SEXUAL RELATIONS AND SEXUAL HYGIENE
Finding Your Balance
The ancient Greeks considered a balanced and appropriate sexual life to be an important part of optimum health and hygiene. They weren't prudish or moralistic in sexual matters, and considered a healthy sex life to be a balance between excessive indulgence and excessive abstinence or sel-denial; both of these extremes were considered to be equally injurious to life and health.
Although sexual relations and hygiene pertains to the health of both mind and body, in Greek Medicine it pertains mainly to the sixth hygienic factor: Perturbations of the Mind and Emotions. The sexual instict, being such a powerful drive in human beings, is like a double-edged sword, with great powers to either heal or injure the mind and spirit. Used constructively, sexual relations can heal and unite; used destructively, they can degenerate and pervert the mind and spirit.
Although the physical performance of sexual relations is done with the reproductive organs, the essence of the sexual act goes much deeper, and profoundly affects both the heart and Vital Faculty, and the mind and Psychic Faculty, through the constant interplay between head and heart. Healthy sexuality requires communication and integration between the genital organs and the head and heart. Of these, the main center for healing and integration is the heart and its vital energies and life impulses: Listen to your heart.
Sexuality and Individual Temperament
In sexual relations, each person is a unique individual, with their own reasons and motivations for engaging in sexual activity. Constitutionally, different individuals are endowed with widely varying capacities for enjoying sexual relations, so what may be excessive indulgence for some may not be for others. Physically, we must listen to our bodies; mentally and emotionally, we must listen to our hearts. While respecting social conventions of appropriateness and discretion, we must not let ourselves be unduly swayed by the arbitrary and limiting opinions of others.
The sexual experience will be different for each of the Four Temperaments. Each will have different motivations and needs that they want filled, and each will be prone to different obstacles that keep them from enjoying sexual relations to the fullest.
For Cholerics, there's a lot of thrill and sensation-seeking that goes into the sexual pursuit, and passions may be driven to a fever pitch. Intent on conquest, Cholerics thrive on challenges, and can easily get bored once the conquest is made, as Fire can consume itself. Fiery Cholerics can also overwhelm a potential partner, and drive him/her away; they can also push too hard for a relationship to work out in the way they want, and not remain open and receptive to alternative approaches and possibilities, and to subtle clues from the significant other. Basic sexual vitality is good, but ardent passions can go into overdrive, and lead to burnout.
Sanguines are well-known for their amorous nature, but there's much more to it than just that. For them, intimacy should be based on friendship and mutual respect, as a meeting of hearts and minds as well as bodies. Sanguines are averse to all difficult or forced situations; for them, love and intimacy must develop spontaneously. Because of their sociable, outgoing, sensual natures, Sanguines shouldn't deny themselves the opportunity for sex and intimacy; of all the temperaments, they're the least suited to a celibate lifestyle. Physically, Sanguines have a good capacity to enjoy sexual relations.
Melancholics have a tendency to get too introverted, withdrawn, and out-of-touch. For them, a warm, stable, loving family life soothes their nerves and counteracts their tendency towards withdrawal and introversion, keeping them in touch with life. For Melancholics, sex and intimacy serve more of a therapeutic or remedial function rather than being an absolute physical need. Melancholics generally have the easiest time being celibate of all the temperaments, provided they have other ways of connecting with people and not getting too withdrawn or misogynous. Nevertheless, the Melancholic temperament isn't without its potential for perversion and dysfunction sexually; these arise from mental and emotional rigidity; rationalizing away one's feelings; and a tendency to get stuck, or obsessed. Melancholics generally have the lowest capacity for sex of all the Four Temperaments; sexual dysfunction, impotence, frigidity, fears and anxieties are also common.
