When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, I remember the call vividly.
In the middle of a discussion on a new research project for my Medical Ethnobotany course at university, my phone rang. Initially when I heard the news of my mothers Stage III breast cancer diagnosis, I did not know what to think. I didn’t understand what it all meant or how much longer I would have my mom around. As a result, when I went back into the class I knew exactly what the topic of my research would be: herbs for breast health and cancer healing.
Consequently since that day, my mother became a cancer survivor after a double mastectomy and 5 years of cancer treatment. However, unfortunately due to medical negligence the cancer spread to other areas of her body and she succumbed to the disease in 2015 at age 57.
My Breast Journey
Afterward in the years following this loss, I found it difficult to touch my own breast. It is a continual practice to overcome the fear. More importantly, it was freeing to have a change in perspective- away from pain and anger and toward curiosity and compassion. As time went on, with a slow, steady, sensual, and easeful approach, I was able to welcome my breasts back to me. Then with the help of research (cue epigenetics) and late night epiphanies, I realized it was not helpful to live in fear of negative potentialities (which is the realm Western medicine likes to dwell in). Because in reality, the potential for me to be breast healthy was just as valid a possibility in the wide expanse of possibilities. How could I support myself to work through the trauma and my ancestral healing and live in celebration of my breast?
Breast health is a vital preventative component of long-term holistic womenʻs health. The breasts are sacred, life-giving, and nourishing organs that deserve our consistent care, love, and appreciation.
The Importance of Breast Massage
I began with the tender ritual of reacquainting myself to my breasts through breast massage. As a witness to the entirety of my moms journey, I knew that the manifestation of disease in the breasts was not just a physical ailment due to faulty genes. Importantly, I understood that it is spiritual and emotional as well. You cannot tackle one aspect without addressing the others. Undoubtedly there was a lack of support, security, care, and nourishment for my mom, which is exactly what this organ functions to give.
Nonetheless, in the systems we live in, the absence of these aspects is a common experience. Apart from this, the physical act of massage and the powerful medicine of intention heals those parts of ourselves that have been abandoned. Elevated emotions such as love, compassion and gratitude nourishes what has been deprived of attention and acknowledgment. As I do my breast massage, the grief, worry and fear dissolves. I am left with love. Above all, it is a practice in wholeness.
A Daily Ritual
Without a doubt breast health is a vital preventative component of long-term holistic women’s health. The breasts are sacred, life-giving, and nourishing organs. They deserve our consistent care, love, and appreciation. Since 1 in 8 women develop breast cancer in their lifetime, it is important to give this area of our body extra love and attention. Breast massage promotes movement of fluids to efficiently expel toxin build up. Also when we do this we also address healing of blocked energy channels, regarding issues of the heart.
Incorporating this potent ritual into our daily routine empowers us to act as active participants in our health care. Breast massage does not have to take too long; it can be done without oils in the shower, while you are moisturizing after a shower or right before bed. Even 2 to 5 minutes daily is enough to send a powerful message to this sacred part of your body: I care, I appreciate, and I honor this part of myself. So, just do it! As my Indo-Caribbean mother would say, “Rub up your breasts!”
Oils & Herbs for breast massage:
The following oils are great to use during breast massage. Consider heating the oils to further enhance the potency of the experience. Heat will melt kapha so that it can flow through the dilated channel as well as clear vata constriction in the breast. You can warm the oil by placing a glass container with the oil in a bowl of warm water. In addition you can also apply the oil and then place something warm over the breast like a warm wet cloth or a hot water bottle. Below you will find best oils for lactating women (Table 1.2), as well as best oil for fibrocystic breasts.
Table 1.2 Oils for lactating women
(added to carrier)
Sesame Oil: Great for all doshas, but especially for Vata types, this
warming oil is deeply moisturizing and anti-inflammatory. It is high in
essential fatty acids and antioxidants.
|Fenugreek Essential Oil: Added to a carrier oil, like sesame, fenugreek oil (or the seeds infused in the oil) is great to stimulate breast milk production.|
|Almond Oil: High in vitamin E, this oil can help to reduce stretch marks on the breasts. It is also a lighter, more easily absorbed oil. For cases of clogged ducts or infection, almond oil is a great choice as it can release what may be clogging pores.||Lavender Essential Oil: anti-microbial|
|Coconut Oil: While cooling, and better for Pitta types, this oil is traditionally used in warmer climate, tropical areas, and is safe for baby.||
Calendula essential Oil:
Soothes and reduces inflammation
Oils for fibrocystic breasts (*not to be used for breastfeeding mothers):
- Castor Oil: A penetrating and heating carrier oil, castor oil helps to pull toxins from the lymphatic system, diminish cysts, and reduce pain and swelling.
I also like to use the “Breast Care Balm” specifically for fibrocystic breasts from Banyan Botanicals. Here is a list of the ingredients: Castor Oil, Sesame Oil, Sunflower Oil, Coconut Oil, Beeswax, Guduchi stem, Manjistha root, Tulsi leaf, Punarnava root, Amalaki fruit, Arjuna bark, Bhumyamalaki herb, Licorice root, Guggulu resin, Palmarosa essential oil.
- Oregano oil: used in instances of infection
- Chamomile Oil: anti-microbial properties
Other oils to consider:
- Evening Primrose Oil: Used as a beauty oil to prevent sagging and increase breast size
- Clove Essential Oil (1-2 drops/ cup of oil): A very strong, heating spice used to increase circulation in the breasts.
I hope you consider this potent ritual for wholeness and give yourself the gift of time and self-love that you truly deserve.
Feautured photo www.stellamariebaer.com
Writing compliments of
Birth worker, Body worker, Movement Artist