The healing power of menstrual blood

Recently I was teaching a workshop in Amsterdam on the Menopause and one of my students mentioned a study on how menstrual blood is now being researched by scientists for its potential uses in healing. I had not heard of this research before, but found out that as long ago as 2008 scientists in Japan discovered that cells taken from menstrual blood can be cultivated in the lab and used like stem cells to repair damaged heart tissue. A recent study in Brazil in 2014, suggests that the cells derived from menstrual blood can create a feeder layer system for creating human embryonic stem cells.

Woman in India by Julianne Reynolds, https://romanskifilms.wordpress.com/

Woman in India by Julianne Reynolds, https://romanskifilms.wordpress.com/

Stem cells are powerful cells as they can be used to repair and grow new tissue. Using stem cells in medicine is a relatively new field and much more work needs to be done for it to have widespread practical applications. Pluripotent stem cells (ie having the potential to become any cell in the body) are found in the embryo until three weeks in the “inner body” when they start differentiating into the three germ layers of the endo, ecto and mesoderm which create different structures (Previous Blog:First week after conception) Human embryonic pluripotent stem cells were first cultivated in labs in 1998 from embryos created by in vitro fertilisation. Adult stem cells are relatively rare in the body and have a more limited capacity for renewal and differentiation. However in 2006 researchers worked out how to reprogramme adult stem cells back into a state of pluripotency( Induced pluripotent stem cells iPSC) although these cells are thought to offer less possibilities than embryonic stem cells and also carry with them a larger potential for rejection. However both of these methods of producing pluripotent stem cells are fairly difficult and using menstrual blood potentially offers a much easier way.

Ancient cultures valued the power of menstrual blood. It was often used in healing ceremonies. In Chinese medicine, menstrual blood was called the Heavenly Gui and linked to a woman’s expression of her Essence (Jing).The channel which most directly regulates menstrual blood is the Penetrating Vessel (Chong Mai)( see my blog for more information on this) Sadly many modern religions have excluded menstruating women from their places of worship and labelled them as dirty and unclean. Many women themselves today view their blood as dirty, as something to be hidden from view, with tampons. Some even are happy to take medicines to suppress blood loss entirely. It’s interesting that modern science is now re-discovering the healing power of menstrual blood.

Art created using menstrual blood by Jen Lewis

Art created using menstrual blood by Jen Lewis

Miyoshi and his colleagues in Japan found that menstrual blood contains precursor cells that can be used to develop cardiac stem-cell therapeutic material: mesenchymal cells (MMCs). Nine women donated their menstrual blood and the precursor cells were cultivated and then put with cells from the hearts of rats. About 20 per cent of MMCs began beating spontaneously and eventually formed sheets of heart muscle tissue. This success rate is about 100 times higher than the 0.2 to 0.3 per cent of stem cells derived from human bone marrow.

The researchers concluded that:

“MMCs appear to be a potential novel, easily accessible source of material for cardiac stem cell-based therapy.”

Miyoshi thinks that one day women could use their menstrual blood for their own treatment. This would overcome the major problem of immune system rejection.

Another useful application could be to use menstrual blood to stockpile cells with a range of matching human leukocyte antigens (HLA’s), important immune system agents.

Miyoshi also suggested, because the MMCs have the potential to develop into muscle cells, that perhaps another application could be to treat muscular dystrophy, a range of genetic diseases that destroy muscle tissue.

Much more development needs to happen before menstrual blood can be used clinically but these are interesting developments.
As scientists are re-discovering the power of menstrual blood, more women themselves are beginning to celebrate its power. Many women use cups to collect their blood and use it to feed plants. There are movements like the Red Tent  where women can gather at the full or new moon to honour their cycles. These have been inspired by Anita Diamont’s novel “The Red Tent” and by the work of authors such as Alexandra Pope and Miranda Grey. Other organisations also exist to celebrate the power of the womb and menstrual blood such as the Fountain of life. Artists such as Jen Lewis have started using menstrual blood to create works of art.
Let’s celebrate the wisdom of our blood and the Chong Mai (Penetrating Vessel) .

References
Japan study: “Novel Cardiac Precursor-Like Cells from Human Menstrual Blood-Derived Mesenchymal Cells.”
Naoko Hida, Nobuhiro Nishiyama, Shunichiro Miyoshi, Shinichiro Kira, Kaoru Segawa, Taro Uyama, Taisuke Mori, Kenji Miyado, Yukinori Ikegami, ChangHao Cui, Tohru Kiyono, Satoru Kyo, Tatsuya Shimizu, Teruo Okano, Michiie Sakamoto, Satoshi Ogawa, Akihiro Umezawa.
Stem Cells Express, first published online April 17, 2008.
DOI:10.1634/stemcells.2007-0826
Brazilian study http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-05/ctco-brf052814.php
Silva dos Santos, D.; Coelho de Oliveira, V. C.; Asensi, K. D.; Vairo, L.; Carvalho, A. B.; Campos de Carvalho, A. C.; Goldenberg, R. C. dos S. Human Menstrual Blood Derived Mesenchymal Cells As New Human Feederlayer System For Human Embryonic Stem Cells. Cell Med. Appeared online March 3, 2014.