For Phlegmatics, sex is all about emotional bonding and sharing deep emotional tenderness and vulnerabilities. Because the bonding is so strong, Phlegmatics are usually the most emotionally devastated by a breakup. For Phlegmatics, emotional closeness and intimacy is a necessary prerequisite for sex; they can't approach sex on a purely physical level, as a sport or diversion, as can Cholerics, their opposite temperament. Fidelity and constancy are at the root of their nature. Endowed with a generous supply of the Radical Moisture and a strong anabolic metabolism, the physical capacity of Phlegmatics to enjoy sexual relations, and to bounce back, is quite strong.
For a successful marriage or partnership, being compatible with your mate in temperament is best and most desirable; but, barring this, if one can at least understand and accept and find ways of coping with differences in temperament, the marriage can work with mutual tolerance and commitment.
For this reason, you shouldn't rush into a marriage before you fully know and understand, and are sure you can deal with, the temperament of your partner. To assure or confirm personal compatibility in a match, many prospective couples in traditional cultures consulted with an astrologer before deciding to get married.
The Nature of Sexual Relations
The desire to indulge in sexual relations is basically Sanguine in temperament, or hot and moist. The heat is felt by both sexes as stimulation or arousal. The moisture manifests in women as amoistening of the vaginal mucosa, and in men as the feeling that their vital sap, or sperm, is building up within them and needs to be released, or discharged.
Conversely, the effect of sexual relations on the organism is cooling and drying, or Melancholic in temperament. Sex is cooling, because it releases or dissipates energy at the moment of climax, or orgasm, leaving one energetically drained. Sex is drying, especially for the male, who releases his sperm, a potent and concentrated form of the Radical Moisture, when he ejaculates. For the woman, pregnancy, gestation and childbirth are the main depleters of the Radical Moisture.
Unless they're exceptionally well-endowed, most men need to conserve their Radical Moisture, which tends to decline as they age, by indulging in sexual relations and ejaculating less frequently in middle age and beyond. This restraint, plus Tantric techniques of ejaculation control; can enhance a man's energy and wellbeing, and prolong his lifespan.
Sexual abstinence in those not suited for such a life was considered to be harmful because it allowed warm, moist, prurient Sanguine vapors to build up in the organism, and rise up from the genital organs to disturb the mind. This was considered to be especially true for women, and being a spinster or an old maid was not considered normal; the uterus would get too restless and agitated.
After the climax or orgasm, the vital energies are dissipated, and accumulated stress and tension are released. The body is very relaxed, and rather drained energetically. For these reasons, strenuous exercise and feats of endurance aren't recommended after sexual relations. Light exercise a couple of hours or so after sex, like walking, is recommended, and helps to re-consolidate the vital forces - but don't overdo it.
The Dangers of Sexual Overindulgence
Excessive indulgence in sexual relations can drain one's energy, especially for the male. The lower body, from the hips, loins and lower back on downwards, is especially drained, and various Melancholic conditions, like lumbago, sciatica, or lower back pain and weakness, weak knees, and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, may make their appearance. Excessive stimulation, irritation and wear and tear on the genitourinary organs can lead to a condition called sexual erythrism in both sexes.
When we engage in sexual relations, we're opening up the deepest core of our being, both psychically and physically, to the energies and influences of another human being. In this sense, the receptivity of the female and her sacred space, the womb, makes her especially open and vulnerable in this regard.
Psychically, we open ourselves up to the mental and emotional energies and attitudes of the other person, and their influence. Physically, we're opening ourselves up to whatever bacteria, microbes or other hygienic conditions they may have. This includes not only the major sexually transmitted diseases, but also whatever other populations of bacteria, yeasts or fungi they may have that may be out of balance, and towards which our own immune defenses may be weak or vulnerable.
Questions of morality aside, promiscuous sexual behavior is unduly challenging and confusing to the immune system, both psychically and physically, and health problems, whether major or minor, are bound to follow in its wake. The best policy to follow for optimum health and happiness is to find a partner who truly suits you on all levels, choose carefully and wisely, and then stick with him or her.
