According to the Centers for Disease Control, abnormal or unclear Pap test results occur in approximately 3 million women in the U.S. each year. An abnormal Pap test result means that there may be precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix, a condition known as cervical dysplasia which is commonly associated with HPV (human papilloma virus) infection. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and is contracted by at least half of all sexually active men and women at some point in their lives.
Of these 3 million women affected annually, it is estimated that only 10,000, or .003%, will have cervical cancer. Even though the risk of developing cervical cancer is relatively low, an abnormal Pap should be followed up, and the presence of HPV infection should be routinely screened.
Cervical escharotic treatment as an alternative to LEEP
Naturopathic doctors are trained in gynecology as well as natural medicine for the management of cervical dysplasia and HPV. Specialized treatments called cervical escharotics can be an effective natural option for many cases of cervical dysplasia and HPV, and tend to have a lower risk profile than the LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) commonly used by conventional gynecologists.
LEEP uses a thin, low-voltage electrified wire loop to cut out abnormal tissue. There is often up to a 3-week period of vaginal bleeding and discharge following this procedure, and complications such as infection and scarring of the cervix may occur. If indeed the cervix is scarred, it may not open and close properly, which can interfere with conception and normal childbirth. Escharotic treatment does not scar the cervix or carry significant risk of infection or prolonged bleeding.
The term "escharotic" refers to the sclerosing and exfoliating effects of an application of medicine to abnormal tissue, meaning that the abnormal tissue loses water, dies and eventually sloughs off.
The natural approach to treating cervical dysplasia involves the use of herbal vaginal suppositories for less advanced cases and for more advanced cases, a series of 10-15 cervical escharotic treatments is administered over the course of several weeks.
Escharotic treatments are an in-office procedure and start with the application of bromelain to the face of the cervix. Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple that breaks down cell walls. The bromelain is then washed off with a solution of calendula officinalis, an herb that is very soothing to irritated tissue. This is followed by the application of sanguinaria canadensis tincture, a plant known as bloodroot, mixed with a solution of zinc chloride, and left on the cervix for one minute. This solution provides the escharotic effects noted above. The cervix again is washed with soothing calendula, then herbal vaginal suppositories are inserted and left in overnight.
Alongside the topical escharotic treatments, we recommend an oral protocol of herbal and nutritional support including antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and folic acid, as well as a customized herbal formula aimed at boosting the immune system and addressing the HPV virus. This treatment is a safe, effective and affordable option for management of most cases of cervical dysplasia and HPV, and does not carry some of the risks that the LEEP does.
Herbs used in cervical dysplasia formula
Our naturopathic doctors combine a variety of herbal tinctures into a formula that is used to bring circulation to the pelvis, boost the body's immune system and stress-modulating capacity, aid in clearing HPV, and cleanse the blood and lymph. This customized and individualized formula is taken daily for several months.
The most-common herbs we use to treat cervical dysplasia have the following actions:
Immune Boosting: Astragalus membranaceus
Antiviral Activity: Lomatium, Aralia, Larrea spp.
Blood Cleansing: Arctium lappa (burdock)
Pelvic Lymph Tonic: Foquieria splendens, calendula officinalis
Adaptogenic: Eleutherococcus (Siberian ginseng), withania (ashwaganda), ocinum (holy basil)
Men can be treated for HPV too!
Often the virus is passed back and forth between sexual partners and men should be screened for HPV, especially if their partner has tested positive. SFNM is one of the few clinics in the Bay Area that tests HPV in men using protocols developed by West Coast Pathology labs. Men can also be treated with the oral protocol as well as herbal penis soaks to address the viral infection and reduce its spread.
We have seen good success in treating women with mild, moderate, and severe cervical dysplasia with escharotic treatments, and feel passionate about their value as an option in health care. Please contact our doctors with any questions or to find out if this treatment is right for you.