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23 comments

  1. Pingback: Full Moon in Libra | Marika's Moon Rituals

  2. Menstrual blood was always and still is the greatest most powerful healing substance. The blood of LIfe. A substance used in shamanic healing. Tantric priestesses who were menstruating were the holiest of all. The Holy Grail is the sacred moon blood that every woman sheds each month and rebuilds with the Moon. Stop being ashamed of your sacred wise blood. It was the first fertilizer which created settled communities. Menopausal women carry their wise blood within so are considered Elder wise women. I am Chrone now and miss getting my periods but my daughter is 17 and I teach her to honor her sacred moon time.. All of life is sacred especially of the life processes of women. I started a series of menstrual art in 1987 when I was initiated by Susun Weed. definitely go to her site. The Wise WOund there are many great books out there. The Red Tent, moon lodges. PLease never use commercial tampons, they are toxic Blessings

  3. “KKDavid says males” very “are told that they will get eternal” by creating menstrual blood. Chloe mentioned that it’s ^on them^ Chloe listens to them talk among themselves. She thinks your getting to listen to some of that here. “The spin was mentioned as burned”

    • suzanneyates

      Dear Imcure, Thank you for reading my blog. I am not quite sure what you mean by some of your comments: “The spin was mentioned as burned”. And who is Chloe? It would be great if you could explain a little more about your thoughts.Suzanne

  4. Hi, the image you used is a picture that I took in India. It went viral. Next time you use, if you could put my name with it, that would be great! Thanks Julianne Reynolds

    • suzanneyates

      Oh, dear. I am sorry. I thought I had credited it. Will go back into editing and try to do that..

  5. Ohhhh this is a hard one for me. I was always the one hiding and embarrassed and I would never ever talk about my period. I’ve never had an accident in public, I might have died in the past. But as a breast cancer warrior, I am not the same as I once was. I am now getting acquainted with my lovely and ever changing body. I am grateful for my period every time I have my period.. They won’t last forever.

  6. Thank you for this post! The healing power of menstrual blood is something I explore in my novel, The Redemption of Red Fire Woman. http://www.amazon.com/The-Redemption-Red-Fire-Woman/dp/0615920969. Hope you enjoy the read!

  7. justthedoula

    The Red Tent is a phenomenal book… I find myself rereading it over when I have a quiet moment at a birth… I opened this blog half smirking… I’m not smirking anymore… I hope to travel the world to see, with my own eyes, the customs of women in as many different locations as possible!

    What an amazing thing to be studying… such mystery the body is… we will never know all the secrets!!

    I hope to read more!!

  8. never knew that our menstrual sang….is so powerful….could you direct me to learn more of this and i love plants maybe something that connects with that….the whole plant thing was mentioned in this article…my email is raseanya_rivera@yahoo.com….if you have the time it will be much appreciated many thanks and blessing to you and yours…..

  9. HI Suzanne – Id love to share what I Learned from the Inca tradition, with you. there is some confusion for me about the benefit of releasing in young women… because if we are holding our menses sacred, we release all the divinely inspired creations of the month..and thus have to start from scratch each month to build our power. some say this is the reason we rarely reach world leadership positions. I think that is why it was once offered n ceremony as a divine elixir. so as not to waste a drop. Amma for instance redirected hers at a young age for self enlightenment…I guess she used the same meditations as the inca. we are all one.

    • suzanneyates

      Dear Maureen, Thanks for sharing that. Yes I too have reflected on what you said quite a lot over my life too! Have you practised redirecting yours? Be lovely if you could share some of what you do. If you want to write a blog post I would be happy to share it!

  10. Reblogged this on Adventures with Nanii and commented:
    This is pretty cool!

  11. its really great to know that being woman is truly amazing with the blessings of nature.. good going research team. you still have lots to find out the real strength of us. :)

  12. I am so sad to lose my blood time, my daughter is 10 and I am 52, we are both at important points in our current existence and are working together, this celebration is so freeing and supportive of us both. Thanks for this article x

    • Jools- ahh no loss of blood for us! it is merely redirected to our blood stream to boost our health.( but only if we practice redirection meditations. – see wyldwood sojourn FB thanks for this blog Suzanne

    • suzanneyates

      Yes, I am aware of those kind of practices but have never done them myself. Be interested if you would like to write something for the blog! However, I found when I was bleeding, I quite enjoyed the monthly flow of letting go…

  13. Lovely lovely blood! I was hanging blood stained pyjamas out to dry this weekend and started turning them round so as the neighbours wouldn’t see the stains. Then I changed my mind and left them showing. It’s too ingrained in us to hide our menstruation. I’d better start showing it off for the the time I have left :-)

    • Yes, be the change! One time my blood came on the last day of my previous job at a food coop. As I left the building, a gust of wind hit me, and only then I felt wetness the size of my hand on my skirt. I wore it proudly on my walk downtown to home. A rite of passage!

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