighten the skin and sweat glands which will help to reduce the amount of sweat passing through the glands.

 Wear natural fibres. Synthetic fabrics can cause the body to overheat as they reduce airflow around the skin and prevent the cooling action of evaporating sweat.

An old folk remedy for excessive sweating is to bathe every morning in warm water to which 2-5 cups of salt have been added and to rub down vigorously with a coarse towel afterwards.


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