Hygienically, the female reproductive organs are most vulnerable to infections and putrefactions, being warm, moist and dark. Promiscuity makes the woman vulnerable to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can have severe complications, such as endometriosis, ectopic or extra-uterine pregnancies, and even infertility.
In love, there's what is known as the rebound effect. A person may rebound from a painful breakup directly into another relationship as a blind, knee-jerk reaction, only to find out later that he/she hasn't avoided the problems he/she was running away from, and may even find oneself in a more serious or desperate situation than before.
A recovery period of psychic and emotional cleansing is needed, to get to know oneself and one's own mind better before entering into a new relationship. This recovery period should last at least one lunar month, from one New Moon to the following New Moon. This recovery period should preferrably be one of retreat and reflection, but if a potential suitor comes along during this period, you can be friends; communicate your interest, but tell him/her that you're not yet ready for intimacy. If they're serious, they will understand, and wait respectfully. For recovery from a really abusive or addictive relationship, wait a full year.
Male Sexual Hygiene
Becuase the health of the male reproductive system is intimately connected to the health of the kidneys and urinary tract, a man must get his urinary tract in balance to enjoy optimum sexual health. Abstain from excessive salt and sugar, coffee and caffeine, and also from excessive fats and cholesterol.
If there should be any undue irritation, inflammation or infection of the genitourinary passages, then room temperature healing teas for the urinary tract can be drunk instead of water. Good herbs for this purpose include Corn Silk, Couchgrass, Marshmallow root, Pipsissewa, Uva Ursi or Agrimony. The first three are soothing and demulcent to the urinary passages; the last three are astringent and antiinflammatory. A combination of at least two of these herbs, one from each group, works well. A few drops (3 to 5) of the essential oil of Pine, Juniper or Fir in a cup of this tea, taken once or twice daily, acts as a urinary antiseptic.
Many male sexual tonics, or virilifics, work by mildly stimulating the genitourinary mucosa, drawing blood into the male genitalia to produce an erection. These virilifics, which include Yohimbe and Muira Puama, are contraindicated for men with chronic irritation, inflammation or infection of the genitourinary passages. In using sexual tonics, listen to your body and genitourinary tract and how they feel.
For men past middle age, prostate health is a key concern. Reducing one's fat and cholesterol intake, and getting more dietary fiber is important. Taking herbal tonics for the prostate, like Saw Palmetto berries, can often produce dramatic improvements in prostate health. In Europe, the Small Flowered Willow Herb (Epilobium parviflorium) is used. Periodic massage of the prostate, both externally on the perineum and internally, from the rectum, using liberal amounts of Castor Oil as a lubricant and detoxifier, is also recommended, as past sexual traumas, both psychic and physical, are often stored in the prostate.
Chronic constipation and bowel problems will also bring a generalized buildup of toxicity in the pelvic region, including the sexual organs. To remedy this condition, periodic cleansing with enemas and colonics, backed up by dietary measures to improve bowel regularity, are recommended.
The male genitalia should be washed regularly with soap and water to remove any buildup of exudate, or smegma, and to keep the organs clean. This is especially important in males who are not circumcised. If there is undue irritation, inflammation, trauma, or wear and tear to the delicate mucosa of the penis, swab the affected area with homeopathic Calendula juice or ointment, or an infusion or glycerite of Camomile, or Witch Hazel lotion to close or cicatrize the wound and speed healing.
Female Sexual Hygiene
The female vagina, or birth canal, is the main organ of sexual contact in a woman. It sometimes emits a strong or embarrassing odor, not to mention various abnormal discharges, or leucorrhea.
Although they can be embarrassing at times, these things are part of a natural process. It must be remembered that the vagina is, among other things, also an eliminative organ, and a channel for eliminating morbid or superfluous humors from the body if they get too excessive. This elimination can occur either with the monthly menstrual discharge or in between periods.
