The New York Post is reporting that people too embarrassed to seek medical help for hemorrhoids have been turning to the internet for answers, and the internet has been telling them to shove raw potatoes up their asses. On one hand, as we live in a world where some people are placing garlic in their vaginas and others are dunking their testicles in soy sauce, I can absolutely believe this. On the other hand, this is the New York Post we’re talking about, so I decided to fact-check their claim that this form of hemorrhoid (or piles, in medical jargon) relief is an actual phenomenon, and not an urban legend about one poor soul’s legitimate-sounding excuses when asked by ER doctors why there were potatoes up his rectum in the first place. So I poked around for approximately 30 seconds, and I am absolutely horrified to report that, yes, the internet proposes that people put potatoes up their posteriors to palliate the painful piles that have proliferated from pregnancy, portliness, or pressure. In case you don’t want to click any of those, the basic idea is that the cold raw potato slices ostensibly soothe inflamed tissues around the hemorrhoid, and that the astringent properties of potato can, in theory, relieve the pain and itching associated with the condition.
The Post goes on to say that doctors are warning people not to stick potatoes where they don’t belong (in your rump), but again, I take their news stories, like my potatoes, with a grain of salt. So I called up some friends who are medical professionals to see what they had to say about this and to ask for their scientifically sound hemorrhoid advice, because here at The Takeout, we literally
save your ass.
“Sticking frozen potatoes up any part of your body sounds dangerous, unhygienic, and the reason why I fear for the future of humanity,” says Yosh Hsin, a public heath professional from New York City who declined to have his employer mentioned as he doesn’t want to drag them into this stupidity. “You shouldn’t stick potatoes up your ass. You should drink fluids, see a doctor, and get professional consultations.”
“The medical literature does not support the use of rectally inserted potatoes for the treatment of hemorrhoids,” says Dr. Steven Yoo, a former physician for the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and currently a general practitioner. “It should be said that potatoes are not toxic when used in this way, per se. However, there is a risk of pain, injury to rectal tissues from the cold temperature... and the risk of an embarrassing emergency room visit due to a stuck potato.”
An OB/GYN friend of mine was emphatic about informing the public that potatoes need to be kept out of both butts and vaginas—but as her hospital has strict media guidelines, she requires the use of a pseudonym. “Hemorrhoids are enlarged veins, most often due to pressure, straining pregnancy, and excess weight,” says Dr. Beyoncé Batman. “A cut potato does not have enzymes that reduce this. The moisture of the vagina and rectum facilitate decomposition of the potato. You can put anything up your ass, but it doesn’t make it a suppository.”
As for sound medical advice for hemorrhoid relief, Dr. Batman recommends cleansing the area, using Preparation H and witch hazel (she recommends Tucks pads), and consuming lots of water and fiber. She also says that there is no need for patients to be embarrassed about discussing a common medical condition with their doctors.
“As an OB/GYN, I can tell you that most patients have hemorrhoids; I don’t have time to judge. People need to remember that a temporarily embarrassing question is better than a massive intestinal infection and rectal surgery.”