I can feel the raising of eyebrows as I type this. But the reality is a) yes, menstrual blood can bring dying plants back to life, and b) menstrual blood really isn’t that gross.
Let’s go back to 6th grade health class for a moment for a brief review of the reproductive system. Each month, a woman’s ovaries release an egg into her womb. If the woman’s egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm, the egg will rest in the soft tissues and blood that line the uterine wall. If all goes as planned, that fertilized egg will make its grand appearance into the world as a human baby in roughly nine months – but, when a woman’s egg is not fertilized, her body sheds the lining that would have become the placenta; this process of elimination of the unfertilized egg and its temporary surroundings is known as menstruation. Then, the process starts over again with fresh blood and a new egg.
Despite the fact that every human mammal on earth (unless she has an illness preventing her from doing so) will menstruate many, many times in her life, menstruation is in many cultures seen as taboo. For example, in some traditions of India, menstruating women are seen as impure and more susceptible to being the targets of black magic, including that touching a cow while menstruating will render that cow infertile. In some cultures in Africa, largely due to the unavailability of feminine sanitary products, menstruation is seen as a time of uncleanliness. In Shintoism of Japan, women are seen as impure simply because they have the ability (or duty, as it would seem) to menstruate.
However, there are other cultures that view menstruation not as a curse, but rather as a gift. In Sikhism, menstruation is sacred as it is the blood of a mother, which is necessary to life.
Alma Gottlieb, professor of anthropology and gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois and author of “Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation,” spoke to National Public Radio about some cultures in which menstruation is revered or at the very least, not reviled.
“Yurok, a native tribe from the northwest coast of the United States stratified by class, had a group of aristocratic women who saw their periods as a time for purifying themselves,” she said in an interview with NPR. “They were on a shared menstrual cycle and did a series of rituals during the cycle that they said was a period of their most heightened spiritual experience”
Gottlieb has studied menstruation around the world in present day and in the distant past. On the Beng culture of Africa’s Ivory Coast, she notes:
“An older man, a religious leader in the local religion, told me menstruation is like the flower of a tree. You need the flower before the tree can fruit. That’s a very different ideology than the ideology of sin, dirt, pollution.”
OK, so now that we’ve cleared that up … what is period blood actually made of and how can it be of use to you?
Sure, you can easily go all out and get wild like homegirl Jen Lewis, creating art with her menses. Or, you can be a bit more discreet about it.
Full disclosure: I put my period blood on some dying plants and they miraculously came back to life. OMG – am I like, magic? I have a few fanboys who think so, but mostly the answer is no. There’s a logical explanation for why putting menstrual fluid into the dirt around your plants could help rejuvenate them.
Menstrual fluid contains all of the following (the quantity of which depends greatly on the diet and age of the individual woman): blood, uterine tissue, cells, healthy bacteria which keep the vagina clean, water, sodium, potassium, iron, nitrogen, phosphorus, cholesterol, and blood clotting elements such as prothrombin and fibrinogen, etc. If these contents could help bring a human life into the world, as they do in the case of the unfertilized egg, then why wouldn’t they be relevant to other forms of life as well?
So, how do you go about this? First, you need to be using a menstrual cup. Not only does the menstrual cup limit waste (the average woman will use at least 10,000 tampons or pads in her lifetime, which take up to 500 years to degrade naturally), but it also shortens the period by opening the uterine walls to allow free flow of the fluid, aren’t responsible for any deaths (unlike tampons), are completely clean and hygienic, and totally scentless. Next, some women like to store their fluid in a jar, collecting larger amounts before using it as fertilizer. That’s fine and good if you (or your partner, or housemates) don’t mind a Mason Jar full of human blood in the fridge, however I prefer to simply dispose of the blood each day into a plant that needs extra attention.
The first plant I tried this on was a potted rose. It had somehow contracted a plague, leaving a white film on a few of the remaining leaves, and the others had fallen. It was basically ceasing to grow. I’ve listened to my fair share of Fleetwood Mac and am pretty tight with the Divine Feminine, so when my period came, I figured why the hell not. I dumped the contents of my Diva Cup into the dirt around the plant for three nights in a row. A few weeks later, I couldn’t help but notice the plant had come back to life. There was now an abundance of verdant, bright leaves sprouting and even a few red buds. Interesting. I had not moved the plant. It was receiving the same amount of water and sunlight as before my experiment.
So the next month, I tried it again, on a gardenia bush that refused to bloom. Basically it’s fragrant white flowers were trapped in a limbo of some sort for more than a month. About a week after unleashing the womb juice, the flowers popped open in their pure, white glory.
Currently, the process is being attempted on a tropical hibiscus that has been quite unhappy. We shall see how that goes. In the meantime, I agree with Georgina Terry, another unashamed female writer who put the theory to the test:
“It feels pretty cool to find a use for something I’ve been throwing down the toilet for 20 odd years.”
Rough and tumble Great Lakes girl transported to Latin America. Hopeless romantic. Book collector. Treehugger. My mind rests among the stars. Tweet me at @fryechild, find me as @gypsy_fire on Instagram.
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