And so, women resort to various remedial measures to try to get rid of the problem. One of these measures is douching, or squirting water or various hygienic solutions up the vagina with a douche bag.
Prevailing medical opinion is against vaginal douching, for the following reasons:
It disturbs the natural balance of bacterial flora in the vagina.
Douching can introduce new and potentially harmful bacteria up the vagina, or drive such bacteria up the female reproductive tract into the uterus and fallopian tubes, which can lead to complications like pelvic inflammatory disease.
Although vaginal douching may be harmful, the external genitalia and more superficial parts of the vagina can and should be washed with soap and water. The purpose of this is to wash away accumulated smegma from places like underneath the clitoral hood or between the labia.
Vaginal douching may be controversial, but one thing that should absolutely NOT be done is to douche with cold water. The female organs are very vulnerable to cold, and this has even led to infertility. A woman should also take care not to expose herself to chills before her monthly menstrual period, as this will aggravate menstrual cramps.
If a woman really wants to get rid of embarrassing vaginal odor or discharges, she should get to the root of the problem - the excesses of morbid, superfluous humors that cause them. This usually involves making dietary changes and taking herbal medicines to bring the whole metabolism back into balance.
When it comes to absorbing the menstrual flow, many women do have problems with tampons, and there is the problem of toxic shock syndrome. If at all possible, use tampons made from natural fibers, like cotton - and don't leave the tampon in overnight. Absorbent pads, or even a folded cotton handkercief inside the crotch of the panties, will do quite well, and is a much safer and non-invasive alternative.
Some women may be bothered by excessive itching of the vagina and genitalia. First of all, make sure that your nylons, panties and underwear aren't too tight fitting, and allow room for the genital organs to breathe. Undergarments made from natural fibers like cotton or silk are best.
If itching persists, it's a good idea to use an astringent like Witch Hazel lotion on the affected area. Or, you can try washing the affected area with an infusion of mildly astringent herbs, like a combination of equal parts of Rose Petals, Yarrow and Agrimony. In ancient times, a decoction of Pomegranate peel was used to bathe the genitalia to stop or prevent itching.
To give a healthful massage to the pubic mound and external genitalia, you can massage it with scented oil. Try 9 parts olive oil to 1 part fragrant oil, like Rose and/or Lavender oil. This will impart a pleasing fragrance to the female organs.
Wherever possible, natural essential oils and fragrances should be used. Synthetic perfumes and fragrances may be much more powerful than natural ones, but they're not as healthy, and can irritate the delicate mucosa of the nose, sinuses or respiratory passages, or even of the genitalia, if they are applied there. They can also confuse or overwhelm the immune system, as well as the brain and Psychic Faculty.
Many women complain about chronic allergies, sinusitis or nasal congestion, frequent headaches or spells of wooziness and lightheadedness. In many cases, these conditions are due to the synthetic perfumes they're wearing, in an effort to attract the opposite sex.
The vagina is an eliminative organ, and eliminates excesses of superfluous or morbid humors with the monthly menstrual period. Because the vagina is eliminating these superfluities, traditional wisdom says that women should abstain from sex during their monthly menstrual period.
If vaginal infections are a problem, a tampon can be made and inserted in the vagina. Make a powder of equal parts of Horsetail, Plantain, Shepherd's Purse and Motherwort, and make it into a paste with a solution of equal parts of water and Apple Cider Vinegar. Take a piece of cotton gauze, fold it over, and place a bolus of this paste in the center. Roll up the gauze into a tampon, tying it at both ends with dental floss; leave the floss long at the bottom end, so you can pull it out. Change it daily.
In ancient times, a strong tea of Pennyroyal was used as a morning after abortifacient, and also to prevent pregnancy, even though the Hippocratic Oath does not condone abortion. Methods that allow the woman to check the texture of her vaginal mucous secretions, which change with ovulation, are a good natural method of birth control. Or - the man can simply use a condom!