Drippy handshakes, soaked clothing, half-moon pit stains - excessive sweating can really be a drag.
Everyone's a victim of the damp at some point or another. There is no one cause, though possibilities range from plain old genes to menopause, nerve damage, endocrine (glandular) disorders and of course, the most common, anxiety. Whatever the source, there are myriad treatments. Some practitioners advocate visualization techniques -- picturing yourself in a cool breeze at the base of a mountain for 10 to 20 minutes twice a day. Chinese medical practitioners will want to balance the yang, and herbalists to rinse toxins from the body. But if you are among the 3 per cent of Canadians who suffer from hyperhidrosis - an extreme sweating condition requiring the padding of clothing with towels - sooner or later you'll find an allopath who recommends cutting out the sweat glands or injecting Botox .
We heartily suggest before you get loaded up on a botulism toxin (the U.S. federal drug admin says Botox can cause pain, hemorrhages, flu-like symptoms and anxiety) or go under the knife that you experiment with the softer remedies.
What the experts say
"It's important to first rule out serious or long-term illness or virus. Chronic sweating is often caused by a chi deficiency, perhaps of the heart or spleen chi. For this I would use a chi tonic such as Schisandra ( Wu Wei Zi ) or oyster shell ( Muli ). It could also be a yang deficiency, which means that the furnace in your body, what we call the "ming men," is not controlling the body temperature. This is typical of menopausal women and men going through hormonal changes. I've seen men whose hands sweat constantly, worse when they're nervous. Herbs might include Fu Xiao Mai , a type of wheat. The rest of the formula would be based on the individual. Other problems going on at the same time, such as a weak kidney or a stressed liver, also have to be addressed. "
Robert McDonald , Chinese medicine practitioner, massage therapist, acupuncturist
"One has to get to the root of why someone is producing excess sweat. It could simply be that a person is doing a lot of exercise and has a more acute sweat response than someone who's more sedentary. Sweating can also be caused by hyperthyroid. Or if someone is not detoxing properly and has constipation or a problem with the liver or kidneys, the body may be trying to rid itself of toxins through sweat. A detox or liver cleanse with milk thistle can help. Sage tea is a short-term way to control excessive sweating and ease the discomfort."
Eevon Ling , naturopath, Toronto
"Nighttime sweating can indicate liver problems, which can be treated with herbs like boldo , milk thistle and dandelion . It could be the lymphatic system, or it could be hormonal, which is why a lot of teenagers have excessive sweating. In teens, essential fatty acids can help balance hormones, and in women, evening primrose oil is fantastic. Teenagers can also have problems with the adrenal glands - their adrenaline is all over the place. This could be the case with adults as well. I would recommend a one-on-one consultation to get to the root."
Margaret McNorton , herbalist
"Hyperhidrosis is likely a problem with the pathway from the brain to the sweat glands. Up to two-thirds of sufferers have a first-degree relative with the same condition. The first treatment option is topical, the most common being Drysol, but these are mostly ineffective. For underarm sweating, my next choice is Botox, which can give close to 100 per cent improvement. Re-treatment can be required after seven or eight months. (It doesn't work as well on the hands and feet.) Another option is surgery to cut out the sweat glands, which can cause scarring, pain and complications. A procedure called iontophoresis, in which hands or feet are submerged in electrically charged water, can reduce sweating. This has to be done once or twice a week and takes 20 to 30 minutes. The final option is endoscopic thoracic surgery, or ETS, which involves clipping a small nerve in your back. This only works for hands. The problem is that about 50 per cent of people get compensatory sweating over the chest and back, which can be much worse than what they started with."
Nowell Solish , dermatologist, board of directors, International Hyperhidrosis Society
"Physical disease comes from spiritual disease, as in 'dis-ease.' We exude like a skunk when we feel threatened, emitting an odour. 'Sweating bullets' is a fear of something that has happened or is about to happen. For people with fear, wearing aquamarine as a pendant is very helpful. In a different form it's called beryl. You can wear a full necklace of it, and it's not as expensive. Trust can be fostered by amethyst, which helps the wearer move from a fearful state to one of nurturing and support. A quartz cluster with many different points can also aid in harmonizing the often erratic energy caused by fear. Rose quartz assists in keeping the heart open. Karen Ryan , crystal energy therapist, Toronto