Discover the power of menses…
Menses And You
“…by honoring the demands of our bleeding, our blood gives us something in return. The crazed bitch from irritation hell recedes. In her place arises a side of ourselves with whom we may not at first be- comfortable. She is vulnerable, highly perceptive genius who can ponder a given issue and take her world by storm. When we’re quiet and bleeding, we stumble upon solutions to dilemmas that’ve been bugging us all month. Inspiration hits and moments of epiphany rumba ‘cross de tundra of our senses. In this mode of existence one does not feel antipathy towards a bodily ritual that so profoundly and reinforces our cuntpower.” – Inga Muscio, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence
A woman today will have an average of 450 menstrual cycles in her lifetime. She can lose anywhere between a couple of teaspoons (5g) to about half of cup (118g) of blood each cycle. Many women are ashamed or even fearful about all that blood, and others don’t give it a second thought and never consider the power or opportunities they, as women, have.
“The great mother whom we call Innana gave a gift to woman that is not known among men, and this is the secret of blood,” writes author Anita Diamant in her bestselling book The Red Tent. “The flow at the dark of the moon, the healing blood of the moon’s birth — to men, this is flux and distemper, bother and pain. They imagine we suffer and consider themselves lucky … In the red tent, the truth is known. In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana courses through us, cleansing the body of last month’s death, preparing the body to receive the new month’s life, women give thanks — for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life comes from between our legs, and that life costs blood.”
Today bleeding is no longer sacred. Instead of celebrating a woman’s menses cycle, we are taught to resent menstruation. Meanwhile, the “Red Flag” has become a global cautionary symbol alerting folks that a woman is experiencing the symptoms of P.M.S. (a.k.a. Premenstrual Syndrome) and should be avoided.
Yet blood is the life force that runs through every human and mammal on earth. Blood is made up of important nutrients (mostly found in the plasma), such as sugar, water, fat, protein, salt, as well as nitrogen and iron. Menstrual blood, meanwhile, contains much more than plasma and basic blood cells due to the mixture of the endometrium (uterine lining), cervical mucus, and virginal secretions (mucus). Every month our uterus wall is torn down and an egg, sometimes two, are disposed through our blood cycle. These additional components in the blood contain nutrients that are not only healthy but can be used in a variety of ways.
Menses: Pads And Tampons, Oh My
Every month, millions of women toss their bloody tampons and pads with little thought about the materials in these products and where they go. Keep in mind that just one woman uses approximately 21 tampons each menses cycle. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, the average American woman uses up to 16,800 tampons in her lifetime—or as many as 24,360 if she’s on estrogen replacement therapy.
Not only are they wasting precious opportunities to put their blood to good use, the waste is polluting our world. According to Marine Debris Specialist Nicholas Mallos, in 2012, during the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, nearly 40,000 tampons and applicators were found internationally along beaches and waterways worldwide, says Nicholas Mallos.
And what exactly are these conventional sanitary products made with? Manufacturers of tampons and sanitary pads are not required to disclose the ingredients used because feminine hygiene products are considered “medical devices.” Which is why feminine hygiene products such as tampons and sanitary pads are an oft-ignored source of a variety of potentially toxic ingredients, including genetically modified organisms and pesticides, states Dr. Mercola. Meanwhile, each conventional sanitary pad contains ingredients found in about four plastic bags, says Andrea Donsky, founder of Naturally Savvy and co-author of Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart.
In most cases, tampons are made of synthetic fibers that have been bleached to give them that “clean” look that appeals to most consumers. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proven that using any products with chlorine increases the risk of cancer exponentially. So every month when you reach for that chlorine laden tampon, you are raising the likelihood of contracting cancer. Then there’s Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which is a rare but fatal disease caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. It can be transmitted via a tampon which can then get into your blood stream and cause nausea, high fever, diarrhea, and other flu-like symptoms. Most women at risk are white and between the ages of 15 to 19.
While pads are generally the lesser evil compared to tampons, they too have problems. Pads hold blood and other discharge, like mucus, close to the body with little ventilation or air flow. This can and often does make your pad a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi that can cause infections, such as the dreaded candidal vulvovaginitis or “Candida.” And of course commercial pads contain chemicals and are also bleached.
Instead of using an everyday ‘maxi pad’ or tampon, try using the Diva Cup or menstrual cotton moon pads, which are like regular pads only reusable and more comfortable. You can save your menses blood and help cut down on trash. There are also washable pads such as Glad Rags that are more high maintenance but so much better for Mother Earth.
Menses: Blood And Gardens
Farmers and novel botanists will tell you that one of the secrets to a good garden or crop is to add vitamins or ‘food.’ Most will use blood meal fertilizer that is dried blood taken from slaughtered cows and other animals. Why do they use blood? It makes perfect food for plants due to its high nitrogen and protein composition. Earth’s atmosphere is 78% nitrogen and blood is one of its greatest sources. Yes, it is the circle of life. Plants give off nitrogen to help balance the oxygen in the air and also thrive on nitrogen-based food. In the Amazon rainforest, the vibrancy and lushness are due to many animals that thrive within its shelter. When these animals die, their bodies decompose and the nutrients of their carcasses go into the soil, giving nourishment back to the forest.
To be safe, it is best to wait 48 hours after collection before fertilizing your garden just to make sure no airborne pathogens like Hepatitis C are present. Dilute your blood in a 10:1 ratio so as not to ‘burn’ or kill your plants with too much. If using a Diva Cup, you can simply pour the collection into a Tupperware-like container, but if you are using menstrual moon pads, you will need to soak the pads in water for a good half hour to ensure all the blood has been collected. This simple process makes you feel as if you are the Mother Earth giving life-affirming nutrients back to nature.
Menstrual Blood And Stem Cells
The use of menstrual blood has been vital to stem cell research. C’elle Cryo-Cell International, one of the world’s largest private cord banks as well as developer of innovative stem cell solutions, has been collecting menstrual blood since 1989. As stated on their website, “Stem cells in menstrual blood are highly proliferative and possess the unique ability to develop into various other types of healthy cells. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, these valuable stem cells are discarded.”
“Using menstrual blood instead of embryonic cells also avoids the ethical dilemma that is brought up when discussing the dangers of stem cell research, in addition to it being easier to collect and cause no pain to the donor, like that of bone marrow donations in adult stem cell research,” says C’elle Cyro-Cell director Jonathan Wheeler, M.D. Since stem cells from menstrual blood can differentiate into fat, liver, brain, bone, lung, heart, and pancreas they are optimal for the scientific research that can lead to cures for cancer, AIDS, and other life-threatening illnesses.
Menstrual Blood In Ritual
The actual word “menstruation” comes from the Greek root word “men,” which means month, and “menus,” which means both moon and power. In ancient times, women were very connected with moon cycles and in tune with lunar energy. They ovulated with the full moon, when feminine energy is at its fullest, and menstruated at the new moon, when feminine energy is at its lowest. Long before the advent of the maxi-pad and the pill, many ancient cultures used menstrual blood during rituals. For instance, the pharaohs of ancient Egypt required that priest and priestess ingest menstrual blood to enhance their connection to the spirits.
Some women still today honor their menses. Vajra Ma of GreatGoddess.org has soaked a special crystal in her blood water to hold the vibration, painted a shamanic drum head with blood, and anointed her own chakras. She has also anointed a sacred statue and sat on the earth bleeding freely. “[And] I have ingested menstrual blood. You can empower any intention or magical working with a blood offering or carry any prayer with such an offering. It will ‘mark’ something as ‘yours.'”
In the African-American-based folk spiritually of Hoodoo, a woman gathers samples of her monthly menses blood and adds it to the food of the man she wants to marry, without his knowledge. It is thought that the man will be under a spell after consumption and be forever in love with her. Similar spells and rituals exist in Wiccan and Sicilian folk magic.
“The blood mysteries teach us to remember that life and healing come from and return to woman, to the wise woman, to the woman who bleeds and bleeds. And does not die,” states author and HoneyColony advisory panelist, Susun S.Weed. “The blood mysteries teach that menstrual blood and birthing blood are holy blood, power blood, healing blood.”
Women will always be a source of life and a representation of ‘mother’ earth. Why shouldn’t we want to give back and feel at one with our own environment? Whether it is adding nutrients to plants or helping save lives through stem cell research, we feel a need to connect and not let our sacred blood go to waste. So the next time “Aunt Flow” pays you a visit, smile in the knowledge that you are a life-giving force. You can help modern science find cures to diseases or make your own fern grow more radiant.
Laura Anne Rowell is a professional sex coach living in Los Angeles. As a journalist she wrote feature articles, interviewed musicians, and edited the Palm Springs Desert Star Weekly. She has also worked as a publicist for international music festivals and a free-lance researcher for online journals. She is currently finishing her first book, “F*ck Like a Slut”, a frank, female-oriented sexual self-help guide. For more information please contact Laura.